News & InfoEP StoreAcademySupportCommunityProducts by Country
Blog Home

Supporting Indigenous Storytellers of Canada

How the Indigenous Screen Office (ISO) offers advocacy and funding for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis filmmakers.
June 21, 2022
EP Blog-1012x508-Jesse Wente

Shortly after winning best actress in a feature film (‘Night Raiders’) at the Canadian Screen Awards (CSA), Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, a member of Kainai First Nation in Alberta, spoke with the CBC about her award. She told them, “I am really proud to be an Indigenous storyteller at this moment, it feels really special.” She credits her success – and those of other Indigenous filmmakers in recent years in Canada – as proof that “previous underrepresentation was not about a lack of talent but a lack of opportunity.”

Among those playing a significant role in providing more opportunities is the Indigenous Screen Office (ISO), a 5-year-old organization that has dedicated itself to being a national advocacy and funding organization focused on First Nations, Inuit, and Métis storytelling. Since their launch in 2018, ISO has succeeded in providing funding for a wave of visual stories that can counter a century worth of repression of Indigenous stories in Canada.

We spoke with Jesse Wente, Co-Executive Director of the ISO, and author of ‘Unreconciled: Family, Truth, and Indigenous Resistance,’ about the organization’s goals and impacts, as well as why Indigenous storytelling is so critical for everyone’s future.

The shaping of Indigenous storytelling and the ISO

Ever since seeing ‘Star Wars’ as a three-year-old, Jesse Wente of Toronto, Canada, has been a self-proclaimed "movie person". He would go on to become a culture critic for CBC radio for over a decade, and then director of programming at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, the year-round cinematheque operated by the Toronto International Festival, where he managed new and retrospective releases.

In 2017, it was announced that the Indigenous Screen Office would be created. Wente, who is an Ojibwe member of the Serpent River First National, told the CBC that it presented an opportunity that was “what his career and life had been leading up to.” He became the organization’s first director in early 2018 and got to work trying to make the ISO, as he puts it, a “permanent part of the cultural landscape and the cultural infrastructure” in Canada.

1341201_nightraiders_535922.jpeg
Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers in 'Night Raiders' / Elevation Pictures

The ISO seeks to enable filmmakers to embrace narrative sovereignty and the ability for Indigenous peoples to tell their own stories through the creation of films, TV shows, and video games. Part of that involves the correction of existing narratives about the history of Indigenous people in Canada, as well as their treatment. “As much progress has been made, there’s still a significant amount of denial,” Wente says. “Part of what underpins that denial is the storytelling that has occurred up until now, which is the false stories about the history of this place.”

Tragedies like the discovery in 2021 of hundreds of unmarked graves found on the grounds of former residential schools have produced a groundswell of awareness. On screen, a wave of Indigenous films (‘Blood Quantum’, ‘Night Raiders’, and others) has swept the Canadian Screen Awards – the country’s equivalent of the Academy Awards – and have also contributed to sharing stories not told enough. “Canadians have begun to get a more clear-eyed view of history and this place, as well as hopefully, a much more clear-eyed view of the future,” Wente says.

Creating financial infrastructure to support narrative sovereignty

The ISO’s part in correcting history and impacting the future comes, in part, through critical funding. There is, of course, existing arts funding in Canada, but it has typically not found its way significantly enough to Indigenous storytellers. Recent years have seen organizations undergo improvements, but the challenge remains: there is not a lot of infrastructure dedicated solely to Indigenous funding.

Correcting that disparity has been the ISO’s mission since the organization first launched. “We needed to bring in more financial supports that are dedicated, and administered by ndigenous peoples, for Indigenous people,” Wente explains. The ISO’s ability to better serve Indigenous people has, for example, led to 80 projects involving Indigenous languages receiving funding from the ISO. That represents just under 40 percent of projects the ISO has supported. “You don't see numbers like that at non-Indigenous funding,” Wente says.

