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NATIVE BUSINESS

NANA Diversifies with Piksik Growing an industry out of

frozen ground

By Molly Dischner

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Photo by Bob Crockett

F

rom “The Frozen Ground” to Super Bowl commercials, Alaska is capturing an increasing amount of screen time throughout America. “There’s a lot of interest in Alaska,” says Robin Kornfield, NANA Development Corp.’s vice president of communications and marketing. Piksik is a subsidiary of NANA, an Alaska Native corporation that has found a business opportunity helping foster Alaska’s national exposure through supporting the film industry. Since its beginnings, NANA has learned to recognize and exploit opportunities in Alaska’s long-standing anchor industries, such as fishing and tourism, to benefit its shareholders. “Film is something new,” Kornfield says, “and it’s probably the first something new we’ve had in quite some time.” Advancing the film industry’s presence in Alaska offers young Alaskans another option to stay and work in-state. A recent Piksik project got national attention when it ran in some markets— but not Alaska—during the Super Bowl. The commercial was for Suzuki. It was filmed in Canada, but the actors were from Alaska. “It featured a man and a woman who lived in an igloo,” Kornfield says. “The people involved were just thrilled to get that chance.” Giving Alaskans an opportunity to participate in the film industry was NANA’s fundamental motivation to get into the business. NANA first got involved through a company called Evergreen Films, an independent film production studio headquartered in Anchorage. Evergreen had approached NANA to see if it was interested in supporting crews filming in Alaska. NANA signed on as a partner to Evergreen in 2010.

IMAX shoot at Hubbard glacier.

But the corporation didn’t want to be just a silent investor: NANA quickly recognized that many of the services they provide for other industries were also needed for films, including catering, security, housing and logistics. “Our board saw an opportunity to build a whole new line of business,” Kornfield says, “We’re basically working to build a business that ties into NANA.” Piksik’s business is to help find people with expertise in every aspect of filmmaking for visiting productions, from providing the services NANA has long provided to identifying and devel-

© 2012 Chris Arend Photography

Robin Kornfield

oping or contracting qualified support divisions outside of NANA’s current areas of mastery. At its core, Piksik is an adaptable entity that addresses all needs of the film industry in order to increase Alaska’s appeal as a filming location. Like many of NANA’s decisions, the choice to pursue film business was meant to serve shareholders. The corporation’s shareholders are young and old; they live north of the Arctic Circle, and in Alaska’s urban centers. The expansion into the film industry provides “one more outlet for our shareholders,” Kornfield says. Films employ more than just theatrically inclined Alaskans. “They all need food and they all need security,” Kornfield says; but beyond the basics, every production Piksik works on requires a little something different. “Sometimes its casting, sometimes its casting and location,” Kornfield says. Films and commercials often have specific individual needs, while always needing the basics of catering and security. Commercial producers typically spend about a week in Alaska. They might use Piksik to help find a lighting crew, local cast members and coordi-

www.akbizmag.com • Alaska Business Monthly • April 2012

April - 2012 - Alaska Business Monthly  

Alaska Business Monthly’s 2012 Corporate 100 annual special section begins on page 86. Top citizens of industry are highlighted in this annu...