Everything about Reality, Lifestyle & Documentary, eh?

APTN’s Friday Night Thunder roars onto the track for Season 3

You never know where an errant conversation will lead. It could just steer you right back on track.

That’s certainly the case with writer, producer and director Laura J. Milliken. Unsure of whether or not she wanted to stay in the TV business anymore, the Anishinaabe entrepreneur, and founder of Big Soul Productions, was chatting with Glenn Styres in 2018. She and the winningest driver at, and owner of, Ohsweken Speedway discussed a possible show, which eventually evolved into Friday Night Thunder.

“I had been to that track a few times, but I was by no means an avid racer,” Milliken says over the phone. “[Co-creator/producer/composer and fellow driver] Derek Miller has shown me some documentaries on Ayrton Senna and Drive to Survive on Netflix, and I became really inspired and obsessed.” Her racing education continued through track visits to watch Indy, Formula 1, NASCAR and dirt tracks.

The result? A documentary series heading into its third season. Returning Friday at 8 p.m. Eastern on APTN, Friday Night Thunder spotlights 11 Indigenous sprint car drivers—including Styres, Miller, Brian Nanticoke, Aaron Turkey and Alex Hill—as they navigate the highly dangerous open-wheel sport in the Six Nations community just outside Brantford, Ont. And as cool as it is to watch the drivers and their cars jockey for position in heats and finals, Friday Night Thunder shines with its storytelling.

In Episode 1 of 13, it has been over 993 days since the COVID-19 pandemic closed Ohsweken Speedway. Now it’s open for business, but missing an integral part. Vera, Glenn’s mother, has passed away since the Season 2 finale. This gave Milliken and her team not only the opportunity to re-tell how, in 1994, Glenn built the 3/8 mile oval Ohsweken Speedway—the only of its kind in an Indigenous community in North America—on 80 acres of family-owned land but also those early days and the support Vera provided him right up until her death. It’s an emotional, deeply personal episode that cements the community around the track and the drivers, crew and audience on it.

“The show is really about the people,” Milliken says. “It’s exciting to see Indigenous people doing something that we don’t know they’re doing. This is the most fun I’ve ever had telling stories in my entire life.”

Friday Night Thunder airs Fridays at 8 p.m. Eastern on APTN.

Image courtesy of Big Soul Productions.


Red River Gold, the new treasure hunting doc series, began their search on August 22, 2023

From a media release:

Saxon de Cocq, Hannah Hermanson and Ell McEachern of 3 Story Pictures are pleased to announce that principal photography has commenced on Season 1 of the 13x 30 min documentary series, Red River Gold
Production commenced August 22, 2023, and will continue through October 8, 2023. The series will air on APTN at a later date.     
In 1870, a trove of gold coins worth $1,000,000 disappeared without a trace. The coins were on their way to fund a British military force marching across Canada to stop Louis Riel and the Métis during the Red River Resistance. The gold has never been recovered and the Royal Mint of England still considers it lost or stolen. And now, a group of Métis treasure seekers want to find it!
Red River Gold is directed by Saxon de Cocq (Treaty Road Season 1, The Other Side), Berkley Brady (Dark Nature, The Secret History of: The Wild West), and Sam Karney (Going Native, Nation Untamed), written by Saxon de Cocq, and is produced by Hannah Hermanson (Treaty Road Season 1, Staying Wild Season 1 &2, Zarqa Season 2), Ell McEachern (Treaty Road Season 1, Staying Wild Season 1&2, Zarqa Season 2), Saxon de Cocq and Sam Karney. The series will be executive produced by Doug Cuthand (Guardians: Evolution, Miywayawin, Big Bear).
Red River Gold will be filmed in Richer, Ste Anne, La Coulee, Winnipeg, and all along the old Dawson Trail in Manitoba. Cinematography by Sam Karney and editing by Kolby Kostyniuk (Staying Wild, Dirt Farmers). 
Red River Gold was commissioned by APTN and produced with additional financial support from Canada Media Fund and Creative Saskatchewan.   
Hannah has over a decade of experience in the television and film industry. After earning her honors degree from Middlesex University in London, Hannah hit the ground running, making herself an indispensable part of any team she joined. From production manager to line producer, Hannah has taken on a wide range of roles and responsibilities, consistently executing projects with efficiency and grace. What sets Hannah apart is her unique combination of skills. She is a skilled negotiator, a savvy budgeter, and an excellent communicator. She has a talent for bringing people together, encouraging collaboration and teamwork for the greater creative good. Her resourcefulness is unmatched, and she can turn even the most challenging of situations into a success. Her ability to lead with confidence and finesse has earned her a reputation as a problem-solver, and her contributions to the projects she works on have a lasting impact.
Ell has over twenty years’ experience in film and television, and credits on 90+ hours of content. She has a love of collaboration and the ability to foster it across diverse teams. Ell’s first industry steps were taken on the accounting and finance side. As a CFA Charterholder, Ell showcases her keen analytical skills. As a producer, Ell combines an exceptional eye for detail with big picture thinking. Her secret weapon is helping the team levitate over complex roadblocks to get the stories told. 
Saxon de Cocq is a Métis writer, director and creative producer from Southern Alberta, Region 3 and is a registered citizen of The Métis Nation of Alberta. He has been the creative force behind a number of documentary series and is very excited to be in post, with APTN, on a series about one of his Métis Ancestors which has been greenlit for a second season. Saxon is also in development on his first 3 scripted television series. Saxon has written, directed, and produced eight films (seven narrative and one documentary) that have screened and been broadcasted across the country, including the CBC. Saxon has also written and directed 18 episodes, over four seasons, of the nationally broadcasted APTN TV series, The Other Side, and was the creative producer for the series. Saxon is currently working with the Metis Nation of Alberta, on a documentary about Metis residential school survivors.
Sam Karney is a Métis-Ukrainian filmmaker and co-founder of award-winning Winnipeg production company, Ice River Films. He started his career working as a television photojournalist in newsrooms across Manitoba and Saskatchewan. He began producing documentaries for Global News’ magazine program Everything Manitoba in 2012 and has since gone on to produce documentaries and factual series for APTN and CBC. Sam has currently produced 25 hours of factual television for the Canadian market, including three seasons of the award-winning series, Going Native and the outdoor adventure series Nation Untamed. In addition to producing, Sam has worked as a director of photography on programs for the likes of Smithsonian, Amazon Prime & the NHL Network. Having worked in small teams and with smaller budgets, Sam has learned almost every job that is needed to make good documentary television. He has produced, directed, shot, edited, done sound, coloured and appeared on camera all in the last 10 years. 

