Hollywood Alaska

The formerly "Everybody Loves Whales," - now called "Big Miracle," the first major, modern movie filmed entirely in Alaska is about to hit theaters. The tale of serial killer Robert Hansen, starring John Cusack and Nicolas Cage, filmed in Anchorage this fall. Other major-studio films are considering an Alaska shoot, even as an army of reality TV camera crews continues to prowl the state. Producers credit the state’s fledgling tax incentive program – one of the most generous such public subsidies in the country – with enticing movie-makers to the Last Frontier. How long will the gold rush last? Is the state getting a big enough return on its investment? Welcome to Hollywood, Alaska.

Why isn't 'Race to Save Nome' being filmed in Alaska? - 11/14/2012 10:37 am

'Frozen Ground' awarded $6.3 million, few new features in view - 8/29/2012 1:11 pm

Casting call: You, and the person you most want to punch in the face - 6/29/2012 11:10 am

Disney documentary-makers approved for Alaska feature - 6/28/2012 12:03 pm

Todd Palin joins military-themed reality show - 6/19/2012 9:51 am

PHOTOS: A first look at 'Frozen Ground' - 5/28/2012 6:59 pm

Barrow-based 'On the Ice' hits iTunes - 5/14/2012 4:42 pm

‘Twilight: Eclipse’ director tapped for Alaska-based thriller - 5/14/2012 10:42 am

Why isn't 'Race to Save Nome' being filmed in Alaska?

Movie with the word 'Nome' in the title will film in Canada: Actress Hilary Swank poses with the Oscar she won for best actress for her work in "Million Dollar Baby" in 2005. Swank will star in a movie about the 1925 serum run to Nome that will film early next year in Canada, Calgary newspapers report. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)Movie with the word 'Nome' in the title will film in Canada: Actress Hilary Swank poses with the Oscar she won for best actress for her work in "Million Dollar Baby" in 2005. Swank will star in a movie about the 1925 serum run to Nome that will film early next year in Canada, Calgary newspapers report. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage --

"Race to Save Nome," a big-budget mushing tale starring Kurt Russell and Hilary Swank, will begin filming this January in Alberta, the Calgary Herald reports.

This is at least the second large film to skip filming here despite an Alaska-based script within the past two years. The other was 2011's "The Grey." The move raises questions about the ability of the recently renewed state film subsidy program -- one of the most generous in the country -- to lure major movies to Alaska.

I've asked the state film office if the producers scouted Alaska and, if so, indicated why they chose to take the production somewhere else.

The film is a retelling of the 1925 serum run. About 150 carpenters will work to build a small town of 70 buildings west of Calgary for the filming, according to the Calgary Sun.

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'Frozen Ground' awarded $6.3 million, few new features in view

From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage –

Despite a 10-year, $200 million extension of the state film subsidy program, this summer has been a slow one for new Alaska film projects.

You’ve got the small-budget indie “Wildlike” now filming. “Hunter Killer" -- the big-budget submarine thriller pre-approved for a state subsidy -- has gone silent and Wayfare Entertainment's "Villain" is running short on production time if the filmmakers are still considering a 2012 shoot.

“Their initial plan was to shoot this fall and I think we might be getting kind of at the edge of being able to do the all the work necessary,” Alaska Film Office manager David Worrell said of "Villain."

I've asked the filmmakers for details and will update when new info becomes available.

“Frozen Ground,” meantime, is expected in theaters late fall or early winter. A representative for the production company, Georgia Film Fund Five, did not respond to questions about the release date and about a clearly unfinished version of the trailer that briefly appeared online last week.

The state awarded “Frozen Ground” a $6.3 million subsidy in July. That’s the second-largest film incentive the Alaska Film Office has handed out under the 4-year-old program, trailing only “Big Miracle” ($9.6 million).

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Casting call: You, and the person you most want to punch in the face

From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage –

Most reality shows come to Alaska looking for people working scary jobs, or getting arrested by troopers, or being a Palin. This one just wants to see you fight your dad.

A casting company for a major cable network will be in Anchorage next week, recruiting would-be boxers for a new show based on the city’s “Thursday Night at the Fights.” The hook: They want to film people settling personal grudges with a KO.

“It’s like 'People’s Court' in the ring,” said Scott Goldstein of Iconic Casting.

