Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always dreamed of saying, “I would like to thank the Academy…”
On Monday, October 19, I finally got my chance and it was such a wonderful feeling to fulfill one of my childhood fantasies.
The weeks leading up to the 24th Annual Gemini Awards, which celebrates excellence in Canadian English-language television, was a rollercoaster ride that perfectly reflects the exciting journey I’ve been on for the last nine years as a filmmaker.
I flew to Winnipeg several weeks ago to observe director Norma Bailey on the set of APTN’s casino drama, Cashing In. I joined the crew for three intense days to watch all the magic happen, arriving on set at 3am and patiently waiting for every opportunity to ask the director everything except her favourite colour.
Over the years, these types of opportunities have been invaluable for me to learn about different directing techniques, the process of collaboration and how to keep stress at bay so that moviemaking always remains fun.
I flew back to Kahnawake for the weekend – but that didn’t mean I had a break. Having teamed up once again with Rezolution Pictures to pitch a “Sex & the City – Mohawk style” show for APTN, our idea was recently approved and the clock was ticking to polish the script. So for the three days I was home, I worked with the producer and writer to start figuring it out.
Next, I was back in the air on my way to the University of Lethbridge in Alberta to give a talk about my work. The Fine Arts Department invited me to speak in a series called Art Now, which invites speakers from different artistic discipline to speak three times a week. The exhausting 12-hour journey to get there was worth engaging in discussion with students about the joys of my work.
From there I flew to Toronto to be a part of the wildly exciting 10th annual ImagineNATIVE, the biggest Aboriginal film and media festival in the world. I had my short film Escape Hatch screen as one of more than 100 films that were presented over a five-day period.
With film screenings, workshops and schmoozing parties at night, it’s the place to see what’s being made, catch up with colleagues and line up future collaborations. In short – a very fun way to be productive!
Midway through the festival, I began a one-week intensive training called Featuring Aboriginal Stories Program, which is held yearly for a select group of filmmakers. Just one of the many different enhancement programs offered, I applied months ago and was thrilled to be accepted.
I’ve been in workshops and lectures all week with my team, meeting and learning from the best in the business.
The Big Night
The day of the awards arrived and I was, honestly, a bit frazzled.
In a haze of salon pampering and throwing dresses around my hotel room, my husband and I, along with my editor and two producers from Rezolution Pictures, headed over to the big event.
Upon arrival, we were ushered into a huge, topnotch schmooze-fest – everybody from the “factual” community was there (the Geminis honour so many crafts and talents that there are multiple award nights, divided by categories). Definitely feeling a bit intimidated, I swallowed my nerves and just dove in.
But soon thereafter, we were instructed to take our seats. Our tickets held a wonderful surprise – we were sitting in the third row!
The butterflies were fluttering in my stomach as I perused the program and came upon the beautiful full-page honour that Club Native received for winning the prestigious Canada Award, which honours excellence in a program that best reflects the racial and cultural diversity of Canada.
A few pages later, I also came upon the other category I was nominated for: Best Writing in a Documentary Program or Series. I felt very proud to be listed amongst such experienced and notable filmmakers. I had made it to the big leagues!
When the awards show began, I forgot how to breathe. My category was going to be announced seventh and, while I did not expect to win, it was a nerve-wracking wait nonetheless. The little girl with the big dream that always lives deep in my heart was crossing every finger and every toe.
And then it was time.
My husband squeezed my leg, the rest of my gang winked and gave a thumbs-up, and my whole body stiffened. I watched in slow motion as all of the nominees, including myself, were projected on the mammoth screens.
As the presenter ripped open the envelope, all I could think was, “In a few more seconds, it’ll be done and I’ll be able to breathe again.”
And then my name was announced.
Applause and yelps from nearby.
My heart thundered in my ears and I’m certain my very organs started shaking.
It was such a profound and overwhelming feeling of joy and awe and gratitude for every single person who has appeared in front of my camera or ever given me a supportive word.
It was absolutely wonderful to climb up on stage, as my little-girl self used to imagine, and express how proud I am to share the stories of our people.
I really am living such a dream and I’m so grateful every day that this is my life.
The rest of the night included calling my family and celebrating, but only until midnight because I had an early morning of workshops to attend the next day.
And it goes on – learning, working, sharing and celebrating – and I absolutely love every single minute of it all.