Tag Archives: Mohawk Girls

Tracey Deer on improving gender balance in Canadian TV and film: “You have to be brave to change things”

After covering the Canadian television industry for five years, I assumed the gender balance was even. I know several female showrunners like Emily Andras (Wynonna Earp), Sarah Dodd (Cardinal: Blackfly Season), Jennica Harper (Jann), Catherine Reitman (Workin’ Moms) and Michelle Lovretta (Killjoys), many female writers and female directors. And, after the CBC announced they would ensure 50 per cent of directors on their projects would be female, I naively thought, “All good.”

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

A recent report by Women in View examined more than 5,000 contracts issued between 2014 and 2017 in television, and between 2015 and 2017 in film. The report has been tracking gender balance in Canada’s film and television industry, and the most recent uncovered some movement toward gender balance since the first study in 2012, but women of colour and Indigenous women remain woefully under-employed.

“There are still gaps and, sadly, it’s women who are making the change,” Women in View’s Board Chair Tracey Deer says. “Women showrunners are hiring women. We need our male colleagues to get on board as well and then I think we’re going to see some massive changes.” Deer, who most recently directed, co-created and co-executive produced Mohawk Girls, believes the industry is slow to change because it has been male-dominated for so long. Add to that the industry is a collaboration—when you find someone you work well with, you’ll hire them again—and it’s an uphill battle for women.

“I don’t fault [men] that,” Deer stresses. “However, it’s complicit, and part of this problem. We need to shake it up, expand our network and not keep working with the same people over and over again.” There is some good news: between 2014 and 2017, there was a jump in women filling 17 per cent of the jobs to 28 per cent. But just 1.81 per cent of contracts went to women of colour, and Indigenous women only .69 per cent.

In 2017, no directing, writing or cinematography roles in television went to Indigenous women. Of the 3,206 television contracts issued during the full four-year period, just 22 went to Indigenous women, and only 12 of 1,637 film contracts. Just .87 per cent of writing roles and 5 per cent of directing jobs went to women of colour.

“There are lots of us out there who are at the calibre that is needed to do the work,” Deer says. “We constantly want to be bringing women up. But to hire women isn’t inherently throwing a bone to women, it’s about doing your own project a greater good by bringing on the different perspective that women, specifically women of colour and Indigenous women. We all bring different perspectives to our work and that makes it richer, not poorer.”

She believes the major change needs to begin at the top, at the broadcast level and the funding agency level, with a mandate to have a certain number of women and men. The people are there, Deer says, and ready to work.

“I talk a lot about people being brave,” she says. “You have to be brave to change things. When it rests just on the individual to do the right thing and be brave, it’s a really scary thing. It has to happen across the board.”

You can find more information and reports on the Women in View website. 

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Hits and misses: The 2018 Canadian Screen Awards nominees

First of all, a hearty congratulations to everyone who has been nominated for a 2018 Canadian Screen Award. I’ve spoken to many of you over the years and basked in both your kindness and awesome skills whether you work in front of or behind the camera.

I believe the Canadian Screen Awards are as important and justified in their existence as the Golden Globe Awards, Primetime Emmys and BAFTA awards; and with that comes the scrutiny that befalls the Academy and the nominations it puts forth every year. What does that mean? I poke, prod and peruse the television categories and scrutinize every decision the Academy has made with regard to the 2018 television nominations.

Here are my thoughts on several of the key categories. Let me know your own thoughts in the comments section below!

Best Drama Series

  • 19-2
  • Anne
  • Mary Kills People
  • Pure
  • Vikings

I’m thrilled to see 19-2, Anne, Mary Kills People and Pure all in this category. Each represents unique storytelling, characters that are interesting and push the boundaries of what we view as heroes and villains. I’m especially tickled that Pure is here because I think what creator Michael Amo, director Ken Girotti and stars Ryan Robbins, Alex Paxton-Beesley, A.J. Buckley and Peter Outerbridge did was really special. That said, I’d rather have seen Vikings replaced by X Company or Travelers. Both of those programs—X Company in its last and Travelers in its first—provided more engaging stories than Vikings did and in more creative ways. Honourable mention: Hard Rock Medical, which manages to jam twisting, dramatic storylines into a mere 22 minutes of airtime.


