Focal Point: Jennifer Podemski on receiving Academy Board of Directors’ Tribute Award at Canadian Screen Awards, Little Bird and The Shine Network Institute

Jennifer Podemski

Rachel Young

Outreach and Engagement Lead

To celebrate the Great Canadian Giving Challenge, we’ll be sharing the ways in which the National Screen Institute and our community have been changing the media landscape, and how your support continues to be a driving force as we live our mandate:

“If you want to change what you see on screen, you need to change who’s behind the scenes.”

Today, we’re highlighting our alumni with a special feature from Jennifer Podemski. 

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It’s been quite a spring for National Screen Institute grad Jennifer Podemski, with impressive accolades celebrating her impact in the screen industry.

After special in-person premieres in Winnipeg and Toronto, the much-anticipated mini-series Little Bird debuted on APTN and Crave on May 26. Jennifer, Anishinaabe / Ashkenazi actor, writer, director and producer was the showrunner, co-creator and co-writer on the shot-in-Manitoba project. She also received the Creative Voice Award as part of the Indigenous Screen Summit at the Banff World Media Festival this week.

This past April, Jennifer was presented with the Academy Board of Directors’ Tribute Award at the Canadian Screen Awards in Toronto. When she first learned she would be receiving this honour, she says it was a sign to stay on course and not give up.

“This award is a good reminder that the work is being acknowledged. When you’re Indigenous and doing this work, acknowledgements like this mean another opportunity to take up space where we may not otherwise be taking up space,” says Jennifer.

The Academy Board of Directors’ Tribute Award recognizes Jennifer’s extraordinary impact on the growth of the Canadian media industry. Jennifer believes this acknowledgement will help emphasize the importance of Indigenous representation in the industry, resulting in more opportunities and support for emerging Indigenous creators.

“This validates the work I’m doing, and it will help move the needle in a meaningful direction. Each Indigenous person in the industry who gets acknowledged and held up for their work represents everyone that came before and is to come after.”

Jennifer is the president of Redcloud Studios Inc., where she created and produced the television series The Other Side and acclaimed feature film Empire of Dirt. In 2020, she received a Canadian Screen Award for Best Direction in a Documentary or Factual Series for her work on Future History.

Her multifaceted career has taken her in front of and behind the camera. Now, she’s embarking on a new journey to address cultural competency within the screen sector – an issue she’s encountered firsthand.

Jennifer launched The Shine Network Institute in 2020, designed to empower and celebrate Indigenous creators in film and television, with a special focus on Indigenous women.

“Being a filmmaker and creator is important and it’s the work we do – but if you’re Indigenous, it also intersects with cultural realities that are very specific to Indigenous people, and we can’t escape that. It will serve everyone if all non-Indigenous people in the sector become trained in cultural humility.”

The Shine Network Institute, with support from the National Screen Institute, is building an online learning course titled PACT, providing non-Indigenous people in the film and television sector with cultural humility and competency training to prepare them for working with Indigenous productions and content. PACT was soft launched at the Little Bird special premiere in Winnipeg on May 23 and will be available for free later this year.

“We’re on the precipice of something that will really push things into the direction of systemic change,” says Jennifer. “There’s a lot of work to be done, but the success of The Shine Network Institute and the impact that we can have relies on partnerships like this. This is real collaboration and allyship to move forward and change things for the better.”

Congratulations, Jennifer! You have left an indelible mark on the industry, and we know there is much more to come. Learn more about the work Jennifer does on The Shine Network Institute website.

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