Left: Janet Morhart, Right: Brent Kawchuk

On November 25 at AMPIA’s 2022 Annual General Meeting, the AMPIA Board elected new co-chairs. In an effort to meet the growing demands of the industry and AMPIA membership, the duties of AMPIA Chair will be shared by two members for the next term – long-time producer Brent Kawchuk and Janet Morhart of Prairie Dog Film + Television. Both share considerable experience and passion for our industry and carry complementary strengths that will benefit AMPIA going forward.

An industry veteran, independent producer Brent Kawchuk has written and produced award-winning television programming for networks across Canada. Brent has worked with advertising agencies and marketing departments across Canada to create hundreds of commercials, cinema, digital and interactive corporate pieces for brands such as Tim Hortons, Subway, McDonald’s, Ford, Chevrolet, Western Canada Lotteries, Fountain Tire, Sport Chek, SGI, ATB  and several Canadian Heritage Minutes. Before entering television, Brent spent four years as a teacher in Calgary and holds a Bachelor of Education degree. He also holds a Bachelor of Journalism with Distinction. Full bio.

Janet Morhart is the Chief Operating Officer and Co-Executive Producer at Prairie Dog Film + Television. Janet supports the Showrunner by helping produce television; she provides feedback and notes on scripts, pitches, media, and the development of future projects. She focuses on business matters and is responsible for all aspects of accounting and business affairs, including financing, budgeting, cost reporting, cashflow, tax credits and contracts, as well as the overall corporate operations. Janet is educated as a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA), Certified Management Accountant (CMA) and has a bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Applied Business Administration from Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta. Full bio.

Janet will also remain as Treasurer. In addition, Cohen Mill remains as Secretary, Bonnie Thompson as Vice-Chair North and Dave Schultz takes over as Vice-Chair South from departing Board member Michelle Gayse-Leader. Leaving the Board is former AMPIA Chair David Benson. David has led AMPIA for the past two years through some very turbulent times. We thank David and Michelle for their dedication and time to AMPIA.

Three new Board members and four returning Board Members were acclaimed as the 2022-23 AMPIA Board. The three new members are: Connie Edwards of Souleado Entertainment, Michael Peterson of Peterson Polaris Corp. and Barry Morrissette of Radiance Digital. Returning Board members are Brent Kawchuk, Janet Morhart, Dave Schultz and Bonnie Thompson. In addition, the following Board members who were not up for re-election remain on the Board: Chris Duncan, Justine Gamez Huckabay, Nauzanin Knight, Cohen Mill and Adam Scorgie. Board member bios can be found on the AMPIA website. 

Drinkwater, Tribal and Shoresy are among the other Canadian projects named in two categories for the performance honours.

The features Donkeyhead and Drinkwater, and the series Tribal and Shoresy are among the Canadian projects with two performance-related nominations apiece for the 11th annual UBCP/ACTRA Awards.

The peer-adjudicated awards show from UBCP/ACTRA, the autonomous branch of performers’ union ACTRA in British Columbia, will honour members in six categories on Nov. 19 at the Vancouver Playhouse.

Donkeyhead star Agam Darshi (pictured) — who is also the director, writer and producer — has a nod for Best Lead Performance, Female while fellow headliner Stephen Lobo is up for Best Lead Performance, Male. The family feature about an Indian-Canadian family is also produced by Anand Ramayya and Kelly Balon of KarmaFilm. Deepa Mehta, Kim Coates, Robert Cuffley and Mohanish Mansuri executive produced.

For Stephen Campanelli’s coming-of-age comedy Drinkwater (Suitcase Charlie Films), nominations include Best Lead Performance, Male for Daniel Doheny and Best Supporting Performance, Male for Eric McCormack. Campanelli directed the film, which was written by Luke Fraser and Edward McDonald. The producers are Graham Fraser and Dennis Swartman.