Blood Quantum.jpg
Forrest Goodluck, Michael Greyeyes, and Kiowa Gordon in 'Blood Quantum' / Shudder

The money the ISO has allocated to projects has been significant. In 2021, it received a $40.1 million budget, and in the last eight months has disbursed $13 million. That’s not to say, however, that everything is as it should be. “It’s still an upward struggle. Yes, we received that money in the budget last year, but it was half of what we had requested,” Wente says.

Why Indigenous storytelling matters now and for the future

Wente believes more Indigenous storytelling can play a pivotal role in shaping the future of Canada. For one, the country has long struggled with finding a clear definition of what its culture actually is, beyond hockey and Tim Horton’s. “If we want to grow Canadian culture, Indigenous people are central to that,” Wente says. “You don’t have Canada without us.”

An increase in Indigenous stories can also have an impact not just on national concerns, but society. Especially in this unique moment in time where the world feels like it’s at something of a crossroads. “It's vitally important, as we begin to imagine what our future can be in this most tenuous moment, that we are able to hear stories from a huge swath of people. Because if we're only listening to stories from a very few, then the future is going to serve those very few. This moment requires listening to a huge swath of people to actually figure out what to do next,” Wente says.

He hopes that the ISO can help make that happen. “My dream is to flood this place with stories so that it can't help but change,” he says. The hope is that “[it] will result in a cultural shift and understanding, which will result in a shift in how we relate and interact with one another.”

Wente stresses that, of course, the ISO is not the only organization doing so. Wente points to the Indigenous Film Summit in Winnipeg, the Weengushk Film Institute Fund operating on Manitoulin Island, the Indigenous Matriarchs 4 XR Media Lab in British Columbia, the ImagineNATIVE festival, and more. Wente also knows change is not going to be an overnight process, but still a fruitful one. “It's part of the very long journey we're on as, as First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples,” he says. “This is just a moment in time on that path.”

Topic: Canada

Related Content

Western Canada

Production Tax Incentives in Western Canada Every Producer Should Know About

10/4/2022
Alberta and Manitoba offer film and TV productions competitive tax incentive programs and versatile...
More
EP Blog_SQUARE-Atlantic Canada Expands Incentives

Atlantic Canada Expands Film Incentives in 2022

8/16/2022
Enhanced production incentive programs attract industry to Newfoundland & Labrador, Nova Scotia, and...
5 Master Series panelists discussing Atlantic Canada production incentives-square

Production Incentives Update: Atlantic Canada

7/15/2022
Learn how productions can benefit from newly expanded incentives in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland & Labrador,...
Sian Richards and Queen Latifah-square

A Face Kit for Every Skin Tone

6/14/2022
Hollywood makeup artist Siân Richards is transforming the makeup industry for actors of every shade.
Jennifer Liscio

Spotlight: Jennifer Liscio, VP of Tax Incentives and Legal Affairs

5/31/2022
Meet EP's Canadian legal affairs and tax incentives domain expert, Jennifer Liscio, and learn how she’s...
EP Blog_SQUARE_Fighting Hollywood Stereotypes-TTEI

Fighting Stereotypes and Rethinking Representation

5/10/2022
How TTIE is advancing authentic storytelling in Hollywood by empowering historically excluded writers and...
uk-gdpr-and-how-productions-reduce-exposure-LC

The UK GDPR and how Productions can Reduce their Exposure - Q&A with Sheridans

5/3/2022
Sheridans’ Associate Krishan Neelendra answers key UK GDPR questions from production companies and...
Topic: UK
More
EP Blog_Marge Dean

Opening Career Doors

3/29/2022
How WIA President, Marge Dean, is shaping the future of animation and empowering underrepresented genders
Master Series Women in Animation-thumbnail

Women in Animation: A 3D View

3/24/2022
Marge Dean, Mandy Tankenson, and other women leaders from across animation come together to celebrate...
International Film Financing panel-featured

Film Financing Explained: International Financing

3/10/2022
International production experts discuss how producers can utilize financing systems outside of the US,...
EP Blog_SQUARE-Sound Mixer-Lora Hirschberg

Meet the Sound Mixer

3/1/2022
A conversation with Oscar-winning re-recording mixer, Lora Hirschberg ('Inception', Skywalker Sound)

UK Production Incentives All Producers Should Know About

11/17/2022
Don't miss out on the UK's tax incentives, special programs, and national and regional funding...

