Modern stories told by the oldest of peoples were the subject of the latest StoryHive competition. The film industry development program went looking for Indigenous storytellers with their latest edition, and the response was so strong that the organization bent its own rules. Instead of 10 finalists from B.C. and 10 from Alberta, the Telus initiative shortlisted 30 finalists this time. All of them get $20,000 to take their in-development film proposals and make them a reality.
The region around Prince George was well represented among these finalists, so stories springing from the waters of our local culture will soon be fashioned into indelible screen documents.
One of them is entitled Takla Trap House, flowing from the ancient Aboriginal communities near Fort St. James.
Director Levi Davis said in his story pitch that "I don't have any formal training that pertains to film but I love the art of story telling," and he has transferrable skills from other endeavours. "I am an accomplished professional manager that aspires to get into the digital video industry. I currently work for Takla First Nation and feel the need to tell their stories. Their nation is the headwaters for the Fraser River and with that bring many opportunities to record their lengthy history."
His production team includes former UNBC student Caitlin Abraham who now works for Sasuchan Development Corporation, the economic arm of the Takla First Nation.
Their cameras will roll on the Takla traditions of fur trapping, which speaks both to ancient sustenance practices and post-colonial economic forces.
"This isn't about being noble and living in harmony with nature, this is what they do to make a living," said Davis. "Yet, there remains the conflict they live between trying to uphold traditional practices while industry and the ever-growing presence of the modern world encroaches upon the preservation of culture. As I have never lived on reserve or in a remote destination before, I find this fascinating and believe others will also."
Another local lens will be focused on musician Quanah Style, a transgender performer now based in Vancouver but born into the Cree traditions of the Saulteau First Nation traditions at Moberley Lake.
Style has a sister named Niska Napoleon who is also a noted musician and a father, Art Napoleon, who is both award-winning musician and television personality. Style, with a music career also acclaimed, steps into the spotlight with the film Dance With Me.
"Lets explore identity, what it means to be two-spirit (trans), and dance through cultural teachings about the jingle dress," said Style.
The film proposal was to show how a young boy would turn to powwow music and the jingle dress throughout elementary school years in the progression towards understanding the different primal forces contained within.
"Now Quanah wants to explore culture and two-spirit identity with traditional knowledge keepers, to decolonize gender roles, and help create acceptance through understanding," said the film's production team. "We want to capture the experience of her first regalia making a jingle dress (and) share stories from elders in the prairies about the meaning of the dance and traditional teachings." The proposed documentary would be told in Cree and translated to English, "to pass on these important lessons to future generations. Lets reclaim pride in our two-spirit leaders and dance like no one is watching."
A third production grant for a local project is going to Hey Cuzzin, a comedy by Prince George's Joy Haskell.
"I want to make a difference in this industry," Haskell said. "I love this film industry and am passionate about screenwriting."
She has been attending master-classes, has obtained an experienced mentor based in the Los Angeles television sector, and she has a number of projects in development.
"I taught Creative Writing in a men's federal prison and taught poetry slams for youth," she said, describing her path towards filmmaker. "I grew up dancing, singing and acting. I have a strong musical theatre background. I have put together dance and musical programs."
Creative BC contributed funds to this edition of StoryHive. It was the first time in the organization's six-year history that the competition was exclusively for Indigenous filmmakers. Each competition starts as a pitch made to a panel of professionals who form a long-list of contenders.
Next, those contenders are unveiled to the public and thus begins an online voting period where the finalists are whittled down to a shortlist.
In addition to the production grant, the selected finalists also receive training and mentorship opportunities and some are shown on Telus platforms like Optik TV.