Nominees from APTN’s Tribal (Prairie Dog Film + Television) include Brian Markinson, who’s up for Best Lead Performance, Male for the episode “The Kid Had A Gun,” and John Cassini, nominated for Best Supporting Performance, Male for “The Tomb” episode.

Getting nods for Crave original Shoresy — produced by New Metric Media in partnership with creator and star Jared Keeso’s Play Fun Games — is Tasya Teles for Best Supporting Performance, Female in the episode “Never Lose Again” and Ryan McDonell for Best Supporting Performance, Male for the episode “Know Your Role.”‘

Other projects named in two categories include Vancouver-shot Showtime series Yellowjackets, which is produced by Entertainment One and streams on Crave in Canada. Its nominees include Lauren K. Robek for for Best Supporting Performance, Female for the “Bear Down” episode, and stunt coordinator Jeff Aro along with stunt performers Maja Aro and Kia Stuart for Best Stunt Performance for the episode “F Sharp.”

Robek got a second nomination in the Best Lead Performance, Female category for Lifetime TV movie Cradle Did Fall.

HBO Max original Peacemaker, which streams on Crave in Canada, is also named in two categories, including Best Supporting Performance, Female for Alison Araya in the “Best Friends For Never” episode.

Peacemaker‘s second nomination is for Best Stunt Performance for the episode “It’s Cow or Never” featuring stunt coordinator Gaston Morrison and a slew of stunt performers: Marcus Aurelio, Jason Bell, William Bokan, Rob Boyce, Mig Buenacruz, Doug Chapman, Simon Chin, Daniel Cudmore, Tamara Daroshin, Justin Doran, Jonel Earl, Ashlea Earl, Rebecca Ferguson, Kory Grim , Kevin Haaland, Jon Johnson, Sean Kohnke, Alex Kyshkovych, Wei-Hsin Lee, Mike Mitchell, Panou, Dominic Polubinski, Josh Rasile, Julia Rekaikyna, Andrea Ross, Darryl Scheelar, Mitra Suri, Derick Vizcarra and Shelene Yung.

Other nominees for Best Lead Performance, Female include: Taylor Hickson for Freeform’s Motherland: Fort Salem, episode “Delusional”; and Jana Morrison for Syfy and CTV Sci-Fi channel’s Astrid and Lilly Save The World‘s episode “Teeth”; Jewel Staite for Global’s Family Law‘s episode “Legacy”; and Justine Warrington for Lifetime’s Secrets of a Gold Digger Killer.

The Best Lead Performance, Male category is rounded out by: Antonio Cupo for the Lifetime film Wrath: A Seven Deadly Sins Story; Max Lloyd-Jones for Hallmark Channel’s Love, Classified; and Tom Stevens for CBC Moonshine episode “Standby Out of Newark.”

Contenders for Best Supporting Performance, Female also include: Fiona Fu for OMNI’s Blood and Water‘s episode “Blood Brothers”; Leah Gibson for Joe Pickett from Spectrum Originals and Paramount+, episode “The Most Hated Man in 12 Sleeps”; Cassandra Sawtell for Lifetime’s Disappearance in Yellowstone; and Savonna Spracklin for the Bretten Hannam-directed feature Wildhood, produced by Gharrett Patrick Paon of Rebel Road Films and Julie Baldassi of Younger Daughter Films.

Others in the running for Best Supporting Performance, Male include: Ricky He for Epix series From, episode “The Way Things Are Now”; Taylor St.Pierre for FX Network’s Under the Banner of Heaven‘s episode “Blood Atonement”; and Markian Tarasiuk for the Patrick Brice-directed Netflix film There’s Someone Inside Your House.

The Best Voice Performance category has: Bethany Brown for Peacock’s Supernatural Academy, “Parallel Lives – Part A”; Ian Hanlin for Netflix’s Angry Birds: Summer Madness episode “Much Ado About Pudding”; Bill Newton for LEGO Marvel Avengers: Loki in Training; Adrian Petriw for YouTube original The Guava Juice Show‘s episode “Spicy Challenge”; Vincent Tong for Walt Disney Pictures’ The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild; and Keegan Connor Tracy for Consumer.