Maybe a former friend owes you money. Your husband's ex is driving you crazy or you want to fight your father, brother or boss. Goldstein said it’s all fair game as long as both people want to punch through their grievances on a nationally televised boxing show.

Participants will each receive two days of training before entering the ring for fights filmed July 23 to July 28.

Goldstein wouldn’t name the production company filming the show or the cable network it will appear on. “It’s a network that embraces this type of programming,” he said.

That doesn't exactly narrow it down.

Iconic, the Los Angeles-based casting company, is a regular reality show recruiter, farming contestants for series such as “Bridalplasty” on E! and “For the Love of Ray J" and "Flavor of Love" on VH1, according to the company website.

Unlike many reality series drawn to Alaska to showcase natural beauty and/or bearded weirdos, the show is filming in Anchorage because Alaska is one of the only states that would allow this kind of thing to happen.

There’s no boxing commission here, meaning no mandatory medical exams, no lengthy training requirements and no licensing of referees. As of 2011, Wyoming was the only other state without a regulatory body for boxing, according to The Associated Press.

Asked if that means contestants on the grudge-match TV show could seriously hurt themselves – two days doesn’t seem like a lot of time to learn how to take a punch – Goldstein said each fight will be well supervised under standard amateur boxing rules.

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Disney documentary-makers approved for Alaska feature

From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage –

The state pre-approved five film and TV projects this month, including features by a Disneynature documentary-maker and the producers of the psychological thriller “Villain.”

Alastair Fothergill, a director of the slickly produced animal docs “Chimpanzees” and "African Cats," successfully applied to shoot a feature here under the name Grizzly Bear Productions. (I wonder what animal they could be interested in?)

I picture this, but with bears:

We've asked the applicants to describe the project. Is it another title for Disneynature, which is a Disney company film label.

Wayfare Entertainment, the production company behind “Villain,” was pre-approved for a feature earlier in the month. That doesn’t necessarily mean the movie will actually film here. But it doesn’t hurt.

“The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" director David Slade is attached.

Also receiving pre-approval this month was the usual gaggle of reality shows:

-- Zonk! Productions, the company behind “Napa’s North to Alaska” starring Larry Csonka, pre-qualified June 19.

-- Real Route Productions, a New York state-based production company that lists the DIY home improvement show “Brothers on Call” among recent credits. (June 19)

-- Reality TV heavyweight Original Productions (“Ice Road Truckers,” “Ax Men,” “Deadliest Catch”) qualified June 20 for it’s 13th project under the Alaska state subsidy program.

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Todd Palin joins military-themed reality show

From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage --

The former First Dude is headed back to reality TV.

Todd Palin will join the celebrity cast of NBC's "Stars Earn Stripes," a new military-themed series debuting later this summer on NBC, Entertainment Weekly reports.

Retired Gen. Wesley Clark -- yes, the 2004 presidential candidate -- will co-host the show.

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PHOTOS: A first look at 'Frozen Ground'

John Cusack as Alaska killer Robert Hansen. Photo by Brian Adams. Copyright: Georgia Film Fund Five, LLC. Published here with permission.John Cusack as Alaska killer Robert Hansen. Photo by Brian Adams. Copyright: Georgia Film Fund Five, LLC. Published here with permission.

..

From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage –

Here's an early look at scenes from 'Frozen Ground,' the serial killer thriller filmed last year in Anchorage. John Cusack stars as the so-called "Butcher Baker" Robert Hansen.

Nicolas Cage plays a composite character based on the police and troopers who caught Hansen. Vanessa Hudgens is the would-be victim who got away.

Check out the Flash gallery here.

Find Daily News archive photos of the real Hansen here.

All "Frozen Ground" photos are by Brian Adams. Property of Georgia Film Fund Five, LLC. Published here with permission.

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Barrow-based 'On the Ice' hits iTunes

Actor Josiah Patkotak in a scene from "On the Ice" in Barrow. (AP Photo/Silverwood Films, Sebastian Mlynarski)Actor Josiah Patkotak in a scene from "On the Ice" in Barrow. (AP Photo/Silverwood Films, Sebastian Mlynarski)

From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage –

"On the Ice" is now on the iTunes.

Long before there was a "Big Miracle" or "Frozen Ground," screenwriter Andrew Okpeaha MacLean directed the 2010 thriller in Barrow with an Inupiat cast. While the feature is gone from Alaska theaters, the filmmakers say you can now watch it digitally here.

