Braden Brickner’s first job was dishing out popcorn at the Yukon Cinema.
Now, the 19-year-old Vanier Catholic Secondary School grad is about to produce his first indie film.
With a marquee-filling title lifted straight from the most famous poem Robert Service ever penned, it’s an unusual take on the discovery of gold in the Klondike.
There Are Strange Things Done in the Midnight Sun will actually consist of two short films, one written and directed by Brickner, the other written and directed by Calgarian Darryl Jordan.
And while the two main characters are called George and Charlie, and they do discover gold in 1896, they don’t exactly become partners and friends.
In fact, the discovery sparks an immediate dispute.
“You could almost say it’s a historical horror movie, or at least a thriller with murder involved,” Brickner explains.
Brickner was born in Calgary, but spent boyhood summers in Dawson City, where his father was a tour guide on Dredge Number 4, and both parents worked at Diamond Tooth Gerties. An uncle still mines in Dawson.
When he was in Grade 6, the family moved to Whitehorse, where Brickner caught the film bug thanks to a teacher at Vanier.
He represented Yukon twice at the Skills Canada competition in computer animation.
“I watched tons and tons of cartoons, so that’s really why the cartoon drawing aspect came into it. Then it kind of migrated into films with a few classes at school where we’d get to play with video cameras and stuff.”
Then there were those evenings soaking up film culture at the local movie house, where he eventually became a shift manager/projectionist.
“I got into writing scripts in my spare time, and I just started wanting to make movies, I guess.”
In April, Brickner graduated from a two-year film program at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology.
That’s where he first collaborated with Jordan, serving as producer on Jordan’s major student project, a 22-minute “psycho-thriller” called Prisoner 7.
Their instructors considered it one of the most complex scripts ever pulled off at the school.
“One of SAIT’s rules is that we can’t pay for locations and we can’t pay for actors. So we had to find locations for free, and we had to find talent for free,” he says.
“And we shot it on film, too. We shot it on Super 16mm.”
One of the actors who provided free services, playing the villain in Prisoner 7, will play a Mountie, the third character Midnight Sun.
But the role of the now-famous creek that triggered the Klondike Gold Rush will actually go to a southern Alberta stand-in.
“We went through a ton of creeks a few months ago, and we finally decided the best locations for everything that we could do,” Brickner says.
They finally settled on a site in the foothills northwest of Cochrane.
“So it’s not going to be the same exact kind of feel as Bonanza or Rabbit, or Hunker, or whatever,” he admits.
Still, Brickner hopes this first foray into independent filmmaking could become a springboard to something more ambitious that could be filmed here.
“I would love to have the Yukon as a location and to actually film something about Dawson in Dawson, or the Klondike. That’s my goal.”
A Whitehorse premiere of Midnight Sun is tentatively set for late November at the Old Fire Hall.
“But don’t hold me to that one, because stuff can happen. You know: Murphy’s Law on a film set.”