CBC New Indigenous Voices 2017 students tell us about the course so far

Presented by the National Screen Institute – Canada (NSI)

Ursula Lawson, Nikita Day, Tyshana Hobson, Gindalee Ouskun, Ryan Wilson, Chris Eastman, Andy Lown, Lisa Meeches, Melanie Hadley, Michael Black, Kaya Wheeler, Jesse Spence, Alexis Leask

Above from left: Ursula Lawson, Nikita Day, Tyshana Hobson, Gindalee Ouskun, Ryan Wilson, Chris Eastman, Andy Lown, Lisa Meeches, Melanie Hadley, Michael Black, Kaya Wheeler, Jesse Spence, Alexis Leask

Our CBC New Indigenous Voices students recently completed their classroom training and short film projects.

As they prepare for their internships we asked them to write about the course so far.

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Tyshana Hobson – Winnipeg

Tyshana Hobson

Where do I start!?

During my time in the classroom I have learned there is so much to filmmaking. I’ve found new respect for every aspect of the process: the editing, sound and whole post-production team.

The classroom sessions have been such a life changing experience. The people I’ve met and the friends I’ve made during these past weeks are lifelong relationships that I will take with me long after the course is through.

The friendships I’ve made with the other eight students are more like family than anything else. Each student in the program has brought something new and interesting to the table.

Thank you to Ursula Lawson (program manager) and Kaya Wheeler (program co-ordinator) who put up with our crazy class of nine and the antics that came along with being a family and great friends.

I’m incredibly grateful for this course overall. The different presenters we had each day taught us a lot of aspects to filmmaking and the film industry. Thank you to the CBC New Indigenous Voices program for this amazing opportunity and helping me make my second film.

Jesse Spence – Winnipeg

Jesse Spence

Among all the classes/courses I’ve taken so far in my life, I have never connected so well with such an awesome group of Indigenous homies.

Before going in I recognized two names that made me a little more comfortable being there (Tyshana and Ryan). Although it was nice to see some familiar faces, we all became a family over time. Alexis, Mike, Gindalee, Nikita, Chris and Andy all welcomed my old antisocial self and helped push me to just be myself.

All the mentors brought their own dose of knowledge to the table and a huge variety of topics to help with our future in filmmaking. From documentary, sound, cinematography, directing, acting, Indigenous history, producing, editing, social media, etc. All bases seemed to be covered. Every day brought in a new mentor with their own experiences and talents which made every day a ‘can’t miss.’

The pace was fairly quick and it wasn’t looking like slowing down any time soon. As I said to myself, “Wow, it would suck if you were to get sick during this thing” guess what happened? I became sick for over a week and all I did was sleep. That week was hard on me as all I wanted to do was be in class.

One day, fed up being bedridden, I forced myself to go to class. Sadly my efforts did not last long as my head began to pound furiously causing me to return home.

The vibes I got off everyone there were extremely positive. Everyone had a strong urge to take part and share their stories. Every filmmaker that came in was proud to show their work and teach us their ways. (In the best Yoda voice you can manage) they taught us their ways they did. I don’t even watch Star Wars. I just like Yoda cause he’s small, green and talks funny.

When I found out I had to pitch a short film idea to professional producers I nearly passed out. I have a strong form of social anxiety and struggle to speak in front of people I’ve just met. Nevertheless, I saw it as a challenge like everything in life and gave it my all with the 10 minutes I had to sell my idea.

Besides saying “sorry” every five seconds for my inability to speak like a normal human being, I got it done and the film I came up with was one of the three chosen to be filmed.

When this news was brought to my attention, I was both excited and terrified as I realized that we must now physically create this idea I had floating around my noggin.

Photo courtesy of Jesse Spence

Along with pitching, talking to my fellow classmates was a struggle at first but the more comfortable I became the more I opened up and began to share my ideas.

The class time was extremely beneficial for me as I feel that I’ve learnt a lot throughout it. Not just that, but it brought in good contacts from the filmmaking community and created new friendships with my classmates.

Nikita Weiss Day – Telkwa, BC

Nikita Weiss Day

I was halfway through my degree at the University of British Columbia when I heard about the CBC New Indigenous Voices program.

My screenwriting professor – for a course I had been taking as an elective (my degree is in gender, race, sexuality and social justice) – is the one who sent me the link.

I had already accepted a job in South Korea for the summer and hadn’t planned on delving into the world of filmmaking until after I got my degree. And yet, a week before the official deadline, I found myself filling out the application form. Before I could really stop to think about it, I had been accepted and was on a plane to Winnipeg.

