Run Nasayenh Run: A Wendigo Teaching

Utilizing footage shot across Canada and Elder Mary Wilson’s candid insights on the Wendigo – a complicated figure in Anishnaabe culture – Run Nasayenh Run blends documentary and experimental elements as it follows the road trip of a young man who believes he is being pursued by the often misunderstood Wendigo spirit.

Creative team

Writer/director: Madison Thomas
Producer: Darcy Waite

Filmmaker’s statement

Run Nasayenh Run is a short documentary that evolved in a very organic and unpredictable way, which is fitting given the subject matter.

The final product is a combination of footage shot by Darcy Waite and myself while travelling from Victoria to Winnipeg, a candid teaching from Elder Dr. Mary Wilson and scratch-style animation inspired by a child’s view of evil.

Being a Wendigo-Khan woman myself, Wendigo teachings have always fascinated me in the way they encompass the good and bad in all of us and the lessons they bring. The road trip footage, shot with the loose narrative of a man being followed by what he believes is an evil presence, and the audio were filmed/recorded nearly a year apart. However once I started experimenting with editing them together the cut came together very smoothly. Sometimes it’s okay to let a project take a break when it needs time to find the right next step.

Mary’s interview could have yielded several documentaries with her knowledge and stories, but I’m glad I was able to share even this small portion of her teachings with this film. While it’s important when recording teachings to make sure it’s appropriate for the teaching to be recorded and shared in this way, I would definitely implore other Indigenous storytellers working in modern mediums to consult with elders in your community before embarking on projects, even if a recorded teaching isn’t needed. Our elders have lots to teach us and it’s a great way to embrace community in our storytelling.

Big thanks to Eagle Vision Productions for supporting both Darcy and I over the past couple years and encouraging all our experimental artsy side projects like Run Nasayenh Run: A Wendigo Teaching.

About Madison Thomas

Madison Thomas

Madison Thomas is a filmmaker from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Growing up, she emerged as a natural storyteller and artist at a young age. Her work reflects her mixed cultural roots, Ojibwe, Saulteax, Russian and Ukrainian. She also draws inspiration from experiences growing up in the inner city and has committed herself to diverse representation in her films.

Madison received her bachelor of arts in filmmaking from the University of Winnipeg in 2012. In 2011 she was accepted into Prague Film School’s summer intensive program – she was the first Canadian Indigenous person to ever be accepted to the school.

In 2014 Madison’s short film Out of Reach launched her onto the national stage when it was selected as a finalist on CBC’s Short Film Faceoff. She was one of the youngest participants to appear on the show and the jury applauded the film’s artistic bravery.

Madison is the co-owner of Prairie Kid Productions. The collective have produced over a dozen shorts which have enjoyed festival success worldwide. She also works as a writer, director and editor for several web series including Rezolution Pictures’ Working It Out Together and Manito Ahbee/Moving Future Production Inc.’s Orange Daisy Project.

Thomas’s own dramatic web series The Colour of Scar Tissue was the winner of the 2017 imagineNATIVE/APTN web series pitch competition. The series follows three mixed Indigenous sisters as they move from rural Manitoba to Winnipeg’s often turbulent North End.

In 2016 Madison was accepted into imagineNATIVE Film Festival’s inaugural director’s master class. At the festival that year she also received the Ellen Monague Award for Best Youth Talent Special Mention for her short film Exposed Nerves which explores living with bipolar disorder through contemporary dance. The film is now available to view as part of CBC Short Docs.

She has also worked for the past four seasons as an editor and director for the CBC and APTN series Taken produced by Eagle Vision Productions which shares the true stories of Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women. In 2018 Thomas, along with the rest of the show’s research team, were honoured with a Canadian Screen Award nomination for their work on the show’s first season.

Madison is alumni of the prestigious Women in the Director’s Chair story and leadership program where she began development on her sci-fi feature Last Call. The film’s script was a runner up in the Canada-wide writing contest From Our Dark Side in 2015. At the 2017 Whistler Film Festival she was selected for the Aboriginal Film Fellowship with her sci-fi short Starbound. Madison and producer Darcy Waite were one of two selected teams from Manitoba to be included in Telefilm’s Talent to Watch program with their dramatic feature Ruthless Souls.

Madison believes that giving back to the community is a fundamental part of her responsibility as an artist. She often teaches film to inner city and low income youth. In 2016 she was selected as a TEDx Winnipeg speaker and her talk Arts in the Hood focused on her journey as an artist and her work as a mentor.

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