Blizzards in the bay


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by Willow Murton

Assistant Producer, Arctic/Mountains team 

I admit nothing made sense when we arrived over a week ago.   Ungava Bay in Northern Canada is set between the jaws of Arctic sea ice.  A town on the edge of two worlds – the fast moving skidoo driven modernity onshore and then the timeless pace of the moon, the tides and the unpredictable and volatile seasons beyond.   We have come to film a sequence which shows just what dangerous depths people will go to to find food in the unforgiving Arctic winter.  

Ungava Bay

Ungava Bay

As I type now, blizzards have blown into the corners of the windows, against the house steps and the bay is a distant place lost in white.   Life here is governed by the weather and so is our filming schedule.   We’re staying in the local teacher’s house and I am sitting at the kitchen table whilst in the rooms about me, the crew sleep ahead of the final weekend’s filming.   Someone snores in the background.   Patrice, our fixer, has pulled the short straw and is laid out on the living room floor in fitful, interrupted sleep in front of me.   The storms have blown for two days now, keeping us from the world of sea-ice where our filming sequence takes place.   House bound and impatient to return, thick down coats, giant boots and hats are piled expectantly below.   Out on the sea ice, our filming kit is buried under snow and somewhere over the other side of the bay, our timelapse camera is hidden in the drifts.   We can only wait…

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Patience is all important when filming in the Arctic.   Everything seems to take twice as long with a film crew and twice as long again in this environment.   There are cameras to prepare and to warm up, gloves to find, radios to test, flasks to fill, skidoos to load and then we set off, in a convoy of skidoos, snaking over the frozen bay.  

As much as we find ourselves looking on in wonder at the scenes we film, I catch the same curious gaze looking back at us at times.   There is no denying it -we are a strange sight.  

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The figure on the left is me!

I wonder what is usual though about this job.  Yesterday,  Simon, the soundman, and I took advantage of the blizzards to interview our main characters.   Lukasi is a small and warm worn-faced man.   He has organised our time here with care and attention.   He is also keen to talk as are the women we are filming with.   They tell us about their lives here, how they have changed so radically from the days of their parents : from the days of igloo dwelling to the building of this modern town.   Things are still changing fast, not least the climate.   Lukasi wonders whether there will be enough snow here to build igloos in the years to come.  

Lukasi building an igloo

Lukasi building an igloo

These warm-hearted people have welcomed us into their freezing cold world.   We have also ventured with them, under the sea-ice itself in what will be a spectacular sequence of daring and drama.   What lies out there beyond the sea-ice jaws yet within the grasp of Lukasi and the people who live in this small snow blown town, is an understanding of nature’s forces, generous at times, vicious at others.   We have seen but a glimpse – we have a whole year of filming ahead in these Arctic worlds.


Dale Templar - Series Producer

Mud, mud, not so glorious mud.

Never a day goes by on this series where everything goes to plan.  To be honest we would all get bored if it did.   It’s always wonderful when we get the teams away on location.   The risk assessments are filled in, the camera kit all packed up in lots of silver boxes,  and the crew and production team poised like coiled springs.   This was the situation last Thursday for the first shoot in our Urban episode.   The team were off to Mali to film a mud city being re-plastered.   Just as they were about to head off to the airport the  researcher,  Renee,  got a call from the Mali fixer to tell them the mud wasn’t fermented enough to plaster!  A two week delay and a huge amount of hassle and disappointment.   Mud, mud,  not so glorious mud!

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