Chinese TV Show

Lesson: Be Open to Opportunities

In 2005, I received a call one day from a representative of Guangdong Television (GDTV) out of China. For those that do not know, and I was one at the time of the phone call, Guangdong Television is a television station in Guangzhou, Guangdong province in China. It is the oldest television station in the province, which covers Guangdong and surrounding provinces. Huge company, big hit show.

Annie, the representative, let me know that the TV station wanted to film the finale of Chinese Survivor in the Yukon and was looking for someone to coordinate the logistics. The show, a very successful show in China, would see the final 2 couples compete across the Yukon winter to see one couple crowned as the victors, conquering the cold, vast Yukon.

Members of the Chinese Survivor finale in the Yukon winter

From my days organizing the Commissioner’s Potlatch I had been mentoring a colleague, Katie Johnson, who I called to join me on this great journey. Always keen, Katie came along and we split the Yukon north and south. She headed north to take the crew to the Arctic Circle and I took the south, where we would film the finale complete with dog teams and showcasing First Nation culture.

And my son, who was 10 at the time, also helped on the shoot. We needed someone to build fires along the route to keep everyone warm, that became his job. As always, teaching and learning are as much a part of what I do as the project. And this was a great opportunity for my son to learn about different cultures.

Traditional Dancing of Carcross Tagish First Nation

The shoot was held north of 60, in the Yukon’s southern lakes region and the traditional territory of the Carcross Tagish First Nation (CTFN). The group from CTFN was included in the show performing traditional dances and singing. The race was wrapped up with each team having to locate a dog sled in the snow, find the team of dogs, assemble and race to the finish line… all in the cold of the Yukon.  What a blast it was working with the production team, cameramen and contestants from China. And a huge learning experience for all of us, courtesy of some of the most wonderfully kind and professional people I have had the pleasure to work with.

The crew members from GDTV spoke only Cantonese or Mandarin, with one translator on site. But it didn’t matter, we all figured out how to work together and it worked. At one point it was late in the day and I sat down in the snowbank for a short break. The producer was so gracious he instantly came over to see if I was hurt as just sitting in a snowbank.  I managed to explain I was just taking a break, so he joined me, and we sat in the snowbank for a few minutes not talking and then went back to work.

We wrapped up the shoot with a celebratory dinner, where the crew also celebrated Katie’s birthday. The dinner was on October 31st and my son did not attend as he was out for Halloween with his friends. The crew were looking for my son and were concerned why he was not at dinner. With the help of a translator and one of the contestants who did speak English, we shared the custom of Halloween amidst the best meal I ever had in Whitehorse, Yukon. A mix of northern and southern Chinese specialties, it truly was a meal I hope I never forget.

My son, Jeff, with one of the producers of the show

I never like to turn down interesting work, makes for great experiences and memories. And somewhere I still have a copy of the final show. If someone can show me how to view a DVD these days, I can watch it. Katie, well she went on to great accomplishments at the Vancouver Olympics and I think she started to speak to me after she cooled down about the truck breaking down in the winter in the Arctic Circle. My son, seems he picked up on the interesting work out of the norm.


About the Author

Janet Sheriff

An innovative entrepreneur, Janet brings her extensive experience in all aspects of strategic planning, management, indigenous affairs and communications to start ups, new ventures and the mining & exploration sectors. Janet focuses her entrepreneurial spirit, leadership skills and vision to create new opportunities, award-winning innovative programs and new ways of conducting business. Her strong commitment to community engagement, sustainability and inclusion provides her the proven ability to work effectively and respectfully in cross-cultural environments.