portrait of children

The set

Day five of shooting: A quiet day inside

- July 13

Yesterday the skies were grey and the temperatures were low. It was cold and windy and rainy, so the crew stuck with indoor scenes. When it is rainy and cold in Igloolik the town is completely silent. The only people you see outside are the occasional people going to the store. Anyone who can stays in. During the early afternoon the town is quiet regardless of the weather, it’s at night that you notice the difference. On clear days the town comes alive around 9-10pm; the town is buzzing with four-wheelers and trucks as people go out to their cabins or tentsites outside of town, going fishing, walking, kids biking around, playing in the streets, climbing buildings. On cold and rainy nights like today there might be a few children playing in the muddy gravel streets, but the town feels pretty empty.

Hanging out in front of Sheeba’s house.








Setting-up Travis’ room.









In the evening the crew went over to shoot scenes at the house of the grandmother Sarah. They shot a night scene and the room was extremely dark. The scene was between Marianne (Anna) and Pakkak (Ike). But because of the darkness, it was quite difficult for me to get pictures with decent lighting.

Marie-Hélène and Marianne discuss a scene at Sarah’s house.







Pakkak and Marie-Hélène preparing the scene.







Day three of shooting: The mosquitoes are out!

July 11

Yesterday was a long day. In the morning, the team shot some car scenes, which turned out to take a lot more time than they had anticipated. The challenges of filming in a cramped environment, only being able to focus on one person at a time, and having to worry about continuity by driving back and going over the same places on the road, make it a very arduous process. I can understand why big budget movies film car scenes in a studio with a green screen.

Preparing the taxi for the car scene.








Félix and Alex setting up the camera in the car.









Later in the day they filmed the seal cutting scene. This is when Tomas and Anna meet Travis cutting up a seal with a hunter. The scene necessitated a real seal, and this was a concern at first since they had to find someone willing to catch one for them. Fortunately, someone finally caught one the day before.

For some people on the crew, it was the first time they had seen something like that. Marianne Farley was not sure how she was going to react when they started gutting and cutting it up. She hoped she wouldn’t get too disturbed or sick. »I can be looking down, pretending to be looking at the seal but really looking somewhere else, » she said laughing to Félix. The beauty of acting. But in the end she was absolutely fine, and the cutting up didn’t faze her at all.




This a picture of the crew surrounding the seal. For the Inuit crew, and some others like Marie-Hélène, Félix, Alexandre, Stéphane and Mélanie, who have lots of experience working in the North it must have been a little weird to have such an elaborate set-up around something that is so commonplace here. « I’ve shot so many documentaries where people cut up seals or other animals, to eat them » Marie-Hélène said, « and in a matter-of-fact way, because it isn’t a big deal here. So now it’s strange to have all this set-up around cutting a seal. »

For me personally, it was exciting to see this again. After seven years it was a welcomed sight. You surely don’t see something like this everywhere. It was something I had grown so used to that I never thought much about it. But coming back after so long makes it even more obvious how much I admire and respect the Inuit culture, and how really special it is. Part of me wanted to put this picture on our Facebook wall, but I decided against it to avoid shocking anyone who might find it hard to look at haha, but I am putting it here. After all, it will be in the movie. I have more graphic and bloody pictures as the cutting goes along but settled on this one. Easier for the eyes.

Travis and Laurentio (who plays the hunter) start cutting up the seal.

Félix and His Audience: explaining to the crew his plan for the scene.

What was less exciting was the number of mosquitoes. This week the mosquitoes have arrived in Igloolik. And when they arrive, they arrive in swarms. I had forgotten what the mosquito season was like in Igloolik. Before, the mosquitoes were really bad by the water and out on the land but there were never as many in the town. Now things seem to have changed, and there are tons of them in the town. Many people have been telling me that the mosquitoes are getting worse every year. There are greater numbers of them, and that there are more of them in the town they there used to be. I wonder what could cause this. Perhaps this follows the rapid increase in temperature that the town, along with the rest of the Arctic, has been experiencing? I don’t know. All I know is that they can drive you mad. My arms are literally covered in red bumps, as is my forehead. Yesterday during the shoot they were particularly aggressive, due to the lack of wind. Travis, who did the entire scene with his sleeves rolled up cutting the seal, had completely swollen arms. I spent the evening spraying Muskol all over myself. Afterbite has become my new best friend. It was driving everyone crazy. Lukasi Forrest (who plays Tomas in the film) grew up in Kuujjuaq, the capital of Nunavik, and kept telling me that, « it’s way worse in Kuujj. » As if it was some sort of sick competition of where the bugs are the worst. I’ll take his word for it, I have no interest in finding out for myself ha!

Madeline Ivalu and Susan Avingaq watch the scene through the monitor.







Marie-Hélène with Lukasi and Marianne.