Best Comedy Series

  • Letterkenny
  • Workin’ Moms
  • Nirvanna the Band the Show
  • Michael: Every Day
  • Kim’s Convenience

Letterkenny continues its journey to being one of the greatest Canadian comedies of all time while breaking new ground being a Crave TV original. Workin’ Moms was simply fantastic in its debut season, Kim’s Convenience is stellar and Michael: Every Day was a comic gem that I’m glad CBC revisited. I simply don’t get Nirvanna the Band the Show. I’ve tried to watch it several times and couldn’t stick with it. Maybe it’s because I’m in my forties and it’s not for my demographic. To me, Mohawk Girls deserved to be in that final spot. Co-created by Tracey Deer (who received a well-deserved nomination for her directing) and Cynthia Knight, Mohawk Girls effectively delivered laughs and tears while telling the tale of four women negotiating life, love and what it means to be a member of the First Nations today.


Best Sketch Comedy Program or Series

  • The Beaverton
  • Baroness Von Sketch Show
  • Rick Mercer Report
  • This Hour Has 22 Minutes

I have no issues with this category. Let’s move on.


Best Reality Competition Series

  • The Amazing Race Canada
  • The Bachelorette Canada
  • Big Brother Canada
  • MasterChef Canada
  • Top Chef Canada

If this category has proved anything, it’s that we’re able to successfully create homegrown versions of proven international reality competition series and nab large audiences for them. Now it’s time to create our own concepts like CBC’s Crash Gallery and CTV’s The Launch; I expect to see the latter nominated in this category next year.


Best Limited Series or Program

  • Cardinal
  • Alias Grace
  • The Disappearance
  • The Kennedys: After Camelot
  • Bruno & Boots: This Can’t Be Happening at MacDonald Hall

Holy crap is this a stacked category. All are worthy of being here both for the writing, acting, directing and production values. My murder and mayhem-loving heart is filled with love for Cardinal, The Disappearance and Alias Grace. The pleasant surprise for me is Bruno & Boots which deserves to be here. The tone may different from the other four but that’s what makes it so exciting to see that project here. I’d love it if Bruno & Boots won.


Best Lead Actress, Comedy

  • Annie Murphy, Schitt’s Creek
  • Catherine Reitman, Workin’ Moms
  • Catherine O’Hara, Schitt’s Creek
  • Andrea Bang, Kim’s Convenience
  • Jean Yoon, Kim’s Convenience

Another category jammed with bona fide, worthy winners. All are strong women in real life and on the small screen. Andrea Bang and Jean Yoon have created something truly special via Janet and Umma’s relationship, especially in the second season. I wish a sixth name could be added to this list and that it was Dani Kind’s. Her portrayal of Anne Carlson on Workin’ Moms has been a revelation. I’m still marvelling at how a character like Anne can struggle with connecting with her two children, worry the nanny is stealing her family away and decide to have an abortion … and make the situation alternately heartbreaking and hilarious.


Best Lead Actor, Comedy

  • Gerry Dee, Mr. D
  • Jared Keeso, Letterkenny
  • Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, Kim’s Convenience
  • Eugene Levy, Schitt’s Creek
  • Daniel Levy, Schitt’s Creek

I agree with all the names on this list and don’t envy the Academy for having to choose a winner.