Images courtesy of Trevor Johnsen.


Changing leaves, inspiring stories: APTN unveils fall programming with Indigenous resilience at its core

From a media release:

Coming soon to APTN is another incredible lineup of Indigenous stories. From groundbreaking dramas that highlight Indigenous resilience and the connection between past, present and future, to a full weekend of special programming in honour of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (NDTR), to new episodes of APTN’s hit docuseries, the network’s upcoming season is full of soul-stirring content, both new and old.

APTN’s fall slate will roll out from the beginning of September to the end of October and will include the programs below, plus many more.


Bones of Crows
Expanding on the feature film of the same name, this five-part series is a story of resilience and strength told through the eyes of Cree matriarch Aline Spears. When Aline and her siblings are removed from their family home and forced into Canada’s residential school system, they are plunged into a struggle for survival. Over the next hundred years, Aline and her descendants fight for a more just future.

APTN TV premiere dates: Sept. 20 (English) and Sept. 25 (Cree)
APTN lumi premiere dates: Sept. 21 (English) and Sept. 26 (Cree)

Little Bird
Little Bird, launched initially on APTN lumi in May of this year, is a six-part series that explores the theme of resilience in the face of trauma and loss. Removed from her home on the Long Pine Reserve in Saskatchewan, Bezhig Little Bird is adopted into a Montreal Jewish family at the age of five, becoming Esther Rosenblum. Now in her 20s, Bezhig longs for the family she lost and is willing to sacrifice everything to find them.

APTN TV premiere date: Oct. 12 (English)

Remembering the Children: National Day for Truth and Reconciliation 2023
Produced by APTN and the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, this 90-minute multilingual commemorative gathering seeks to honour residential school Survivors and pay tribute to all the Indigenous children who never made it home. This year’s gathering will encompass powerful reflections from esteemed Elders and Survivors as well as moving performances by First Nations, Inuit and Métis artists.

APTN TV premiere date: Sept. 30 (Multilingual)
APTN lumi premiere date: Oct. 2 (Multilingual)

Sur le terrain*
Sur le terrain is a French-language documentary series that explores the daily lives of frontline Indigenous health and social services workers. Whether they work in a remote region or in an urban setting, their commitment to community members is unwavering. These workers, who are mostly women, offer us an inside look at the immense challenges they face every day.

APTN lumi premiere date: Oct. 16 (French)
APTN TV premiere date: Oct. 23 (French)

Corner Gas – Seasons 1-3
One of Canada’s most popular sitcoms, Corner Gas takes place in the fictional town of Dog River, Sask., and follows the daily lives of the community’s oddball residents, including gas station owner Brent Leroy and coffee shop proprietor Lacey Burrows. APTN will air episodes daily this fall from Tuesday through to Friday.