Moving to a new city, a new province in fact (and at the last minute) was a daunting prospect. What has made this experience infinitely easier for me is the support and understanding from my fellow classmates.

I had been worried that, because I’m quiet and don’t make friends easily, I would find myself on the outside of our small group. I also figured that, given the nature of this industry, we would all be forced to coexist with an underlying current of competitiveness, but this couldn’t have been further from the truth.

All of us have said from the very first week we are a family now and it really does feel that way. United in our passion for film and dedicated to the journey towards achieving our dreams, I feel like I have been able to learn so much from each and every person.

In terms of the program itself, one of the best parts has been its focus on filmmaking from an Indigenous perspective. The incorporation of Indigenous knowledge and traditions sets it apart from any other film program I’ve heard of and, for this, I am grateful.

Our instructors have shared with us truly invaluable insights and offered their time and attention both in and outside the classroom.

For the first time, armed with this information, I feel I have a chance of making it and finding my own place within the film industry. In particular, practicing how to prepare and give a pitch and learning how to best direct actors are skills that I have already been putting to great use as we start working on our own films.

While filmmaking had always been a career I desperately wanted to chase after, before coming to Winnipeg it had seemed an unreachable pipe dream. What I am most thankful for is that the course has shown me if one is willing to work hard and persevere, a career in this industry is possible, even for a shy introverted kid like myself.

Overall, my days at NSI have been filled with easy laughter, great discussion and inspiring collaborations. This program has completely surpassed any and all expectations I had going in and I’m sure I will continue raving about it to anyone who will listen for a long time to come.

Andy Lown – Fort Erie, ON

Andrew Lown

How do I possibly put the last six incredible weeks of my life into words?

Let’s take it from the top: April 18, 2017. It’s another day of mundane work in Niagara Falls tourism and then the call came in that changed my life.

Kaya Wheeler (who is so helpful and nice, btw) called me at 2:30 p.m. as I was on my way to an attraction to do a void. “Hey, Andrew, you’ve been selected.” “OMG! YES,” I said. Kaya asks, “Does that mean you’re coming?” “Of course!” I replied.

After the phone call and moments of pure joy, I was filled with pure terror. How in the hell was I gonna pull this off? How could I leave my good paying job, my car, my friends and the girl I was seeing all behind? The next week was rough. I talked myself out of going more than once but everyone I talked to told me I had to go no matter what. I was one of nine chosen from across Canada.

I have to give props to my best friends Timothy and Louis for letting me talk to them and go over every pro and con endlessly. Without those phone calls I might not be here.

Once I made the decision in my head and got the ball rolling, that was it. It was Winnipeg or bust and the universe perfectly lined up EVERYTHING. I told my job and they let me out of my contract. I contacted Red River College and they saved me a beautiful dorm room right by my school. I found a cheap flight on New Leaf. This is when you know you made the right choice!

The week before I go is pretty hectic. I try and see everyone and have my going away bash which, in Niagara Falls on a Tuesday, is cheap chicken wings and beers. I’m on all closing shifts at work. I literally close Friday night at 1 a.m., have Saturday to pack and I fly out Sunday morning May 7 at 9 a.m.

My parents drive me to the Hamilton airport which I recommend because it’s small and so nice. This is where I thank my parents for all their support and love. They drop me off and the excitement kicks in. I’m a quick two-hour flight from being solo in Winnipeg to hone the craft I love so dearly.

I land and I’m impressed right away. Winnipeg has a beautiful new airport. Everyone is so nice here. The license plates say Friendly Manitoba and that saying is correct. Sunday I mostly sleep as it’s been a crazy whirlwind to get to Winnipeg but by Monday at 9 a.m. it’s go time!

I arrive at the National Screen Institute and meet my classmates. These people are all nice and are all laughing at my jokes. This is great. Everyone else rolls in and we are doing a sharing circle with Lisa Meeches (NSI Indigenous Programs Advisor), Ursula Lawson and Kaya Wheeler – the three wonderful women that interviewed me and gave me the green light to be here. The sharing circle is led by Elder Colin Mousseau. He really has a way with words and if anyone was nervous he put everyone at ease.

We get to know each other, and the pipe ceremony and feast is next. We go to the main NSI office. The ceremony has brought together NSI’s CEO, John Gill, program alumni and representatives from CBC, APTN, the Directors Guild of Canada and so many more amazing sponsors and people. This is when it really sinks in that this is REAL and I’m going be treated like a VIP for the next 14 weeks.

