Hollywood is coming north this summer.
In June, 20th Century Fox films is travelling to the Yukon to shoot scenes for its blockbuster comedy, The Big Year.
The movie, about a group of avid birdwatchers, stars Hollywood heavyweights Owen Wilson, Jack Black and Steve Martin.
Starting June 1, film crews will be north of Dawson filming along the Dempster Highway for four days.
The movie is based on a book by Mark Obmascik who, in 1998, followed a trio of competitive birdwatchers who raced around North America trying to spot the most species of birds in one year. The real-life competition attracts bird fanatics who drop everything in their lives to spend a year scouting out sometimes more than 600 varieties of birds.
The movie will be a loose interpretation of that book, said publicist Lorraine Jamison who was hesitant to give away too many details about the movie.
The Yukon’s Dempster Highway will be a stand-in for Alaska’s Attu Island, where part of the movie takes place, she said.
“(The Dempster) is majestically beautiful,” she said.
“It’s unlike any other area in the continent, and that’s why we chose it.”
The Yukon Film and Sound Commission was contacted about the movie last September. That’s when a Canadian producer asked the film commission whether there were any areas in the Yukon that looked like Attu Island and sent them photos of what they were looking for.
“(The photos) looked exactly like the Dempster Highway,” said film officer Iris Merritt.
Parts of the movie will also be shot in British Columbia, Arizona and New York, said Jamison.
Early this week the film crew was spotted in Tofino shooting scenes for The Big Year.
The Yukon has been the site of a few other large-scale movies, like the Big White in 2005, but it has never attracted a Hollywood movie before, said Merritt.
“An opportunity to have local film crews work on a movie of this size and scope is brilliant,” she said.
The Film and Sound Commission hasn’t been advertising the Yukon any more than it normally does, said Merritt.
But the Yukon has been getting noticed nonetheless.
The organization snagged an award for its information booth at a film expo in Santa Monica recently, said Merritt.
“We’re a smaller jurisdiction and we’re competing against larger jurisdictions so to have our booth recognized, it shows we’re on the right track,” she said.
The Yukon also has particular selling points that other locations don’t have, said Merritt, like “high-def air.”
“If you fly into Los Angeles, it’s smoggy and we don’t have that here,” she said explaining that the air is so clear in the Yukon that it gives the impression of being ‘high-definition.’
The light in the Yukon is also a bonus.
“Because the light is lower in the horizon it lights everything differently,” she said.
The proximity of film locations to hotels and services is another perk as is experienced local film and production crews, she added.
Merritt wouldn’t say whether the Yukon will be the site of any other film shoots in the near future.
The Big Year will be scouting extras and local industry people to help out with the shoot.
Interested people should go to the Northern Film and Video Industry Association website, www.nfvia.com for more information.
A release date for the film still hasn’t been set.
Contact Vivian Belik at firstname.lastname@example.org