Rounding out the Best Stunt Performance nominees, there’s Batwoman, with stunt coordinator Brent Connolly and stunt performer Mel Jin; Sonic the Hedgehog 2 with stunt coordinator Marny Eng and stunt performers Colby Chartrand, Kevin Fortin, Leif Havdale and Jeff Sanca; and Snake Eyes: GI Joe Origins with stunt coordinator Kimani Ray Smith and stunt performers Krista Bell, Mig Buenacruz, Mike Crestejo, Johnson Do, Ken Do, Lars Grant, Leif Havdale, Vincent Khai, Keanu Lam, Randy Lee, Irma Leong, Gerald Paetz, Rick Pearce, Dan Redford, Jeff Sanca, Todd Scott, Dimitry Tsoy, Shota Tsuji, Angela Uyeda, Brennan Walstrom, Kye Walstrom and Chris Webb.

NITV, Thursday 8.30pm & SBS On Demand

The second season of this Canadian First Nations police drama picked up from season one’s cliffhanger and continues its unique storytelling drawing on real-life crimes and events. It was created by Ron E Scott (who also writes and directs), a member of the Metis Nation in Canada whose previous series Blackstone focused on Indigenous life on a fictional reserve, and who wrote Tribal as a way of exploring the polarisation between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultures; Scott himself is of mixed heritage.

TBL 1 Key Art
Brian Markinson and Jessica Matten in Tribal.

Rather than the kinds of sensationalised crimes that often feature in cop procedurals, Scott wanted to keep the crimes grounded in real issues affecting Indigenous Canadians, telling the stories through an Indigenous perspective.

Season one opened with the mismatched cops partnered together trope, but it’s not your standard unlikely pairing. After the local Justice department takes over control of the tribal police of the Nehiyawak First Nation (which previously oversaw only the local native reserves on the outskirts of the city), officer Sam Woodburn (Jessica Matten) is appointed as the tribal police’s interim chief; her predecessor, Daniel Crowchild (Julian Black Antelope), has been suspended amid allegations of corruption. In a bid to integrate the local and tribal police, she’s partnered with old-school detective Chuck Bukansky (Brian Markinson, most recently seen in Fargo), a veteran of the metro police’s major crimes detective unit, decorated for bravery, and recovering from a traumatic shooting incident. Bukansky is also sexist, racist and decidedly unhappy with the new extension of the tribal police forces’ powers.

Their partnership in which Woodburn is technically Bukansky’s boss – and the integration of the tribal police into the metro force – might be just a cynical political move (Bukansky sees her as a token appointment to put a younger, prettier face at the head of a force accused of corruption), but Woodburn takes the job seriously and, eventually, “Buke” is forced to as well, especially once it comes to light there’s corruption within the metro force.

The crimes investigated in season 2 of Tribal are increasingly serious.

The crimes they investigate echo real cases, among them violence at pipeline protests, murdered former gang members, healing lodges (correctional institutions designed specifically for Indigenous inmates), poaching and missing and murdered Indigenous women, culminating with the mass grave of Indigenous bodies that Buke discovered at the end of season one, which becomes an over-arching storyline this season. Other crimes in this second season are equally shocking, particularly one focused on “starlight tours”, based on real-life events between the 1970s and the early 2000s in which police officers would arrest Indigenous men, drive them to deserted rural areas in winter, and abandon them, often leading to the men’s deaths from hypothermia. Alongside such confronting crimes, this season evolves into more character-led drama as well; we learn more of Buke’s backstory, and of Woodburn’s struggle to deal with her two “identities”.