APTN TV premiere date: Sept. 5 (English)


Gespe’gewa’gi: The Last Land – Season 2*
APTN lumi: Aug. 28 (Mi’kmaq) and Aug. 29 (English)
APTN TV: Sept. 4 (Mi’kmaq) and Sept. 5 (English)

Michif Country – Season 3*
APTN lumi: Aug. 28 (Michif) and Aug. 29 (English)
APTN TV: Sept. 4 (Michif) and Sept. 5 (English)

Merchants of the Wild – Season 4*
APTN lumi: Aug. 28 (Mi’kmaq) and Sept. 26 (English)
APTN TV: Sept. 4 (Mi’kmaq) and Oct. 3 (English)

Friday Night Thunder – Season 3
APTN TV: Sept. 8 (English)
APTN lumi: Sept. 9 (English)

Amplify – Season 2*
APTN lumi: Aug. 31 (Michif) and Oct. 6 (English)
APTN TV: Sept. 7 (Michif) and Oct. 13 (English)

7th Gen – Season 2*
APTN lumi: Oct. 2 (Cree) and Oct. 6 (English)
APTN TV: Oct. 9 (Cree) and Oct. 13 (English)

Spirit Talker – Season 4*
APTN lumi: Oct. 18 (English)
APTN TV: Oct. 25 (English)

The Other Side – Season 9
APTN TV: Oct. 25 (English)
APTN lumi: Oct. 26 (English)

Ghost Hunters of the Grand River – Season 2
APTN TV: Oct. 25 (English)
APTN lumi: Oct. 26 (English)

*Indicates programs launching first on APTN lumi. APTN lumi has put together a collection of these returning favourites and more for viewers to catch up on prior to their television broadcast.


Canada’s paranormal investigators visit world-famous haunts in new T+E series, History’s Most Haunted

From a media release:

Chasing the success of T+E’s original two-part documentary, Haunted Gold Rush, exploring ghostly mysteries along British Columbia’s historic Gold Rush Trail, paranormal investigators Corine Carey, Leanne Sallenback and Kelly Ireland return with History’s Most Haunted (6×60’; HD).

The all-new series follows the trio as they travel across North America meeting with real people who recount their intense, terrifying and emotional paranormal experiences. This time, the women are on a mission to unlock a deeper understanding of the hauntings that take place in the world-famous locations they visit including Montreal, Newfoundland, Salem, New Orleans, Charleston and San Antonio. History’s Most Haunted premieres Friday, September 8 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on T+E during the channel’s nationwide free preview event, running from September 4 to November 5, 2023. New episodes from the series will air every Friday leading into October and T+E’s highly-anticipated ‘Creep Week’ event.

In History’s Most Haunted, Corine, Leanne and Kelly are reaching out and connecting with historical figures, many of whom died through war, criminal sentences, diseases, and natural disasters. Featuring stylized, cinematic dramatizations of eyewitness accounts, coupled with rich context provided by experts, historians and locals, the series shows how paranormal investigations can enrich people’s understanding of history by giving voices to the spirits of those who lived it. Together, the trio will bridge the gap between past and present in a fresh new way.

History’s Most Haunted is produced by Small Army Entertainment. Sean De Vries (The Bachelor Canada, Border Security) and Stephen Sawchuk (Love it or List it Vancouver, Sidney) serve as Executive Producers. The series is directed by Garth Dyke, Michael Bodnarchuk, Sean De Vries and Stephen Sawchuk. Overseen by Sam Linton, VP, Production and Development, Global Media on behalf of Blue Ant Media. Blue Ant International oversees global distribution.


APTN gets fast and furious on Fridays with high-risk racing series Friday Night Thunder

From a media release:

Big Soul Productions announces the SEPT. 8 premiere of Friday Night Thunder, a fast-paced docu-soap series following racing families at Ohsweken Speedway—the only track on Indigenous land in Canada. Equal parts poignant and light-hearted, Friday Night Thunder challenges viewers’ perceptions of the world of dirt racing.

Produced by Big Soul Productions, a 100% Indigenous-owned production company, and airing on APTN Fridays at 8:30PM, Friday Night Thunder captures the emotions, community, and connection at the core of the dangerous sport. Friday Night Thunder digs deeper into what makes dirt racing at the Ohsweken Speedway a tradition among many families in the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory in southern Ontario.

The series follows eleven Indigenous sprint car drivers as they navigate the highly dangerous open-wheel sport that can lead to crushing defeats, anxiety issues, debt, thrilling victories and exhaustion. Season 3 sees all of these drivers struggle with the now unfamiliar track at Ohsweken after competing at smaller tracks during the pandemic closure. Alex Hill, the only female driver, struggled with mental health issues, keeping her out of the sport for most of the season. She finally gets into the car with an anxiety episode that almost ends her day early.

Find out whether Alex was able to finish a race in Season 3, while learning how other drivers managed their own struggles, conflicts on the track, anxiety, wrecks and varying levels of car knowledge throughout the 13-episode third season.

Friday Night Thunder focuses on the lives of these drivers first, and the high-octane world of dirt racing second. Echoing the community on the track, Friday Night Thunder invites viewers into this tight-knit and adrenaline-packed club.

Big Soul Productions Inc. is a Toronto-based production company owned by Anishinaabe producer/entrepreneur Laura Milliken. Big Soul Productions is dedicated to creating, developing, and producing films and television representing the Indigenous voice while generating much needed capacity for Indigenous creatives in the industry.