Tag Archives: APTN

Preview: APTN’s Queen of the Oil Patch is the story of triumph and acceptance

Until a screener landed in my inbox, I wasn’t sure what Queen of the Oil Patch was going to be about. According to the press release, the documentary series, debuting Tuesday at 10:30 p.m. ET on APTN, tells the tale of Fort McKay resident Massey Whiteknife and his alter ego, Iceis Rain. Whiteknife’s business empire was shattered when oil prices took a tumble followed by fire sweeping through nearby Fort MacMurray. Cameras capture Whiteknife as he attempts to get back on his economic feet.

But Queen of the Oil Patch is so much more than that.

When we catch up with Whiteknife, he shows off his two businesses in Fort Mac, Tatonka North Contracting, a construction company and Iceis Safety, a full-service occupational health and safety consulting business. But at night, Whiteknife becomes someone else … Iceis Rain. Iceis is a critically-acclaimed recording artist, booking dates across the country, and was nominated at the 2014 Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Awards, where she also performed. She’s also an anti-bullying advocate, speaks to suicide prevention and has a wicked wiggle.

Whiteknife’s plan? To spend a year transitioning fully into Iceis Rain. How will that go over in Fort Mac? Will being a woman ruin his day-to-day business? Whiteknife is willing to take that chance to be who he is.

Kah-Kitowak Films, a Vancouver-based production company that works in partnership with Great Pacific Media, has captured something really special in Queen of the Oil Patch. Métis producer-director Neil Grahn and producers Kelly McClughan and Mark Miller have gained the trust of their subject. The result is an intimate, honest portrait of a person who is passionate about what they do and wants to help their fellow First Nations people find full-time jobs while becoming who they truly want to be.

It’s inspiring, meaningful and riveting stuff. Don’t miss it.

Queen of the Oil Patch airs Tuesdays at 10:30 p.m. ET on APTN.

Image courtesy of Great Pacific Media.



APTN’s Guilt Free Zone returns for raucous laughs and rockin’ talent

Guilt Free Zone‘s tagline is “This Show is Ridiculous.” That’s true, but it’s also hilarious, educational and truly unique.

Returning for its third season this Wednesday at 10:30 p.m. ET on APTN, Guilt Free Zone (GFZ) is something I’ve never seen in Canadian primetime. It’s a sketch comedy, variety and musical series that showcases solely Indigenous musicians and talent every week while delivering a humorous take on colonization.

“I remember sitting around, thinking about doing a variety show,” GFZ co-creator, co-executive producer, star and Juno-winning singer-songwriter Derek Miller recalls of his initial idea for a program. “It’s grown a personality and a full vibe since then. It’s been an evolution to see how it goes from an original intellectual property idea to actually stuff happening.”

You can’t talk about GFZ without mentioning its past. Season 1 of the variety program had more of a traditional late-night talk show look, with Miller behind a desk, interviewing Indigenous guests from all walks of life, interspersed with moments of sketch comedy and showcasing a musical guest. Then, in 2015, after watching two episodes of the program, the federal government revoked the program’s tax credit, citing GFZ was a talk show and therefore exempt from receiving money. That forced Laura J, Milliken, the series’ co-creator, executive producer, writer and president and CEO of Big Soul Productions, to do some major scrambling. The result? What GFZ is today. I think the show is better for it, and Milliken agrees.

“That prompted a huge wave of creativity and it was actually a really good thing,” Milliken, the co-executive producer of the Gemini-nominated Moccasin Flats, says. “I kind of paced around my house for like, a month, trying to figure out how we could make it the Guilt Free Zone and keep all these wonderful performances but also give it that comedic feel and also say the things we wanted to say.” To tune into GFZ is to visit a legal speakeasy that Derek has won in a poker game. Derek has no clue how to run a bar and relies on the staff of oddballs who he inherited along with the bar to help him. Those include multiple characters played by Amy Matysio (Save Me), Herbie Barnes (Tipi Tales), Darrell Dennis (Blackstone), Camille Stopps (Killjoys), Craig Lauzon (Royal Canadian Air Farce) and Michaela Washburn (The Thaw).

