Pipe Nation, filmed by Sundre, goes to feature film

But Raoul Bhatt is seeking additional funding after the networks refused to launch the pilot episode

SUNDRE — As Pipe Nation’s pilot sales pitch is turned down by one network and streaming service after another, the indie filmmaker and creative mind behind the original story says he’s decided to turn to what was originally intended to be a multi-episode series in a feature film instead.

Deceptive film industry executives who give false hope to independent producers and politicians who offer platitudes but no support, until it claims to be deep-seated anti-Albertan sentiment among major networks and broadcasters. content, Raoul Bhatt says his show has hit many hurdles.

But the Edmonton-based director, who has invested around $500,000 to make his dream a reality, isn’t ready to throw in the towel just yet and remains confident of pulling an ace up his sleeve.

Bhatt expressed his pride in his cast and crew’s tireless dedication to completing the 52-minute pilot episode which sets the stage for a story about a fictional community called Hardwell, portrayed by Sundre, and the characters’ struggles with each other. adapt to an energy sector in transition. His goal now is to turn the pilot into a full 80-90 minute movie, he said.

Delivering the full 10-episode series would require several million dollars in funding that just isn’t about to materialize, he said.

“It’s unachievable for a single creator,” he added.

In the roughly year-long period in which Bhatt said he passed the pilot, he attended expensive conferences as well as film festivals and read statements from major broadcasters expressing their support for the local artists and announcing multi-million dollar investments in Canadian content.

“But everything I’ve faced is not true,” the 42-year-old said. “It’s the complete opposite of what they promote.”

Even the provincial government is advocating and taking a stand, expressing support for job creation in Alberta’s fledgling film industry while seeking photo ops with producers, but fails to back those words up with action. significant, he said.

“They make it extremely difficult for artists to participate in any of these programs,” he said. “The only people who benefit are the big American productions, who have the money and the support anyway.”

It’s a concern shared by other independent artists he’s heard of.

“It’s been a universal conversation that I hear from all content creators, even locally and nationally,” he said.

Making an already difficult situation even more difficult is what he called a reluctance by networks to accept stories about Alberta’s oil and gas industry.

“They don’t want to tell our story, which blew my mind,” he said. “They stereotype creators and artists like us, and they don’t want anything to do with Alberta. And that’s why our film industry isn’t thriving here and that’s why we’re not successful.

But Pipe Nation is not just about Alberta’s oil and gas sector, but rather a moving human story about perseverance and determination through uncertain times of change, he said.

“The problem is, they’ll drag you” for months before eventually cutting the rug, he said of major networks and streaming services.

“These networks that don’t believe in Alberta, they’re killing us,” he said. “That’s basically what I’ve been dealing with, and it’s from network to network – literally every network that we’ve come close to.”

He previously told the Albertan earlier this year that Netflix Canada and CBC were among the networks and broadcasters he pitched the pilot to.

When asked if the anti-Albertan sentiment he felt came from the industry or the general public, Bhatt said the first and added comments from people on social media most often lifted his spirits.

“Our social media followers are pretty awesome – everyone’s been positive, patient,” he said. “But man, it’s those executives. I have never experienced anything like it.

However, even without support from networks and streamers or the government, Bhatt said he and his team remain energized and ready to support themselves.

Reluctant to launch a GoFundMe campaign because he doesn’t want to ask for donations, Bhatt said he’s considering making non-fungible tokens (NFTs) available instead. Tokens are a relatively new part of the digital cryptocurrency economy described as non-interchangeable units of data such as photos, video, and audio that are stored on a blockchain – or some kind of digital ledger – which can be sold or exchanged.

People who want to support Pipe Nation could buy NFTs from a series to welcome them to the show, he said.

“They don’t essentially own the show, but they get a piece of my art, which will support the show and allow us to finish and get to 80 to 90 minutes,” he said.

This art, he added, should be available for sale by the end of April.

Finding the funding to complete the pilot as a feature film is what he hopes will be the final hurdle.

“Because once we hit the 80-90 minute mark, it’s very easy to get distribution because it’s a finished product,” he said.

Major financial backing is where the big studios have all the advantage, he said.

But, he added, Albertans have their own advantage – a positive attitude.

“Whether it’s a small town or an Alberta mentality, let’s try to figure it out,” he said, adding that one member of his team decided to back off, but the others stayed. on board.

“What choice do we have? Either we stay determined and we persevere, or we fold and they win. And that’s not what I want. I want our community to win – I want to tell a story. That’s what I set out to do.

Provided the stars align, Bhatt is optimistic about not only the prospects of bringing the 52-minute pilot to a full 80-90 minute movie by the end of the summer, but also reaching the International market.

“We’ve come this far, we just need a little more to get to the finish line.”

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