Digging In The Dirt

A documentary about the psychological costs of working in Alberta’s oil sands and the mental health crisis that’s been ignored for a decade.

Project Details

Release Date

September 14, 2019

Content Component(s)

TV One-Off


1 x 44 min



Target Audience(s)


Health & Wellness Subject Area(s)

Mental Health

As it’s structured now, the oil industry in Alberta depends on fly in/fly out workers. They eat and sleep in work camps while they’re on the job, returning home for a few days whenever a two or three weeks shift is over. Camp culture is bred of strain and exhaustion, loneliness and boredom. Physical isolation, limited facilities, and spotty internet mean that men in camp are cut off not only from their families but from other sources of encouragement, recreation and support.

Hyper-masculine industries like agriculture, forestry, and oil and gas, dominate Alberta’s economy, demanding that workers remain stoic in uncontrollable environments and under extreme stress. Meanwhile Alberta’s suicide rate consistently exceeds that of other Canadian provinces. Men in trades and industry are more likely to take their own lives than men in any other occupational group and incomplete information makes it difficult to take action where it matters most.

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Back Road Productions

Back Road Productions is an Edmonton-based, multiple-award-winning, full-service video production company. We were founded in 2012 by producer/director Blake McWilliam, who had the dream of creating feature films, television shows, music videos, and high-level commercial projects from right here, smack dab in the middle of the frozen prairies.

With one feature film, one broadcast documentary, and half a dozen music video and commercial projects produced in the last year alone, it’s safe to say that Blake’s dream has become a full-fledged reality.

What sets Back Road apart? RELATIONSHIPS. Yes, we know how the camera works. Yes, we know where to put it, how to move it. You can learn all of that in a YouTube tutorial. What can’t be taught is what we excel at: communication with our clients and creative collaboration with a small-but-mighty network of artists and technicians in Edmonton who make work rivalling that of a crew ten times the size.

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