Tag Archives: APTN

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.


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.


Production underway on new Crave & APTN Indigenous-led original comedy series, Don’t Even

From a media release:

Crave and APTN, in association with Pier 21 Films, Frantic Films Manitoba, and Sekowan Media, announced today that production is underway in Winnipeg on the all-new dramatic comedy series, DON’T EVEN. Created by Amber-Sekowan Daniels, directed by Zoe Hopkins, and starring Leenah Robinson (1923), Victoria Turko (Burden of Truth), Joel Oulette (Trickster), Gail Maurice, and Jennifer Podemski, the six-part series is an urban Indigenous, coming-of-age story.

DON’T EVEN follows two best friends in late ‘90s Winnipeg as they grapple with their uncertain futures, in the summer after their final high school year. After humiliation at her high school grad, Violet (Leenah Robinson) wants to make the most of the last summer before moving away for university, as Harley (Victoria Turko) distracts herself from a big dilemma, of what’s next. As the lifelong BFFs bask in newfound freedom, and face adult life choices, cracks begin to form in their once impenetrable bond. It’s awkward. It’s dramatic. It’s friggin’ Winnipeg.

“The show is a love letter to your childhood best friend, and your hometown. It’s about growing up and growing apart, while trying to find your place in the world,” said Amber-Sekowan Daniels, Creator and Showrunner. “We don’t often get to see Indigenous women as funny, weird, and distinct, so I hope this series shows that complexity.”

“Making DON’T EVEN has me in stitches, and I’ve cried in rehearsals,” added Director Zoe Hopkins.” I’m so stoked to be back in Winnipeg telling this nostalgic story, where laughter is medicine.”

“Amber has created a series with unpredictable comedy, and a huge surplus of heart. It will resonate with audiences because it gives all the feels,” said Nicole Butler, Executive Producer, Pier 21 Films. “We’re fortunate to have both Crave and APTN as partners sharing a vision in striving to make an incredibly original, and iconic new show.”

“We are thrilled to be co-producing this series with Pier 21 and Sekowan Media,” said Frantic CEO & Executive Producer Jamie Brown. “As a Winnipeg based company, Amber’s stories have a special resonance, and we love her voice and the authenticity of her storytelling.”

DON’T EVEN is co-produced by Pier 21 Films, Frantic Films Manitoba, and Sekowan Media, in association with Bell Media’s Crave and APTN, with the participation of the Canada Media Fund, Manitoba Film & Music, and tax credit assistance from the Government of Manitoba, the Government of Ontario, and The Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit. Amber-Sekowan Daniels is Executive Producer, Creator, and Showrunner. Zoe Hopkins is Executive Producer and Director for the series. Laszlo Barna, Nicole Butler, Karen Tsang, and Vanessa Steinmetz serve as Executive Producers for Pier 21 Films. For Frantic Films Manitoba, Jamie Brown and Stephanie Fast are Executive Producers. Lori Lozinski is Series Producer. Karen Hill is Co-Executive Producer and Meg MacKay is Co-Producer.


Open casting call – Season 2 of Bears’ Lair business pitch competition

From a media release:

Filmed on the Unceded territory of the Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), and səl̓ílwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations, VANCOUVER, B.C. — Sparkly Frog Clan Productions and Brightlight Pictures are pleased to announce the return of the riveting reality business competition Bears’ Lair to APTN. The series made waves last year by feeding the entrepreneurial spirit of hopeful Indigenous businesses across Canada.

Indigenous entrepreneurs are invited to apply to be on Season 2 starting June 15th, 2023 at BearsLairTV.com. Selected contestants will pitch their ideas to the panel of Bears and guest judges, competing for their share of approximately $160,000 in cash prizes. This is a life-changing opportunity for aspiring Indigenous business owners, as prize money will help bring their best business concepts to life.

Season 2 of Bears’ Lair will feature both new and familiar faces on the judges’ panel. Indigenous business moguls Geena Jackson, Tabatha Bull and Dave Tuccaro will return as Bears, and the panel will also welcome an exciting new judge: Clint Davis, former President and CEO of Nunasi Corporation and proud Inuk from Nunatsiavut. With support from the Bears, guest judges and coaches, the contestants will hone their ideas to make them as successful as possible.

“We’re thrilled to announce season two of Bears’ Lair, celebrating the innovation and spirit of Indigenous entrepreneurs. Their inspiring journeys highlight the value of Indigenous entrepreneurship,” says Geena Jackson.

“I’m very excited for season two of Bears’ Lair and to be part of a project that showcases Indigenous entrepreneurs across the country,” says Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business President & CEO Tabatha Bull. “I’m looking forward to meeting this season’s contestants, and I’m sure just like last season, every episode will be full of surprises, inspiring people and fascinating stories.”

Clint Davis adds, “I’m so excited about being a Bear on Bears’ Lair. I can’t wait to work with my fellow Bears and seeing what creativity will emerge from our communities.”

“I am really looking forward to returning as a core judge for season two and am excited to see the innovative and trailblazing businesses that I am about to meet representing Indigenous communities all over Canada,” says Dave Tuccaro.

Indigenous entrepreneurs from across the country are invited to apply to be on Season 2 starting June 15th, 2023 at BearsLairTV.com.