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CBC North, Outcrop, work on TV series

CBC North has teamed up with the publishers of Up Here magazine to develop a 13-part northern arts and entertainment series.

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

MICHAELA RODRIGUE

IQALUIT – Up Here magazine wants to turn its readers into viewers and is teaming up with CBC North to do it.

CBC North has entered into an agreement to begin development of a 13-part, half-hour series. It’s the first time CBC North has delved into the arts and entertainment field.

CBC North has teamed up with Yellowknife-based Big Fish Productions and Up Here magazine owners Outcrop Ltd. to develop a proposal for the series, tentatively called Up Here.

The agreement only covers the creation of a rough-cut pilot and three episode scripts. It doesn’t guarantee that the TV series will be broadcast on CBC.

But CBC North’s hope is to have a show that will be broadcast both in the North and nationally, said Cathie Bolstad, a communications officer with CBC North.

“There are a number of shows on the national network that started as regional network shows that became national network shows because they have the ability to meet the needs of a national audience,” Bolstad said.

Officials are already working with Big Fish and Outcrop to create what’s called the series’ “bible.”

This document will guide the look, feel and mandate of the show, said Volstad.

“It’s a very, very detailed document that defines the series. It gives it its flavour, its taste, its tone, its shooting,” she said.

Viewers of Up Here the TV show can expect more of the kinds of stories that now run in the pages of the magazine, said producer Charles Laird.

“It’s a magazine show, and I think magazine programs cover an enormous breadth of subject matter,” Laird said.

“We’ll also have performance, music, arts and culture. We’ll have travel, adventure, tourism… cooking, how-to sections. I think we’re exploring all aspects of life in the North,” Laird said.

The show will cover the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Nunavik. Up Here, the television show won’t strive to break stories about political or social issues, but those issues may appear on air in the context of arts and entertainment, Laird said.

That could mean looking at people or groups like Arctic Bay’s Kicking Caribou Theatre Company, which examines social issues through theatre, Laird said.

“Ways of engaging issues that are happening in the North through arts and entertainment,” he said

Laird has worked on other national television shows, such as Cottage Country.

He expects that it will cost about $500,000 to produce 13 shows. Should CBC North decide to air the series and issue a broadcast licence, it will likely pay enough to cover one-third of the cost, Laird said.

But the company will have to find financing from government and other sources, both for this latest stage of development and to produce the entire series.

“The benefits of this kind of project to the community and to the North in general are so great that it probably is worth some kind of seed funding from government,” Laird said.

This latest phase of development alone will cost more than $50,000, Laird said.

As part of the recently-signed agreement, CBC North will pay $15,000. It will also provide expertise, Bolstad said. Big Fish and Outcrop are investing their own equity in the project.

For CBC North, the project is just one regional show recently solicited by nine of CBC’s regions. However, it’s a first for the northern region, she said. Right now CBC North is limited to news and current affairs programming.

CBC North doesn’t have the staff or resources to create its own arts and entertainment programming, Bolstad said.

The Big Fish-Out Crop submission was attractive because of its pan-northern perspective, solid business plan and content, CBC North says. CBC North also looked favourably upon Up Here’s recently-launched website.

Bolstad would not comment on the steps after this development phase is completed in August. But Laird said at that point it will be up to CBC to decide if they want to air the program.

Laird said they will approach more than one broadcaster after the pilot is complete.

Up Here, the television version could air by early 2001.

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