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Houseboaters seen as TV series
Fascination with the North leads producer to Great Slave Lake

Danielle Sachs
Northern News Services
Published Tuesday, April 9, 2013

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE
A deep, lifelong fascination with the North led independent producer Kathryn Haydn-Hays to Yellowknife last week.

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Independent producer Kathryn Haydn-Hays wants to hire locally for a potential series on Yellowknife's houseboat community. - photo courtesy of Kathryn Haydn-Hays

Her goal? Convince a major international cable network to see what she sees -- the frontier spirit evident in the independent community of houseboaters on Yellowknife Bay.

"I came up last year and shot some footage," said Haydn-Hays.

"I spoke to some of the characters out there about what the strategies are for living off the grid on the lake," she said.

This most recent visit was what she calls phase two, where the current footage gets edited into a mock one-hour show so the network can see what it would look like.

Ideally, the network would then green-light the production and agree to either a full one-hour show or a series of episodes.

Haydn-Hays is hesitant to compare her idea to Ice Pilots NWT or Ice Road Truckers.

"Every show has it's own different vibe," she said.

"This would be mostly about the challenges, the stakes involved and the character of the people behind the work. The frontier spirit is what drew me to the topic. They're living on their own terms, they're knowledgeable and it's like they're a boat captain, mechanic and engineer all in one."

While it's still a long way from coming to a small screen near you, Haydn-Hays said she's confident people will be interested in the topic.

"These are all things American audiences don't know about, they've never seen it. They don't have people living on frozen lakes," she said.

"I think once they do, they're going to have a lot more respect and broaden people's ways of understanding that you can fashion your own way of life."

Houseboat owner Matthew Grogono showed Haydn-Hays the cavity he carved into the ice under his houseboat, the Icarus V, to install an outboard motor.

"What she liked about that is people are wondering how houseboats work. By going under there you could see how houseboats work, you can see the floats and even down to the bottom of the lake," said Grogono.

"I saw the black ice and saw it was just magical," said Haydn-Hays. "It was a great moment. It was probably one of the best moments of my trip. It was like this own little world."

So far, Haydn-Hays has only been to Yellowknife in the winter. However, if all goes well, she'd like to shoot footage during all four seasons.

"My hope is that we would have this through the seasons. Each season has its own unique challenges, harsh conditions, break-up and freeze-up," she said.

If the show goes ahead, Haydn-Hays will return to Yellowknife with a camera crew. But she also hopes to hire local talent for the production.

"We would hope to hire locally. I feel very very strongly about that. I don't want to just unleash a ton of Americans. I love Canadians dearly and they're very very patient with us. I don't want to push their patience too much," she said.

She said anyone who is interested in working on the project can contact her.

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