Behind the Boom: Why the UK is a Hotspot for Production

11/17/2022
Explore the generous industry incentives, talent, and infrastructure available to productions filming in...

The Production Accountant’s Guide to Year-End Payroll

11/1/2022
A step-by-step breakdown of how to navigate pitfalls and fix production payroll errors for a smooth year...

Preparing for Year End: Focus, Find, and Fix!

10/28/2022
EP's payroll tax experts share best practices to identify and resolve payroll tax errors for a smooth year...

Special Report: Entertainment – A Hollywood Education

10/24/2022
It’s the best of times and the worst of times for employment in the entertainment/streaming industry.

Special Report: Entertainment – Soundstage Gold Rush

10/24/2022
Hollywood is experiencing an ongoing boom that fills its Los Angeles production hub to overflow levels.
EP Blog_SQUARE_Creating a development budget

The Beginner’s Guide to Creating a Development Budget

10/18/2022
Before you start the filmmaking process, learn what basics you need to budget for to get your idea off the...
EP Blog_SQUARE_Streaming service

Streaming Services Expand to Latin America and New Audiences

10/11/2022
SVOD providers look to Latin America as a gateway to global stories and new subscribers

Film Industry Booms in Buffalo

9/20/2022
Western New York draws top filmmakers with expanded tax incentives, new soundstages, and architectural...
Changes to UK right to work checks

Important Changes to UK Right to Work Checks

9/20/2022
On September 30, 2022 the UK rules around right to work checks will change. Here’s what productions need...
Topic: UK
More
EP Blog_SQUARE_New York

NY Convenience Rule Impacts Remote Production Workers and Film Incentives

9/13/2022
How remote employee payroll taxes apply to New York-based productions and if an employee’s physical...
Master Series Square Thumbnail-Film Financing-Crowdfunding

Film Financing Explained: Crowdfunding

9/8/2022
Emily Best (Seed&Spark), Stacy Bradford (Indiegogo), and producer Zach Fineblum join us to discuss the ins...
EP Blog_SQUARE_US Expanded Incentives 2022-2

A Record Number of US States Expand Filmmaking Incentives in 2022

8/25/2022
Your guide to the latest news in production incentives and film programs to come from the 2022 legislative...
EP Blog_SQUARE_New US Incentives 2022

New US Film Incentives Introduced in Arizona, Indiana, Florida, and West Virginia

8/23/2022
As production continues to boom, new tax credits and other programs welcome industry to new locations...
Los Angeles Times logo-sq

Hollywood production in U.K. soars to record levels as crews complain of burnout

8/22/2022
Spending on film and high-end television shoots reach record-breaking amounts as production activity...
EP Webinar Panelists - US Production Incentives Update

US Production Incentives Update: New and Expanded Programs in 2022

8/19/2022
Film commissioners Colleen Bell and Sandy Lighterman, and production executives Jay Roewe and Ashley Rice,...
Streaming platform on tablet device

The Evolution of Residuals: How Streaming Changed the Model

8/11/2022
Understanding how residuals payments are calculated for new content on streaming platforms.
EP Blog_SQUARE_Penka Kouneva-2

Meet the Composer

8/2/2022
A conversation with award-winning orchestrator and composer Penka Kouneva (‘Revenge,’ ‘Pirates of the...
dollar signs representing digital crowdfunding

The Beginner’s Guide to Crowdfunding

7/26/2022
How filmmakers can leverage the power of social networks and online platforms to build buzz and secure...
Mount Hood, Oregon

Building on Oregon’s Cinema Legacy

7/19/2022
How improved tax Incentives, job training, and production infrastructure is expanding the filmmaking...
Canadian flag flying over Quebec City

5 Reasons to Consider Canada for Your Next Production

7/12/2022
Here's why Canada deserves a spot on every producer's shortlist.
Topic: Canada
More
EP Blog_SQUARE_Wes Hagen

