Directors Cut Stargate Continuum Part 2

Filming inside the Arctic circle isn’t just difficult, it’s almost impossible. For a start, getting there requires special transport and cooperation from the military, and once you’re there, you need some place special to stay. Besides which, there’s no chance of having a standard television production ‘circus’ on an Arctic shoot – and that means no cast or crew trailers, no craft services. There’s an awful lot of ice. Everywhere.

“I did what any self respecting director would do,” Wood says with a chuckle, when asked how he prepared for the shoot, “and girds their loins before they go, knowing that you’re not going to get as much sleep as you need, and there’s not going to be time to appreciate the location that you are in because every blink of an eye you’re thinking ‘How do I do this?’ None of us really had time to appreciate being in the North Pole, although we were in it for 10 hours a day. But we were making a movie and as much as it is absolutely incredible, there’s no time for any reflection on ‘Oh my god, I’m standing on a frozen ocean at the top of the world’. You don’t have time to do that.”

Preparing for the shoot was thus a lot different to planning a standard day of Stargate SG-1 filming. Instead of being able to go to the location beforehand and work out how he would have the action play out in the landscape, the director would have to decide on the fly. He couldn’t just take director of photography Peter Woeste up on a scouting trip – they just had to be ready for whatever arose when they got there.

“Preparing for it, I knew what I needed to see on the screen and after getting there I just needed to work out how to do that,” the director explains. “I needed to fit the vision in my head to the location itself, and there was a little give and take on both ends. I can tell you I wasn’t surprised by anything,” he adds. “I have shot in cold weather before. But I was stunned by what the Earth provides for us and what the Earth is. The choices that I made as a director before we went up there didn’t alter very much. What changes is the process of making a movie. The physicality of what everyone is going through at that moment has to be taken into consideration. Normally that isn’t a big factor, unless you are in heat or cold or under water. The nature of filmmaking is that on screen is where you have all the jeopardy, and behind the camera you’re safe in a little tent,” Wood laughs. “In this case, we were all standing on four feet of ice and 12,000 feet of ocean, so every moment it was about the cold and about being in the arctic, and in between times you fit in making the movie. Every time I looked at a person I wasn’t looking to see how their make up was, I was looking to see if there were any white patches on their face to see if they were frostbitten! Normally I go up to a person on a set and look to see how the light hits them. I was looking to see how the light hits them and oh, there’s a white patch, rub that right now!”

But alongside the very real dangers of shooting at the top of the world went a lot of pleasures, particularly for Wood.

“I have a still photograph of a five-person crew standing on the ice and two green screens in front of them and a helicopter in the air and seven snow mobiles. I actually showed this to the assembled group when we finished that day and I said, ‘On any given day on Stargate SG-1 the TV series, I would never have any of these elements! This is remarkable!’”

Nights on the ice were an event in themselves. On a normal location shoot, the cast and crew might be expected to congregate in the hotel bar of an evening, or phone home for a chat with the family, or go for a nice relaxing swim… none of which would be happening in the Arctic!

“You’re surrounded by ice for hundreds of miles, and there’s no place else to stay,” Wood laughs. “It’s not easy – you’re stuck, literally, in the middle of nowhere, on a piece of ice that’s moving at about 10km an hour. We slept in hooches, they’re called – 8x8x20 foot pieces of plywood with a kerosene heater in them. I was bunk mates with Ben Browder and Richard Dean Anderson – and we never got to sleep. It was hilarious. You’re lying in your bunk after a day of being completely exhausted you lose 7 pounds a day just in exertion  and we’re all lying there just talking about everything. It was a lot of fun.”

In fact, despite the hardships, the director is adamant that the experience was one he’d repeat in a heartbeat. “It was brilliant,” he exclaims. “I would do it again – I would shoot an entire movie up there for months. I loved it, and so did everybody else. There wasn’t a person up there who didn’t want to stay another week.”

News Article Courtesy Of The Official Stargate Website