That’s what the case was. Every week we had industry professionals come in and teach us amazing workshops and give us their contact information and tell us they wanted us to succeed. We learned pitching, screenwriting, directing, producing, how to work with actors and so many other valuable lessons and tips. We were trained on set etiquette and WHMIS so we are all ready to work in the TV and film industry.

Photos by CBC New Indigenous Voices student Andy Lown

Photos courtesy of Andy Lown

I was given complimentary tickets to the [Manito Ahbee] pow wow and to the Indigenous Music Awards and we were given amazing lunches every day while we were in class. You are treated first class when you’re in the program. I loved every minute of being in the classroom and formed friendships with each of my classmates.

Going to the King’s Head (an amazing pub close to NSI) after class for a pint of Winnipeg’s amazing craft beer (I recommend 1919 or Saint James Pale Ale) was very much a thing with our class and it was great.

All I know is Winnipeg is an amazing and underrated city and the National Screen Institute and the CBC New Indigenous Voices program are first class in every way. If you are applying to the program from out of town, GO! You will not regret it. Other than a little homesickness here and there I have loved every minute of my time here and I’m very grateful for this opportunity.

Gindalee Ouskun – Winnipeg

Gindalee Ouskun

These past few months at NSI have been a wonderful experience – one that has encouraged me to build new relationships and network with others within the industry.

Before learning I was accepted into the program, I was finishing my requirements for my university degree. It was a shock when I found out because I had recently accepted a job offer working in an unrelated field. Fast-forward to the start of the program, I was incredibly nervous and didn’t know what to expect.

I quickly realized that one of the greatest challenges was being comfortable with my own voice and the passions I have for the future. Through the several (billion) times of introducing ourselves to each presenter, I’ve grown more confident with myself.

Every workshop has been great in showing what other opportunities there are within the industry. I didn’t realize there were so many.

It’s exciting to hear about others’ work as well – listening to their stories was encouraging and they couldn’t be more excited for the upcoming artists.

I will forever be grateful for the new friendships I have made through this program. I never would have thought how close we would become: laughing, getting together after workshops, and forever conversing with each other is something that I look forward to continuing.

A huge thanks to everyone who has made this program possible and for the experiences we’ve had so far. I’m looking forward to interning at CBC.

Alexis Leask – Winnipeg

Alexis Leask

I’ve known about the program for a few years but never had the time to apply. Finally, this year, I had the courage to do it and, wow, I’m so thankful I did.

My classroom experience here has been absolutely wonderful to say the least, and it’s something I’m always going to remember.

Apart from the great workshops, and getting to meet and hear stories from extraordinary people that work in the film and television industry, one of my favourite parts has been meeting my fellow classmates. They became family. We call each other brothers and sisters. They are so encouraging and we have all helped each other in different ways. I know we will continue to be there for each other if anyone needs a hand with future projects.

Every day I looked forward to talking film ideas with all these unique people. This course has given me new techniques that will better my filmmaking career and the professional networking connections if I ever need advice.

Every workshop was amazing. We learned something new every day. The people that spoke to our class were so knowledgeable and took the time to learn what each student was interested in.

I’ve always been a visual artist, from photography to painting. As a photographer, I walked into this course knowing that I wanted to focus on cinematography – being in charge of the camera has been a dream since I was a child, but I discovered during this course that I want to be a director, too.

Being part of this course has been a dream come true (really cheesy but true.) I would recommend it to any Indigenous youth interested in learning about filmmaking – it will change your life for the better.

I’m very thankful for NSI and all its sponsors. Miigwetch.

Chris Eastman – Winnipeg

Chris Eastman

I was thrilled when I received the phone call about my acceptance into the CBC New Indigenous Voices program and anxiously awaited the green light to tell everyone.

We started the program with a pipe ceremony and feast where we had many industry professionals and program alumni join us. I was a bit nervous having only done minor filming projects in high school and university, but found my theatre production courses gave me relevant experience that I could bring to the table.

The classroom portion has been awesome. We’ve had writers, producers, directors, actors and many other important people in the business come share their time and knowledge with us.

A majority of the first workshops we had dealt with major components to writing and story development – when we were accepted into the program we had to prepare and submit a five-minute short film outline that we would later pitch and possibly make.

I found the story development workshops somewhat difficult because it’s always been a bit of a struggle to overcome the anxiety behind sharing something I’ve written or even sharing personal bits about myself. While it may have been challenging, it was the good type of challenge to step out of my comfort zone and just go with it.

