By Bettina Johnson –
We recently wrapped up a two-week youth film documentary project, a mentoring program led by film-maker Jeremy Williams of River Voices Productions.
This project was to engage our youth in the arts through film-making and help equip the next generation to grow in telling important Indigenous stories, of which there are so many.
Esk’etemc, like all Indigenous communities, is a community full of stories, those that are traditional and ancestral (“stseptekwll” in Secwepemctsin) and passed on through oral history. Then there are those that are lived experiences (“slexéy̓em”). They are passed on as generational words of wisdom. As the respected Esk’etemc elder Arthur Dick noted:
“People ask me a question, I can tell them the answer. Or I can tell them a story.”
Through Jeremy Williams’ recent work in our community with the upcoming Esk’etemc documentary film on Esk’etemc Declaration of Title, we were able to witness his dedicated commitment to honouring and reflecting Indigenous perspectives. After reading in TheGreenGazette fall 2017 issue about his work with the Stat’imc youth, I decided to reach out and bring this film mentoring program to Esk’et. We applied for a grant to the First People’s Cultural Council – Aboriginal Arts Development Awards and were happy to receive their generous grant approval for our proposal under the program, Aboriginal Youth Engaged in the Arts.
Four inspiring Esk’etemc youth, Desirae Paul, Leona Belleau, Kelly Paul, and Annmarie Johnson, took part in the program, based on their dedicated interest in storytelling, film, and creative arts. Each of them is passionate about artistic expression, preserving Esk’etemc culture, and exploring creative ways of sharing. They each added their personalities, strengths, and unique ideas to the project, engaging in the process. We were impressed with how much they learned, how well they worked together, and how they created their short film, entitled Generations of Esk’etemc.
The group dedicated their short film to Jamie Johnson, who was set to be a participant in this program, before moving to heaven just weeks before. Jamie was a beautiful person and is greatly missed. His artistic skills were incredible, and his story idea for this project was around an art piece: the raven plucking out the bad feathers and teaching his little raven to let go of the past and the pain and move forward into healing.
The youth honoured his idea and included the birds in the beginning and end shots, and the tone of generational wisdom throughout their short film.
It was an intense and challenging crash course for the group. Jeremy taught them the foundations and basic technical skills of documentary film-making, including styles of story, camera functions, interview skills, and storyboarding. They learned hands-on how to draft their vision, craft their story, organize, and edit their audio and footage, along with how to explore further opportunities in film.
Esk’etemc member Sherisse Mousseau led a workshop on landscape photography, while Casey Bennett was our photography mentor for a day of portrait photography.
Our three amazing mentors shared their technical knowledge and couldn’t help but share their passion for film and photography, and were an inspiration to our group of young film-makers.
The youth showed their five-minute short film during a community film showing. Feedback received included: “When will you do more films?” and “What about this story (examples of story topic)”.
There is a wealth of stories waiting to be told, and the youth carry incredible creativity to explore new ways of sharing them.
You can see the short film Generations of Esk’etemc at the Cariboo-Chilcotin Film Fest, May 3 & 4 at the Gibraltar Room.
Bettina Johnson lives and works at Esk’et, developing employment, creative, and economic opportunities for Esk’etemc, a community respected for its leadership in addictions recovery and healing, and with rich cultural history and strong connections to the land. Together with her husband Robert, she operates Esk’et Tiny House B&B, inviting visitors to this inspiring community.