Above from left: Darcy Waite, Shannon Bear, Jordan Wagner, Phoenix Campbell, Zachary Harper, Justin Kehler, Olly King (AKA Kenneth Burns), Janelle Gossfeld and Cody Halcrow
Our NSI New Voices students recently completed their classroom training and are working on their short film projects.
As they prepare for their internships we asked them to write about the course so far.
• • •
NSI New Voices is our course for young Aboriginal adults aged 18-35 with a desire to work in the film and television industry.
Workshops and seminars in the classroom phase are led by industry experts. Students intern with a broadcaster or independent production company giving them firsthand knowledge of the business. Training also includes the production and screening of three short films. Minimum wage is provided throughout the course.
Shannon Bear (Winnipeg, MB)
My time with NSI has been the most unique experience I have encountered.
The most extraordinary part was meeting the talented students. This was amazing because they have such unique ideas for films, and their own genuine experiences towards film were inspiring.
Every day I looked forward to seeing my classmates because we were going through the same processes and challenges together as a team. [As a team we always had] interesting and humorous conversations. I got to learn about other walks of life.
Prior to NSI, I was a university student who graduated twice and I’d never really encountered this type of bond with others. We are all here for a reason. This program brought us all together to celebrate one very specific element. This celebration was filmmaking. We all love filmmaking.
The best part about NSI New Voices was its Indigenous-based foundation. [Each] Indigenous filmmaker encounters this journey in such a unique way and unfortunately it’s not always equally based. This program has honored that stipulation of balance.
Through guidance/lectures from professional writers, producers and directors this team of Indigenous students take away the most useful and dynamic experience any course has to offer. Whomever encounters this journey should realize how blessed they are to be entering a life-changing event.
I am grateful to the filmmakers and alumni I met through this program. I enjoyed the trip out to the petroforms [Bannock Point Petroforms at Whiteshell Provincial Park] with our class.
Culturally appropriate events and teachings have enriched my well-being and journey within filmmaking.
I come from a cultural/spiritual background, so it’s great that culture is incorporated into the curriculum. I believe it’s opened our team’s hearts and minds to a healthy identity.
We are entering the practicum soon and I’m optimistic what this level of professionalism and networking can do for my career.
The teachers were all amazing and helpful too. I really enjoyed Ervin Chartrand’s story and his documentaries. His work has stuck with me the most because his style is unique. It’s uplifting. It showed us the humility an Indigenous person faces in life and how to turn a negative into a positive.
The lessons of scriptwriting, storyboarding and applying for grants were most helpful.
Thank you NSI.
Phoenix Campbell (Winnipeg, MB)
To start off, before I was selected to participate in this program I had applied the year prior and was turned down. With encouragement from NSI alumni, I applied once more and was selected.
[The stories I heard from NSI alumni] created so much anticipation and kind of built this image of what it’s like day-to-day in class. So, as it got closer and closer to the start of class, I imagined all my fellow participants would be hostile and competitive. I also pictured long days of intensive lectures and the humiliation of having to read something out loud.
Turns out what I had imagined was nowhere near close to what it’s actually been like.
Most of our days were full of laughs and great conversations. The special guests were all amazing and very experienced – what they shared will stick with me for a while. But the best part about the classroom sessions was coming in every day to hang out with eight new, motivating friends.
In the beginning I never really wanted to speak up and introduce myself to others – not saying my feelings have entirely changed – but my new friends helped me overcome that sense of shyness.
Just by watching each of them introduce themselves and hear the pride in their voices about what they’ve accomplished and their desire to succeed really helped me gain something I thought I had lost: my voice.
I never really struggled with being loud and speaking in public in high school. It was later that things suddenly changed. I didn’t feel it necessary for people to know my name and hear my story, but since I’ve been in this program that has changed ever so slightly.
With all that I’ve gained from the weeks of training I am unbelievably excited to start my internship at William F. White and see where life takes me next.
