NSI Aboriginal Documentary - Faculty

Lisa Meeches, Aboriginal Training Programs Advisor


Lisa is one of the most dynamic and respected producers in the film industry, and a proud Ojibway from Long Plain First Nation.

One of her recent projects, four-time Canadian Screen Award nominee and two-time time winner, We Were Children is widely praised by residential school survivors for its power to heal, while general audiences have been moved by its accurate and truthful portrayal of the impacts of Canada’s colonial past.

Lisa has produced numerous projects to critical acclaim. Among them: more than 150 hours of The Sharing Circle, Canada’s longest-running Aboriginal television series; Ice Road Truckers, one of the most prolific television documentary series in US television history; Tipi Tales, a Parent’s Choice award-winning children’s series; Elijah, a Gemini Award-winning MOW; and the three-time nominated, two-time Canadian Screen Award-winner JACK.

As host of The Sharing Circle, Lisa is a recognizable presence across Canada. She conducts her film industry work through her three companies: Eagle Vision Inc, Meeches Video Productions and Century Street Distribution. Other Eagle Vision Inc. productions include: Lovesick starring Jay Baruchel and Jessica Pare, Walk All Over Me, which premiered at TIFF and sold to the Weinstein Company, the politically-charged romantic comedy Blue State and the Academy Award-winning feature film Capote.

After studying broadcasting in North Dakota, Lisa began her career in 1986 with the Winnipeg-based Native Media Network. She later began news reporting for Craig Broadcasting Systems in Manitoba and Alberta where she established a liaison team who connected the newsroom with surrounding First Nations communities.

Lisa also devotes considerable time to other causes. She has been critical to the success of the Manito Ahbee Festival since inception 11 years ago where she has acted in the capacity of board chair on a volunteer basis until recently stepping down to assume the role of executive director. Lisa also sits on the national board of the Heart and Stroke Foundation. True to her heritage, Lisa practices the customs of her faith and is a renowned champion fancy shawl dancer.

Lisa has been the recipient of many local, regional and national awards for her exemplary contributions in culture, media and entrepreneurship. Among her numerous awards and nominations are: the 2007 National Aboriginal Achievement Award for Media & Communication, the 2009 YMCA-YWCA Woman of Distinction Award in the area of Creative Communications, the 2009 University of Manitoba’s Excellence in Aboriginal Business Leadership Award and the Women in Film and Television 2009 Crystal Award for Mentorship.

Currently, Lisa is working on Season II of Taken for APTN and CBC. Season I premiered in September 2016. Taken is a true crime documentary series focusing on solving the mysteries behind Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Lisa is married and has two wonderful sons and a beautiful daughter.

Elise Swerhone, Program Manager


As manager of programs and development, Elise runs Shaw Media Diverse TV Director and is co-manager of the NSI Aboriginal Documentary course.

Her extensive work includes the feature documentaries TuTu Much and Ballet High as well as several documentaries for CBC’s The Nature of Things.

She has made over 30 documentaries which have been shown around the world including work for the NFB, Global TV, CBC, HGTV, Vision, National Geographic and Discovery US.

Her dramatic work includes Miss Manitoba, Now & Then, The Mayor of Odessa, episodes of Adventures of Shirley Holmes and the MOW My Mother’s Ghost. Elise is also an alumna of NSI DramaLab.

Ursula Lawson, Program Manager

Ursula has been with NSI since 2004 and is a manager of programs and development, working on many of NSI’s courses.

As program manager of NSI New Voices and co-manager of NSI Aboriginal Documentary, she has been instrumental in helping NSI develop and deliver culturally sensitive film and television training to emerging Aboriginal film and content creators.

In 2013 Ursula was honoured to receive the YMCA-YWCA Women of Distinction Circle of Inspiration award along with colleagues Lisa Meeches and Melissa Kajpust for their contribution to the NSI New Voices course.

Ursula previously managed the NSI Aboriginal Journalism pilot program; coordinated NSI Global Marketing, NSI Totally Television, NSI Aboriginal Cultural Trade Initiative and NSI Pitch to Win! She is also secretary of the NSI Board of Directors.

Prior to working at the National Screen Institute, Ursula held management positions in both the hospitality and healthcare industries.

Brendon Sawatzky, Producer Advisor


As director of programming at NSI, Brendon directs the development of all new programs and is accountable for the delivery of all NSI courses.

Prior to his current position at NSI, Brendon focused on producing film and television. This resulted in producer credits on six feature films, a television sitcom, two television movies and a number of television specials, short films and music videos.

He previously worked for the National Screen Institute as a program manager and before that at the Winnipeg Film Group. A more recent role was as a producer for the National Film Board. He is also the chair of Film Training Manitoba.

Lisa Jackson, Director Advisor


With a background in documentary, including acclaimed short Suckerfish, Reservation Soldiers for CTV, and the CBC-broadcast How A People Live, Lisa Jackson expanded into fiction with Savage which won a 2010 Genie award for best short film.

Her cross-genre work includes current affairs, animation, performance art film and a musical. Playback Magazine named her one of 10 to Watch in 2012 and her work has played at festivals internationally, including Berlinale, Hot Docs, SXSW, Margaret Mead and London BFI, as well as airing on many networks in Canada.

In 2015, she travelled the Americas to direct 21 drama segments for the eight-part APTN/ZDF docudrama series 1491: The Untold Story of the Americas Before Columbus, based on the best-selling book by Charles C. Mann.

She recently directed her first 360 degree film with Secret Location for CBC’s The Current, is co-directing a one-hour doc for CBC’s Firsthand and developing a large-scale immersive audio-visual installation on the power of indigenous languages.

She is the director of the Gladue Video Project with Osgoode Hall Law School, a pilot project that will profile Aboriginal offenders for use in the sentencing process; and the director mentor for the National Screen Institute’s Aboriginal Documentary training program.

She is Anishinaabe, has a BFA in film production from SFU, is completing her MFA at York University and is an alumna of the Canadian Film Centre’s Directors Lab. She works in both fiction and documentary.