SUNDRE — With the pilot episode of Pipe Nation’s final edit locked down, the independently produced Alberta-based series is undergoing finishing touches prior to submission to networks.
“We finally achieved picture lock, so we’re not going to make any more changes to the story,” said Edmonton-based filmmaker and the show’s director Raoul Bhatt.
Most of Pipe Nation, which is a fictional story about the real challenges faced by energy sector workers and their families in a small oil and gas community struggling to adapt to a changing global economic order, was shot last year in and around Sundre, which portrays a town called Hardwell. A casting call for extras at the time elicited a large response from about 400 people.
However, while the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel is getting that much brighter, the post-production process remains underway.
“The show has been sent for colour grading, visual effects, and sound engineering,” Bhatt said on Thursday, Aug. 5 in response to questions.
“After that, we’re going to continue our talks with the networks,” he said during a phone interview.
“Right now, we have Global, CBC and Netflix interested.”
Although a sizzler of what he describes as a blue collar show was already submitted to offer those networks some insight on the show’s cinematic value and the story’s concept, “they all want to see the final cut of the show.”
The initial edit was completed in February, but upon submitting the pilot to several industry professionals for feedback, Bhatt decided to make some changes.
“We re-edited the show three times,” he said, explaining the original runtime of almost 1.5 hours had been trimmed down to about 35 minutes.
“And then we realized that we lost a lot of the essentials,” he said.
In March, arrangements were made to gather the crew and some extras to shoot a protest scene, which was since added into the pilot’s final edit, he said.
“The run time now is about 52 minutes,” he said.
Among industry counterparts who agreed to offer input was Heartland editor Jerry Skibinsky.
“We need feedback from guys that won’t just tell us what we want to hear, but tell us what we need to hear,” said Bhatt, adding Skibinsky offered valuable advice.
“He said the show has a lot of potential. So, he’s pretty excited about it too — that got us all pretty jazzed,” he said.
Bhatt, who had never before done a project of this scale, said he never quite fully realized the amount of work involved in the post-production process, which he called a full-time job in itself.
“I come from an environment where I did tons of little short films and I’ve been involved in other people’s projects,” he said.
But tackling an entire project of that magnitude from scratch — including writing the story itself — was a totally new learning experience.
“It was my first time writing an intellectual property — or the story — of this calibre. So, that was quite the journey of discovery,” he said.
“That’s where our challenge is, is that we’re a very small team and working with a limited budget,” he explained.
Even without the benefit of a massive, multi-million-dollar budget that can afford experienced film industry veterans with many projects under their belts, Bhatt remains confident that Pipe Nation will yet be picked up by a network.
“We’re never giving up, and we’re so close to the finish line,” he said.
“Or should I say starting line? Because once you land a deal, then it’s a whole other game.”
Bhatt anticipated the final cut's visual effects and sound touches would be finished in the coming weeks.
Still optimistic about eventually putting on a screening, the director said that will depend on who ends up picking up the pilot and what kinds of contractual obligations are agreed upon regarding exclusive first-play or premier rights.