Janelle Gossfeld (Thompson, MB)
It all started when I came across an ad – a sort of a ‘HEY KIDS, THIS IS YOUR FUTURE!’ [thing] on Facebook.
The ad for NSI New Voices got me thinking, “Well, I am a great writer. I am a photographer. I am an artist and people tend to come to me when I am speaking from the heart.”
This was right up my alley.
I always wanted to get into film and media. My past endeavours have all been something of a collective of exposing myself to media.
Of course, even when I had these thoughts, I found myself thinking, “Will I succeed in getting [the application] done on time?”
I quickly went to the NSI website to find out what I had to do to get myself into this course.
All I kept thinking was “Am I going to get into this course? How the hell am I going to do this?”
I was feeling discouragement and excitement at the same time. I went from seeing an ad to seeing the support I had from my family, community, university mentors and director, to waiting for my interview and standing in a storm with snow falling on my face so fast it felt like pricks and needles. I [ended up] having my interview on the side of a highway as vehicles passed by spitting snow at me with my feet drenched in cold slush.
I was adamant about getting myself into this course. Not just because I was interested in filmmaking but also because I am an Aboriginal female.
[The filmmaking industry seems to be] more male-oriented. The majority of directors and producers are male from what I [can tell].
There are a vast number of women in this industry, which led me to think if all these strong women can do this, then why the hell can’t I?
I felt great appreciation seeing the amount of women that came to NSI and delivered workshops.
[Many people have] voiced the opinion that there need to be more ladies.
But this industry is not about being male or female but [more] that we [work] together as a team. Sure there are hiccups [along the way] but we always tend to work it out. We are a support system and we are all reaching for that goal.
I have learned from being in film and media so far that it’s a networking system of people vying for each other and bringing each other up to get to where we want to be.
Above: photos courtesy of Janelle Gossfeld taken during training
[Thanks to the speakers we’ve met] who want to keep in touch with us on a personal level and build friendships. It makes me look forward to working more in film.
I have talked with many mentors including Ben Stouffer, Taavo Soodor, Cam Bennett, Andrew Forbes, Sebastian Nasse, Richard Cloutier, Paul Barnsley, Liz Hover, Danielle Audette, Darcy Fehr, Gary Yates, Noah Erenberg, Michael Kluthe, Craig Aftanas, Jason Ryle, Shereen Jerrett, Jeff Newman, Monique Perro, Julie Hackett, Anita Lubosch, Tim Southam, Jordan Wheeler, Kim Wheeler, Winona Wheeler, Roger Boyer and Ervin Chartrand, former NSI students and current staff (course manager Ursula Lawson and co-ordinator Kaya Wheeler) plus many other ladies and gentlemen.
[These people have all] helped us throughout the course. It’s humbling to exchange questions and get to see what they all do on a national and personal level in film.
The great thing about this program is that they supported me on a spiritual level. [The spiritual component is] led by Colin Mousseau. I was deeply moved by his knowledge of our culture and [that he took] the time to teach us what he knows.
To Lisa Meeches [without whom] this probably wouldn’t have happened. She believed in me and believes in Aboriginal people trying to make it out there. For that, I am greatly appreciative of her.
I have learned that the mind, body and spirit are all entwined and coherent so that anything and everything can be orientated and fall into place for me in this industry. The individuals who taught our workshops brought us so much knowledge and gave their honest opinions on what we were doing and how we should do it on a professional level.
Overall, I feel that I can go out there and deal with what might [come my way on this] journey.
[The other students] are all talented in their own ways and have taught me so much as friends and young filmmakers. I will always look up to everyone I have met in this program and all the great people I got to meet including Mayor Bowman and the media outlets in and around Winnipeg.
I just want to thank everyone. [I know that] this is not over yet for me. I plan on seeing how far I can take this.
