17 films by 24 alumni and four award wins: NSI at imagineNATIVE 2017 in photos

Rodney Contois (CBC New Indigenous Voices) NSI CEO John Gill, NSI Indigenous Programs Advisor Lisa Meeches, Earl Soldier (CBC New Indigenous Voices) and NSI Indigenous Programs & Administrative Assistant Kaya Wheeler

Above from left: Rodney Contois (CBC New Indigenous Voices), NSI CEO John Gill, NSI Indigenous Programs Advisor Lisa Meeches, Earl Soldier (CBC New Indigenous Voices) and NSI Indigenous Programs & Administrative Assistant Kaya Wheeler

NSI staff and grads recently headed to the imagineNATIVE Film & Media Arts Festival to celebrate the 17 films by 24 alumni which were screening at the fest.

Below, Chris Vajcner – NSI’s director of communications and revenue development – and Ursula Lawson – program manager for NSI IndigiDocs and CBC New Indigenous Voices – tell us a bit about their time there.

• • •

Chris Vajcner

Chris Vajcner

I was so proud to attend a festival where 17 films were by 24 NSI alumni writers, directors and producers.

For the past few years NSI has hosted a small reception at the fest. Our fourth annual reception was the first in imagineNATIVE’s refurbished, gorgeous space at 401 Richmond in Toronto. It was a great time to connect sponsors with the NSI students and graduates they support. Importantly, it also gave us a chance to thank our supporters in person.

One of the most unique experiences I’ve ever had at a film festival was The Wall is a Screen (pictured below). The fest team hoped for an audience of around 50 but over 300 people gathered in the OCAD University area for the event (the first time all Indigenous films were shown).

The Wall is a Screen imagineNATIVE 2017

We walked through back lanes and parking lots, between buildings and in parks, stopping seven times to watch a film projected onto a seemingly random wall. RBC provided the snacks and glow sticks, and the weather was incredible. We ended up under the OCAD ‘pencil box’ structure, looking up at the ceiling watching a short film with the SpongeBob SquarePants song.

CBC's Melanie Hadley (also an NSI grad and board member) with Dez Loreen from Inuvialuit Communications Society

Above: CBC’s Melanie Hadley (also an NSI grad and board member) with Dez Loreen from Inuvialuit Communications Society

The festival awards ceremony was fantastic. NSI graduate and board member Melanie Hadley co-hosted the event and, out of the 15 awards presented, four were for NSI alumni and their projects.

Audience Choice Award

Kayak to Klemtu directed and written by Zoe Hopkins (Featuring Aboriginal Stories Program) with producer Daniel Bekerman (NSI Features First)

Web Series Live Pitch Competition

Spectrum by Darcy Waite (NSI IndigiDocs, CBC New Indigenous Voices) and Madison Thomas (pictured below)

Darcy Waite with Madison Thomas imagineNATIVE 2017

Special Jury Prize – Moon Jury

Birth of a Family directed by Tasha Hubbard (NSI IndigiDocs, Featuring Aboriginal Stories Program)

Tasha Hubbard and Lisa Jackson imagineNATIVE 2017

Above: Tasha Hubbard and Lisa Jackson

The Alanis Obomsawin Award for Best Documentary Work (Long-Form) 

Indictment: The Crimes of Shelly Chartier directed by Shane Belcourt (Featuring Aboriginal Stories Program, NSI Totally Television) and Lisa Jackson (Featuring Aboriginal Stories Program, NSI Storytellers) – both are director advisors for NSI IndigiDocs

Thanks to the imagineNATIVE team – we’ll see you next year!

Ursula Lawson

Ursula Lawson

Congratulations to the imagineNATIVE team on another great festival.

I’m trying to remember when I first attended. I think it was 11 years ago. Back then the only people I knew were from Winnipeg and we were quite a small group. Now there are so many wonderful alumni from across the country and as far as Australia, and great people from the many organizations that support NSI in a variety of capacities.

Thankfully, with all the great screenings, panels, installations, receptions and parties, you can find a way to connect with everyone.

While Chris was experiencing The Wall is a Screen I had the most unique experience attending an impromptu dinner organized by the wonderful Daniel Northway-Frank, who’s industry director at the fest.

Daniel saw an opportunity to bring together people representing views from around the world, focused on developing Indigenous talent. It was an evening of shared experiences and perspectives from filmmakers, educators, broadcasters and funders from Canada, America, Australia, New Zealand and Norway. It was informative, emotional and so much fun. Truly a special evening and I was very grateful and honoured to be included.

And for the second year in a row, in addition to all the other NSI alumni, I was overjoyed to have so many of our CBC New Indigenous Voices alum in attendance.

Heading into its 14th year, CBC New Indigenous Voices is our most entry level, hands-on course and these students are very special to me.

Their reasons for attending ran the gamut from simply being there to experience screenings, panels and networking opportunities (Rodney Contois, Earl Soldier, Andy Lown); recipient of this year’s imagineNATIVE/HGF Indigenous story editor mentorship (Theresa Stevenson – also a kick-ass bead artist); attending the producers lab (Erica Daniels and Darcy Waite); pitching in the web series live pitch competition … and WINNING (Darcy Waite with his fabulous collaborator Madison Thomas who is not an NSI grad … yet); and the trifecta: representing CBC (as an exec in charge of production), NSI (as a board member) and imagineNATIVE (also as a board member): Melanie Hadley.

Pauline Clague, Jenna Neepin (NSI IndigiDocs) Asia Youngman and Courtney Montour (NSI IndigiDocs)

Above from left: Pauline Clague, Jenna Neepin (NSI IndigiDocs) Asia Youngman and Courtney Montour (NSI IndigiDocs)

Beading by Theresa Stevenson

Above: Beading by Theresa Stevenson

My time at the fest always flies by so quickly and soon I was hauling my luggage down from the 35th floor of the Airbnb condo I shared with my coworker Kaya Wheeler (Kaya would have added to this blog post but she jetted off to Chilé and Machu Picchu immediately after the festival).

That in itself was an experience, as I don’t do well with heights and spent all my ‘home’ time trying not to look out of the floor-to-ceiling windows that replaced any actual walls in our corner unit.

Big thanks to Shane Belcourt who, early in our trip, informed me that this is indeed a thing:

“Acrophobia can produce a bizarrely counter-intuitive effect: the impulse to yield to the source of panic and willingly jump.” I shared this information with my fellow acrophobics at the festival and it was very therapeutic to discover this impulse was not unique. It is, in fact, ‘a thing.’

Regardless, I will be looking for accommodation at a lower altitude next year.

Leave a comment