Netflix hit ‘desert’ gives the NWT a taste of what could be

Keep Breathing, a Netflix show set mostly in the Canadian wilderness, is racking up millions of viewers, even if some of them might conclude it’s the wrong wilderness.

The show follows a woman who narrowly escapes when a small plane crashes en route to Inuvik. Six episodes trace her fate as she tries to survive alone in the wild.

Astute northerners will note that “the wild” can’t be anywhere remotely close to Inuvik. For starters, the trees are huge. By the time the camera shows a wide shot of the crash site, anyone who has been to the NWT knows that this is not the NWT we are looking at.


Instead, the show was filmed in British Columbia, reportedly in places like Squamish, Whistler, and Vancouver Island.

Keep Breathing never expressly states that the action is taking place in the North. It’s just the desert, and it doesn’t really matter which desert. But depending on how authentic you like your TV to be, this is a woman seen trying to board a scheduled flight to Inuvik from an unidentified airport also shown serving Juneau, or “Juno” as it’s written on the screen. , and Anchorage. . She ultimately ends up in a Cessna 208 bound for Inuvik, drastically limiting where she could reasonably have started, given the range of that plane.

Bottom line, wherever your departure airport is, you’re much more likely to get off on the NWT than in some lush area of ​​BC.

And some viewers certainly think they’re watching the NWT. Anecdotally, family and friends of two Cabin Radio staff members have called separately to express their amazement at the sights of the territory as seen on the show, only to be disappointed when told that’s not what they’re looking for. seeing. Similar confusion can be found on Twitter (see examples a Y twobut also counterexamples Three Y four.)


“It seems like they’ve made a passing attempt to get BC to act in the North,” said Nancy Shaw, NWT’s film commissioner, who acts as something of an ambassador for the territory’s film industry.

“The trees are too big. It’s too dark at night. It’s a bit disappointing that we didn’t get a chance to play here ourselves, but I don’t think they ever came close to us. We cannot find any evidence that we have been asked questions about shooting here.”

The public doesn’t seem to care about the trees. As critics line up to criticize the show (“instead of sitting on the edge of your seat, you’re more likely to fall asleep,” The Guardian wrote), Keep Breathing ranks high on multi-nation most-watched lists. and, according to unofficial data, has been one of the top Canadian Netflix picks for the past week.

NWT needs an anchor

Shaw, foliage aside, says the real lesson for NWT might be that this is a taste of things to come, if the territory’s film industry gets it right.

“British Columbia puts on shows with money from elsewhere. They come to the region and use qualified teams that are ready and waiting, then that show goes away and another one comes along,” she said.

“It’s different up here because there’s a smaller sector of shows willing to go that far. We get reality shows, adventure survival shows, documentaries. Right now, there’s still not enough infrastructure to support a major Netflix limited series like this.

“That said, I don’t think we’re that far away from that host series coming here.”

NWT’s strategy, led by the film commission, is to develop filmmakers who are “visible to major players in the industry,” in Shaw’s words. That means showrunners, writers and directors, the kind of talent that gets to make some or all of the decisions. As an example, the territory recently launched a program offering up to $35,000 to residents who are film or television producers learning their craft.

“Our people are the true experts on northern stories. Investing in their careers and projects is where I would like to spend our money,” Shaw said.

Ultimately, he continued, those people will be “in a position to make decisions” when scenes can be filmed in the Northwest Territories.

“They are the ones who are going to say: ‘That has to be shot in the right place.’ Soon there will be that filmmaker who will put on a show or a major feature here because he has to be here, and then everything will open up.”

In the meantime, Shaw said, she’s not convinced NWT still has the ability to support a show on the scale of Keep Breathing, and understands that Keep Breathing may have needed to shoot wild scenes near a big city for flashbacks from the southern US. which the show makes frequent use of.

At NWT Tourism, CEO Donna Lee Demarcke has Keep Breathing on her list of shows to watch this week after hearing rumors around the office.

Of course, the territory’s role in the show is limited to the appearance of Inuvik as a destination that has never actually been seen, but Demarcke says any mention of the NWT is welcome news.

“Hopefully, people will want to learn more about our destination and once they start looking and see the amazing images and stories on our social media and website, it will definitely become a must-see destination on their list.” said.

So did the NWT miss a trick by not having Keep Breathing on True North?

“It wasn’t a missed opportunity because we really didn’t get a chance,” Shaw said.

“But we can get closer and if there’s a second season, maybe they can show up and have the right rocks and trees.”


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