Cody Halcrow (Winnipeg, MB)
I was quite glad when I got accepted into the NSI New Voices program. I knew I had an excellent opportunity on my hands to build my network and learn new techniques to further benefit my career in filmmaking.
I didn’t know exactly what to expect but I wouldn’t have thought I’d be having so much fun with a group of wonderful students I met through the program.
It’s amazing how a group of nine different people can stay connected and support one another along the way.
These new friendships didn’t just end in the classroom either – we stay in contact through a Facebook group chat and make plans on the weekends like bowling or hanging out at the mall.
It’s also real fortunate that all of us have varying experience in different fields which opened my options that much wider on who to reach out to when I need help on set in future film projects.
The classroom workshops were so helpful as they were a huge learning experience.
Even in subjects I felt I already knew my way around, I still got much better insight and accumulated new information as we went along.
The instructors were more than encouraging to have us ask questions and I really appreciated the effort they put in to reaching out and helping us the best they could.
One of the many workshops that stood out for me was the pitching workshop taught by Jeff Newman. He really taught us a lot and I knew these techniques would be key in my career. I got the opportunity to apply these techniques on my film pitch during the program.
I know I’ll work on horror films in the long term, but I wanted to step down from that and try something different.
I decided to pitch a story based on a personal experience. It was a traditional story of perseverance and guidance from a passed relative titled One More Day. It was one that I was real close to and the reason why I’m pushing myself forward to build my career.
Unfortunately my pitch was not chosen. But given the feedback from the panelists I pitched in front of, I felt there was still potential to put this story out for the public to see, and brighten some spirits as I originally intended.
All the other stories pitched by the rest of the group were great and I was fortunate enough to be paired with one of the more visually intriguing projects Don’t Look Now [by Jordan Wagner].
It was great to be part of this short film project. We all provided input to try and make this the best shoot we possibly could.
From the script to the logistics of the production, we felt we were good to go for the shoot. But during production we hit a few snags. Actors dropped out at the last minute and we raced against the daylight and rain. But we pulled through with what we had so it wasn’t as bad as it could of been. In the end, it turned out to be a successful production.
These past few weeks have been an incredible experience. I would honestly recommend the program to any Aboriginal up-and-coming filmmakers.
Zachary Harper (Winnipeg, MB)
When I began the NSI New Voices program, the first week gave me an idea of how things would be.
I appreciated how people from the film and TV industries gave us their time to go over each topic within their factions. I learned a lot as each day went by. I like how each topic has been given a full day and it helped keep my mind on it when I went home at the end of the day.
Jordan Wheeler helped so much on my script development through his movie narrative lesson, and I follow his handout if I get a writers block. He gave me good advice about creating a film that I thought could be offensive to some viewers. He told me not to let those who oppose the idea [dissuade me] from making it.
Because of Jordan’s experience writing for numerous television shows, he inspired me to create a unique reserve-themed television show that I one day hope to create and pitch to APTN.
Shereen Jerrett’s lecture was very important [in helping me] understand that we need to write numerous stories to have a chance for one to get chosen. Her teachings really opened me up to film in ways I never thought [possible], and she influenced me to go towards writing/directing.
Before being introduced to NSI, I had no idea how realistic the possibilities were of getting into the film industry. I now realize that if I stick to what I’m good at, I could one day be working as an editor or sound operator.
After the completion of the internship phase I should know where and what I want to do within the film industry but I’ll let my passion decide what will be most suited to me.
Justin Kehler (Winnipeg, MB)
Over the past six weeks I’ve met a host of great film industry contacts, the phenomenal staff here at the National Screen Institute and a handful of amazing fellow students.
Since the opening pipe ceremony, which was attended by many prominent people, I have grown as an artist and a man but, more importantly, I’ve made new brothers and sisters. Having eight amazingly positive and optimistic individuals to call my fellow students and work with daily has been the gift my life needed.
I will be the only student to remain at NSI for my internship. If there is anything I regret it’s not having more time with my colleagues but I know they’re all ready to go on to their respective internships. And I am excited to work further with the National Screen Institute.
