Five NWT organizations were recognized for their contributions to the territory at the NWT Film and Media Stakeholder Recognition Dinner, held at the Copperhouse restaurant March 11.

Award recipients included the NWT Professional Media Association (NWTPMA), Western Arctic Moving Pictures (WAMP), the Inuvialuit Communications Society, Dead North Film Festival and the Native Communications Society.

The NWT Film Commission hosted the event.

Industry Minister Caroline Wawzonek gave remarks and presented the awards to the winners.

Celebrating a decade of work

“It was a lovely event. It’s been about a year since there’s been an official film and media industry event,” said NWT film commissioner Camilla MacEachern.

“The highlight was to recognize the hard work of our film and media organizations in the NWT. To celebrate a decade of milestones and how we’ve all grown together as partners and as we look to the future. We felt really fortunate that we could be together. We went out of our way to make it very Covid-19-compliant.”

Industry, Tourism and Investment Minister Caroline Wawzonek speaks at the NWT Film and Media StakeholderRecognition Dinner on Thursday. Vincent Ret photo courtesy of GNWT

Dead North co-founders Jay Bulckaert and Pablo Saravanja said they were honoured to receive the award, but feel some awkwardness at being singled out.

Award ‘shared with everyone’

“I never feel like I should be the one to accept an award like that,” Bulckaert said. “Dead North was such a communal thing. It only existed because 220 filmmakers over 10 years dedicated hours and weeks and months of their time to this festival. It’s a cliché but it’s true that we share this everyone and everyone should’ve been on stage.”

The pair still appreciated the evening for the way it brought people in the industry together and sparked some hope about artistic and economic recovery after the pandemic.

“One great thing about the night is that it was the first time since Dead North last year that everyone in the industry could be together,” said Bulckaert.

Even though the filmmakers have put Dead North on hold in a year when Covid-19 has devastated most creative industries, the pandemic forced them to re-examine the industry’s local capacity.

“There’s been some reliance in the past on southern productions coming up here to give us a name. I think we now recognize that it’s on us to ensure that we have productions that are being made from the inside out. That’s the only real way we can sustain an actual economically viable industry in town. If we just wait for crews to come, then another pandemic could come and end that.

Re-focus on HyperArctika project

“The film industry has changed in the last year. People are doing more remote stuff, more virtual production,” Bulckaert explained.

His and Saravanja’s own HyperArctika studio – formerly known as Hyper Borea – became something of a replacement for Dead North this year because it gives local filmmakers access to a high quality studio space.

Its large green screen and other technological features allow filmmakers to replicate some scenes of the North without paying high travel costs to film there.

“Maybe some day Dead North will come back. Maybe it’ll be combined into HyperArctika. We left Dead North on an extremely high note. It was the stuff of legend.”

The food served was as reflective of the NWT as the film and media culture celebrated that night.

“There was pike from Great Slave Lake, eggs from Polar Egg in Hay River, birch syrup, local berries and chocolate from Cabin Snacks,” MacEachern said.

The award plaques presented to the winners were designed by Yellowknife glass artists Rosalind Mercredi and Dave Kellett on behalf of the NWT Film Commission.

Blair McBride

Blair McBride covers the Legislative Assembly, business and education. Before coming to Yellowknife he worked as a journalist in British Columbia, Thailand and Ontario. He studied journalism at Western...

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