This has led to increased confidence in developing more story ideas, the drive to attend workshops outside of NSI, as well as making multiple lasting connections. I’m definitely looking forward to helping out my classmates with their future productions and, when my time comes around for such an endeavour, I know who to recruit.

We just wrapped on filming our short films last week and the group I’m with will shortly have our editing session with Julie Hackett from iSplice Films.

I enjoyed working on Nikita’s short film Star Line (pictured below) which was shot over two days and with only some minor worries, everything worked out great. I think everyone learned a lot through our successes and few mistakes. I’m very thankful to have such an opportunity to learn working hands on.

Nikita Day on the set of Star Line / CBC New Indigenous Voices

Photo courtesy of Chris Eastman

Some advice I have for any future course participant is to get enough sleep. Think of questions for a guest the night before they come in to deliver a workshop. Be open to trying new things.

If you’re interested in the film and TV industry you should apply for this course. And if you don’t get in the first time, try again.

It has been so amazing to meet people working in the industry and who are enthusiastic about it. As Kevin Smith has said,”There is a world filled with ‘Why people’… surround yourself with people who say ‘Why not.'”

This program and everyone involved in it are ‘why not’ people and I’m humbled to have been a participant, to be surrounded by encouragement and a ‘why not’ attitude.

Michael Black – Winnipeg

Michael Black

I am so grateful to have been selected for this course. I have learned so much including what goes into creating a film from start to finish as well as the various career paths in the film industry.

We received a well-rounded education about the film and digital media industries which incorporated traditional teachings into the classroom.

I have a developed a deep appreciation for all that goes into making a film. We learned just how much detail and work is required. I have always been a visual and hands-on learner and this course allowed me to learn through this method.

We connected with mentors in the film industry and, through their guidance, I discovered my great passion for cinematography. I feel as though this field will let me use my creative abilities and express in images what I cannot say in words. There is something so powerful about film, I believe it can be used to create social change.

I would like to take the opportunity in this blog post to sincerely thank those who made this course possible, including the CBC New Indigenous Voices faculty: Lisa Meeches, Ursula Lawson and Kaya Wheeler, and the NSI associate faculty and sponsors.

Ursula and Kaya went above and beyond to make this course an amazing experience for us, and the staff at NSI were always welcoming and approachable.

Thank you to Lisa Meeches for allowing me the opportunity to intern at her renowned production company Eagle Vision this summer. I am looking forward to applying the theory we learned in class in a real-life setting.

Thank you to all the industry leaders who took time out of their busy schedules to speak to us about their field of work. A highlight for me was when the cinematographer Andrew Forbes came to speak with us – a huge thank you to him as his work allowed me to discover that cinematography is a passion of mine.

I would also like to thank Shauna Townley, the cinematographer who worked with us on our film. Shauna knew I’m passionate about cinematography and she took the time to give me one-on-one instruction and teach me skills and techniques.

I greatly enjoyed pitching my film idea to the board of experts. Even though my film wasn’t chosen, I learned a lot about what goes into creating a film and how to pitch an idea. This opportunity, along with Toastmasters, has made me more confident about public speaking and conveying my ideas to an audience.

I am so blown away by the amazing group of people who participated in this course. We all got along so well and worked efficiently as a team – I am proud to say I have made some amazing friends and I know we will continue to keep in touch.

Working together with my group on our five-minute film was a fulfilling experience. It was great to bounce ideas off each other and see the finished product. The three groups working on separate films worked to help each other out and offer feedback. On our off days we joined each other on set.

I am looking forward to starting the second half of this course in my internship at Eagle Vision and wish all the best to my fellow classmates in their internships too. Thank you again to our mentors, faculty, staff, sponsors and my classmates for making this an amazing experience!

Ryan Wilson – Winnipeg

Ryan Wilson

The past six weeks in the classroom portion of the program has been one of the most incredible learning experiences of my entire filmmaking life! It was packed to the gills with knowledge.

I have learnt so much from all the inspirational guest mentors. Each person that walked into the classroom was so helpful and nice, and answered all of our questions with grace and understanding. I can’t wait to work with (hopefully) all of them at some point in my future career.

I remember being so nervous on the first day and didn’t know what to expect. But I knew that it was going to be an insane adventure that I will remember forever.

Orientation was so amazing. Seeing everyone that came out and supported us at the launch event was insane. I was floored with the whole event but, when I saw Wab Kinew walk in the room, I totally thought I was going to pass out. AND HE SANG FOR US ALL. What a guy! What was even more amazing to me was when Lisa Meeches shared her story with us all. I was so honored.