Best Lead Actress, Drama Series

  • Amybeth McNulty, Anne
  • Caroline Dhavernas, Mary Kills People
  • Jennie Raymond, Sex & Violence
  • Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black
  • Meaghan Rath, Rogue

I have not, I must confess, watched Sex & Violence or Rogue, so I’m kind of out of my element here. Still, that doesn’t mean I can’t have an opinion. McNulty’s portrayal of Anne Shirley re-created the character for a whole new generation of Anne of Green Gables fans. She certainly won me over. Caroline Dhavernas was great in Season 1 of Mary Kills People (I think she’s even better in the two episodes I’ve seen of Season 2) and Tatiana Maslany is, well, frigging Tatiana Maslany. If I could suggest a couple of other names for this category they would be Melissa O’Neil for Dark Matter and Hannah John-Kamen for Killjoys. Both were kicking ass and taking names in their sci-fi series while showing sensitivity and humour throughout. And yes, I’m still pissed Dark Matter was cancelled. Thanks for asking.


Best Lead Actor, Drama Series

  • Brian Markinson, The Romeo Section
  • Richard Short, Mary Kills People
  • Christopher Heyerdahl, Van Helsing
  • Alexander Ludwig, Vikings
  • Shawn Doyle, Bellevue

Brian Markinson was so, so good in Season 2 of The Romeo Section; I’m thrilled he got a nod here. Rather than swap a name out, I’d like to add one: Shaun Johnston. His Grandpa Jack on Heartland has been through a lot over the past several years but he’s always been the rock everyone could lean on. In this past season of Heartland, Jack was called upon to help run the ranch while being there for Georgie and Amy, especially when Ty was away in Mongolia. Those storylines called on Johnston to do some major heavy lifting and he shouldered it with no problems at all. Honourable mention to X Company‘s Jack Laskey who was so fantastic as Alfred Graves in the historical drama’s final season.


Best Lead Actress, Drama Program or Limited Series

  • Sarah Gadon, Alias Grace
  • Maxim Roy, Bad Blood
  • Karine Vanasse, Cardinal
  • Camille Sullivan, The Disappearance
  • Hélène Joy, Murdoch Mysteries: Home for the Holidays

Honestly, how can you pick a winner out of this group of wide-ranging and fantastic characters?! That said, the Murdoch Mysteries fan in me is pissed Hélène Joy is nominated in this category rather than Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series. Shaftesbury, the show’s production company, put the Christmas special up for consideration in this category AND the show up for Best Drama Series, so I guess the Academy decided she was a better fit here?


Best Lead Actor, Drama Program or Limited Series

  • Kim Coates, Bad Blood
  • Edward Holcroft, Alias Grace
  • Billy Campbell, Cardinal
  • Alan Thicke, It’s Not My Fault and I Don’t Care Anyway
  • Yannick Bisson, Murdoch Mysteries: Home for the Holidays

Again, a stunning group of actors in this category and my same complaint for the previous category goes here: what the hell is Yannick Bisson doing here and not in the major Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series?!

The Canadian Screen Awards Broadcast gala airs live Sunday, March 11 at 8 p.m. on CBC.

 

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Mohawk Girls — On:a

Last week’s episode of Mohawk Girls closed with everyone facing a critical decision that would affect their personal happiness. Would Caitlin choose Butterhead or Leon? Would Bailey choose to remain with James–a white man–or choose her responsibility to family and culture? Would Zoe choose to her needs or her mother’s ideal for a Mohawk citizen? And finally, would Anna, at long last, choose to accept herself and by doing so find her home in Kahnawa:ke?

This week the cold open featuring Bailey (Jenny Pudavick) and James (Jeffrey Wetsch) nicely summarized all of Bailey’s fears as this young couple contemplated what their future could mean together. After lists and careful reflection, Bailey chose both James and Kahnawa:ke. To celebrate, she hosted a pool party to welcome James. Anyone who supported her decision was invited to attend; a test run of sorts. Initially, it looked as though no one was going to attend and then once they did, no one was interacting. In the end, James broke the ice and challenged everyone to a cannonball contest. Nothing beats a good competition, and bridges between families and communities were forged.

Meanwhile, with Ohserase’s (Shawn Youngchief) support, Zoe (Brittany LeBorgne) was finally, at long last putting her own needs first instead of quashing them until they manifested in unhealthy ways. She was simply unwilling to sacrifice her dance class to participate in an end-of-season garbage clean up. She chose herself first over her community. Recognizing that she needed a clean slate, Zoe decided to remove herself from her family and Kahnawa:ke entirely. She and Ohserase went apartment hunting and found her fresh start; Zoe is moving off rez and into Montreal.