Those wacky characters—and a writing staff that includes Milliken, Katya Gardiner and Dennis—enables to show to go off in wild, hilarious directions. One upcoming Season 3 instalment, “Dick Trouble,” sees the GFZ crew reminiscing about life pre-cell phone, plunging Derek into a film noir sequence while another, “Whack and Roll,” features puppies and an 80s dance off. There is also an acknowledgement of the taking of sovereign Indigenous lands through the lens of comedy.

“We do make commentary in the comedy about who we are and that we’re still here and we have a sense of humour,” Milliken says. “We make political jabs, social jabs and stereotypical jabs. We fight against the stereotypes that are cast upon us, but really the Guilt Free Zone is a place that’s ours and a place that we have to work together on to preserve and make ours.”

The other half of GFZ‘s weekly episodes are the stellar musical performances. An exclusively Indigenous list of performers—in addition to Miller—takes to the stage this season, including Lee Harvey Osmond, Leela Gilday, DJ Shub, Vern Cheechoo, David R. Maracle, Lacey Hill and Arthur Renwick, introducing viewers to an extensive set of bands, performers and singer-songwriters to take note of.

“In my mind, the performances are so beautiful,” Milliken says. “We’re really trying to show these people in the best way possible. “We’re here. We’re here to stay. We have talent and we have laughter.”

Guilt Free Zone airs Wednesdays at 10:30 p.m. ET on APTN.

Images courtesy of Big Soul Productions.


Great Pacific Media announces “Queen of the Oil Patch” on APTN

From a media release:

Great Pacific Media is pleased to announce the release of APTN’s Queen of the Oil Patch. The documentary series follows the incredible LIVES of one man and Two Spirits… Massey Whiteknife and Iceis Rain. The eight-episode, half-hour series premieres on Tuesday, June 5 on APTN East and HD at 10:30 p.m. ET, APTN West at 10:30 p.m. MT and on APTN North at 4:30 a.m. CT.

Massey Whiteknife is an Indigenous entrepreneur from the Mikisew Cree First Nation who has built a million-dollar empire in the toughest town in Canada… Fort McMurray. In northern Alberta, most men are measured by grit, strength, thick skin, and courage. And Massey has more of that than most, he is, after all, the undisputed “Queen of the Oil Patch.”

As an openly gay man, Massey has won the hearts of thousands in northern Alberta. His determination has built a business empire that was once worth millions. But, the collapse of oil prices and a heartbreaking fire took all of that away. Where others were crushed by the double hit, Massey has vowed to dig deep inside, and rebuild his life with a little help from Iceis Rain, his courageous second spirit.

With nothing left to lose, Iceis Rain has emerged as the powerful, fearless alter ego and Fort McMurray’s reigning Queen. When Iceis puts on her makeup and dress, she instantly transforms into a woman of boundless courage. Iceis is a critically acclaimed recording artist, booking dates across the country, and was nominated at the 2014 Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Awards, where she also performed. One person, one body, two very different identities. Massey runs the business while Iceis rules the night. It is a tough job juggling that much personality and Massey knows he has to make a choice; continue the double life, or choose to become Iceis forever. Hard questions for anyone, but balancing family and Indigenous tradition, while working in the male-dominated world of oil rigs, may be downright impossible.

Queen of the Oil Patch is a series about a man seeking happiness and acceptance. It’s about family, love, and compassion. It’s about community and courage. It is a series that will leave you feeling inspired.

Produced by Métis Director, Neil Grahn, Kelly McClughan, and Mark Miller, the concept was developed by Kah-Kitowak Films in partnership with APTN.


Preview: Season 6 of Hit the Ice skates on to APTN

Last month, APTN debuted an excellent new documentary series from Nish Media called Skindigenous. Now Nish returns to APTN with the sixth season of Hit the Ice.

