A screengrab from The Vast Forlorn, a 2015 Yukon based film produced by Reuben Ward. The 16-minute film is about a young drifter who joins a miner’s union and finds out what it really means to pay your dues. The film is free to watch on Available Light On Demand. (Submitted)

Available Light on Demand brings Yukon films to home screens

Four documentaries normally behind paywalls will be free to stream on April 22 and 23

For those of you who like nothing more than snuggling up on the couch with a big bowl of popcorn in front of a screen in these troubled times, the Yukon Film Society has got you covered.

And as an added bonus, your screen time will be helping to support local artists.

The society, in collaboration with the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture, recently finished updating its on-demand streaming website, Available Light on Demand. First launched in October, it now features 21 Yukon-made films, and a 22nd film from a Yukon filmmaker now based in Toronto.

The flicks range from documentaries to thrillers to stop-motion animation, with half of them directed by women as well as a healthy sprinkling of filmmakers from Dawson City.

Conor Curtis, the marketing and distribution coordinator for the Yukon Film Society, said the diversity of the collection in subject, style and filmmaker wasn’t a deliberate choice by curators, but more just a reflection of the film scene in the territory.

“I think that just represents the fact that, you know, there are so many women filmmakers in the Yukon making film, there are so many filmmakers in Dawson making film,” he said.

“I mean, given the size, actually, of the Yukon and of Dawson and Whitehorse, the amount of people doing film and the amount of different stories they’re telling with film I think is just really startling.”

More than half the films on Available Light on Demand are free to stream; Curtis said the Yukon Film Society paid those filmmakers a licensing fee in order to have their work as part of the collection. A handful of the longer movies are for-rent, with 75 per cent of the fee going to the filmmaker, 10 per cent going to the streaming platform, Vimeo, and the society collecting the remaining 15 per cent.

“The notion was that for longer films where there is a paywall, we’d like to see the revenue go back to the filmmaker as much as possible,” Curtis said.

That paywall, though, will be dropping for four documentaries for 48 hours in honour of National Canadian Film Day, on April 22.

Among the films that will be temporarily available for free include Shift, about First Nations youth building world-class mountain biking trails in Carcross; Camera Trap, which follows photographer Peter Mather as he follows the Porcupine caribou herd; All it Gives, which covers the rise of an up-and-coming Toronto hip-hop dancer; and Memory Trap: The Herd that Wouldn’t Disappear, which documents a year in the life of the Forty Mile caribou herd.

Three of the documentaries are being sponsored by local architectural firm Kobayashi and Zedda to ensure the filmmakers still get paid during the free period.

Curtis said he hoped Yukoners, or anyone around the world with an interest in the North and northern filmmaking, would take the opportunity to see what the Available Light on Demand collection has to offer, and that it makes them come back for more.

What makes it stand out from streaming giants like, say, Netflix or YouTube, he said, is the fact that it offers viewers content with a local connection that they might not be able to find anywhere else.

“With any small site like this where you have a film collection, you know, often there’s sort of uniting themes or there’s something that brings all these films together, and in our case it’s locality and the notion that these films are being made by Yukon or northern filmmakers,” Curtis said.

“… The themes perhaps are more wide-ranging in terms of what they’re dealing with but we almost inevitably find those connections to the Yukon.”

That’s not to say that Outsiders can’t or won’t be able to enjoy the collection — Curtis said most, if not all, of the stories have national and international importance as well, and for those unfamiliar with the Yukon, can serve as a peek into life in the North.

“Whether you’re living in Vancouver or whether you’re living in Germany or whether you’re living in the Yukon or you’re living in Newfoundland and Labrador, which is my home province — I mean, I’ve been watching these films and thinking a lot about what the implication of those films would be for my own home and for where I come from, and I think a lot of other people are thinking the same thing and looking at it the same way,” he said.

“… It’s a great chance for people to get insight into that.”

Available Light on Demand is online at availablelight.watch. Shift, Camera Trap, All it Gives and Memory Trap: The Herd that Wouldn’t Disappear are streaming for free on April 22 and 23.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

Film industry