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‘Twilight: Eclipse’ director tapped for Alaska-based thriller

From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage –

That $10 million psychological thriller Wayfare Entertainment hopes to film in Alaska now has a title, “Villain,” and a director.

David Slade ("The Twilight Saga: Eclipse") will shoot the film, Variety reports.

Written by Josh Zetumer, who also penned the upcoming “Robocop” reboot, the film’s story is set in a remote cabin north of Fairbanks. Producers scouted Alaska in April but have not committed to filming in the state.

Slade comes fresh from the $700 million-grossing Twilight sequel. This won’t be his first movie with a script set in the Last Frontier –- he directed the 2007 vampire flick “30 Days of Night” –- but it could be the first shot on location.

I asked Jeremy Kipp Walker, head of production for Wayfare, if the producers have decided to bring the movie to Alaska. Depends on cast and scheduling, he replied in an email:

Alaska is our first choice for shooting, however, given the fact that the story takes place during the transitional climate of the post-winter months, it seems like we only have two possible shooting windows: October or April. We are still casting the film and aren't sure yet when our actors will be available to shoot. In the event we can make either of those shooting windows work for the talent, we'll be there. In the event they are only available when the exterior temperature and limited daylight would prevent us from shooting, we may need to look elsewhere.

We are trying to avoid this, though, as Alaska has everything we need and we're hoping to be there.

“Villain” centers on a wildfire lookout with a mysterious past who receives a surprise – and apparently not-so-welcome -- visit from his brother.

Slade certainly knows dark, uncomfortable thrillers. Along with “30 Days of Night,” the director’s early films include 2005’s Hard Candy. He’s currently attached to the NBC “Silence of the Lambs” spinoff series, “Hannibal.”

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More reality TV: Fairbanks gold-mining series premieres on NatGeo

From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage --

Remember Lauren Reeves, the Fairbanks and Anchorage news reporter who disappeared for New York City a few years ago?

Her family, among others, stars in the latest Alaska-based reality show, National Geographic Channel’s “Goldfathers.”

Disclosure: Lauren’s an old friend. I asked her to describe the series, which premiered Friday, in a short video:

“We prospected the crap out of my dad’s property. ... This show has been in the works for a long time. For years, so it’s nice to have it finally up and on the air,” Reeves said.

It's not alone. The series follows Discovery's "Gold Rush" and "Bering Sea Gold," all mining Alaska for reality show viewers. Gold-digging, it seems, is the new crab fishing.

The Onion AV Club rated the new show a “C." Anyone in Alaska catch the premiere? What’d you think?

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Casting: New reality show seeks quirky Alaskans

Hank Stepleton speaks with people at Wild West Guns in Anchorage about the pilot episode of a television show that he's producing in the state. Stepleton says he's creating a reality show about guns and hunting in Alaska that will debut later this year. A casting call for the series will be held at the gun shop all day Saturday. (Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News)Hank Stepleton speaks with people at Wild West Guns in Anchorage about the pilot episode of a television show that he's producing in the state. Stepleton says he's creating a reality show about guns and hunting in Alaska that will debut later this year. A casting call for the series will be held at the gun shop all day Saturday. (Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News)

From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage --

The producers of yet another new Alaska-based reality show will hold a casting call all day Saturday at Wild West Guns in Anchorage. Their hope: Discovering people with big personalities and quirky characters to showcase on the series.

The casting call is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the gun shop, 71 Homer Drive. People who can’t make it can email their photo and a description of themselves to alaskacasting2012@gmail.com.

The production company behind the show, Jupiter Entertainment, also produced “Sons of Guns” for Discovery Channel, said co-executive producer Hank Stepleton.

The Alaska show is a “docu-series” centered around Wild West Guns but will feature a variety of Alaska-based activities and locations. Expect a mix of hunting, gold-mining, fishing.

“I would love a crusty gold miner,” he said. “I would love an Alaskan couple who is going to get married this summer that would like to have their wedding featured.”

A middle school or high school girl who plans to go hunting with her father as a rite of passage would also work, Stepleton said. “I would love a female lumberjack.”

The show is expected to air in November on a "major cable network," Stepleton said. He refused to say which one.

The series title is also under wraps. “It will be something with 'Alaska' in it. It will be something with 'guns' in it, but right now it’s untitled," the producer said.

