The following is re-posted from the June 2012 RBC Aboriginal Partnership Report with kind permission from RBC and Adam Garnet Jones.
Aboriginal Filmmaker and RBC Emerging Artist Award Winner Adam Garnet Jones plans on putting his $7,500 award toward the creation and sharing of the real-life stories of his people.
Adam Garnet Jones is barely a 30-something but has already squeezed a lifetime of artistic works into his 15-year career as a writer and director of films and videos focused on gay and Aboriginal themes. Born to a Danish mother and Cree/Métis father, Jones grew up in Edmonton, Alberta. He made his first film, a drama exploring the isolation of youth contemplating suicide, when he was just 14.
“In the beginning,” says Jones, “I didn’t have a lot of self-confidence or feel like I had a lot of control over my life. So the opportunity to make films and videos gave me a voice and to have control over what I was saying, and could control how other people looked at my work and, by extension, me — there was safety and strength in that.”
Since then, Jones’s films and videos have been broadcast on television and screened at festivals worldwide, including two short films: Cloudbreaker (2006) and A Small Thing (2008). Both were featured at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).
He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film from Ryerson University and is a graduate of the National Screen Institute – Canada (NSI), a Winnipeg-based, national, non-profit film, television and digital media training school.
Jones’s passion for filmmaking has also earned him many accolades, including an RBC Emerging Artist Award. The juried award, sponsored by RBC, was presented by the Toronto Arts Council Foundation in celebration of his work to date and future potential.
The $7,500 award came as a pleasant shock to Jones. “Considering the calibre of the people in the category I was nominated with, I was very, very surprised,” he says. The prize money is earmarked for travel to and research in Canada’s north in preparation for his latest project, a feature film called Wild Medicine about an Aboriginal teenager dealing with issues of isolation and suicide.
“Adam doesn’t shy away from some of the tough social and cultural issues affecting Aboriginal communities,” says Elke Town, a story editor who worked with Jones in the Featuring Aboriginal Stories Program through NSI. “He’s a smart, steady, thoughtful and super-talented writer who can tell a story with genuine heart and feeling.”
Jones’s career may still be unfolding, but he has already left many positive marks on Canadian filmmaking and other budding Aboriginal filmmakers, even mentoring gay youth and seniors. Mark Maloney, an urban affairs and planning consultant in Toronto who nominated Jones for the RBC Emerging Artist Award, made note of Jones’s spirit, selflessness and generosity as an artist and a citizen.
As an example, Maloney tells the story of how Jones once went to the Weeneebeg Aboriginal Film and Video Festival in the remote community of Moose Factory on James Bay — an event the audience has to travel to by plane, on a Polar Bear Express train or on ice roads.
“What struck me about this,” he says, “is that Adam went up at his own expense and spent almost a week there to actively participate, educate, carry out workshops and meet with youth who might just be — as he once was — interested in arts, culture and film. There was little in it for him other than a sincere desire to help and to inspire young people who may have a dream.”
Indeed, Jones says he enjoys helping youth because so many people helped him as a young person. High school, he says, can be tough, but “you can decide to be really challenged by feeling different and feeling like an outsider, or you can take advantage of it and treat it like an opportunity.”