A Day on Set (In a Valley Somewhere Close to Siuraarjuk)

A Day on Set (In a Valley Somewhere Close to Siuraarjuk)

By Nancy Wachowich

Tuesday, April 26, 2005


Day three out at Siuraarjuk. The shooting call was scheduled for 3 pm, just as the sun was starting to lower in the sky and the light was becoming more diffuse. The plan was to shoot outdoor scenes of life in the camps. Rhoda, the camp babysitter and extra for the movie had offered to take little Hector for the afternoon, so I had a warm tent to park the little fellow.

Getting there: a trek to the set

Childcare arranged, I hitched a ride out to the film site, sitting on top of the camera box with Felix, the camera assistant, Richard, the sound technician, and S.F, my fellow blogger. We rode a short while to the entrance to a low valley in which Isuma crew-members had constructed a set with Aua and Umik's competing igloo palaces. In order the keep the ground on set clear of snowmobile and boot marks, drivers were instructed stop at the entrance to this valley and actors and crew members were told to walk in. Those with store-bought boots had to cover their soles. A snowy, frosty wind was starting to pick up. My eyelashes began to stick together. Arriving on site, Felix and Richard started the trek into the valley, laden with the camera, a tripod, a monitor, a microphone and electrical equipment. S.F. was handed a metal carrying case filled with equipment and I took the clapper and some protective padding. My load was light, compared to the others, but still, ankle-walking over the snow and ice in my oversized caribou skin kamiks, I fumbled.

Action on set: an organic unfolding

We arrived at the igloos a little before Zach and Norman, other members of the crew, and male members of the cast. Women and children were to arrive later. The shooting schedule called for an encounter scene between Freuchen and Evaluarjuk. The scene was set, but the snow and the wind were picking up. Conditions were making it hard to see. Was a blizzard brewing? The cast and crew have been on stand-by since the start of the shoot, a month ago, waiting for a blizzard. A blizzard scene occurs in the script. One had already happened two weeks back, during the film shoots near the settlement, but in the middle of the shoot, the camera had seized. They have to film another one. The plan is that if a blizzard starts up, they drop everything and film that scene.

A few scenes were shot of of the actors playing Freuchen and Evaluarjuk greeting each other. Freuchen is played by the physically imposing Danish actor, Kim Bodnia. He is two heads taller than Evaluarjuk, played by the little old Iglulingmiut grandfather, Abraham Ulayuruluk. Those of us not in the scene watched from the porch of the igloo as Zach and Norman, the actors, sound technician and camera assistant went about their business. A pan shot was planned, so we were shooed inside the igloo. I followed five others into the second chamber where we shivered and shared a chocolate bar. Despite the wind and the activity outside, it was very very quiet in there. Word from outside came to us that one character had forgotten his caribou skin parka at the drop-off point. Big mistake. He had to walk back to go get it, and his retreating and returning silhouette on the horizon would interfere with the shot. A spoke in the plans. Time was ticking. We watched him walk away into the wind, and as he did, one of the dog teams broke loose from their qamutiq and high-tailed it for the hills. Chaos unfolded. Director Zach Kunuk, wearing a wolf-skin parka and yellow snowgoggles, joined a dog-team driver to chase the fugitive dogs. The scene fell apart and one by one actors and crew members start walking towards the drop-off point where rumours were that the women and children had arrived with tea and ham & cheese sandwiches from the catering crew. We started our journey back out of the valley.

Calmer weather

I heard from the women and children that my baby had been crying, so I hitched a ride with the catering sled back to the camp. Hector calmed down, and so did the weather. I hear later that just as they were to begin the blizzard scene, the wind died down. So they filmed scenes of outdoor camp life for the rest of the evening...

An organic unfolding of a day on set.


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