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Rumor patrol: 'Hunter Killer'

From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage --

I keep hearing rumors that the big-budget submarine thriller "Hunter Killer" will be filmed outside Alaska.

"That's not true," said Jeff Waxman, a producer on the film. "If it goes, it's coming to Alaska."

That leaves unanswered the larger question of whether the movie will actually be made. Waxman said today that he'll be able to say more in about a month.

The project has pre-qualified for the state film subsidy, though not all movies that pre-qualify make it to production.

When I asked Relativity Media about the project in February they declined to comment.

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Producers scout Fairbanks, Anchorage for $10 million thriller

From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage --

In a quiet cabin overlooking the woods north of Fairbanks, a troubled wildfire lookout lives alone with his mysterious past. One day, his estranged brother comes calling.

That’s when things get decidedly Cain and Abel in an untitled, $10 million thriller that an independent production company plans to film in Alaska as early as this fall. Joshua Zetumer, a writer on the upcoming “Robocop” reboot, penned the brother-versus-brother script with Alaska in mind.

“It sounds like there have been a couple big projects that have come through here and had a lot of success,” said Jeremy Kipp Walker, head of production for New York-based
Wayfare Entertainment Ventures.

The company finances independent films designed to appeal to a wide audience. They focus on genres with a built-in fanbase. Think thrillers. Sci-fi.

One of Wayfare's most recent movies, 2011’s “Sanctum,” was shot for $25 million with James Cameron (“Titanic,” “Avatar”) attached as an executive producer. It made $100 million worldwide, Walker said.

This week, Walker and director of physical production Evelynda Rivera are in Alaska, scouting locations in Fairbanks and Southcentral. It’s unclear if they’ll have to build a cabin or can find one that fits the script for their latest project, in which the main character, a “fire watcher,” lives in the isolated frontier.

The narrative is set in 1995, outside of Fairbanks.

“It’s sort of man-versus-man in the middle of nature,” Walker said as the filmmakers sampled a new special called the “Baja Bowl” –- cashew cheese, vegan sour cream -- at Middle Way Café today.

The pair scanned the Anchorage restaurant. They're looking for potential caterers and craft service providers for the film, they said.

“It’s a great menu. It’s definitely very L.A.,” Rivera told Middle Way general manager Jacob Davis.

The visit comes as lawmakers prepare to review a new version of a bill that would reauthorize the state’s expiring film incentive subsidy. A House Finance subcommittee provided Sen. Johnny Ellis, D-Anchorage, with an amended proposal today, said subcommittee chair Rep. Mia Costello, R-Anchorage.

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Discovery greenlights third season of 'Gold Rush'

From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage --

This today from Discovery:

Discovery Channel’s hit series GOLD RUSH, which follows men who, in a difficult economy, risk everything to strike it rich gold mining, gets the green light for a third season. The renewal announcement comes just days before the season two finale, slated for Friday, February 24th at 9PM E/P. The finale is followed by two behind the scenes specials airing on subsequent Fridays.

GOLD RUSH has been a top performer for Discovery Channel, netting an average of 4.5 million viewers each week since the season two premiere on October 28th, 2011. The series has consistently been #1 in all of television (including broadcast) on Friday nights among Persons 18-49 and Men 25-54/18-49 ratings and delivery during its sophomore run.

Not everybody likes the show. Particularly in Alaska.

The state says the 'Gold Rush' producers did not apply for a state film subsidy.

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Gerard Butler submarine thriller 'Hunter Killer' applies to film in state

'THIS ... IS ... WHITTIER!': Leonidas + submarines + Alaska = "Hunter Killer?" The movie is about to be pre-approved for an Alaska tax credit, though Relativity Media says the filmmakers have also considered other locations. (Warner Bros. photo.)'THIS ... IS ... WHITTIER!': Leonidas + submarines + Alaska = "Hunter Killer?" The movie is about to be pre-approved for an Alaska tax credit, though Relativity Media says the filmmakers have also considered other locations. (Warner Bros. photo.)

From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage --

A big-budget military thriller about an American submarine captain's attempt to rescue the Russian president will soon be pre-approved for filming in Alaska, the state says.

The Relativity Media film, currently called "Hunter Killer," is in the planning stages. Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day,” “Shooter") is expected to direct with Gerard Butler (“300”) in talks to star, Variety reports.

