A Yellowknife writer and director says she was ‘caught off guard’ when she found out she’d won the chance to make her very first feature film.

Jennifer Walden and Jeremy Emerson’s project Dark Sky clenched the Indiecan20K prize, an initiative aimed at sponsoring first time documentary and narrative filmmakers.

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“It’s just really flattering,” Walden told Moose FM. “It gives you a sense that people see potential and they believe in you. That’s exciting to feel like you have that support to get started with.”

Dark Sky tells the story of a young boy who’s separated from his mother while on a camping trip. He meets a mythical Rock Creature who helps him find his way home.

The project was among three chosen for the award across Canada, the others coming from Northern and Southern Ontario.

Avi Federgreen started the initiative with his independent film distribution company Indiecan Entertainment in 2014. He said he wanted to help aspiring filmmakers who may not have that many opportunities to break out into the industry.

“I felt that there was a need to help another filmmaker realize their first feature film,” Federgreen explained.

“There’s not many incentives out there to help emerging filmmakers make their films, especially up in the Northern part of the country like Yellowknife. There’s passion and drive to make films up there but they don’t get a lot of attention.”

The Sun at Midnight director to mentor

The Sun at Midnight movie poser. Photo courtesy: IMDB.

The Sun at Midnight movie poser.

As part of their project, each filmmaker gets the opportunity to work with a mentor.

For Walden and Emerson, their mentor is Kirsten Carthew, director of the award-winning The Sun at Midnight and Fish Out of Water.

Walden says she’s excited to reconnect with Carthew. She worked for the NWT director as a production designer on the film, and says she’s getting a mentor she trusts to steer her in the right direction for her first feature film.

“I learned a tone from working on that set and following Kirsten around and seeing how things went, so it’s really nice to know that she’ll be there as a mentor because she has just done this experience and done it successfully,” Walden said.

“It’s great to know that I have someone who has my back; that I have someone I can go to that I know knows what they’re talking about.”

Much like The Sun at Midnight, Walden says Dark Sky will be entirely shot in the Northwest Territories.

Still need $15 K

In addition to receiving a mentor, Indican20K prize winners also receive production and post-production services.

Each project is given a $20,000 budget. They’re provided with $5,000 from local sponsors, but the remaining $15,000 is up for them to raise, and they have until April 2018 to finish their films.

Walden says she and Emerson plan to start a GoFundMe or Indiegogo campaign to fund their project; but not until after the holidays.

For now, Walden says she’s enjoying this early Christmas present.