This 15-episode season of Hit the Ice, returning Saturday at noon ET on APTN, once again focuses on Indigenous midget and junior hockey players from across the country. The goal of these 16- to 18-year-olds? To showcase their skills in front of scouts from the Canadian Hockey League and U.S. universities in hopes of landing a spot on one of those teams. The squad’s head coach? Ex-NHL coach and player John Chabot—a member of the Kitigan Zibi First Nation—who played with the Montreal Canadiens, Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins, coached and assistant-coached for the New York Islanders and coached in the QMJHL.

Saturday’s return catches up with players as they undertake the first of a gruelling 14-day training camp at the Jonathan Toews Community Centre in Winnipeg. The open tryouts attract boys from across the country, including Tobias Commanda-Odjick, Cody Savey, Taylor Redmond and Corbin Mariash.

As for Chabot and his team of coaches, their aim is to get the players out of their comfort zone and see how they react. What’s supposed to be a light skate gets serious pretty quickly as the coaches lay down ground rules that set the tone for the rest of the day.

Hit the Ice is not only an opportunity for Indigenous youths to snag a place on a Canadian Hockey League team or at a U.S. university but the chance for viewers to gain some real insight into what it takes to be a hockey player in this country. It was a real education for this former summer soccer player to see the extensive drills, long hours and off-ice conditioning needed to break into an elite team. Kudos to the producers for including the office discussion between the coaches; their explanation and breakdown of not only the practices themselves but individual players’ strengths made for one heck of a great first of 15 episodes.

Hit the Ice airs Saturdays at noon ET on APTN.

Images courtesy of Jeff Griffin.




Preview: Skindigenous celebrates the heritage and importance of Indigenous tattoos

People who get tattoos usually do it for a reason. For some, it’s to salute a band or loved one. For others, it’s a way to express a mantra. For the folks documented in Skindigenous, it’s to remember the heritage of Indigenous people around the world.

Debuting Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. ET on APTN, Nish Media’s Skindigenous is a 13-part adventure that takes viewers into the lives of tattoo artists and their unique culture to discover the tools, techniques, symbols and traditions that shape their art. At its origins among ancient cultures, tattooing was only practiced by those with special standing in the community. Today, modern-day tattoo artists use their art to re-connect with the heritage of their ancestors and to ensure that their stories are not lost.

Gorgeously shot, Episode 1 travels to the green hills of the Philippines to visit a woman and her grandnieces who keep the ancient tattooing tradition alive. Forget the whirring needles and bottles of colour you see in any Canadian city; 100-year-old Whang-Od Oggay (pictured below) and grandniece Grace Palicas practice the hand-tapping technique handed down through generations of members of their Kalinga tribe. Dubbed “the islands of the painted ones,” by Spanish explorers 500 years ago, the Phillippines’ tattooing traditions, as Whang-Od explains, surrounded marking men who killed or wounded opponents during ancient tribal wars.

As narrator Candy Palmater outlines, Whang-Od’s first tattoos were made in the 1940s on those who had fought against the Japanese in the Second World War. Now nature serves as inspiration for Whang-Od’s art via stylized mountains, rivers, centipedes and python scales that signify spirituality and strength. Tattoos in this culture can represent a number of things, including beauty and social status. The show’s producers use CGI brilliantly, showing the intricacies of the tattoo patterns and key locations where they are placed on the body.

Thousands of tourists visit Whang-Od’s small town of Buscalan every year, injecting the local economy with much-needed money. Determined to keep the economy of the area up and continue her art after she passes, Whang-Od has taught grandnieces Grace and Elyang the old traditions. Made from charcoal scraped from the bottom of a cooking pot, placed in a coconut husk and mixed with water and sweet potato, the ink is applied using a thorn of the pomelo tree tapped against the skin.

Upcoming episodes of  Skindigenous travel to Indonesia, Alberta, New Zealand and Hawaii, continuing the stories and art of Indigenous tattoo artists.

Skindigenous airs Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. ET on APTN.

Images courtesy of Nish Media.