Skagway: Film to be shot on stampeders' route

Posted: Sunday, June 09, 2002

"The Quest for Gold," the third in a series of historic reenactments for Canada's History Channel, will be shot this summer on the historic route from Dyea to Dawson.

On June 5, five Canadians started hauling a total of 3,000 pounds of gear dumped on Dyea beach, taking it up the Chilkoot Trail.

Executive producer Jamie Brown and director Don Young visited Skagway early this month to meet with the National Park Service and others to solidify preparations for the event.

Over the past two years, their company, Frantic Films of Winnipeg, produced "Pioneer Quest," about families on the Canadian prairie, and "Quest for the Bay," about a historic crossing of Hudson's Bay. In the latter episode, the show's participants crashed their boat and had to rebuild it.

"Unending toil seems to be the theme of our shows," Brown said.

Reenacting the Klondike Gold Rush was the next in line. The pair expect the gold rush series will involve about 100 hours of filming, including an estimated 30 days on the Chilkoot Trail and 30 days on the Yukon River system, and be edited into four one-hour programs to air next year.

The participants are placed in a historic setting, with historic gear, and a mission - get to the Klondike. Other than using the outhouses on the trail, they are not allowed to have any "modern" conveniences such as freeze-dried meals. They are watched and filmed constantly, and teams have been caught cheating - taking food from passing moderners - on previous shows.

Young says he rarely does any real "directing" of the crew. "I don't tell them to 'get back in the boat and do it again so we can get a wider shot,'" he said. "We come at it from the point of view of a third party."

What participants do is always subject to safety concerns. "Generally, people make bad, small decisions but good big decisions," Young said, such as the decision in "Quest for the Bay" to rebuild the boat.

That same situation may befall the Klondike crew, as they will be hauling knock-down boats similar to what went over the trail in 1898. Most of those boats, which still sit in a heap on the summit, were deemed unsafe by Mounties.

Reed McCluskey, chief ranger for Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, said Frantic Films began researching the project early this year. The historic nature of the program and their good reputation in the filming industry earned the crew a permit, but the Park will require a $15,000 performance bond, a $2 million liability policy, and about $5,000 to cover the costs of preparing the permit, he said.

Like all the other campers, the stampeders will have to stay in designated camping areas on the trail, but likely will be on the edge to keep the background historic and keep away from temptations.

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