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Dead North 2019

A quick visit to the Arctic!

I’ve been working with the team at Yellowknife-based studio Artless Collective for nearly half a decade. The founding duo Jay Bulckaert and Pablo Saravanja are a creative powerhouse in the northern capital, and together they host the Dead North Film Festival, a genre short film competition that draws out the best and brightest talent of the Canadian north.

My first project with Artless was to create an animated stinger for the festival in 2015, and I’ve been working with Artless on and off ever since. They always have the greatest projects going on, and their energy is infectious. Under the auspices of Artless Collective, I’ve raised the deadexploded eyeballsushered in armageddon, and worked on animationsmusic videoscommercials and other local productions. But throughout all of this I’ve never actually been to Yellowknife, and I’ve never had the chance to attend Dead North in person — until now!

Ostensibly, the purpose of the trip was to do research for a graphic novel I’m currently working on with Jay, so I spent most of the time taking in the ‘northern’ experience…. you know, for ‘research’

The visit also happened to coincide with the 2019 Dead North Festival, so I was also able to finally take in the festivities and enjoy the screenings. I also got to check out the gigantic print of the epic portrait I created for Jay and Pablo last year.

The Dead North filmmaking competition is open to amateur and professional filmmakers throughout the circumpolar region (previous years even included submissions from Iceland and the Netherlands), and the sheer amount of verve and talent on display is mind-blowing.

Awesome entry in the photography competition / Martin Rehak accepts the prize for “Mr. Wishingwellman has a Toothache” / Jay Bulckaert hosts the awards ceremony.

In early March the temperature hovers around the low 20’s in the day, and dips as low as -35 degrees Celsius at night.

Jay and his writing partner Erika Nyyssonen very graciously took me on a full tour of the city, visiting several locations from the graphic novel.

Outside Bullock’s Bistro / Snow castle flag / Fish and chips on the frozen lake.

We also drove out across the Dettah Ice Road — a highway carved out of the frozen Great Slave Lake that cuts over to the nearby community of Dettah.

On the Dettah Ice Road
Dettah town council building.
‘Pimp My Ride’, Yellowknife-style.

The Aurora wasn’t particularly strong while I was up there, but I did manage to catch a glimpse of it at night.

3am sky over Yellowknife.

I also got to catch opening day of the Snowking festival, a month-long winter celebration that takes place in a giant snow castle built on the frozen-over Great Slave Lake. The snow castle plays a large role in the graphic novel, so I had to drink a ton of hot chocolate conduct exhaustive research.

The Snowking himself opens the castle every year by chopping out the front door.
An ice-construction worker / The castle grounds on opening day.
The Snowking Festival: hot chocolate and abominable snowmen.
Snow sculptures decorate the castle grounds.

I was only up there for three days, and I feel like I could have spent a week and still not been ready to go home. I honestly can’t wait to go back.
By the way, the Dead North Film Festival is expanding into television, and is currently being developed into an arctic-themed Twilight Zone-type series together with Yukon filmmakers Outpost 13. It’s going to be awesome!

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