Into the Beautiful North!
The the Dawson City International Short Film Festival was a great event, with many excellent films and two special programs: Spell of the Yukon and First Nations. I met lots of filmmakers from Dawson and Whitehorse and was surprised to find that there are seven or eight animators here (pop. 1800). The festival has a warm, homey feel because it is run by happy volunteers who know what they are doing and because festival director Dan Sololowski introduced all the screenings and made everyone feel very welcome. The concession stand sold delicious food made by community members and I had yummy chicken curry and rice with marvelous gluten-free cookies made by Dan’s wife, Laurie. They also served homemade popcorn with pan melted butter and free beer from Yukon Brewing, a festival sponsor.
One of my favorites was Getting Around in the Yukon by Dawsonite Veronica Verkley, a hilarious film about cat sledding. Verkeley is a sculptor and filmmaker, so the props were amazing, with tiny fur trimmed harnesses and historic cat sledding ‘artifacts’. She won the Audience Favorite award and second prize in the Yukon Filmmakers category. I juried the Emerging Yukon Filmmakers and was very impressed with the quality of the work. Moira Sauer won first prize with a ‘silent’ film about a pioneer woman living in an isolated cabin with 14 dogs. When she runs out of kibble, she arranges for a mail order husband, who is delivered by dog sled. They meet, there is a moment of flirting, then she chops him up with an axe and feeds him to the dogs.
The morning after the festival I went for my first helicopter ride. Dan Sokolowski, my wonderful host, arranged it with festival sponsor Trans North Helicopters. We had a gorgeous morning with blue sky, sun and patches of soft fog.
It is a mystery how filmmakers get such great helicopter shots of the far north. One cannot avoid glare and solar flares (see red triangles above) when shooting through the plexi windows and Andreas said filming through the open window was difficult because of the vibration and the wind hitting the camera.
When we soared up over the Top of the World Highway and the Yukon River and Ogilvie Mountains were suddenly revealed, it was absolutely thrilling. Then the pilot (a very handsome Maori man from New Zealand) banked steeply to the right and we hugged the rocky cliffs as we quickly dropped down to the river and followed it to Dawson. Adrenaline rush!