The Netflix hit’s “Wilderness” gives the NWT a taste of what could be

“Keep Breathing,” a Netflix show set primarily in the Canadian wilderness, has millions of viewers — though some of them might decide it’s the wrong wilderness.

The show follows a woman who narrowly escapes when a bush plane crashes en route to Inuvik. Six episodes follow her destiny as she tries to survive alone in the wilderness.

Cunning Norseers will find that “the wild” can’t be remotely close to Inuvik. First of all, the trees are gigantic. The moment the camera pans to a wide-angle shot of the crash site, anyone who’s been to the NWT knows this isn’t the NWT we’re looking at.


Instead, the show was filmed in British Columbia — reportedly in locations like Squamish, Whistler and Vancouver Island.

Keep Breathing never specifically states that the action takes place in the north. It’s just the wilderness, and it doesn’t matter which wilderness. But depending on how authentic you want your TV to be, this is a woman attempting to board a scheduled flight to Inuvik from an unidentified airport that also serves Juneau — or “Juno,” as spelled on the screen — and Anchorage . She eventually lands in a Cessna 208 bound for Inuvik, which, given that plane’s range, drastically limits where she could reasonably have taken off.

Long story short, wherever the departure airport was, you’re far more likely to end up in the NWT than a lush area of ​​BC.

And some viewers certainly think they’re watching the NWT. Anecdotally, family members and friends of two Cabin Radio employees called separately to express their surprise at the prospects for the area as seen on the show, only to be disappointed when they were told that this is not what you see. Similar confusion can be found on Twitter (see examples one and twobut also counterexamples three and four.)


“They look like they made a temporary attempt to get BC to play the North,” said Nancy Shaw, the NWT’s film commissioner, who acts as a sort of ambassador for the territory’s film industry.

“The trees are too big. It’s too dark at night. It’s a little disappointing that we couldn’t play here ourselves, but I don’t think they ever approached us. We can’t find any evidence that they asked us any questions about the shooting up here.”

The audience doesn’t seem to bother the trees. While critics lined up to pan the show (“Rather than perch on the edge of your seat, you’re more likely to fall asleep gently,” wrote The Guardian), “Keep Breathing” rode high on the most-watched charts of various nations and was loud unofficially one of the best Canadian Netflix picks of the past week.

NWT needs an anchor

Shaw, leaving the foliage aside, says the real lesson for the NWT may be that this is a foretaste of things to come — if the territory’s film industry gets it right.

“British Columbia puts on shows with money from elsewhere. They come into the region and they put in skilled crews that are ready and standing by, then that show goes away and another one pops up,” she said.

“It’s different up here because there’s a smaller sector of shows that are willing to go that far. We get reality shows, adventure survival shows, documentaries. Right now there still isn’t enough infrastructure to support a major Netflix limited series like this.

“Even so, I don’t think we’re that far from this anchor series coming here.”

NWT’s strategy, guided by the Film Commission, is to develop filmmakers that “are visible to the big players in the industry,” as Shaw puts it. That means showrunners, writers, and directors, the kinds of talent who can make some or all of the decisions. For example, the area recently launched a program offering up to $35,000 to residents who are film or television producers and are learning their trade.

“Our people are the true experts on Northern tales. I’d like to put our money into their careers and projects,” Shaw said.

Ultimately, she continued, if scenes could be filmed in the Northwest Territories, these people would be “in decision-making power.”

“They’re the ones who’re going to say, ‘We’ve got to put this where it belongs.’ This filmmaker is coming soon who will anchor a show or a big feature here because it has to be here, and then everything will open up.”

In the meantime, Shaw said she’s not convinced the NWT is still capable of supporting a show on the scale of Keep Breathing, and she understands that Keep Breathing might have had to shoot wilderness scenes near a big city for their southern flashbacks The show is frequently used.

At NWT Tourism, Managing Director Donna Lee Demarcke has Keep Breathing on her list of shows to watch this week after hearing excitement around the office.

Granted, the territory’s role in the show is limited to the appearance of Inuvik as a destination that’s never actually been seen, but Demarcke says any mention of the NWT is good news.

“Hopefully people will want to know more about our destination and once they start looking around and seeing the spectacular pictures and stories on our social media and website it will undoubtedly become a must-visit destination on their list,” she said .

So did the NWT miss a trick by not having Keep Breathing in the actual North?

“It wasn’t a missed opportunity because we didn’t really get the opportunity,” Shaw said.

“But we can maybe get in touch and if there’s a second season, maybe they can come and have the right rocks and trees.”


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