Feature-Length Film Red Snow Shoots in Dettah

March 27, 2018 Large cameras, film crew, translators and a Director’s tent dotted the community of Dettah as Red Snow, the latest film production to land in the Northwest Territories (NWT), shot scenes last week. The feature-length film, written and directed by Marie Clements, tells the story of Dylan, a Gwich’in soldier from the Northwest Territories, who is caught in an ambush in Afghanistan. His interrogation by a Taliban commander releases a cache of memories connected to the love and death of his Inuit cousin, Asana, and binds him closer to a Pashtun family as they escape across treacherous landscapes. Language plays a large role in the film, with actors speaking four languages: Gwich’in, Inuvialuit, English and Pashto. The riveting story is one that Clements has been working on for some time. Three years ago, Clements travelled to Yellowknife and discussed the project with Jay Bulckaert and Pablo Saravanja (Artless Collective(link is external)) over a dinner of muskox and spaghetti. “There is no place Red Snow could have been filmed than the NWT. There’s a uniqueness here to the land and people. A kind of brilliant survival that is built in the bones. By not only bringing together a diverse cast from Canada and the world, we brought together film communities. We borrowed hats and mitts, we literally walked in each other’s boots to tell this story. There’s a misconception that Indigenous stories are unto themselves…that they are somehow separate from what we think as the Canadian experience when in fact this is the core of who we are, and who we have become,” says Clements.
Red Snow Producer Michelle Morris, NWT Film Commissioner Camilla MacEachern, Red Snow Writer & Director Marie Clements, and Minister Wally Schumann smile on the set of Red Snow in Dettah.

 Local Industry on Set

There was a noticeable local presence on the Red Snow set in Dettah. NWT filmmaker Jen Walden and Minister Schumann take a selfie on set. Noted NWT filmmaker, Jen Walden(link is external), was selected out of 244 applicants nation-wide to be one of six recipients of the Academy Apprenticeship for Women Directors. The prestigious recognition provides her with the opportunity to shadow Clements on the set of Red Snow. Leela Gilday(link is external) and Reneltta Arluk were hired as actors in the film,and will play Asana’s aunts. Jay Bulckaert and Pablo Saravanja were hired as Line Producers and are assisting with drone video footage and special effects. For Bulckaert, this included breathing life into a stuffed bear through a tube to give it the realism required. CJ Eggenberger, who helped produce the NWT Film Commission’s first commercial, was hired as B camera, First Assistant. Keith Robertson, who made his directoral debut on his film BAIT!, which was screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 2017, was hired in the Locations Department.
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Lilian Elias was hired as the Inuvialuit Cultural Advisor and William Firth was hired as the Gwich’in Cultural Advisor. In addition, several other actors came from the NWT.

Economic Benefits for the NWT

Red Snow, which received support from the GNWT’s NWT Film Rebate Program(link is external), spent five days filming in the NWT, resulting in over $350,000 in economic benefits in the form of catering, flights, accommodation, snowmobile rentals, winter clothing rentals, and using houses in Dettah (both interior and exterior) for filming, and further funds spent on local hires. The NWT Film Rebate Program was launched in 2015 and has since committed roughly $280,000 to seven productions. To date, these productions spent over $800,000 in the NWT with a total economic impact of about $1.8 million stemming from those investments. These figures do not include Red Snow.

The NWT as a Film Destination

Red Snow Producer, Michelle Morris, says that it was important to come to the NWT for filming to keep the story authentic and capture the landscape and language. “It is such a privilege to be in here and share this part of Canada with the world. Its unique culture, language and people are an integral part of the story of Red Snow. We aimed to represent that authentically by bringing cultural advisors and cast from areas across NWT to shoot in Dettah and Yellowknife. In preparation, we have travelled to NWT four times with several crew before shooting so we could truly understand the land and community and how to practically weave our story into it. It has taken several years to get to this point but with the support of funders like CBC’s Breaking Barriers, Telefilm Canada, the CMF Aboriginal Convergent Fund, Women in the Director’s Chair, and of course the NWT Film Commission, we’re finally capturing the story on camera, and with great hope and intent, represent NWT in the beautiful light it deserves.” The film is expected to be released theatrically in 2019 and will eventually be broadcast on CBC and APTN. It will be the first time CBC will air a film in Gwich’in and Inuvialuit in primetime.