BY GEORGE MARATOS
“Quiet on the set, please … Roll sound … action … cut … nice … done …”
Those are just some of the sounds heard on the set of the latest production of Anash and the Legacy of the Sun-Rock.
Sitting in on a Monday evening shoot, it is hard to fathom that the production location is the same place many Yukoners learned to swim and, more recently, came to rock out to the likes of Trooper, Nazareth and Dr. Hook.
Seven more episodes of the popular children’s series written by Yukoner Carol Geddes are now being shot over a six-week period at the High Country Inn Convention Centre in Whitehorse.
“It’s been fabulous being back in the Yukon,” whispers production manager Lisa Byrne as she sips a mug of healing juice, a concoction she hopes quashes the cold that has hit some of the cast and crew.
“Everyone said that we were crazy when we told them we were coming to the Yukon to shoot indoors and not utilize the beautiful scenery … ‘No one does that,’ they told us, ‘Everyone comes to the Yukon to shoot our beautiful scenery, not inside a convention centre.'”
That is one of the unique and more-challenging components of the “Anash” shoot.
Everything is done indoors in front of a green screen.
That means, while the sporadic Yukon weather is not a factor, acting within an imaginary environment is.
“It’s really hard on the actors as you can imagine, describes Byrne as a caterer shuffles by offering a cheddar-cheese tuna melt to the both of us. “Sitting around a fire that actually isn’t there is really difficult.
“You don’t have the luxury of feeling the heat and flames of a real fire.”
On this particular night, the stars of the show, Anash and Kole (think Frodo and Sam from Lord of the Rings), are laying on their bellies looking out to the forest, except instead of a forest, it is a large green screen that is behind them.
A collaborative Alberta and Yukon production, the Anash scenes are all filmed in Whitehorse in front of a green screen and are then brought to Edmonton where the backgrounds are developed.
“We combine, layer and composite the live action on top of the watercolour backgrounds, and then we put a treated effect on top of it that combines it all.”
The end result is Anash and the Legacy of the Sun-Rock, a live-action, animated children’s series that combines adventure, friendship and Tlingit history.
“It’s very much like Lord of the Rings, where there is a quest,” explains Byrne. “Carol Geddes is a beautiful writer and she has done a tremendous job in sharing that knowledge of her Tlingit heritage with a tale of adventure.”
Watching the Monday-night shoot, it is apparent Geddes not only writes the series but is involved in every aspect of the production.
While they film each scene, she watches intently from the largest of the three monitors positioned to the left of the set.
“You’re going to get it right this time, right?” she asks, while breaking to speak with the cast. “We haven’t got much time, please.”
Once a scene is successfully shot, crew members, armed with tools, make a few adjustments to the set, the floor is swept and another scene is ready to go.
All this as actors pace while awaiting their role call.
“Because it is a tale of adventure, we have to create a number of different rigs on the green screen to make it work,” says Byrne. “We have to be very creative with all these different set pieces, and the green screen area has to be spotless.”
The days are long for the cast and crew of more than 80, with the 12-hour days starting at seven in the morning.
Byrne says the long days and pressured production timeline is well worth it.
“It’s still airing and it’s still out there, and that’s really great.
“It continues to get plugged and pumped,” she whispers excitedly as filming continues. “We can’t wait to get the rest of the series out, and the wonderful thing is it doesn’t have to end after these thirteen episodes because this is just one quest for the boys to conquer.”
Byrne says one of the best aspects of this recent shoot is the number of new Yukoners involved in the production.
“There is far more young talent, this time around, and lots of new interest and considerable growth with both local equipment and talent,” says Byrne. “The hope is that we’ll be back for more episodes, and we want as many Yukoners involved as we can so that we can create local growth in the industry.”
Episodes 1 through 6 of Anash and the Legacy of the Sun-Rock continue to air across Canada, on APTN as well as on the Knowledge Network. The episodes now being shot are expected to air sometime in 2010