My experiences of meeting and learning one-on-one with experienced filmmakers, editors, writers and many more has been exciting and provided me with training you just couldn’t find anywhere else.
I am eternally grateful to the National Screen Institute and its sponsors.
Olly King (aka Kenneth Burns) (Winnipeg, MB)
I always say that I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up.
I watched TV and movies without any real understanding of what went on behind the scenes. To me TV was make believe come alive – someone invented a story and people played it out on a stage in front of a camera. Looking back, I see that’s still true. And SO much more.
The National Screen Institute’s New Voices program lends itself to the younger up-and-coming generation showing them what life in the industry has to offer in Canada. I am extremely pleased that I got to meet this group of talented filmmakers and artists.
I could not have wished for a better group of people to share this journey with.
Janelle Gossfeld is an amazing artist and storyteller. I hope she gets to tell her stories from her hometown where she plans on raising her family.
Phoenix Campbell is a talented director of photography who plans on going back into stage lighting. She’ll probably continue collaborating on projects with NSI grad Amanda Kindzierski.
Justin Kehler is already working in the field and is a hardworking and committed team player. He loves working on film projects and being involved in the office side of filmmaking. I hope I get to work with him more in future.
Jordan Wagner has an excellent voice for radio. He’s a great guy willing to do pretty much anything to help out on a production.
Shannon Bear is the strange yet funny one of our group (other than me). She’s seriously one of a kind. Shannon is so crazy and the fact that we have the same sense of humour makes it that much easier for us to get along. She was one of my teammates for the short film project and we really got to know each other a lot more during this time which was a bonus for me.
Zachary Harper is a very quiet and introverted guy. He does warm up to you if you want to get to know him. He loves music and hanging out with his girlfriend. He was the other teammate I was gifted for my short film project. In private Zach can talk your ear off and is really a gentle soul.
I’ve known Cody Halcrow for over a year and got to be his assistant director on his first short film Remains, Human. I know Cody has great potential and will probably go further than any of us. He is a quiet person but I consider him a close personal friend and know he’s a lot more spicy than I originally thought.
And last but not least is Darcy Waite – a pretty boy union actor, the bane of the independent filmmaker (I’m joking of course). He is my future business partner.
I love the fact that I didn’t expect us to get along but we do. We have an interesting dynamic. While Darcy is the innocent cat meme lover, I am the wildly inappropriate sociopath. You could base a sitcom on us.
I am only halfway done the course but I am days away from being able to say that I got my dream internship at one of the coolest places in Canada – Eagle Vision.
Jordan Wagner (Winnipeg, MB)
Captain’s Log – Stardate 16610.6 (that’s June 10, 2016, about 60% through the day)
I’ve learned this will be the last day I’m in the training room for the National Screen Institute’s New Voices program.
To say it’s been quite a ride would be an understatement. The connections I hoped to make and the people I’ve met are the very reason I moved back to Winnipeg.
I grew up in Winnipeg and my mother was a stage actress. Having been labelled as a ‘theatre orphan,’ I was a sponge for the performed word back then. After two weeks observing rehearsals, I knew the lines better than most of the actors.
This intent stayed with me through the adversity and strife that comes from working for a living. And now, having rolled the dice on launching a career in the arts, I hope it will pay off.
Perhaps my favorite part of the NSI New Voices program was meeting people who had their hands dirty, as it were – people who were heavily integrated into the business.
The one question I asked nearly everyone was “How do you make a living in this industry?” I never got one exact answer, but it was never made out to be easy. One has to keep their chops working; one has to keep boogie-ing to stay afloat.
Having worked multiple jobs, long hours don’t concern me. So long as my rent is paid and I can be fed, I’m happy enough to work. As my classmates can attest, I have an attitude similar to Malcolm Reynolds from the show Firefly: “You got a job, I can do it. Don’t much care what it is.”
