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Sundre-filmed Pipe Nation has a home now, says filmmaker

Edmonton-based director of fictional show partly filmed in Sundre area still hopes to screen movie in town

SUNDRE – A fictional action drama depicting the struggles faced by oil and gas workers in a small community that was created by an Edmonton-based filmmaker has officially launched after being picked up by Prime Video.

“Pipe Nation has a home now,” Raoul Bhatt told the Albertan on April 24 during a video interview.

Finally finding a streamer to host the R-rated story that Bhatt had previously described as a combination reminiscent of award-winning hits Sons of Anarchy, Ozark, and Breaking Bad, was an exciting turn of events, he said.

The movie, which last summer went onto win numerous awards at various film festivals, went live on Friday, April 21 on Prime Video in the U.S. and the U.K. and is available on demand either for rent or purchase.

“I didn’t expect such a warm welcome that we got for the show and such positive feedback,” he said, adding there seems to be a big fan base in Texas and North Dakota.

“Some of our actors have a lot of American fans, and they just loved it,” he said. “They said we nailed it, we nailed the culture; to read that warmed our hearts, that they saw representation of themselves.”

However, Canadian audiences will have to wait just a little while longer as a result of a minor hangup.

“I forgot to do the French Canadian subtitles; that’s a requirement for Canadian television,” Bhatt candidly confessed.

“Our translators worked over the weekend, so we did finish it Sunday and we submitted all that to Prime Video,” he said. “Now it’s just in their hands to review, going through quality control…that pushed us about a month behind for Canadian release.”

So it is now just a matter of time before local audiences with access to Prime Video get a chance to watch Pipe Nation.

But organizing a special screening in the community for Sundre, which in the show depicts the fictional town of Hardwell, remains on Bhatt’s radar.

“It is rated R, so there’s lots of swearing, drug use and nudity,” he said. “It is for adults, so it’s going to be later at night.”

Although details still need to be worked out, he imagined a sort of laid back yet celebratory party atmosphere featuring some kind of improvised outdoor screen to project the movie.

Asked whether reaching this point felt as though he had finally crossed the finish line or if perhaps it was more akin to the next leg in a relay, Bhatt – who seemed enthused by the early reception to date – said, “I think it’s only the beginning.”

The trailer has been going viral on some social media platforms, he said, adding there are numerous blue collar industry pages with follower counts in the millions.

“They’re picking up the trailer and sharing it all out,” he said. “The momentum is just insane.”

The warm reception to be found in the energy sector is something other major streamers and the film community overall didn’t quite seem to wrap their heads around, he said.

“The biggest misunderstanding of why these big players didn’t get behind it, (is) because they didn’t want to get behind oil and gas,” he said.

“When we came to Sundre, people gave us the keys to their trucks, they were feeding us,” he said. “Basically, that small-town warmth that we got and the support, that’s essentially what we’re getting on social media. Look at the reception that we’re getting, there is something there, something to be told, and we did it ourselves.”

The fact that Pipe Nation ended up on Prime Video “is a huge success for us,” he added.

“And I’m happy as an artist that people get to experience it.”

There was a collective sense of relief and vindication among the cast and crew, who “went through the mud for three years, almost four,” he said.

The show had originally been pitched as a pilot for a nine-episode series that could be expanded into additional seasons, but fate forced his hand to instead proceed with completing the project as a feature film.

“We did the best damn job we could during COVID times with all odds against us,” he said. “And we still made it, right. So, I think that’s a huge thing we need to celebrate.”

Finding a place on Prime Video certainly opens doors for future possibilities. Responding to a question about whether he saw the potential for a sequel film or even a trilogy, Bhatt said he was talking to his team about options.

“I don’t know yet; I think we’re going to know here in the coming months where we want to take things,” he said.

Bhatt hopes getting a piece of the spotlight from a major streamer like Prime Video will expand Pipe Nation’s reach, along the way growing interest. Bhatt said he had already been approached by a distributor who sought to acquire the show in Canada, but expressed a level of reluctance.

“I’m a little hesitant at this stage because we already did everything so independently,” he said. “We really don’t need them; we’re already going viral all over the web.”

That being said, Bhatt told the Albertan the team remains energized and added he might yet be receptive to a multi-episode deal provided the offer was lucrative enough to cover the production costs.

But for now, any future Pipe Nation project is more likely to be standalone spinoff such as sequel.

“I think at this stage, unless we have a multi-episode deal, we need to stay the course and finish what we started down the path that we were set on.”

Check Pipe Nation’s social media presence for updates including the Canadian release on Prime Video.

Simon Ducatel

About the Author: Simon Ducatel

Simon Ducatel joined Mountain View Publishing in 2015 after working for the Vulcan Advocate since 2007, and graduated among the top of his class from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology's journalism program in 2006.
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