SUNDRE – The Edmonton-based director and producer of Pipe Nation remains committed to making sure people who have been wanting to see the show get that chance.
Originally intended to run as a pilot in what had been envisioned as the first of 10 episodes that could potentially expand into additional seasons, Pipe Nation and the show’s creator were met with an uphill battle securing a deal with a streaming service.
“They’re kind of shying away from the subject of oil and gas,” Raoul Bhatt said during a recent video call.
“Although the show’s beyond that; it’s about the people – they just happen to work in the industry,” he said. “But I think that already shut a lot of doors in where this would potentially go.”
Those hurdles previously prompted a change in plans to reformat the pilot as a standalone film. But while Pipe Nation was submitted to numerous film festivals as a standalone feature last summer – along the way racking up several awards – the fictional action drama about the struggles faced by oilpatch workers and their families is as yet unavailable for widespread distribution.
“Creating something is one thing,” he said. “But the gatekeepers working with people that are interested in network interests, politics; it’s a whole other playing field. But I learned; there’s no other way to learn besides diving in and getting into it.”
Not one to easily throw in the towel, he once again decided to readjust his course.
“The way I want to go, is essentially an independent route,” said Bhatt, adding he had just the day prior to speaking with the Albertan submitted the show to streamers for consideration as a paid rental.
“They’re reviewing everything right now,” he said. “I’ll know here in the next couple of weeks whether it gets the green light for their platforms. But this’ll be strictly video-on-demand.”
While he wants to keep the show affordable, Bhatt said the streamers ultimately set the rental rates and added he also has his sights set on ad-supported streamers such as Tubi.
“That’s a really cool platform. I really hope we can get on there, because it’s going to be free for everybody,” he said, adding the only catch would be commercial breaks.
“I do want people to enjoy it without having to spend the money,” he said, expressing a desire to pay forward all of the support from those who helped the production team reach this point.
He also expressed a reluctance to charge a premium rental price, which depending on the streaming service can range around $5.
“I don’t want to charge the full $5, because I’m not a Hollywood production; we’re an indie production,” he said.
Boasting a 54-minute runtime, Pipe Nation as per Screen Actors Guild definitions would be considered a movie, he said.
“I’m keeping it as is,” he said, adding the guild defines as a feature film any show that runs beyond 45 minutes.
“We’re essentially a feature film,” he said, later adding that resilience and perseverance paved the path forward to reach this point despite “nothing but doors getting slammed in your face.”
One of the biggest and perhaps most sobering lessons learned about Hollywood and the film business, said Bhatt, was being told over and over again by numerous industry executives and representatives to find the money to fund the remaining first season he’d originally planned, and that they’d pick it up afterward.
But that’s not feasible for small, independent production teams, he added.
“They thought they were doing us a favour by giving us exposure, and unfortunately that’s the way the film business works,” he said. “We’re left with the independent route; I don’t want to give up. I think too many people were involved for us to just can the project.”
Bhatt also still hopes to line up arrangements for a screening in Sundre.
“I’d love to do something fun like an outdoor projection,” he said. “We have original music that was produced for the film. So, I’d love to bring that band, have that band perform; just make it an epic party and have a good time.”
Responding to a question about his thoughts on the exposure Alberta’s breathtaking landscapes have recently received through the popular HBO show The Last of Us – which is based on a post apocalyptic video game of the same name – Bhatt said, “It’s fantastic.”
Describing the new series as “a beautiful show” and praising the production team for doing “such a good job,” he also expressed a fondness for seeing familiar locations like Edmonton as well as scenic mountainview vistas that had drawn his team to the Sundre area.
“It feels like home,” he said.
The province’s film industry would benefit from the government developing additional tax incentives to make Alberta more appealing not only to large, well-funded productions, but smaller independent teams as well, he said.
“The government has to do more of that kind of stuff.”