Anna ( Maika Harper) took a stand and chose self-respect over Midas’ two-blowjobs-a-day requirements, and Midas showed her the door. Anna’s cousin quickly stepped up to serve his needs. Later at the bar, Anna also took a stand against Iostha (Ally Pratt), and publicly declared that she is white and Mohawk and is “damn proud of who I am!” Did anyone else catch that look of envy by Iostha? The ONLY complaint I have about this episode was the Iostha storyline. While I understand the desire to tie up all of the loose ends, I didn’t think it was necessary for Iostha to also have an epiphany and suddenly put her nastiness aside. Cue the Happy-Happy. It just felt too rushed. At any rate, with her declaration, and self-acceptance, Anna finally feels as though she belongs in Kahnawa:ke. Hat Girl is BACK!

And finally, the most satisfying conclusion for the series! Caitlin (Heather White) finally put it all together. After unleashing a long stream of consciousness on poor Watio (Jimmy Blais), Caitlin realised she was looking for validation through men instead of loving herself. Watio queried, “So what are you going to do about that?” Let’s just say that when Caitlin makes up her mind, she really makes up her mind. First, she broke up with Leon (Dwain Murphy), and then we got to savour that moment we have all been waiting for since Season 1. Caitlin said goodbye to Blockheaded Butterhead (Meegwun Fairbrother) for good!

If you recall back when the series returned for Season 5, I felt Mohawk Girls had come full circle; back to the beginning of Season 1. While this final episode “Warriors” served to complete the series, I think it also satisfied many issues raised back in Season 1, Episode 4, “Where’s My Warrior?”

“Where’s My Warrior?” focused on the choice between the search for the warrior who would always have your back rather than just settling for a guy. Butterhead had just betrayed Caitlin when he drunkenly treated Lollipop to the butter treatment, so Caitlin returned to Stoney where her father (Lawrence Bayne) promptly let her down as well. Bailey was dating Jack, another white man, who ultimately let her down because he could not handle the drama. Zoe was just beginning to travel down the path of sexual addiction. Her need to rebel against the pressures her mother placed upon her were proving too difficult to cope and her father never stood up for her. And Anna had just embarked on her path of discovery, relying on Thunder for the cultural knowledge and community status that her deceased father could not provide, in order to help her establish her position in Kahnawa:ke. All of our protagonists were looking outward to locate themselves and find their self-worth.

Now we have come full circle. Instead of looking elsewhere for strength like we saw in Season 1, this season all of our leading ladies found that strength in themselves. In the end we saw Bailey, but with confidence in herself, and with the support of her family and her community, facing a bright future with James. Caitlin chose to find her happiness and self-worth inside herself rather than relying on the men in her life. Zoe chose to separate herself from her dysfunctional family and from the demands of Kahnawa:ke as she focuses on her next stage of healing. And Anna finally chose to accept both sides of herself, the white and the Mohawk, just as her parents had done by choosing each other, and through that self-acceptance found her position in Kahnewa:ke. So, tonight also answered the question posed in Season 1 “Where’s My Warrior?” Your “Warrior” is you.

My sincere thanks go out to co-creators Tracey Deer and Cynthia Knight, and the cast and crew of Mohawk Girls for a truly insightful but hilariously fun look at life in Kahnawa:ke and life as a modern Indigenous woman in Canada today. Nia:wen for sharing your home with us, teaching us and doing so with laughter.

Niawenkowa!

How do you feel about Mohawk Girls coming to an end? Let me know in the comments below!

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Mohawk Girls: The choice is yours

Caitlin, Zoe and Bailey from Season 1, Episode 1, “Welcome to Our World”.

