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The Indigenous voice says, "Action"

Seth Arcand has big dreams to tell Indigenous stories through film. Now, he's well on his way thanks to the NSI/CBC New Indigenous Voices program.


CBC New Indigenous Voices grads have had a variety of successes:

  • Working on CBC’s Burden of Truth, Syfy’s series Channel Zero and Netflix feature How it Ends
  • Working at City of Winnipeg, APTN, CBC, Native Communications Inc. (NCI)
  • Crew on Ice Road Truckers
  • Contributor to Buzzfeed
  • Broadcast short film on APTN, CBC Documentary
  • Acceptance into NSI Drama Prize and NSI IndigiDocs courses
  • Crew on a variety of APTN programming including: lifestyle series Fit First; kids series Planet Echo, live coverage of the 2010 Olympics
  • Screened films in festivals around the world
  • Won pitching contests including RBC Emerging Filmmaker and MTS Stories From Home
  • Edited a Hollywood trailer and working as a professional editor in the industry
  • Nominated for an Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Award
  • Films programmed at imagineNATIVE and alumni in each of the producer, director and writer labs

– Courtesy of NSI (found at

One of the newest New Indigenous Voices is raring to create and tell stories through the power of film.

Seth Arcand of the Kipohtakaw Cree Nation is already deep into the workshops and lessons of the National Screen Institute's 14-week full-time program with eight other students, mostly from Manitoba. As a recent English grad from Concordia University of Edmonton, the 28-year-old is well aware of the need to represent. It's not just because he is the first Alberta student to enroll in four years nor does it have to do with the fact that his sister was the one to first draw his attention to it.

It's that there are so many Indigenous stories that need to be told and he has big plans to tell as many of them as he can.

"I actually never heard of the NSI but I saw that CBC was a partner in the program. And that's what pushed me. To see that they had an Indigenous-led program this year was a huge draw for me," he said, noting a noticeable dearth of Indigenous students throughout his recent post-secondary education.

The NSI is the only national training organization in Western Canada for writers, directors and producers in film, television and digital media. Its mandate tells of its devotion to "developing exceptional storytellers and advancing their careers through world-class training, mentoring and market-relevant programs."

While the curriculum has been adapted for distance learning to match the current reality, the instruction is still designed to be a comprehensive behind the scenes power up for his skills. When the Gazette caught up with him, he had just spent the day learning how to pitch – the industry term for proposing a project. It's as much an art form as any part of the business.

Among some of the mentors and insiders that he gets access to through his training are people like producer Lisa Meeches, podcaster Kim Wheeler, director Shane Belcourt and North of 60 writer Jordan Wheeler, who walked the cohort through story development and screenwriting.

It was all valuable, intense and informative. Just being in that group of Indigenous leaders is amazing, Arcand reveled.

"They're all talented; they're really talented and have a lot of experience in the field. Just being able to speak every day with these individuals is actually exciting," he continued. "It's cool to see where they've been in the industry. I know that we have a few editors. We have some people that worked with production companies and co-ops in their provinces. It's really exciting."

Meeches brings her extensive filmmaking experience to the faculty along with Sarah Simpson-Yellowquill and Kaya Wheeler, who doubles as the program manager. Wheeler explained that NSI New Indigenous Voices has shown some great successes already and it still hasn't reached its 20th birthday.

The program, she explained, has three phases, the first of which is six weeks in the classroom setting. This year the classroom is more of a video conference, naturally.

"We've been working with our faculty to come up with ways to adapt," she said.

The second phase of the program lasts just two weeks but in that time students would collaborate to make three short films.

"Again, we can't do that because everybody isn't together but we switched over to do podcasts, which is really exciting. Actually, we're having a really great time developing those right now in the classroom, and then along with the podcast, we'll still be able to do a short video that's made for social media, something that we can put on Facebook."

The last section of the program is an internship placement. A lot of the new students will be working hand-in-hand with former students, she added.

For Arcand, the door is opening wide for him and the other students to realize their dreams. He has big dreams, too, and he's already at work on a few of his own short films.

"My dream is to be writing, directing, producing and working on cinematography for projects that I'm working on. I'd love to collaborate with any Indigenous artists, any other artists out there. I feel like something that's lost in this community has been collaboration. It's just natural whenever you're an artist that you want to protect your good ideas, and I don't blame anybody for that, but I would love to be a part of the process with other artists. That's why I would like to fill so many different shoes so I can provide support wherever I can."

He added that he would like to eventually create his own filmmaking co-op for Indigenous people as well.

Scott Hayes

About the Author: Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.
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