A producer for the film has described the movie as a $50 million to $100 million project. In other words: Two or three times the size of "Big Miracle."

The state film office received the producers' request to pre-qualify "Hunter Killer" for the Alaska film incentive about a month ago, said Wanetta Ayers, director of the state Economic Development Division.

The state will likely approve the application soon, she said. “It would be the largest incentive ever awarded under the program."

"We just approved, or are in the beginning stages of approval, for four or five applications, including two feature films," Ayers said.

A pre-qualification does not mean that the movie will definitely shoot in Alaska. A spokeswoman for Relativity declined to comment for this story. Producers have also applied to film in other locations, according to the company.

As always, plans for filming locations -- and even whether the movie will be made -- could change at any moment.

The "Hunter Killer" script is based on the novel “Firing Point,” by George Wallace and Don Keith, according to Variety:

“(The) story follows an untested submarine captain who must work with a Navy SEAL team to rescue Russia's president, who's taken prisoner during a military coup. The two sides team to stop a rogue Russian general from igniting WWIII."

Butler was in talks to play the commander of the USS Toledo, the trade magazine reported.

A producer on the film, Jeff Waxman, told the Daily News this month that he hoped to make an action-thriller in Alaska. Filming would begin later this year, he said.

Waxman said he toured Whittier and other Alaska locations in January. "They rolled out the red carpet for us,” he said of the isolated, waterside town.

If you wanted a place that looks relatively Russian in Southcentral Alaska, you could do a lot worse than Whittier. (Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News photo.)If you wanted a place that looks relatively Russian in Southcentral Alaska, you could do a lot worse than Whittier. (Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News photo.)

He declined to name the film or talk about the plot at the time, but said the state film incentive, now under debate, was key to the project. “’Big Miracle’ went up there and ‘Frozen Ground,’ but this would be a bigger movie,” he said. “And if we can pull it off, which I think we can, people would want to come back.”

Anchorage production company SprocketHeads is working with the film-makers and will be handling all local questions about the project, said owner Carolyn Robinson. She declined to talk in detail about the film.

“I am elated and proud!” Robinson wrote in an email. “We'll be posting approved Hunter Killer updates on the SprocketHeads Facebook site.”

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New records show little Alaska hire for many movies, TV shows

The makers of 'Big Miracle' reported paying Alaska residents $4.23 million and non-Alaska residents $13.55 million under the state film subsidy. The film paid about 24 percent of subsidized salaries to Alaskans, one of the higher percentages under the 3-year-old incentive program.The makers of 'Big Miracle' reported paying Alaska residents $4.23 million and non-Alaska residents $13.55 million under the state film subsidy. The film paid about 24 percent of subsidized salaries to Alaskans, one of the higher percentages under the 3-year-old incentive program.

From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage --

Some of the reality TV shows and movies receiving the most money from the state film subsidy program are also paying the least to Alaska residents, state records show.

Of the more than $1 million in wages and salaries the state will subsidize for the sixth season of “Deadliest Catch,” for example, less than $20,000 was paid to Alaska residents. Alaskans were paid 5 percent of the $6 million in salaries subsidized for the Jon Voight thriller “Beyond.”

The numbers were revealed this month following a public records request by the Daily News to the Alaska Film Office. The figures show, for the first time, how much each subsidized movie and TV show reports paying Alaskan cast and crew.

Already the state film office is beginning refuse subsidy requests from producers with a history of making movies with few Alaska ties -- I'm looking at you, "Young World Sleuths: Baby Geniuses 5" -- but carry big salaries for out-of-state workers.

“Big Miracle,” the Universal Pictures family film that debuted Feb. 3 to warm reviews, is the largest Alaska-based movie to date and paid the most overall to resident actors and workers, the records show. All told, Alaskans made $4.2 million on the movie, according to numbers submitted by the filmmakers.

Non-residents made $13.6 million. The film office on Friday published the previously redacted salary data, along with other spending information, on its website.

Wanetta Ayers, director for the Alaska Division of Economic Development, hopes to see local paychecks continue to grow with subsequent movies.

“As we have people moving through some of the training programs that have been financed by the Legislature in the next few months, I think even higher numbers will be possible,” she said.