When we first began, we met Bailey, Caitlin and Zoe, three longtime girlfriends who were coping with the mundanity of life, looking to meet Mr. Right. Then, along came this misfit Anna who just wanted to fit and make some new friends. Now here we are; the penultimate episode of Mohawk Girls. And, we are down to some serious, potentially life-altering CHOICES! Do they each choose this or that? Are you “In or Out?” Episode 5 laid these decisions out for our Mohawk Girls and for viewers.

Caitlin (Heather White) was trying every sexy trick she possessed to earn her way back into Butterhead’s (Meegwun Fairbrother) good graces. Foot massage, home cooked meal, and cancelling her salon renovations. She vowed to always put Butterhead’s needs before her own. She even gave up an opportunity to participate in a fundraiser in order to cheer on Butterhead in his weekend lacrosse match. Then the day of the fundraiser arrived and Butterhead was too hung over to play in his match. Caitlin was left disappointed in him, but most of all herself, for once again putting a man before her own wants and needs.

Now, if you recall from Episode 4, Ohserase (Shawn Youngchief) came to Zoe’s (Brittany LeBorgne) defence in the coffee shop and the Twitterverse began to wonder if there was life for #Zohserase. This week Zoe came clean and revealed to Ohserase why she dated him: to get her parents off her back. Can I just say, every woman needs an Ohserase in her life! Dude is the perfect boyfriend! At any rate, he was impressed with Zoe’s honesty and bravery! He even attended her jazz class and OH YES! It is safe to say that #ZOHSERASE lives!

No doubt boosted by  Ohserase’s forgiveness and support, Zoe finally mustered up the courage to visit her parents (played by Tantoo Cardinal and Erland Campbell), which predictably, went terribly wrong!

Last week, I was not certain that Bailey (Jenny Pudavick) recognized where the photo of James (Jeffrey Wetsch) and her was taken. This week we learned pretty quickly that indeed, she did know that the photo came from Anna (Maika Harper), and the two come to blows, literally. “This place has turned you into an animal!” But theirs were not the only tempers to fly. Sose (Glen Gould) stopped in to check on Bailey and found her packing to leave Kahnwa:ke. “Your great great great grandchildren will grow up to be those awful white people who say they might have some Indian blood in them. How can  you deny you and your future children their heritage?”

Feeling pressure from her father’s attack, Bailey unloaded on James, listing everything that she must give up in order to be in a relationship with him. However, later, at the same fundraiser that Caitlin had turned down, Bailey presented a cheque in absentia for Auntie Velma. Other benefactors also in attendance came to Bailey’s side, all supporting her decision to be with James, and all disgusted by the behaviours of the Marry Out Get Out movement.

And finally, our misfit Anna, who in the wake of her vicious fight with Bailey, returned to her cultural lessons drunk. Anna was at her breaking point, feeling trapped into the party life she’s fallen into as a means to stay connected to the memory of her father. The instructor of the class reached out to Anna with a bit of cultural perspective. Buoyed by that knowledge she began to recognize the hypocrisy and deep seeded anger within Iostha (Ally Pratt) as they reviewed the quality of the prizes at the fundraiser.

Alright, everyone, this is it. Co-creators Tracey Deer and Cynthia Knight have led us to this point. All of our ladies must each make a choice that could mean sacrificing their personal happiness. Will Caitlin choose Butterhead, or Leon or herself? Will Bailey choose to remain with James or choose her responsibility to culture? And, like Bailey, will  Zoe choose herself or her mother’s Mohawk vision for herself? And lastly,  will Anna finally, at long last, find her place in Kahnawa:ke?

How do you think the series will end? Let me know in the comments below!

The series finale of Mohawk Girls airs Tuesday, Dec. 19, at 8:30 p.m. on APTN.

 

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Mohawk Girls: Ain’t it a Shame?

Last week on Mohawk Girls, we were left with Zoe (Brittany LeBorgne) falling off the wagon and into bed with Phillip (Max E. Williams), Caitlin (Heather White) running to Leon (Dwain Murphy) when Butterhead (Meegwun Fairbrother) ditched her for the lacrosse team, and Anna (Maika Harper) was snarled in a scheme with Iostha (Allyson Pratt) to oust Bailey (Jenny Pudavick) from Kahnawa:ke because she’s dating James (Jeffrey Wetsch). AND Anna was also second-guessing her decision to stay with Midas (Tanner Novlan). WHEW! That was a mouthful (pun intended)!

