“For so long, the relationship between Indigenous people and the camera was that we were the subject. We never got a choice. But now that we’re behind the camera, we control the story. As people, we’ve told stories for thousands of years; we still carry those stories with us today. It’s just an amazing experience to be here, able to express myself and help tell the story,” explains Desiree Brightnose.
A member of Chemawawin Cree Nation and Founder of Tilted Teepee Productions, Brightnose was born and raised in Brandon, Manitoba. As the first recipient of the RBC Emerging Indigenous Filmmaker Award, she’s received mentorship from filmmaker Sonya Ballantyne and a prize of $7,500. She bought business cards and a second camera, launched her website and paid off her laptop with the funds.
The award, established in 2022, is presented by the National Screen Institute and the RBC Foundation, with support from the RBC Emerging Artists program. “This award gives Indigenous storytellers a kickstart to lay the groundwork for advancing their creative expression and culture through film, and to help emerging filmmakers reach new audiences and build their careers,” says Kim Ulmer, RBC Regional President, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Nunavut & Western Ontario. The RBC Emerging Artists program has been contributing to organizations that provide opportunities for artists’ career advancement since 2007.
“The National Screen Institute’s longstanding partnership with RBC Emerging Artists has helped provide training to Indigenous creators from across the country as they share their voices and stories with the world,” says Joy Loewen, CEO of the National Screen Institute. “This award extends beyond our training programs to provide funding for Indigenous creators looking to invest in themselves, their companies or their projects. We’re delighted to be a part of Desiree’s journey as she takes her next steps and grows as a filmmaker and entrepreneur.”
Brightnose is honoured to be recognized in this way. “It’s an amazing experience. It still feels like it’s not real, even though it’s already happened. I’m very happy, very grateful and honoured to be chosen for this amazing award,” she exclaims.
Brightnose loves learning from Ballantyne, who comes from a neighbouring reserve, and they affectionately refer to themselves as “two Crees in a pod”. She hopes she will learn to believe in herself more through mentorship, but she has no reason to doubt herself. Ballantyne saw something special in her during the selection process.
“With Desiree, I saw this passion in her that would be her guiding light when she had to go through those moments where it takes forever to get anything done,” she smiles reflecting on how long and arduous filmmaking can be. Choosing wasn’t easy with the pool of talented applicants, and Ballantyne fought imposter syndrome of her own around being selected as a mentor.
Her advice to Brightnose has been, “There’s always going to be people who doubt us. There’s always going to be people throwing obstacles in our path. We should try as much as we can not to be the person who does that to ourselves.” Like Brightnose, she got into film hoping to change the narrative about what it’s like to be an Indigenous woman in the world, and like her mentee she is behind the camera shifting perspectives to tell the stories she carries with her today. Watch for the next call for applications to the RBC Emerging Indigenous Filmmaker Award program.
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