Perhaps the most valuable information I gleaned from this program was on financing and getting money for projects. Again, these were not made out to be guaranteed, or easy. But a long shot is better than no shot.
Production of the short film I made for this program, titled Don’t Look Now, was a bit of a mixed bag. I’m so used to doing everything myself. I had to be reminded constantly that there are people next to me more than willing to help. Truly, I could not have done this without their steadfast support and understanding.
I make this all sound like a love-fest. Sure, there were benefits being in the NSI office – wearing a suit nearly every day, having coffee and lunch provided, walking to work, those were definite perks.
But as another line from another show stated, “The more you live in this world, the more you see how apart from it you really are.”
I find I’ve been kind of an outsider in the group. Not in a terribly bad way. I just chose to walk a different path from the group. That’s the kind of person I am.
Olly King: I admire that Olly is driven and ambitious. He not only has goals and dreams, but also connections. He’s not afraid to talk to someone, as I’ve sometimes been.
Janelle Gossfield: She’s a real mother. A nurturing soul, like Zhaan from Farscape. And a fantastic artist. I truly hope she finds a place in this industry where she can be comfortable, with her family on hand.
Phoenix Campbell: I like Phoenix. She’s a gearhead, very technically oriented. She’s got a fantastic eye for shots and editing which obviously come from experience. When I get a feature going, she’s the kind of person I want on board.
Darcy Waite: He’s an actor, through and through. He has fantastic comedic timing and he doesn’t take himself seriously. Again, someone I’d like to work with again.
Zach Harper: In him, I found a kindred spirit: not quite on the beaten path and does his own thing. We established a kind of understanding and mutual goodwill. Again, someone who I can see doing good things with his ideas.
Cody Halcrow: Another of my crew who never really said much. But when he did, it was always something worth hearing. I have boundless respect for him pursuing his dreams. And also for actually getting such a fine independent horror short off the ground. I was ecstatic to work with him.
Justin Kehler: He and Darcy kind of gravitated towards each other, but we found a common footing in our writing and ideas. I have a strong feeling that we’ll cross paths and hoist pints in the near future.
Shannon Bear: She’s got ideas that I hope will crystalize into reality. Much like everyone else in the class, it will take a lot of work and dedication. Her ideas put a unique spin on established norms. I’m looking forward to see what she comes up with.
Most of our presenters gave brilliant insights. It all seems a jumble in retrospect, but there are a few that stand out.
Shereen Jerrett: A writer, and a definite force to contend with. She taught me to think in other forms, and to shoot point-blank no matter how outlandish the ideas were.
Jordan Wheeler: Another writer who forever changed the way I will view a movie. This new perspective is slightly terrifying, but encourages me to step up to the plate and add more thematic elements to my work.
Andrew Forbes: Cinematographer extraordinaire and certainly certifiable. His enthusiasm, knowledge and evident love of his craft gave me the shot in the arm I needed to carry on with this program, my future ones and my hopeful career.
Taavo Soodor: Production designer who enabled my borderline-obsessive, encyclopedia-like need to create an entire world for the camera.
Anita Lubosch: Sound-mix wizard who effectively held my hand and guided me through the furrows and gnarls of the intricate world of sound.
Darcy Fehr: Whose merry band of actors (including the excellent Aaron Hughes) helped me refine my own craft, and the vision I want to show on screen.
Jeff Newman: Whose advice and counsel on pitching to a network gave me the fortitude to pitch an idea that got green-lit.
On that note, the film I pitched, Don’t Look Now, was selected to be produced through NSI New Voices. My first reaction, after the initial elation wore off, was “How the hell am I going to pull this off?”
The answer: I’m not even sure how we did. Looking back, it seems like a hodgepodge of idle daydreaming with occasional lightning strikes of brilliance and panic at the encroaching deadline.
For my crew, I was assigned Cody and Justin. Both of whom had their own unique spin on the project and both contributed elements to the final piece.
