Pretty soon, the world is going to sing songs about the mighty superhero Red Fang who saves the day from evildoers and other threats to global safety, all thanks to Rudy Janvier.
The St. Albert-raised filmmaker is one of 30 people who were all recently chosen to have their various film projects funded through the Indigenous Storyteller edition of Telus Storyhive. The program, now several years old, runs through multiple themed editions each year, with all kinds of video categories such as web series, digital shorts, documentary, and animation among them. These open competitions offer dozens of winning contestants not only thousands of dollars in project funding but they connect them with valuable mentors and more.
“The main thing we focus on is the growth of the content creator’s career so every Storyhive grant comes with customized career training so we would work with the creator to identify where they would like support and we pair them up with mentors to help support them throughout the project,” explained Telus Storyhive project manager Smita Acharyya.
The winning filmmakers have been given $20,000 to complete their works with support and mentorship from the National Screen Institute. Once completed, Telus will offer a venue for them to be seen online (on both www.storyhive.com and on Telus’s YouTube channel) and on television through its Community Showcase program on Telus Optik video on demand platform for more than one million of its subscribers in B.C. and Alberta.
“We say ‘we give where we live’ so wherever TELUS has distribution across B.C. and Alberta, we like to give back to the local community there and we do this with community access programming.”
Janvier is excited about the prospect of reaching such a broad audience, especially because it has such an important and contemporary real world basis. The plot is firmly rooted in the ongoing tragedy of our country’s many missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, even though the filmmaker was ultimately inspired by some decidedly Marvel-ous cinematic trends.
“This is like the movie Black Panther. Hollywood’s been doing a lot of stuff where they’re showing a lot of other people from different backgrounds. You see a lot more movies with not just your traditional American families: people of minority groups and stuff like that. And so Red Fang is like an answer to that and how we can do that in a more Indigenous way,” he said.
His story is about a young man named Oliver, one who Janvier says lives a selfish life who spends all his time either at the gym or at work. As he turns 25, he finds his missing sister’s diary, which might have clues to her disappearance. On top of that, he starts having strange visions, marking his transformation into a fated warrior who will develop special powers. It’s a fantastic story rich in Indigenous mythology of ancestors and animal guides.
“I still have that spirit of things but then I also talk about it in a kind of fun way and that's where the superhero part kind of comes in.”
This is a big deal for Janvier and he’s not taking the opportunity lightly.
“I haven’t really done anything major. I’ve been dabbling in smaller stuff. This is one of my first forays into a larger project. I just happened to be able to get this grant to do this.”
As for Dr. Iseke, she is no stranger to filmmaking, having produced a number of historical documentaries including A Living History of Métis Families and Understanding What Life is About – Storytelling with Tom McCallum.
Her project is called Michif Stories with Land. She wanted to commit to film the story of Michif, the language of the Métis people. It’s a threatened language, she said, with fewer than 800 speakers. Her documentary sets out to record the “intergenerational process” of developing Michif language songs for teaching the language with the help of Michif-speaking Elder McCallum as well as internationally-renowned singer-songwriter and activist Andrea Menard. Their stories and songs will use Michif metaphors to help connect Métis people to their land.
“One of the foundational aspects of being an Indigenous person is our relationship to our territories, to our homeland. St. Albert is very much a part of that homeland. What I’m really exploring in this film is the relationship to the land and how that is shifted. We're urbanized now, but historically, we would have been out on the land and living more closely with the land,” she said.
Iseke, Janvier and the 28 other filmmakers have until July to finish and submit their works. Afterward, they should be available for viewing on various platforms in the fall.