New film to be shot in Nunavut’s capital seeks young actors
Necessities of Life director hoping to shoot fictional drama next summer
If you’re an Inuk between the ages of 16 and 25 and you’re looking at launching, or continuing, a career in film acting, you might be interested in some upcoming auditions scheduled to be held in Iqaluit toward the end of August.
Screenwriter and director Benoit Pilon, perhaps best known in Nunavut for the 2008 feature film The Necessities of Life starring Natar Ungalaaq, will be back in Iqaluit Aug. 25 and Aug. 26 for location scouting and auditions for a new movie that’s currently titled “Iqaluit.”
“I just love being there,” he said. “I love the setting and the vibe of the city there. I’m really looking forward to it.”
The plot for the film reads like a story told over beers at one of Iqaluit’s bars.
Carmen, a southerner, comes North to be with her injured husband, Gilles, whose job as a construction worker requires that he spend half the year away from her, working in Iqaluit.
Gilles eventually succumbs to his injuries and Carmen is left to pick up the pieces and in so doing, discovers her husband’s secret life.
To dig deeper, she enlists the help of Gilles’ Inuk friend Noah who himself is “closely connected to her drama.”
Pilon, a Quebec-based filmmaker, has already landed the award-winning, Montreal-born actress Marie-Josée Croze to play Carmen.
Croze, who took home the Best Actress award at Cannes in 2003 for The Barbarian Invasions, has worked with some of Canada’s most prominent directors including Atom Egoyan, Denys Arcand and Denis Villeneuve.
In fact, it’s Pilon’s industry connection to Arcand that helped him connect with Croze, who is currently working on another Arcand project.
“When I got to the end of the writing process, I started to think about who I would like to have for this part and yeah, I was dreaming, it would be fantastic to have Marie-Josée Croze in that role but I know she has an international career right now and I knew it would be difficult just to get in touch with her,” he said.
“I’m lucky enough to know Denys Arcand a little bit.”
Pilon is also delighted to be working again with Natar Ungalaaq who won a Genie award for his performance in Necessities. He says he had Ungalaaq in mind for Noah’s role as soon as he started writing the part.
“He’s just a fantastic actor. He’s never gone to drama school but he knows about technique, lighting, cameras. When you work with him, you really feel you’re working with a professional,” Pilon said.
“He’s so into it. He works hard. He concentrates. He knows how to position himself for the camera, how to use his voice, his body, his facial features. And he’s a gentleman too. So I just love him and I wanted to work with him again.”
Noah has two children in the film, one male and one female, as well as a niece and her friend. All those roles are Inuit around the age of 19 or 20 and Pilon will be looking for actors to play those parts.
There are also a couple of other roles including Noah’s father, a carver in his 70s, and someone in their 40s who sells the artist’s carvings at the bar.
Pilon said he’s hoping to speak with the owners of the Storehouse Pub to shoot scenes inside the bar, and is also keen to shoot inside the Qikiqtani General Hospital, if its administrators let him.
Pilon said Iqaluit is the perfect location for a modern drama because it is dynamic and rich in history, culture and contradiction.
There are many transient workers there, he said, a mixture of traditional and contemporary life, people from everywhere, and plenty of money — ideally suited for a cast of fictional characters, a death and a mystery.
“I’m a filmmaker that likes to put on screen things I don’t see or know about and I felt that we don’t know much about Iqaluit here in the South,” he said.
“Mostly, the Inuit films we’ve seen, made by Inuit or white people, are very often set in the past. And we hardly see contemporary life in fiction, especially in the city of Iqaluit.”
Pilon suspects the film’s budget will run to about $4.2 million which he says is the average cost of making a film in Quebec these days.
He’s currently scouring the usual sources for funding including Telefilm Canada and SODEC, the Société de développement des enterprises culturelles.
He’s also hoping to partner with Clyde River-based Piksuk Media for local support and plans to hire as many local people as possible during production, tentatively scheduled for August and September 2015.
He chose that time because he’s hoping to minimize the impact of the two biggest challenges in northern film-making: weather and mosquitoes.
“The weather is unpredictable. We have a lot of exteriors and that’s always a problem, you have to deal with weather,” he said.
“And hopefully that time of year there won’t be too many mosquitoes because that can be a big issue when you shoot outside. They’re pretty big and they’re hungry.”
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