The pre-production phase was a lethargic, easy-going process – admittedly eaten up by procrastination. The script was written and went through various drafts.
In each of them I had no dialog, following the old filmmaker adage of ‘Show, don’t tell.’ We cast, drew up storyboards and waited for the day to come.
On shooting day we encountered our very own Kobayashi Maru ‘No-win scenario.’ That morning, our lead actor dropped out and our second never showed up. Since we had come too far to let this slow us down, Cody and I sprang into action for the camera.
The first day – involving a retired transit bus – was perhaps the most technically complicated but most rewarding.
We raged against the dying of the light as soon as we could start shooting. We made our first day – close to 60% of our footage – in two hours, wrapping just as the sun went down.
The next day our challenge was rain. As we were in the shady tree area of Fort Gibraltar, it was an effective non-issue. A few raindrops made it into the final cut but nothing terribly damp. In hindsight it was even better that way allowing for more gloom in the mood.
With editing finished by Julie Hackett, our very own Commander Uhura, I find myself wondering what the future holds.
For my work placement I’ll be at CBC. As this is the biggest entity for my kind of work in the country, I’m admittedly nervous and excited.
For my long-term goals, I am hoping to make inroads to license music for my first feature film. In the short term, I’m hoping to have a job which will pay my rent.
That said, this is why I came back to Winnipeg. This is why I uprooted myself and proverbially ‘blew up the Enterprise.’ It’s a lot of work, but that’s nothing new to me.
Through the connections I’ve made and the skills I’ve picked up, I’ve already started to work behind and in front of the camera. It’s an exciting time!
Darcy Waite (Edmonton, AB)
My time at NSI started out kind of crazy. I had to move over from Edmonton, Alberta. It was my second big move to help further my career. My first was to Red Deer to study film acting. Then I moved here to Manitoba to attend the NSI New Voices program.
Since starting the program, it’s been a whirlwind of the film industry. Every day we learned something new.
Some of the topics were [more of a review for me] but some were completely new. I’ve learned so much about the pre-production process. My goal in the industry is to be a producer/actor. The NSI New Voices program has given me the tools to make this happen.
My favorite day was when Tim Southam came in. He directed episodes of House and Bates Motel. I really enjoyed his talk because he took us through the process of getting ready to shoot a scene and all the new apps he uses to prepare.
The old-school way was to do a scene breakdown by hand and walk around with a huge binder with your notes on set. Now all I need is an iPad and a couple of apps and I’ll have everything I need to do a script breakdown, shooting concept and notes for the editing room.
[Usually I’d have to learn all this by trial and error] on set but now I know [this stuff] it’ll just make me that much more prepared. If you’re prepared in pre-production it makes life go smoother on set and directly transfers to the quality of the film in post-production.
[I also really enjoyed the session] with Gary Yates. He [taught us about] talking to actors. That’s a tough thing because being able to speak to an actor is very important and it’s almost its own language. You can’t go up to an actor and say you need to be angrier because they’ll just start acting louder. You have to explain motivations and show them why they need to be more emotional. This was super helpful because in future I want to jump behind the camera and direct.
So far the program has been super eventful and helpful. I’m excited to start my internship working with two NSI New Voices alumni.
NSI New Voices is funded by Presenting Sponsor Manitoba Sport, Culture and Heritage; Program Partners Telefilm Canada and the Centre for Aboriginal Human Resource Development (CAHRD); NSI Aboriginal Training Programs Partner Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries; Supporting Sponsors Entertainment One, Super Channel, Corus Entertainment, Breakthrough Entertainment and imagineNATIVE; Provincial Sponsor Manitoba Film & Music; Industry Partners Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television (ACCT) and the Directors Guild of Canada; and Service Sponsor William F. White. NSI Core Funders are Manitoba Sport, Culture and Heritage and the City of Winnipeg through the Winnipeg Arts Council.