From Idea to Screenplay, How Tricksters & Writers Helped Jessie Anthony’s Upcoming Feature Film, “Brother I Cry”

Jessie Anthony, a Proud Haudenosaunee woman from the Onondaga nation and member of Beaver Clan from Six Nations of the Grand River Territory in Ontario, participated in the Tricksters and Writers Program under unique circumstances—she already had a project underway, funding secured, and deadlines to meet. Though the program is only in its first iteration, and thus is still in stages of development for both participants and organizers, Anthony knew that you only get out what you put in; her intention was to take the structure of the Tricksters and Writers program and apply it directly to her process of brainstorming, story editing, and character development.

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“I took advantage of being in a room full of Indigenous women, sharing my story, and hearing other stories,” Anthony says. “That’s the best way to learn—observation. I felt like I was held accountable for my progress and my process.”

Her latest project, titled Brother, I Cry, tells of two siblings connected by strong spiritual ties, who are both experiencing the inter-generational trauma of residential schools. “It’s commenting on family dynamics post-residential school, and how we enable our addicts,” Anthony explains. Production on Brother, I Cry just recently wrapped, and Anthony credits her experience in the program as a positive influence during the earlier stages of filmmaking. “One of my biggest [goals] was learning how to let go of the characters; how to not micromanage the characters and [instead] just write them and let them live,” she says. Being in a room with Indigenous women of various backgrounds and experience levels, as well as collaborating with other industry professionals, helped Anthony reach this goal. “I felt supported while I was brainstorming and organizing those thoughts,” she further explains. “To write a first draft and feel the encouragement and support of people who understood the journey [is] amazing!”

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Understanding the journey, in this case, means not only witnessing individual growth within the Tricksters and Writers program itself but also knowing what it means to have an Indigenous story to tell. The women involved in the program all identify as Indigenous but come from a multitude of territories, backgrounds, and experiences. “Everybody has a different story, but their bloodline is connected,” Anthony says. She describes a sense of inimitable community and sisterhood within her group of fellow screenwriters and cites their shared Indigeneity as a major source of this connection. “We hold space for the introduction of each individual woman, where they come from, who their family is, but we don’t have to explain reasons or histories,” she states. “There’s already this knowing. I think that’s what really sets [the program] apart, and we take care of each other.” Folks who don’t identify as Indigenous may take for granted the assumption that when they walk into a room and tell their story, others will have a framework of knowledge that helps them understand exactly what the story’s meaning and purpose is. For Indigenous writers, that isn’t always the case. Details of life outside the settler experience are inextricable from the stories told by Indigenous filmmakers, and so working with people who can skip over the minutiae of cultural explanation and jump straight into a richer understanding of a story’s nuance and intent is exceptionally important. A multitude of experience exists within the definitions of Indigeneity, but in the case of the Tricksters and Writers program, this kind of cultural acumen and insight is shared amongst the participants.

“When you move away from your community—as most people who live here have done, especially Indigenous people—you look for that type of community; [in this case] Indigenous female writers who are on the same wavelength for creativity and inspiration, or who are in the same headspace for storytelling. When you step into a space like that, you don’t have to explain yourself. You can just be, and everybody understands the storytelling [style] and the story structure, so we don’ have to spend time on that. We get to just jump right into the work,” Anthony says when asked what the special value of a specifically woman-led Indigenous screenwriting program is. “You really find your community and your support, and [now] I can say, I know where there are 13 other female Indigenous filmmakers who will read my story and will understand the foundation of it.”

WIFTV is launching a Tricksters and Writers Program on Vancouver Island North and is currently accepting applications until Dec 5, 2018. For program info and application, details click here

Tricksters and Writers has been possible through the generous donation from Matrix Production Services as well as support from TELUS, CMPA-BC, Vancity Credit Union and the BC Arts Council. More information on the Tricksters and Writers program can be found here.

To learn more about Jessie Anthony’s filmmaking practice and future projects, go here.

The program

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WIFTV Whistler Film Festival Film Market Preparation Mentorship Awarded to Jen Walden

Jennifer Walden has been awarded the WIFTV Whistler Film Festival Film Market Preparation Mentorship for her project Elijah and the Rock Creature. Jennifer Walden is a Yellowknife filmmaker and noted visual artist whose distinctive style explores Canadian and Northern life through people, wildlife and topography. Her unique eye for aesthetic detail and captivating storylines has resulted in three award-winning short films. Jennifer’s first short, Painted Girl, found success as one of nine national finalists in the CBC’s Short Film Face Off competition and her first feature Elijah and the Rock Creature has been developed from a script that was chosen for the IndieCan 20K contest. Elijah and the Rock Creature was shot entirely on location in the Northwest Territories with a northern cast and crew. The film opened the Yellowknife International Film Festival in September 2018 and will be screening at the 2018 Whistler Film Festival.

Upon learning of the news, Jen expressed, “I am absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to participate in this mentorship. I am passionate about filmmaking, and I’m also passionate about learning. The chance to have one on one sessions with a seasoned professional is a dream come true. With my first feature film screening at this year’s festival, I’m so motivated to keep my career moving forward. I think this mentorship will be the perfect opportunity to help me do that.”

Jen Walden WIFTV WFF Mentee

Jen Walden – 2018 WIFTV Whistler Film Festival Market Preparation Mentee

Jen will receive industry immersion at the Whistler Film Festival, as well as personalized coaching sessions with an experienced producer. This year’s mentor is producer and creative partner at Sepia Films, Tina Pehme. For the last two decades, Tina has developed projects and relationships internationally through her extensive work on US, Canadian and International co-productions. Her background in production allows her to bring a hands-on knowledge of physical production as well as the ability to anticipate production needs in a variety of budget ranges and co-production scenarios. As a partner in Sepia Films, Tina has developed, consulted and produced for both film and television in Canada, the US, India, the United Kingdom, China, South Africa, Ireland, Spain and Argentina.

Special thanks to the WIFTV Whistler Film Festival Mentorship jury which consisted of Christian Bruyere, Producer, Mystic Films Ltd; Nick Kendall, Coordinator and Documentary Instructor, MOPA at Capilano University; Eileen Hoeter, Line Producer and former WiFTI International President; and Dusty Kelly, Secretary & Business Agent Vancouver Musician’s Association and Chair of the selection committee and member of the WIFTV board.

Visit www.womeninfilm.ca  to find out more about WIFTV’s mentorship opportunities!