North

Are you Gwich'in? An N.W.T. filmmaker wants to cast you for her movie

An ambitious full-length feature film shooting in the Northwest Territories this summer has hit a roadblock — it needs a cast.

The Sun at Midnight has a cast of almost forty people - the majority of whom are Gwich’in

The title card from the film's teaser trailer, which is used to show potential backers. Now that it has almost all of its funding, it needs a cast. (Submitted by Kirsten Carthew)

An ambitious full-length feature film shooting in the Northwest Territories this summer has hit a roadblock — it needs a cast.

Kirsten Carthew, the writer-director of The Sun at Midnight, has put out a word-of-mouth casting call, looking for both actors and everyday people to star in the debut film she's making alongside producer Amos Scott.

"We're really just trying to do word of mouth [casting], really just ghetto-style, like asking people to recommend people," she told CBC News Monday.

Carthew points out that not many films are shot in the territory, with mainly reality television series and documentaries shooting here — let alone a film with a cast of almost forty people, the majority of whom are Gwich'in.

"There haven't been a lot of films that require specific Gwich'in people or even Aboriginal characters," said Carthew.

"We don't want to make the film if we don't have the right cast, so that's our biggest concern right now, is to get the right cast."

A detailed breakdown of the actors needed on the production's web site also calls for Francophone, Métis and actors with other aboriginal ancestry. Carthew thinks it may be the largest casting call in the territory's film history.

Kirsten Carthew, the film's writer-director, has been working on the project since 2010. She says the biggest challenge is casting. (CBC)

The project has been in the works since 2010, when Carthew first wrote the script. She's attempted to make the film before, but the funding didn't come through.

This time, getting backers has been no problem. Last week, the film was awarded $120,000 in funding through Telefilm Canada's Micro-Budget Production Program. That's what made the film a reality — Carthew calls the announcement a "deal-breaker". The program is provides funding to films with a budget of $250,000 and less.

Carthew says about 80 per cent of the film's total $250,000 budget has been raised, with the other funding coming from different arms of the territorial government and the Gwich'in Social and Cultural Institute. They have about $30,000 left to raise.

Relatable characters

The film is centred around two main characters, Lia, a 16-year-old rebel explorer and Alfred, a 60-year-old hunter, and their quest for survival in and around Fort McPherson, N.W.T.

Carthew says that it's characters like these that people in the territory's rural communities can relate to, which is why she's looking for more than just actors.

"It's not likely someone's playing a widely different character than their own life experience," she said. "You're not playing a space alien or a monkey trainer or something like that, you're playing someone who you probably have a very intimate knowledge of."

"People who may have not thought of themselves as sort of actors might suddenly think: 'oh, there's an opportunity for me.'"

Carthew hopes to cast the movie by mid-July and start filming in August and September. After that, she plans to show it at festivals around Canada and internationally and screen it at speciality theatres. 

"It's a very small, very northern specific story," she said, "but because of that, it has this kind of universal appeal."

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