Shooting the feature film Elijah and the Rock Creature entirely in the NWT was an accomplishment made possible by the community here says producer Jeremy Emerson.
“It was tough but in another city, I think it would have been impossible to pull it off,” he laughs. “We had a lot of challenges. We had a creature suit, which is a challenge in itself. It takes hours and hours to get it ready and then we had children acting in the film, and that presents its own limitation on how many hours you can shoot with them…And then also having so many people from the North involved in the film, you have a good solid chunk of people this is their first time they’ve done the job and they’re just kind of learning the role as they go and they hit the ground running.”
Emerson, a producer, videographer and leader in the NWT film industry, says the shoot gave many locals their first introduction to being on set. This helps grow the film infrastructure in the NWT, he adds.
Most southern productions which shoot in the territory, Emerson says, have the key roles already filled when they come here. Often they hire locals only for production assistant or transportation roles. On this production, he estimates 98 per cent of those on set were from the territory. “It gave a lot of people experience and now could jump on the next film in a heartbeat.”
Elijah and the Rock Creature, screening today in Yellowknife and Hay River, is also Emerson’s first feature film as producer. “It’s been a pretty steep learning curve,” he says of the post-production work, getting the film ready for U.S. and Canadian festivals. “It’s been a steep learning curve and it was such a wonderful experience doing it as well, because we had a lot of fun and it’s great to be outside in the Northwest Territories for a solid month in the summertime.”
Elijah and the Rock Creature was shot entirely in the NWT, including along the Ingraham Trail, in Yellowknife and Wood Buffalo National Park. Emerson says the diversity and beauty of the territory’s geography really comes through in the film.
“Some of the locations we have – wide open spaces and unique, rocky outcroppings grand in scale and beautiful vistas, the locations down in Wood Buffalo Park, the salt flats. It might inspire you to get out there and check out some of the parks we have in the territory.”
Emerson remembers one particular day of shooting, where the crew took in the ‘long, magic hours’ of the North, pushing to the end of the day to get a sunset shot in.
“I remember we had to get that shot and the end of the day before it got really dark and we got it and we were all on top of that little rocky outcropping and we all had to get down in the blackness. It was a pretty exciting day but we were able to capture that,” he remembers, laughing.
He is now working on Summer of Smoke, a feature-length documentary exploring the physical and mental health impact of the 2014 fire season in the NWT. Residents from Fort Providence, Yellowknife, Behchoko, Ndilo and Kakisa have been interviewed for the film, which is now in post-production.
Meanwhile Elijah and the Rock Creature continues on the festival circuit, with its next stop at the Julien Dubuque International Film Festival in Iowa next week.