Sometimes when you watch an episode and it is finished you sit back and say “Wow!” My response to this week’s episode, “Shame Campaign,” was exactly that, as it tackled the effects of shame on so many levels. This time co-creators Tracey Deer and Cynthia Knight have really outdone themselves. We still have all of the comedic elements that Mohawk Girls is known for, but this episode touched on several heavier topics, including verbal abuse, addiction recovery and the violence associated with the “Marry Out Get Out” movement. Of all the episodes since the series began five seasons ago, I feel this one counts as one of the best for scripting, timing, character reactions and interactions.

We open with Bailey taking James to the coffee shop where they immediately ran into her ex-fiancée Watio (Jimmy Blais) who was quick to accuse Bailey of being a race traitor. The entire shop backed Watio’s argument and Bailey and James left, but not before her father Sose (Glen Gould) witnessed the town’s anger and Bailey’s discomfort. The town’s rage continued to grow, the flyer campaign of Anna’s and Iostha’s doing took hold and by the episode’s end, Bailey’s car and home were left vandalized.

Meanwhile, Zoe immediately regretted her tumble with Phillip and she self-prescribed a dose of self-flagellation—”Weak, pathetic, a loser.” Apparently “Perfect Zoe” is still not allowed to make mistakes. But, some growth was evident when she was later confronted by town members at the coffee shop. They delivered an ultimatum: denounce Bailey as a race traitor. But Zoe refused and instead came to Bailey’s defense: “We should value happiness, and we should all have as much joy in our lives as possible.” And then who came to Zoe’s defense? Ohserase (Shawn Youngchief)!!! “She’s right. And, then maybe we’d stop trying to tear everyone down.”

In the meantime, Caitlin made the commitment to open her own salon, and she hired Watio to do the renovations. During their negotiation, Watio revealed that he’s inspired by Caitlin’s new found confidence. But not everyone was pleased.  Butterhead was not liking Caitlin’s metamorphosis. He’s “tired of playing second fiddle to Caitlin’s career,” and was definitely not liking the “no sex until I am finished working,” stand of Caitlin’s. Guess that self-love stuff is working because Caitlin’s confidence is growing! This arc delved to a darker level of overt verbal and very public abuse from Butterhead and we were witness to the effects his insulting comments had upon Caitlin’s confidence. “Proud of my new and unimproved shitty girlfriend who’s not there when I want her. And who is no longer fun and into partying because she is obsessed with her stupid salon. What the hell is there to be proud of?” Bravo to both Heather White and Meegwun Fairbrother for committing themselves to this scene.

And finally, we get to Anna. Up until now, Anna has been battling to locate herself in Kahnawa:ke. Now she is battling herself as she faces a critical choice in her journey. Will she embrace the angry and vindictive party girl that Iostha has been modelling for her, that negative stereotypical false concept of what a Mohawk should be? Or will she embrace the more culturally aware and authentic Mohawk traits? As a part of her Mohawk culture course, Anna was assigned to build a sweat lodge. In an attempt to force Anna and Bailey to mend their ways, Zoe invited Bailey along. Bumpy start is putting it mildly, but the three finally managed, and using traditional land-based education to understand their Mohawk culture and heritage, they realized success, healing and even the possibility of a liberal arts degree in the future for Bailey.

There are just two episodes left! How is Caitlin going to react to Butterhead’s escalating abusive behaviours? Will she run back to Leon’s arms for good? Now that Zoe has faced down the town, will she be able to face her parents? Will Bailey cave to the pressures of the “Marry Out Get Out” movement and break up with James? Will Bailey discover that Anna is behind the smear campaign? What is in store for the Mohawk Girls in the last two episodes? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Mohawk Girls airs Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. on APTN.

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