New studio and TV show with unprecedented budget for Arctic Canada in the works

Stacey Aglok MacDonald shown in 2017. She’s a co-owner of production company Red Marrow, which is making plans to shoot television series in Iqaluit next year.

Hollywood North North? Holly-uit perhaps?

A new studio in Iqaluit and the most expensive TV production ever in Nunavut are in the works for 2023, the heads of a production company told a municipal government committee last month.

“It’s a TV comedy show with a significant budget, a budget for a film project that has never been seen here in Nunavut before,” Stacey Aglok MacDonald said during the recreation committee’s Jan. 20 meeting.

She and Alethea Arnaquq-Baril are co-owners of Red Marrow.

Alethea Arnaquq-Baril in a file photo from 2018. She’s co-owner of Red Sparrow. (David Donnelly/CBC)

The production would provide about six months of employment for hundreds of people, including about 75 crew members from outside of the territory, they said.

“This is an important step to economic recovery, really,” Mayor Kenny Bell said in a phone interview on Wednesday.

“We’ve been dying for two years now because of COVID[-19] lockdowns and, you know, this is going to be helpful for our whole community.”

The show takes place in “a fictional community in Nunavut,” Aglok MacDonald said, and the goal is to air the 10-episode first season by fall 2023.

“This is a project that we’re really proud of and that we’ve been working for two and a half years on.”

Rink needed as back-up option in case studio not finished in time

The duo kept many aspects of the show secret, including the name of the broadcaster, promising more information will come out once the production is officially announced.

They were speaking to the recreation committee because the plan is to build a studio in the city in time to record the first season between February and August, but they need to have a plan B.

“When you have funders giving you millions of dollars to do something, they want to know that you can execute it for sure,” Arnaquq-Baril said.

They believe their only option for a one-time backup space is to rent the city’s curling rink.

The Iqaluit Curling Rink as seen on Feb. 2, 2022. (Steve Silva/CBC)

They said if that’s allowed, then the entire production can happen in the territory. If not, most of it will happen elsewhere.

“We know we’re asking a lot, but what we’re hoping is that you will feel like we’re giving a lot back for it,” Aglok MacDonald said.

Stephanie Clark, the city’s director of recreation, said during the meeting that the Iqaluit Curling Club pays about $18,000 a year in rent for the facility, and the curling season runs between October and late March or early April.

“We do find it difficult to shift the curling season around,” she said. “Really, we can shorten it but we can’t necessarily lengthen it or shift it around simply because the insulation of the building and the temperature outside impacts the ice on the inside, clearly.”

Iqaluit Mayor Kenny Bell said he supports renting out the Iqaluit Curling Rink to the production company. (David Gunn/CBC)

However, Bell said a full season held earlier in the year, from around August to January, might be an option for the curlers.

The Iqaluit Curling Club did not make anyone available for an interview.

“We will plan accordingly and work with the [municipal government] to make the most of a shortened season, if necessary,” Alison Taylor, a spokesperson for the organization, said in an email on Thursday.

Bell said he supports allowing the company to rent the space.

He said he’s not aware of the specifics regarding where the proposed studio would be located, and no building applications have been sent to city council nor the city’s planning department.

The co-owners of Red Marrow are asking the City of Iqaluit to let the production company rent the Iqaluit Curling Rink in 2023. The rink, as seen on Feb. 1, 2022, is located in the rear of the building. (Steve Silva/CBC)

Aglok MacDonald declined an interview request for now.

“We really hope everything becomes official sometime this month,” she said in an email on Tuesday.

Committee members, including Bell, voted 2-1 in favour of forwarding the rental request to councillors to consider at a council meeting. That meeting is scheduled for Feb. 8, Bell said.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Inuit short film makes the Oscars short list, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay brings film crew to Finnish Lapland, Yle News

Greenland: Nunavut children’s books translated for circulation in Greenland’s schools, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Walt Disney Animation Studios to release Saami-language version of “Frozen 2”, Eye on the Arctic

Steve Silva, CBC News

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