Yellowknife, NWT – The Northwest Territories. Birthplace of a horror classic?
Possibly. Berkshire County, which tells the story of Halloween gone wrong for a teenage babysitter, is set nowhere near the north but it comes from the mind of Yellowknife’s Chris Gamble.
“It’s a home-invasion movie following a girl who has a rough time at school,” Gamble, who wrote the film, told Moose FM.
“It’s Halloween night and she ends up babysitting these kids – then these three figures in masks show up at the door.
“It’s a typical horror in some ways, but in others it’s really a redemption story for a girl who needs to overcome her own fears and become a stronger person to save herself and the kids she’s looking after.”
The movie is also a success story, both for the production team – who picked up Best Horror Feature at the weekend’s Shriekfest horror festival in Los Angeles – and for the NWT, which is taking steps to invest more in nurturing northern film.
“It is very hard to get into Shriekfest,” the festival’s founder, Denise Gossett, told Moose FM.
“Only 10 features are picked so it has to be a complete package, and Berkshire County most definitely was. It’s scary, it’s creepy, we loved it.
“One of the judges said it scared her so much, she had to cuddle with her dog.”
Last week, the GNWT published documents (PDF link) confirming it is pursuing “a film strategy for the NWT including a pilot program to rebate film-makers for wages and services incurred in relation to the television and film production in the NWT”.
Gamble tapped into $8,000 in NWT Arts Council funding to help get Berkshire County made. For him, winning at Shriekfest is testament to the contribution northern film-makers can make.
“Winning best horror feature was a huge surprise and a big honour, because we were the only Canadian film there,” said Gamble.
“When we went down and shot the film, Jeremy Emerson from WAMP (Western Arctic Moving Pictures) came down as well. We’re definitely trying to represent the NWT and Yellowknife.
“For the last couple of years, (authorities in the territory) have been super-supportive, it’s been incredible, especially for a film that wasn’t necessarily shot up here – but we made as much effort as we could to involve Northwest Territories connections.
“It’s definitely laying the groundwork for the future and in turn, I hope we can give back. There’s tons of great work being done by film-makers up here with the TV programs and films that are happening. It’s a great model that they’re building on.”
Gossett said incentives to film-makers, such as those the GNWT is planning, are “very important” in deciding where productions base themselves.
“Film-makers are working on a budget and if they can save money in any way, of course that’s important,” she said.
“Los Angeles, especially, is only slowly coming around to that. You see productions leaving and going elsewhere. Whatever is going to help an independent film-maker, I’m all for it.”
Berkshire County won at Shriekfest on its world premiere, but has at least eight further festival screenings lined up, alongside hopes for a broader release – including Yellowknife – in May or June of 2015.
Meanwhile, Edge YK reports that FARE, a horror short by Andrew Silke, has lined up a US premiere at the New York City Horror Film Festival in November.
FARE won best film at last year’s Dead North horror film festival competition in Yellowknife.
CJCD Moose FM News