Giant green screen at heart of new Yellowknife production studio

The giant green screen at HyperArctika. Luisa Esteban/Cabin Radio
The giant green screen at HyperArctika. Luisa Esteban/Cabin Radio
Sarah Pruys explores HyperArctika. Produced by Luisa Esteban

The creators of Dead North are taking time away from the film festival to focus on a new project: a 2,000 square-foot production studio named HyperArctika.

Jay Bulckaert and Pablo Saravanja, of Artless Collective, say the new Yellowknife studio will create more opportunities for the NWT’s film industry.

One of those opportunities is virtual production, which required them to build what is likely the largest green screen in the territory.

Bulckaert described virtual production as a mix between live filmmaking and video game production. Essentially, filmmakers shoot two scenes – one 360-degree environment in the field and one on the green screen – then combine them, allowing the background to look hyper-real.



“The background will literally interact and change with you … we can put you on the moon, we can put you on a beach, we can do all of those things,” he said.

“Getting a crew to all go out on Great Slave Lake and film in -30C is brutal. The idea with this studio is that we can now go film and send a smaller unit, and then – in the comfort of this new studio – we can start filming scenes that we never would have been able to before.”

That process cuts travel costs and is Covid-19 friendly as it means fewer people need to travel for shoots, Bulckaert said.

The space is about 60-percent complete. Sound baffling and a crane must be erected, while motion capture suits are due to arrive – “a bunch of stuff that really, truly allows people to dream big with their projects,” Bulckaert summarized.



The two expect to be using the studio themselves for half of the time, renting the space to others for the remainder.

“It is for the industry at large to really start getting the creative wheels turning and thinking bigger: bigger-scale projects with cool, bigger effects,” said Bulckaert.

“Before you would have written stuff, and you’d be like, ‘We can’t do that, we’re in Yellowknife.’ Well, now you can.”

Filming begins at HyperArctika

Saravanja said he and Bulckaert already have projects on the go in the new studio.

The two are starting a show called Rated N, a repurposed project celebrating Yellowknife.

“What we’ve done is brought it back as a means of telling a story about Yellowknife through the stories of the people who’ve lived here,” said Saravanja.

“And it’s not meant to be like a film. It’s meant to be more like a living archive, an interactive library of Yellowknife stories that over time will connect the dots between the people.”

Saravanja gave the example that if two interviewees mention René Fumoleau – the priest, photographer and longtime northern resident who passed away last year – Saravanja and Bulckaert will link the two stories in the archive.

Past shorts from northern horror film festival Dead North are also being repurposed for Northwestel cable, a show hosted by Bulckaert.

The duo are considering the creation of a motion-capture animation based on Bulckaert’s new graphic novel, King Warrior.