Big fish in big water
Local production company puts Yellowknife on national television

by Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

NNSL (Apr 03/98) - In some cities, cottagers have to drive for three hours through gruelling traffic jams to spend a mere 36 hours sitting elbow to elbow with other frustrated, tired city folk.

But in Yellowknife, things are a little different and with the help of a local production company, the rest of Canada is about to find out why.

This weekend on the national television program Cottage Country, Charles Laird of Big Fish Productions takes Canadians into the Stirling family's cabin on Prosperous Lake.

"I don't know how rustic people imagine life in Yellowknife is, but it's a city and people need to escape it and that's the theme of Cottage Country. If anything, it won't really highlight the differences between the north and south, it'll show some of the similarities," says Laird who was hired by Craig Thompson, the show's executive producer, to put together an episode on Northern life.

Laird says his 30- minute slot does illustrate that there are some pretty big differences between getting away from it all in the North and south of the 60th parallel.

"The Stirlings drive 10 minutes outside of Yellowknife and there are miles and miles of untouched wilderness. I don't think there's anything comparable to that in southern Ontario," says Laird.

He originally pitched his story idea to Thompson in Banff last year during a production industry event.

Thompson loved the idea of filming in the Northwest Territories and says he has wanted to do something here for quite some time.

"We focus on a different region in Canada each episode. The NWT for us has always been difficult because the summer is so short there but we've always wanted to do something. We told Charles we need an episode for Cottage Country and gave him the perimeters and he came up with the Stirling family," says Thompson.

Well acquainted with the outdoors, the owners of Overlander Sports say they were thrilled to be part of the show.

"The concept was to show how people in Yellowknife use their cabins, to show how easy it is for people who live in Yellowknife to get out to their cabins. It's not that difficult to get out of their everyday, busy work lives and 15 minutes later, you're out in the wilderness," says Sandra Stirling.

Laird and his crew filmed their usual weekend activities including watercolor painting, kayaking, barbecuing and simply sitting around and chatting.

"They actually filmed us getting into our van, picking Bill up from work, loading the boat up and actually getting up there."

Thompson believes the show will be popular among southern Canadians.

"In terms of the appeal the story has to the rest of Canada, it's basically how close they are to Yellowknife and just how far removed they are from civilization. What really struck me, is how in touch people are with their surroundings compared to people in other parts of the country," says Thompson who invites Yellowknifers to call Laird with future summer or winter ideas for his show.

Cottage Country airs on CBC this Saturday at 11:30 a.m. MT and at 8 a.m. MT on Sunday.

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