“Everybody Loves Whales,” coming soon to a theater near you
When three gray whales became trapped in sea ice above the Arctic Circle in 1988, it brought international attention to Barrow, the northernmost city in the United States. The ordeal was dubbed “Operation Breakthrough,” and story of volunteers and others who worked to free the whales is documented in the motion picture. The fictionalized retelling of Operation Breakthrough is based on the 1989 book “Freeing the Whales: How the Media Created the World's Greatest Non-Event” by Tom Rose, which details the collaborative rescue efforts put forth by multiple governments and organizations to rescue the trapped whales. A Soviet icebreaker eventually carved an escape route that freed two of the creatures, after the youngest whale disappeared and likely died.
Filmmakers spent 10 weeks shooting the saga last fall in Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city. Production crews created sets to resemble sites of the whale rescue in Barrow. The movie boasts a who’s-who cast, including Barrymore, who plays a Greenpeace worker, and Krasinski, who plays a small-town news reporter covering the story. Other cast members include Kristen Bell, Ted Danson and Kathy Baker. The film is slated to premiere in February 2012.
While Hollywood is no stranger to making movies about Alaska, it wasn’t until recently that major motion pictures shot more than just scenery in the Last Frontier. Many in the industry credit the state’s tax incentive program, which gives filmmakers the opportunity to recover one-third of their Alaska-based expenditures through a transferable tax credit. Movies that employ Alaskans, shoot in rural parts of the state or are filmed in winter are eligible for even bigger tax breaks.
Also garnering buzz in the film industry is the independent flick, “On the Ice.” The film made the rounds at various movie festivals early in 2011, including the Sundance Film Festival. The story comes from Inupiaq director Andrew Okpeaha MacLean, who grew up in Barrow, and features an Alaska Native cast. The movie was made in Alaska through grants and in-kind donations, and is based on MacLean’s award winning short “Sikumi,” which means “On the Ice” in the Inupiaq language. The plot follows two Inupiak teenagers who accidentally kill their friend during a seal hunt.