N.W.T. book to be filmed in Ontario

The film adaptation of Richard Van Camp's book The Lesser Blessed will be made in northern Ontario after attempts to get funding to shoot in the N.W.T. failed.

Film adaptation of Fort Smith author's book couldn't raise the money to shoot in the North

Author Richard Van Camp, originally from Fort Smith, N.W.T., wanted the film adaptation of his novel The Lesser Blessed to be shot in the North, but lack of funding has sent the production south. (CBC)

The film adaptation of a novel set in the N.W.T. will be filmed entirely in Northern Ontario after attempts to raise the money to film parts of it North of 60 failed.

Richard Van Camp’s first novel The Lesser Blessed is about a young native man trying to make his way in "Fort Simmer," a thinly disguised version of the author’s hometown, Fort Smith.

Van Camp said he wanted to see his story filmed in the territory where he grew up.  

"I want to see Dettah and Ndilo," he said. "I want to see my elders with their little kerchiefs. I want everyone to go 'Hey, hey, hey!' in the movie audience, not '’Yeah, that's Sudbury.'"

After raising $2.2 million over the past six years, the production was only $250,000 away from Van Camp’s dream to film part of the movie in the Northwest Territories. The production team appealed to the territorial government for funding and came up empty handed.

However Ontario chipped in with about $500,000 of production funding.

An N.W.T. government report released in May stated the film, video and digital media industries bring $9 million into the territory’s economy, yet the N.W.T. film commission has a newly-increased budget of only $100,000.  

"Right now we are building a foundation," said Camilla MacEachern, associate film commissioner for the Northwest Territories. "This is a start. In the next fiscal year we’re going to be reviewing this program, and the need for this program. Really, it can only grow."  

Northern filmmaker Pablo Saravanja said he's hopeful for the future but is encouraging the N.W.T. government to make the northern film industry a higher priority so the territory doesn’t miss out on more opportunities.  

"The idea that a celebrated author like Richard Van Camp has to take his northern stories and get them made in southern Canada because the industry is ready for them and because the governments are willing to support them down there is painful actually," he said. "It hurts."

Production on the film, which will star Benjamin Bratt, is set to begin early next month.