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Media and Reconciliation (84-86)

Indigenous Screen Office has strong foundation to build off with long term, stable funding says CEO

April 16, 2024

APTN News: It’s been a big year for Indigenous-led projects on the screen in Canada.

The Crave and APTN co-production Little Bird is heading into next month’s Canadian Screen Awards (CSA) with 19 nominations.

Little Bird along with Hey Viktor!, and Twice Colonized are among the Indigenous led projects up for big awards at this year’s CSA’s.

All three also were among the projects that benefited in one way or another by the work of the Indigenous Screen Office (ISO).

When the ISO launched in 2017, the biggest films released that year about Indigenous peoples, were not owned, controlled or directed by Indigenous peoples.

“I got my start 20 years ago at the ImagineNative Film Festival and we’ve been advocating for much longer than that time for Indigenous specific funding for the sector and it just wasn’t happening quickly enough,” says Kerry Swanson, the chief executive officer of the ISO.

“What we saw was producers that were non-Indigenous were accessing large amounts of funding to tell Indigenous stories, while Indigenous filmmakers and producers were not able to access that kind of funding to tell their stories.”

The ISO supports Indigenous creators in a variety of ways, including story development, production, training, marketing and travel.

In 2022-23, the ISO disbursed a total of $11.8 million to 191 recipients across 12 provinces and territories.

In May of 2023, the ISO announced its largest funding commitment yet, with $1-million towards the creation of Iqaluit’s first, large scale film and television production studio.

“Our funding of $1 million has actually triggered $3 million in Nunavut and federal funding to support a fully funded studio,” says Swanson on the latest episode of Face to Face. “So, not only the construction of the studio but actually equipment, it’s going to be fully equipped and this is going to leave an economic legacy in the community.

“It was originally tied to the project North of North which is shooting up there now but it’s going to be a long term investment in the community. So, we’re really excited about that.”

Over a five year period, the ISO provided nearly $25 million dollars to over 320 First Nations, Inuit and Métis recipients across Canada. However, just a few months ago, there were serious concerns about the future of the ISO as a three-year federal funding commitment was set to run out.

It was a sigh of relieve for the organization when the minister of Canadian Heritage announced permanent funding in March 2024.

The funding includes $65-million over 5 years starting in 2024-2025 and $13-million per year ongoing.

“It’s so exciting for us because it means a stable foundation. Now we have a strong foundation and we can build and we can grow from here,” says Swanson.

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