Sound assistant Marie-Pierre Grenier gears up against the mosquitoes.







Mélanie Mcnicoll on the right with Lukasi, Sharon (who plays Jeela), and Marianne.




Day two of shooting: The gambling house

-July 10

Though a scene had been shot last Saturday, Monday was when the shooting really went into full gear. The main scene that was shot was the scene in a gambling house.

I walked over to the other end of town to the house that was being used for the gambling scene. A gambling house is exactly what it sounds like; it is a house where people go to gamble, the game of choice being an Inuit version of bridge called « pattiq. » A gambling house is empty, bare, not really made for living but for playing. The crew had emptied out the living room to make it as bare as possible, all there was left were a few chairs and a table

Peter-Henry Arnatsiaq (Barrie) and our group of extras.

To make the scene more realistic, the cast and crew were allowed to smoke in the house in order for it to really look like a gambling house. Plus the smoke looked really beautiful in the dark light of the room. But I didn’t know this when I arrived on the set until someone walked out saying « It’s not everyday you work on a smoking set. » Obviously people weren’t forced to smoke, but in the scene many of the gamblers are smoking, and it happened that some of the actors were actually smokers.

Inside the house it was, let’s say…interesting. There was smoke everywhere, it smelled like what I imagine a Montreal bar used to smell like before the anti-smoking laws. Everything smelled of cigarette smoke. This didn’t bother the actors at all, but it was funny to see the reaction of the crew members. « Can you believe everything used to be like this? » Marie-Hélène said to co-director of photography Alexandre Domingue at one point. « Restaurants, bars, trains, airplanes. We used to think it was normal, now we think it’s crazy. »

But the shooting went extremely well. The scene was beautifully lit and it looked amazing on camera. There was something about the bareness of the room, with the dim lighting and the smoke twirling in the air that gave the scene some real personality. « There’s something unwholesome and a little sick about this scene, » director of photography Félix Lajeunesse commented during the shoot somewhat jokingly, « but it’s good, I really like it. I think that’s what we’re going for in this scene. »

Marie-Hélène observes from a distance the scene unfolding.







The crew assembles around the table for a close-up shot.









Coming home at the end of the day, I immediately took a shower and washed my sweater which was completely infused with cigarette smoke.

Unofficial first day of shooting

-July 8

Shooting officially starts on Monday the ninth, but yesterday the team shot their first scene. It is a short scene where Madeline Ivalu (who plays the grandmother Sarah) plays cards with an old friend. They really wanted the old friend to be played by a woman named Mary Qulitalik. An extremely well respected elder in the community, Mary has worked with Isuma and Arnait for over twenty years. Her husband was the late Pauloosie Qulitalik, chairman and one of the founders of Isuma. She also played in Arnait’s previous feature film Before Tomorrow.

Our family has always been extremely close to the Qulitaliks. A few days ago my mother and I visited her and I saw old pictures of Mary and Marie-Hélène holding Reena and I (Reena is Mary’s grand-daughter whom she adopted) when we were both babies. In 2000 my mother adopted my brother Alex, whose biological father is Charlie Qulitalik, Mary and Pauloosie’s son. So as well as work-related ties, we have deep family ties with the Qulitaliks.

For all of these reasons it was really important for Mary to be in the film. And also for Madeline, who is a close friend of Mary’s, starting the film with a scene with her really meant a lot. It was a great way to kick off the shoot. But Mary was leaving Igloolik on the 9th to go to Ottawa. Therefore it was really important to shoot her scene prior to her departure, which is why Marie-Hélène decided to film the scene before.

Mary Qulitalik and assistant director Michelline Ammaq taking a break while the crew sets up inside the house.








I spent some time inside the house, watching the team prepare the shots and then filming the scenes. This is the first time a contemporary film is shot in Igloolik; all of Isuma and Arnait’s previous feature films have been set in the past. I found it interesting to see actors who have played in the previous films being filmed in a contemporary setting. It was something new for certain members of the crew also. Talking to people on the set, everyone was very excited to finally be filming.

Directors of photography Félix Lajeunesse and Alexandre Domingue were both buzzing with energy. « It’s really exciting to get started » Alexandre, who worked as assistant DOP on Before Tomorrow, told me, « and so is shooting something contemporary, in people’s houses, on the street. It’s very different from the last movie. »

The room was not that small, but with all the equipment and people moving around, it felt a little squeezed. The main difference from the last film was that on the last one there was no artificial light. Everything had been shot using natural light.


Here, because of the indoor scenes (and as you can see from the pictures it was pretty dark inside) artificial lighting had to be used. This extra equipment takes up quite a bit more space. But it was interesting to see a more « traditional » scene set-up.

