Grizzlies movie back on track, young Nunavut actors needed
"We need actors to play those kids because we’re now bringing that story to life”
Calling all Nunavut youth: do you want to be a movie star?
Producers of an upcoming film about Kugluktuk’s Grizzlies athletics organization are looking for youth from across Nunavut to audition for lead and supporting roles and the best part is: no experience necessary.
“This is an inspiring story that’s set in Nunavut that’s about kids who are inspiring and we need actors to play those kids because we’re now bringing that story to life,” said Toronto-based actor-producer Miranda de Pencier, who’s been involved in the project since day one.
De Pencier wrote and directed Throat Song with producer and Kugluktuk native Stacey Aglok MacDonald, a short film about abuse and suicide that premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2011.
Aglok MacDonald will co-produce The Grizzlies with Iqaluit’s Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, who also worked on Throat Song.
The Grizzlies Kugluktuk High School Athletics Association was launched in 2001 to give local kids something healthy to do and something outside themselves to hope for.
Aglok MacDonald knows the Grizzlies story well.
Like many Nunavut communities, the western Nunavut community of Kugluktuk suffered from youth disengagement and at one time, it led the territory in youth suicides, she said.
The Grizzlies began as a lacrosse team but later, the organization expanded to include an array of other sports including soccer, basketball, table tennis and volleyball.
Playing team sports, and growing self-esteem, did wonders for youth, Aglok MacDonald said, and those positive attitudes seemed to resonate beyond the school to the entire community.
“Things started to improve very quickly. In a very short period of time, these young kids started to take control over their community by becoming active parts in it,” Aglok MacDonald said.
“They became more vocal about what they wanted to see in their hometown. They got to travel and see different parts of the country and Nunavut, opportunities that never existed before.”
The Grizzlies organization — it’s dedication to academic and athletic excellence and coaches’ demands for commitment and dedication from participants — has proven to be a successful formula for community health and is now an inspiration to other communities.
In other words, it’s a good story, and one that filmmakers want to tell the world. In fact, they’ve been wanting to do that for some time.
Producers held their first casting call for a Grizzlies film in 2009 with the award-winning writer and director for film and television, Graham Yost on board.
Problem was, once the auditions were completed, Yost was pulled away to do a TV series he’d been pitching called “Justified.” He told de Pencier he just didn’t have time to do both.
De Pencier said they searched in earnest for a replacement but couldn’t find the right person to resume the project, so it languished on hold.
But they’ve found a new director and resurrected the project and will be announcing details soon, de Pencier said. Meantime, they have to find youth, both male and female, aged 13 to 23, to make up the cast of young characters.
Producers are hoping young people from across the territory will go to their website and upload a short audition video of themselves like the sample one available for viewing.
Organizers also plan to hold in-person auditions in selected communities which you can also find on the website under the link “How to audition.”
Producers will then look through all those videos and choose 30 youth to bring to Iqaluit for a performing arts workshop from Feb. 14 to Feb. 21.
That workshop will feature sessions with renowned Inuit performers including comedy improvisation with Anguti Johnson, throat singing with Sylvia Cloutier, mask work with Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory, acting with Ippiksaut Friesen and drum dancing with Allen Auksaq.
Producers will then compare notes and come up with a list of potential actors.
Aglok MacDonald said they’re not sure how many youth will be chosen to act in the film, but those who don’t make it on the list will be encouraged to participate in other aspects of the filmmaking process.
The deadline for auditions falls on Jan. 27. Crews hope to start filming in mid-April with six weeks or so of filming expected in Iqaluit and another two weeks of shooting in Toronto after that.