Supporters of the film incentive, which is up for reauthorization before the Legislature, say the productions bring a slew of benefits to the state beyond just paychecks. Out-of-state cast and crew sleep at local hotels, eat at local restaurants and buy gifts and gear by the bagful. Images of the Last Frontier lure tourists.

Alaskans will continue to win more and better jobs as in-state workers gain experience on set, they say.

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The next movie: Big-budget action thriller planned for Alaska, producer says

From Kyle Hopkins --

A movie producer whose recent credits include “Immortals” and "The Fighter" says he plans to make his next major action-thriller this year in Alaska.

The film will cost $50 million to $100 million, with pre-production in April and filming sometime in the fall, said Jeff Waxman, an independent, New York-based producer.

An application for the movie has been filed with the Alaska Film Office to pre-qualify for the state film incentive, according to the state.

While plans could change, Waxman said he wants to film in Alaska and that the production would dwarf the size of the previous major motion pictures filmed in the state.

“’Big Miracle’ went up there and ‘Frozen Ground,’ but this would be a bigger movie,” he said. “And if we can pull it off, which I think we can, people would want to come back.”

The production would include about 300 jobs for crew members, Waxman said. He expected about half of those jobs would go to Alaskans.

“The movie I’m talking about, I have 100 speaking roles. So any local actors, I’m going to grab up, and then we bring people in,” he said.

The producer, and state officials, declined to talk about the script. Unlike “Big Miracle” and “Frozen Ground,” it would not be based on a true story, Waxman said.

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Alaska to pay $9.6 million of 'Big Miracle' costs

From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage --

‘Big Miracle’ will cost the state of Alaska $9.6 million in government subsidies, according to paperwork filed with the Alaska Film Office.

The Universal Pictures film, starring Drew Barrymore and John Krasinski, opened today in theaters and was one of the first major films to take advantage of Alaska’s fledging film incentive program.

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What do Alaskans think of 'Big Miracle': Grade the movie!

From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage --

'Big Miracle' is landing solid reviews from many national movie critics, with a 68 percent "fresh" rating on RottenTomatoes.com and a 63 percent rating on Metacritic.

Professional movie-watchers, in other words, are giving it three out of five stars.

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Big Miracle: One Alaskan's review

Michelle Sparck of Bethel was a high school freshman when the rescue of three gray whales near Barrow became a worldwide spectacle. Now her home state, not to mention several friends, are appearing in the Hollywood retelling of that story.

Sparck was among the first to see "Big Miracle" at a test screening Tuesday in New York. So how was it?

This is her review:


By MICHELLE SPARCK

In the interest of full disclosure, I’d like to preface this review by admitting that as a resources specialist with an Alaska Native organization that exists primarily to protect Native subsistence rights, I have butted heads and been at odds with national and international environmental groups.

I had a very reputable group’s staffer whom I was working with nicely say to his boss -- right in front of me -- “We’ve got our Native!” in such a way that I almost walked off before a press conference where we were, for once, united in a cause. I also think that the state should be doing a lot more to diversify our economy rather than depend on an industry that is responsible for over 85 percent of the State’s revenues.

However, I am also a huge movie buff. I’ve loved Drew Barrymore since “E.T.” and almost every vehicle she’s been in. I loved “Cheers,” so I’d enjoy Ted Danson (himself a rather active oceans environmentalist.) Tim Blake Nelson from “Oh Brother Where Art Thou?” Dermot Mulrony in anything, and so on. It is a rather impressive cast and it was exciting to follow the casting and production process of what was then “Everybody Loves Whales” through my friends in-the-know on Facebook. The movie centers on the international spectacle that unfolded in October 1988, when a family of gray whales were iced-in near Barrow before their migration to their wintering waters of California.

My friend Tara Sweeney’s son, Ahmaogak, plays Nathan. The character is actor John Krasinski’s side-kick and the grandson of Malik, the whaling captain. The captain, longtime performer John Pingayak, is from my mother’s Qissunamiut Tribe of Chevak. My buddy John Chase plays a whaling leader named Roy. It is really neat to say there are too many more to name, as many locals were hired for every facet of the project.

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The Grey: 'I was told there would be more wolf-punching'

From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage --

Our Sean Cockerham is in D.C. tonight, where he'll get one of the first looks at "Big Miracle." Look for that coverage soon.

But first, the early reviews are in for another major release that tells a snowy Alaskan tale. Except in this case, the producers opted to film in Canada instead.

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