SUNDRE — The pandemic was not enough to hamper production of a new, independently produced pilot episode of a made-in-Alberta show.
Filming of Pipe Nation, a fictional story about the challenges faced by energy sector workers and their families in a small oil and gas community, got underway this weekend.
Cast, crew and dozens of extras began the shoot on Sunday, Aug. 16 at the Sundre Elks Lodge No. 338.
Between takes, everyone was wearing masks, while others among the crew also donned face shields. Before being allowed into the Elks hall just a few at a time, people first needed to sanitize their hands and had previously had their temperatures checked. The procedures are now part and parcel of shooting a production in the age of COVID-19.
“It did slow us down,” said Edmonton-based filmmaker Raoul Bhatt, the creative mind behind the project, during a phone interview on Monday morning.
“I could have got it done maybe about three hours sooner. But you know what, safety is number one. I don’t care if it takes me an extra three days, as long as everyone’s health is good, that’s what matters the most.”
Production is expected to wrap up by Monday, Aug. 24, with post-production expected to be complete before the end of the year.
Provided everything goes according to plan, Bhatt hopes to continue production on the first season's final episodes in the spring.
Previously describing the series as a blend of sex, drugs and drama remiscient of hit series like Ozark, Sons of Anarchy, and Breaking Bad, Bhatt has stressed the story is more than anything else about “overcoming adversity. And it’s about camaraderie, friendship and family.”
Sundre was selected as the location to represent the story's fictitious town of Hardwell. Pipe Nation tells the story of a single mom, Ashley, played by lead actress Natallie Gamble, who is burdened by a mountain of debt, as she strives to make a living navigating the trenches in the male-dominated industry of oil and gas.
Bhatt expresssed pride in having kept the entire production based in Canada.
“Everything from the crew, to the actors, to the music, to the post-production, is crafted and created with homegrown talent from Alberta. We are capturing
the beauty of this province for the world to see," he said in a press release issued Monday.