The first week was great. Elder Colin Mousseau was an absolute necessity for the first day. I am not a traditional man by any means but I am one who believes in respect and honour and Mr. Mousseau had that in spades! (He also taught me that I really don’t like the word ‘culture’ and it made me think every time I have to use that word).

I need to work with Shereen Jerrett. She was so funny and articulate – a little firecracker! The way she explained things was perfect. I will always use the things she taught us in my future writing projects.

Jeff Newman is the person I feel I needed the most. He talked to us about the perfect pitch. I knew this was a weakness of mine because I have a hard time selling water on a super hot day. Everything Jeff taught us I really took to heart. Nüman Films is where I’m be spending my six-week internship. I am that fat boy with cake. That is how happy I feel.

At the end of the first crazy-awesome week we had Jordan Wheeler talk to us. I thought my writing skills were on point, but man did Jordan help me figure things out. I didn’t know as much as I thought I did. He totally put me on the right track regarding formatting a proper script.

My favorite part was breaking down the film Stand By Me. Jordan seriously knows his stuff. From this point on I’ll be breaking down everything I do the proper way.

The next week kinda sucked for me because I got the dreaded mumps and had to spend the whole week on bed rest. I had to miss Brendon Sawatzky, the lovely Miss Liz Hover, the first class of Toastmasters and being there in person for the pitch panel. That was the biggest let down for me because I really wanted to show everyone on that panel just how passionate I was.

I did get to Skype with them though but was highly medicated on painkillers and only woke up 10 minutes before the panel video call. I remember pulling myself out of bed, putting on a somewhat respectable button-up shirt and a hat to hide my unruly bed head hair. Oh, the joys of that interaction.

After that horrible week I was so glad to be back in the classroom. Everyone who came in was just as amazing and talented as the people they followed. And I’m already making plans to work with some of them.

I’d like to take a moment to talk about my fellow classmates and the coordinators of the program. Hopefully I don’t cry writing this. I can already feel myself getting a bit emotional thinking about how I’m going to write about these phenomenal people.

First off: Team Nikita. My (filmmaking) team. Nikita and Chris, you guys are so talented. It was a complete honour working with you on the short film. I know we aren’t done yet but it’s going to be a good one. I already know.

The future’s so bright for you Nikita. You are so smart, so talented and so driven to get things done. I admire you very much.

Mr. Chris, dude you saved mine and Nikita’s butts through the process of the short. You’re a producer, I swear you are. You are one of the most organized people I have ever met and I plan to work with you in the future.

Now to the group – you guys are amazing. Tyshana, Alexis, Andy (hey best friend), Jesse, Mike and Gindalee (#Ginskids) Nikita, Chris. I couldn’t have asked for a better NSI family. I’m glad I got to experience this with all of you. We all clicked so well. I honestly didn’t think that would happen. I love every single one of you and know we will work together in the future. You’re all so incredibly talented. And we are going to take over the world because we are all that talented. Winnipeg and world film industry: watch out for us because we are going to shoot for the stars.

And finally, I want to talk about the two people who made this experience most memorable: Kaya Wheeler and Ursula Lawson.

Kaya: thank you for everything. For being there to help us with anything. For keeping us fed with great food. For making the six weeks run so smoothly. For understanding everything that went on outside the course. For getting us astonishing mentors who we can learn the most from. And just thank you for being a friend. Also I really like listening to you talk about subjects at lunch time. It was grand.

Ursula: you are the most insanely hardworking, understanding, noble, chivalrous human being I have met. You would bend over backwards to help the class get what they need to be the best they can be. And you showed this not just during the six weeks in the classroom but you let team Nikita take over your house for two whole days. You sat in the rain, in the heat. And you smiled the whole way through. I feel completely honoured to get to know you. I know even after the course has ended you will always be one of my favorite people.

Yes, I am fighting back tears right now. BRING ON THE INTERNSHIPS!

• • •

CBC New Indigenous Voices is funded by: Title, Presenting and Tuition Sponsor CBC; Program Partners Manitoba Sport, Culture & Heritage, Centre for Aboriginal Human Resource Development (CAHRD) nd Telefilm Canada; NSI Indigenous Training Programs Partner Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries; Supporting Sponsors Entertainment OneSuper ChannelCorus Entertainment, Breakthrough Entertainment and imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival; Provincial Sponsor Manitoba Film & Music; Industry Partner Directors Guild of Canada (DGC); and Service Sponsor William F. White International. NSI Core Funders are Manitoba Sport, Culture and Heritage and the City of Winnipeg through the Winnipeg Arts Council.

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