NORTHBOUND

Sci-fi web series being made in U.P.

By Elizabeth Fust
Standing at the top of one of the U.P.’s mountains, along the secluded bend of a river, or off the path of a forest trail, one can almost feel as if they are alone in the world, as if everyone has just disappeared. Or something like that. Something like that is exactly what the U.P. born and bred Anderson brothers created together in their ongoing science fiction web series Northbound and upcoming motion picture, the Northstar Saga.
What exactly is the Northbound series? “A post apocalyptic series that is a three season prequel to Northstar, all of which is set here in the Upper Peninsula,” co-creator Seth Anderson explained. “It is a future story, about 15 years in the future, a possible America that has been devastated by a very mysterious event.” The story follows a father who is protecting his comatose daughter as they look for safety, fend off hostiles, find a community and learn more about the mysterious circumstances that have befallen America or, for all they know, the world. “It’s a prequel,” Anderson said. “The last season will lead right into the first few moments of Northstar.” In fact, season three will contain many clues throughout for the Northstar film.
Seth and Nathan Anderson grew up in the Iron Mountain area, and the influence of the Upper Peninsula carried over in to their film careers. They both studied film and now work in the industry.
The Andersons’ Northstar Saga started with a film short Seth wrote in college. After moving to Los Angeles, he, his brother Nathan and Northbound producer Jason Hagan took on the story, with the U.P. as the setting, as a potential project.
“We developed that in the script, the lore, the mythology… We were trying to kind of set a survivalist story, mixed in there with a science fiction story, and see what Michigan in there as a third aspect could do. You know, if we could do all these ideas and do it in Michigan, what would it be like in the specifics of the Upper Peninsula? So one big, big inspiration was Upper Michigan and where we grew up,” said Anderson.
The aspect of the Upper Peninsula is greater than the story itself, with Yooper volunteer efforts in front of the camera and behind the scenes compelling the project. Volunteers provide cast, behind-the-scenes crew, financial assistance and location scouts. Fay Mannon-Rahoi, coordinating producer of Northbound, explained some of the location scouting: “Seth would say, ‘Oh, I am looking for X-Y-Z space. I’m looking for a lake, I’m looking for a building’ and so on weekends, my husband and I would take long trips looking for really interesting places that we would be able to capture the next time they came into town to film.”
Some recognizable spots from the web series include the Great Lakes Research Center on Michigan Tech’s campus, KI Sawyer base and Quincy Mine sites. Anderson listed more: “And then on top of that, it’s just a wide spectrum of natural locations that we had identified as particularly beautiful. Like Menominee River, which is one of the key things that starts the show off as we show Piers Gorge, which we show right around the Wisconsin border with Michigan. But we are all over the place. And that was not only from the history of locations I had wanted show on film, but that’s where the volunteer effort really shines as well, as people are telling us about locations or cabins or you name it… So on some level we benefited from just the abundance of beautiful landscapes that are here and relatively under-shot as far as it goes in film history here. It is getting [to the point that] more and more people know what the U.P. is, but we are hoping to show it more and more in the series and then the film.”
This is one draw for Sophie Sam, who plays The Kid in Northbound. She explained, “Northbound is such a great, collaborative project to be a part of. It really means a lot to me to be able to highlight the beauty of the Upper Peninsula for the rest of the world and continue to show that indie films can be made here.” Sam first learned about the Northstar Saga in 2013 at a public meeting in Iron Mountain. She kept a close eye on the project and became involved after the season one premier in 2015. Now she plays The Kid, a lieutenant in one of the factions of this post cataclysmic world who Sam describes as “happily pushing her luck to see how far she can get before the world catches up.”
To the creators, volunteers and others involved with the saga, the U.P. is more than just an inspiration and a filming location. Anderson said, “It’s a big canvas for us, and we wanted to show…during the course of the series, the area in all of its seasons, and we wanted Michigan to be a character that is very particular—to be something where it’s like ‘Wow, they really did shoot this in Michigan.’ The sense of space is very upfront.”
Northbound was originally a proof of concept to pitch to potential investors for the Northstar film, but it has grown from its humble YouTube beginnings to be a three season web series prequel for the Upper Peninsula-based project. Sponsorship for Northbound comes from more than just its volunteers. The iconic U.P. company Stormy Kromer came in to help with the third season. Dickies Medical provided scrubs and medical supplies that are seen in the series. Rip It Energy, an energy drink company, is underwriting part of the Northbound production. Additionally, Yoopers and other fans contribute through crowd-sourced fundraising on Kickstarter. The series three Kickstarter campaign is set to open in early February. “We’ve just been blessed with sponsors. A lot of people have asked us just how we are doing it. So we are becoming on some level a model of how to work with sponsors,” Anderson said. More information for supporting the project, including Kickstarter campaigns and announcements, can be found below and at the Northstar Saga website, www.northstarsaga.com.
A Fall Series Tour was held in early December at the Ore Dock Brewing Co. and the Calumet Theatre, providing a chance for new and familiar audiences to meet the filmmakers and crew. If you missed it, don’t worry; more screenings will be held to catch up new and old viewers alike before series three comes out, or viewers can find Northbound exclusively on seeka.com.
The short Seth Anderson wrote in college is becoming a one-of-a-kind endeavor, recognized for its use of location, volunteer engagement, sponsorship and all-around community support. If the U.P.-centric film project intrigues you and you’d like to be involved, anyone interested in volunteering can email contact@lullskull.com and provide a full name, email, location and preference for being (a) an extra or (b) behind the scenes volunteer.
If you are interested in the saga, information on the series, the story, volunteering or contributing to the Kickstarter campaign, information can be found at the saga’s website, www.northstarsaga.com.
Watch Northbound, and maybe the next time you diverge off a forest path or stand on a mountain where you can see no sign of civilization or watch the flow of a river disappear out of sight out in the wilderness of the Upper Peninsula that inhabitants are so proud of, you might ask yourself: if I was in a Northstar Saga scenario, would I survive?

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