REGINA - Last Friday, SASKTODAY.ca had the opportunity to attend the premiere screening for the new season of Alone, a series airing now on the History Channel.
This is the tenth season for the popular reality series, airing on Thursday nights on History and also on their streaming platforms after it airs. This season’s show follows the stories of ten survivalists who must fend for themselves in the wilderness near Reindeer Lake in northern Saskatchewan.
The series is similar in a lot of ways to Survivor, except in this case there’s nobody else around voting you off. Instead, these competitors must find their own food and make their own lodging -- and whether they make it is all up them and their own skills. The last person standing in the competition wins a grand prize of a $500,000.
As a result, the show is much more “raw” as you see the contestants struggle day to day to survive, as they hunt and kill food in the wild using their bow and arrow. As one viewer remarked, if you’re vegan it’s probably not for you.
One of the funnier scenes from the opening episode was seeing one of the contestants get ready and in position to shoot, only to realize the animal he was hunting was a protected species.
Of course, the other challenge the contestants face is how to avoid becoming food themselves for the bears and other predators in northern Saskatchewan. And there is the considerable challenge on how to stay warm in colder conditions as the series moves along..
Alone is a show that has developed a significant audience over the years around the world. Past seasons have been shot in locales such as British Columbia, the Northwest Territories, Argentina, and Mongolia.
The show is being produced by Wavelength Entertainment in collaboration with ITV America and Creative Saskatchewan, with the latter providing $818,534 to the production through the Feature Film and TV Production Grant. The show’s entire estimated spend in the province is estimated at over $2.3 million.
Producers emphasize this season would not have happened in Saskatchewan without the expanded funding from the province.
Jeff Stecyk, principal and executive producer with Wavelength Entertainment, said the increased funding was "what the catalyst of the whole project was, because (the producers) have to look at a number of criteria throughout the world.”
The “financial reason is there, where you can hire the people and it makes it much more feasible to complete, especially with the rising cost of inflation, and the logistics issues that they placed him. And every episode is more expensive than the one before it because of that and many other reasons. That really was the initiative and that’s why they came to shoot here.”
Stecyk credited Erin Dean, CEO for Creative Saskatchewan, with lobbying hard to bring the production to the province. In addition to the funding availability, Saskatchewan was chosen because of the landscapes and vast region where the shooting took place.
“We came in and we hit it off with ITV America and Leftfield Pictures and it was a great collaboration,” said Stecyk.
Because Alone is a true-life reality series involving survivalists who are supposed to be alone in remote settings, there are particular challenges to this production that aren’t experienced with other shows. For one thing, the contestants really are “alone,” without any other production people around, and they shoot their own video.
“The crews are actually the contestants. They drop each contestant off with a crate full of camera equipment and they have to learn how to use them, and what you see is really what happens.”
The production effort also involved finding a lodge suitable for a base, finding planes and being able to bring in all of their supplies, and having medical personnel available including nurses and doctors. And that is just in the production phase that lasted from September to the end of November in Saskatchewan, not counting the extensive pre- and post-production work.
This is another major production attracted to the province since the expansion of the Feature Film and Television Production Grant in the 2022 budget. There is now $12 million in the budget for the Creative Saskatchewan grant.
Since 2022, Creative Saskatchewan funding has gone to productions including the action-adventure series King of Killers, the comedy series Zarqa on CBC Gem, and another Wavelength series Guardians of the North, which focuses on northern firefighters.
The premiere for Alone took place at the College Ave. downtown campus of the University of Regina, attended by several production industry and government officials including the Minister of Parks Culture and Sport, Laura Ross. She was impressed with what she saw on the screen.
“The opportunity for people to view what Saskatchewan has to offer for tourism, Northern Saskatchewan, the scenery is just breathtaking … just the opportunity for people worldwide to see what northern Saskatchewan really has to offer is pretty exciting stuff. It was a good investment on the part of Creative Saskatchewan and the Government of Saskatchewan.”