Discovery Network shooting film about ice huts on Rainy Lake

It sometimes seems to people in Borderland that we are ignored by the population and power centres down south. That can be as true in Minnesota as it is here in Ontario, but for one day last week, others were paying attention.
Tremendous Entertainment, a production company based in Minneapolis, was in Ranier last Friday to shoot a one-hour TV program on ice huts for the Travel Channel, a subsidiary of the Discovery Network.
The program is expected to air in about a year, but for producer/director Ashleigh Dennett, the real work and fun was last week.
“The show is about ice houses and it’s called ‘Cool Cribs,’” explained Dennett as her crew prepared to shoot a sequence on the lake just across the border near the Ranier Bridge.
“It’s really about people’s lifestyles on the ice in the winter time,” she added. “It focuses on the culture out here on the ice.”
Dennett had just finished a segment shot at Mille Lacs, Mn., where she said people look at things much differently from the way they do in Borderland.
“There are some extravagant houses down there,” she noted. “People there invest tens of thousands of dollars in their ice houses, but up here they’re more personalized.”
Dennett also found the people are somewhat different, too. She recalled the first time she talked to Barry “Woody” Woods, the colourful owner of Woody’s Rainy Lake Resort and Woody’s Fairly Reliable Guide Service in Ranier.
“I knew right away it would be good,” she recalled. “It’s so refreshing to meet someone like him. He’s a real character.”
Woody is somewhat of a legend on both sides of the border, and Dennett wasn’t quite prepared for his peculiar style and personality. But she says she quickly realized the trip was worth it.
Woody, who describes himself as “highly-experience, mildly-delusional,” caused her crew to stop, regroup, and re-shoot some scenes because their host cracked them up with his irreverent and self-deprecating sense of humour.
For instance, during one sequence when the camera was rolling, Dennett, who was the off-camera narrator, asked him what he meant by “fairly reliable.”
“We can’t guarantee everybody will catch fish, but we do get our customers safely back to the dock at least 90 percent of the time,” Woody deadpanned.
“I thought he was great,” Dennett remarked. “He’s such a gracious host and a friend to everybody out on the ice.”
Woody also made the services of his friend and cousin, Tim “Hawk” Lessard, available to Dennett’s crew. Lessard owns and operates a Piper J-3 on skis and he took cameraman Dave Dennison up over the lake for some aerial shots.
Tim’s son, Mike “One Dog” Lessard (it seems all of Woody’s friends have nicknames), transported the crew to and from the ice on his snowmobiles and also helped set up the portable ice houses for the shoot.
Woody even provided a “customer” for the shoot in the form of another friend of his.
Chrystie Reid works at the liquor store in International Falls and is a life-long angler. One phone call from Woody was enough to get her to come over on her day off to help out.
After that, it was just a matter of waiting for the fish to bite and hope the weather didn’t turn sour.
Dennett completed her shoot on time and on budget and soon will be heading for New England, where she plans to shoot two more shows for the Travel Channel.
After that, it’s off to Quebec for more of the same.
During a telephone interview yesterday, Dennett was invited to come back in July for the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championships, where she could see another side of life in Borderland.
“I’ll keep that in mind,” she said. “It sounds like you people know to have fun up there.”