Meet the Location Manager

7/7/2022
A conversation with award-winning location manager Wes Hagen ('Ozark,' 'Hidden Figures.')
EP Blog_SQUARE_filmmaking in new mexico

Forging the Future of Filmmaking in New Mexico

6/29/2022
As the film industry expands in the Southwest, New Mexico leads the region as top destination thanks to...
EP Blog_Residuals and the streaming model

Residuals and the Streaming Model

5/24/2022
How residuals apply to historical content on new media platforms.
Oklahoma route 66 sign

A New Frontier in Filmmaking

5/5/2022
Oklahoma is becoming a production destination, thanks to new incentives and infrastructure programs.
contracting-in-a-covid-19-world-LC

Contracting in a COVID-19 World  

5/3/2022
The pandemic has affected how UK production companies contract crew. Here’s how to reduce the impact of...
terms-to-include-uk-contracts-LC

Terms to Include in UK Crew Contracts

5/3/2022
Common terms which studios and production companies include in their UK crew contracts.
Topic: UK
More
KJ Lamb and Simon Donovan

Empowering the Next Wave of Production Accountants

5/2/2022
The EP Production Portal team was delighted to participate in the biannual Netflix Assistant Production...
cell phone with sticky note stating sign here

Six e-Consent Myths (and Why They’re Not True)

5/2/2022
Sheridans Associate, Sarmad Saleh, debunks some common e-consent myths.
Topic: Legal
More
recycling conversation

Sustainability in Production: Q&A with Nikki Saunders

4/22/2022
Nikki Saunders on sustainable filming practices, COVID-19, and why carbon offsetting isn’t a...
EP Blog_The Race to Net Zero is On for Big Studios

The Race to Net Zero is On for Big Studios

4/20/2022
Film and television studios are embracing the green movement in a big way. Here’s what you can expect to...
EP Blog_SQUARE_meet the cinematographer-dan-laustsen

Meet the Cinematographer

4/12/2022
A conversation with Dan Laustsen ('John Wick', 'Nightmare Alley').
EP blog-square-tax day

Tips for Tax Day 2022

4/5/2022
Your ultimate tax filing checklist - the deadline this year is Monday, April 18th!

Georgia Proposes Capping and Prohibiting Sale of Film Tax Credits

3/30/2022
The changes, if signed into law, would cap the amount Georgia hands out in film and TV tax credits at $900...
EP Newsroom-Thumbnail-Portland Business Journal

How Oregon’s updated film incentive law could boost the local economy

3/29/2022
A new Oregon film and media incentive law could draw more movie productions to the state.
Bradley Cooper-nightmare alley

Meet the Assistant Director

3/16/2022
A conversation with Myron Hoffert ('Nightmare Alley')
Digging Out of a Deficit-featured

Digging Out of a Deficit: What to Expect in the Second Quarter of 2022

2/25/2022
Federal and State Unemployment Insurance rates are rising. Learn how these changes will affect 2022 and...
EP Blog_Uncovering Treasures_IndieCollect

Uncovering Lost Treasures of Independent Film

2/23/2022
How IndieCollect is preserving Black independent films to reflect a more honest view of America and of...
EP Blog_SQUARE_International Film Financing

The Beginner’s Guide to International Film Financing

2/15/2022
What to know before you begin an international financing plan.
meet-the-executive-producer-just-mercy-sq

Meet the Executive Producer

2/8/2022
A conversation with Mike Drake ('Just Mercy') on the path to becoming and EP, and the role of social...

Payroll & Finances

PayrollResidualsSmartStartNew SmartTimeProduction PortalEP On LocationSmartAccountingEP LiveSmartPOCASHétPayPaymaster Rate GuideEP Residency

Manage Multiple Productions

AssetHubSmartHubSmartHub Vault
Subscribe now

Be an industry insider with EP's
newsletters and alerts

LegalPrivacy NoticeSecurity
© 2022 Entertainment Partners. All rights reserved.