A Hong Kong-based television broadcasting company filmed two new shows in and around Yellowknife this week.
Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB)’s crew arrived in Yellowknife last weekend to start filming and will be in town until Nov. 30. One of the things they are filming is a Christmas special called Unexpected Journey which will air to about 1.5 million viewers on their national broadcast channel, said Rachelle Francoeur, a casting agent and location scout.
“It’s like a mini-series but it feels like it’s a mini-series that lasts three to five minutes each segment, so I have no definition really what the format is,” said Francoeur.
“The story of Unexpected Journey, starring TVB artistes Judy Kwong and Jarvis Chow, takes place during Christmas and centres around a boy and a girl in their mid-twenties who have just won two tickets to Yellowknife as part of a contest,” said Stephanie Wong, senior manager of corporate and community relations at TVB, in an email. The two characters don’t get along at first, as they are an unlikely duo of “Ms. Perfect” and the geekiest kid ever, Wong explained.
“When they arrive, not only are they strangers to each other but also to their new surroundings. They stumble upon many adventures during their time in Yellowknife which really test their character,” said Wong, adding that they hope to see the aurora borealis before they leave. “As the story progresses their bond with one another grows,” she said. “It is part comedy, part adventure, part romance.”
The 10-episode mini program will be aired on TVB’s flagship Jade channel in Hong Kong beginning December 10, as well as on the international version of TVB Jade channel TVB Anywhere, an OTT platform dedicated to overseas viewers, including Canada, said Wong.
The other series is called Aurora the Beautiful, which is hosted by TVB artiste Maggie Wong and KOL Sandy To. KOL stands for Key Opinion Leader, also known as a social media influencer.
“[They] are out to find the best things that Yellowknife has to offer,” said Wong. “It is the online companion program to “Unexpected Journey” visiting the same filming locations and showcasing the city of Yellowknife on the way.” Aurora the Beautiful will be uploaded on the Facebook page SeeSeeTVB starting December 21.
TVB was seeking local actors for the shows last month, including a “creepy-looking” middle-aged white man, some gangsters and a handful of extras as Aurora viewers. The company specifically requested non-Asian actors for these roles, said Francoeur.
“They have this definition I guess of what we should look like,” she said.
“Or they just wanted something exotic in what they present their viewers. For me, it was almost on the verge of you can’t really discriminate but I wrote the formula non-Asian preferred and hopefully I wasn’t going to get any complaints about it,” said Francoeur.
“While our main casts are from Hong Kong, we feel the responsibility to diversify our cast whenever we have the opportunity,” said Wong. “We have therefore casted the supporting roles in Yellowknife.”
They were able to find actors for all the roles they needed in Yellowknife. People were not necessarily selected based on their level of training, but based on their audition tape, said Francoeur.
“There’s some people that got training that I was not aware of, there’s some people that I knew they could act but I didn’t know that they had formal training,” she said. “And then there’s people that just wanted to try.”
While some parts of the shows will be shot in Yellowknife, most of it will take place outside the city, said Francoeur.
“There will be some stuff in the city, especially with the special of Aurora the Beautiful where they visit places,” she said, adding that they planned to do some shooting around Bullock’s Bistro in Old Town.
When there is filming occurring in the city, there will be a sign indicating that filming is in progress, but people shouldn’t anticipate any major disruptions Francoeur said.
“It’s not going to be Yellowknife-only with a big production,” she said.
Wong said they chose to film in Yellowknife because of its reputation for being able to see the northern lights. “As well as for its beautiful winter scenery,” she said. “It is the perfect location for our fictional characters to thrive.”
Francoeur said she’s happy to see the territory getting more attention from the film industry.
“I’m just glad that the film industry is getting more people to come up here and are interested in shooting in the Northwest Territories,” she said.
“Of course, it’s good for people that work in this line of business. It is growing and we’re really happy to welcome productions like that.”