All Jeremy MacDonald wanted to do was go out for chicken wings and a beer. He came away with $3,000 to put towards the production of a television pilot program.
Macdonald said he went to the Top Knight last Wednesday for a meal. He said he had no idea what was going on but was convinced by a friend there to enter “Pitch This: The search for the NWT’s next big show. It was being held as part of Yellowknife International Film Festival which was also held last week.
“I put my name on a card, gave it to one of the organizers. They called my name. I went up on stage and gave a pitch – cold turkey,” Macdonald said. “It was surprising as all heck. Other people had multi-media presentations, props and one person was even dressed in costume. I’m just a dude drinking a beer whose buddies were egging him on.”
Macdonald’s pitch was about himself and his friends who scuba dive for lost items.
The event provided an opportunity for those with a show idea to pitch their vision to the audience as well as a judging panel. MacDonald said he was not prepared ahead of time but added that he just took to the stage and talked about a reality show surrounding scuba diving to salvage lost property.
“It could follow a format like ‘Duck Dynasty’ with me and the dudes shooting the breeze about what we are going to dive for as well as whomever had lost something that we are going to dive for,” MacDonald said. “The long-term story arc would be about looking for the bigger projects we are doing like lost transports full of silver ore, or the UFO.”
Macdonald said that there are decades-old stories about a tractor trailer loaded with silver ore that crashed through an ice road in the Great Bear Lake area as well as a legend about a UFO crashing in the NWT.
Macdonald said that Northwestel contributed $2,000 towards putting a pilot together and Western Arctic Moving Pictures (WAMP), which hosted the film festival, has donated $1,000 in services such as equipment rentals and accessories.
Macdonald said that two producers have also now been brought on board to assists in the pilot project – accomplished Northern film director Jen Walden and radio announcer Ollie Williams.
He added that once completed, the half hour pilot may air on YouTube first to see what kind of interest it garners.
Macdonald, is a captain in the Canadian military posted to Joint Task Force North (JTFN). He has been making news for a while now through his recovery dives and his Facebook page – S**t I found Diving in Yk. He has found a wedding ring, a toy sailboat, keys, cellphones, eyeglasses and even an intact tackle box. In August Macdonald and three of his JTFN friends did a massive underwater cleanup in the Cameron River, off the Ingraham Trail, northeast of Yellowknife.
Macdonald said he is confident that there are enough stories hidden underwater, adding that coupled with video of the dive planning as well as video of him returning lost items to their rightful owners could make for an interesting TV show.
Chris McNutt, Whitehorse-based manager of community TV for Northwestel, along with local filmmakers Pablo Saravanja and Jay Bulckaert, were the judges for the competition. McNutt said that the beauty of Macdonald’s pitch – which he described as passionate – was its simplicity.
“Here’s a guy talking and then he’s diving. It’s almost like putting together a fishing show. All the pieces were in place for its success. He’s already been out there filming. He has taken GoPro cameras under the water collecting this footage,” McNutt said. “I’m always looking for ideas that are easy to execute because I am not given a lot of money.
McNutt said it was obvious that some of the other presenters had given their pitches a lot of thought. But some of the ideas were not suitable for the kind of budget Northwestel has.
“Dramas including zombie dog mushers and other horror and fantasy ideas, McNutt said. He said he encouraged other would-be filmmakers to pursue their visions to other potential producers.
Miranda Currie of Yellowknife also won $3,000 to film her idea for a kids show – something that McNutt described as a sort of Sesame Street North.