The shots were incredibly beautiful. The film is being shot in full high definition. I was looking into the screen on the other side of the room (a screen that is connected directly to the camera’s viewfinder so you see exactly what the camera sees), and was blown away by the beauty and clarity of the shots. It’s going to be a beautifully shot film.


Anna (played by Marianne Farley) sits at the table with the two older ladies, Sarah (Madeline Ivalu) and her friend (Mary Qulitalik).

Madeline Ivalu gets a touch-up by hair and make-up stylist Toby Otak.







The two ladies and Ike (played by Pakak Innuksuk).









Later that evening when the shoot was over, some members of the cast and crew drove down to Ham Bay, a quiet area by the water fifteen minutes’ drive from town.

When we used to spend summers in Igloolik, my parents and I would set up a tent in Ham Bay and spend days there when we wanted to get away from the noise of the town. It is very peaceful and quiet there. We had tea and bannick (traditional Inuit bread). Susan Avingaq made a fire and told us Inuit creation stories. Others went out running on the ice. Some even brought fishing rods to go fishing between the ice cracks. The sun came out from behind the clouds and warmed us up. It was a lovely evening. That giant bone propped up on the left is the top of a bowhead whale skull.



Susan Avingaq and Lynne Trépanier admire the bowhead skull. To give an idea of the size, that hole at the bottom left is the eye socket! The whale was caught in 2002 when Igloolik and the nearby town of Hall Beach were given a hunting permit by the Government of Nunavut. Because they are an endangered species, the government rarely gives out permits to hunt them.

Hanging out on the ice. There were lots of puddles, and I regretted not wearing my rain boots.

A day with the cast and crew

-July 7

(This is mainly a picture post).

Yesterday pretty much everyone was at the Arctic College working. So I hung around and took pictures, to make a little photo album for all of you!

Co-director of photography Félix Lajeunesse met with the design team to go over the costume choices for certain scenes.






Madeline Ivalu jokes around with Susan Avingaq and Carol Kunnuk.






Susan Avingaq is such an amazing person. She always makes me laugh, making silly poses for the camera.







Most of the actors were present yesterday also. They rehearsed some scenes in smaller groups, and discussed with Marie-Hélène, Madeline, and assistant director Michelline Ammaq. Marie-Hélène also gave the actors a schedule of what scenes were to be shot in the following days, in order for them to prepare specific scenes and lines ahead of time. They rehearsed a few scenes outside, and it really exciting to see these scenes I had imagined many times in my head while reading the script come to life.

Marie-Hélène Cousineau, Félix Lajeunesse, Peter-Henry Arnatsiaq and Travis Kunnuk go over the rehearsal of a scene.






Peter-Henry Arnatsiaq (who plays Barrie in the film) rehearsing a confrontational scene with Eric Nutarariaq (who plays John). Félix takes pictures on the side. « This helps us figure out what kind of shot sequence we want when we actually shoot the scene » he told me later, « I get to play around with close-ups and angles. »




Félix and Marie-Hélène look over some shots. « Now I have a better idea what works best here, » says Félix, « and I can show this to Marie-Hélène when we’re discussing how to approach the scene. »





Marianne Farley (Anna) and Carol Kunnuk (Sheeba) go over lines.








This past week in Igloolik was the Rockin’ Walrus Festival, a music and arts festival that brings local musicians with bands from other parts of the North together for four days of activities during the day, and concerts in the evening. As part of the festival two independent visual artists, Patrick Thompson and Alexa Hatanaka, arrived in Igloolik with the project of painting the Isuma office. They have painted things in Igloolik before, including the youth centre and the community radio station. *See pictures below*

Igloolik Radio Station






Igloolik Community Hall








Igloolik Isuma Productions was incorporated in January 1990, founded by Zacharias Kunuk, Paul Apak Angilirq, Pauloosie Qulitalik, and Norman Cohn. It is Canada’s first Inuit independent production company. They have produced various documentaries, ‘re-lived’ documentary-style fiction such as Qaggiq (Gathering Place, 1988) and the 13 part television series Nunavut (Our Land), and feature films such as the 2001 Cannes winner of the Caméra d’Or Atanarjuat The Fast Runner, the first Canadian Aboriginal-language feature movie, and The Journals of Knud Rassmussen. Isuma has also played a role in the creation of the women’s collective Arnait Video Productions, the producers of Uvanga.

Because of the impact Isuma (which means « think » in Inuktitut) has had on the town and people of Igloolik, it really means a lot for the office to be painted, and comes to symbolize its place within the history of the community. Patrick and Alexa want to get kids involved in the process too, and they hope to use recycled materials and wood from the garbage dump to highlight the importance of using recycled materials. Virginie Cousineau will be bringing the children from her camp « Portrait of Children » to help with the process. It’s really exciting to see this coming along! I will keep you all posted on how it is going.

The team gets started on the project Friday, already getting help from some kids passing by.