Filmed in and around Calgary and on the Tsuut’ina Nation (although the city in which the series is set is never explicitly named), Tribal isn’t the most slickly produced series and is occasionally victim to some leaden dialogue and tired tropes (it’s hard to find a crime procedural that isn’t, let’s face it) but Scott’s portrayal of Indigenous people is nuanced: Woodburn, for example, is of mixed Indigenous and European ancestry and doesn’t come from a dysfunctional background. She’s from a well-off family, her father was a judge and she lives in a cool loft apartment with her lawyer boyfriend.

And Tribal’s drawn-from-real-life premise makes it much more compelling than many fictional procedurals, even if that means some difficult viewing.

MovieMaker Magazine ranks Calgary, Alberta as one of the best places to live and work in film

Before we begin our latest list of the Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker: Some obvious background.

The COVID pandemic continues to rage on two years after the virus landed on American shores, and one of the few silver linings has been a revolution in telecommuting — giving us all more freedom than ever before to live and work where we want, how we want.

The movie industry is no exception. Post-production coordinators are managing workflow between editors and animators from the comfort of their own homes, and the writers’ room may also be a bedroom. Production, however, can’t always be facilitated through Zoom calls. So for on-set crew, producers, and directors, it remains essential to be close to someone yelling “Action!”

Fortunately, there is no shortage of production hubs springing up in cities, big and small, around North America. And a few — like Albuquerque and Atlanta — are even shaping up to rival MovieMaker Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker Hall of Famers Los Angeles and New York. Dozens of other municipalities are nipping at their heels with very attractive tax incentives and infrastructure development, luring more projects to previously overlooked areas.

Let’s dive into the evolving filmmaking landscape across the continent, starting with America’s iconic entertainment capitals. These are the Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker in 2022.

10. Calgary

Last year, we declared that the future of this Canadian city looked bright when productions brought in $200 million, and we weren’t lying: that figure jumped to $500 million in 2021. HBO’s The Last of Us, an adaptation of the popular post-apocalyptic video game, shot in the region last fall with star Pedro Pascal (The Mandalorian), and Andrew Garfield was in the area as well to shoot the upcoming HBO series Under The Banner Of Heaven, executive produced by Jason Bateman, Dustin Lance Black, Ron Howard, and Brian Grazer. And the Predator offshoot Skulls shot in the area last spring.

Luke Azevedo, the film commissioner of the Calgary Economic Development office, tells MovieMaker that this film-friendly city “isn’t just a city to make a good living; It’s also a city to make a great life.” Outdoor enthusiasts will appreciate the easily accessible mountains and trails for weekend adventuring in an area known for 333 days of sunshine, as well as the rich culture in the city: It boasts six independent movie theaters, over a dozen museums, many live music venues, and a growing list of film festivals. “We offer an unparalleled variety of locations with the Rocky Mountains, Prairies and Badlands at the doorstep of a thriving, inclusive, and safe urban municipality,” adds Azevedo. He’s also jazzed about continuing to nurture “equity, diversity, and inclusion” within the city’s film scene through collaborations with the Calgary Black Film Festival and Being Black in Calgary, as well as Indigenous partners.

Ron E. Scott, the founder of independent production company Prairie Dog Film + Television, takes advantage of that scenery to shoot the police procedural Tribal. “Growing up in Alberta, I’m thankful to have Calgary close by as it offers many variations for high-production-value locations,” he tells MovieMaker. “With the drama series Tribal, our goal is to tell relevant, ripped-from-the-headlines Indigenous voiced stories that aren’t typically shown on-screen.”

He adds: “Calgary also offers an incredibly diverse landscape that makes it so storytellers have choices. You can go from a busy big city downtown to gorgeous mountain views or sprawling prairies within 30 minutes. Film and TV production has been booming in Alberta, and we are proud to be a Calgary company that facilitates all stages of production, including post-production for its shows in this province.”

54 Good Things That Happened in Calgary in 2021

Take a moment to look back on some of the positive local developments in Calgary this year.

Times have been tough since the beginning of the pandemic, but there are still incredible things happening in Calgary. This year, we took a moment at the end of each month to recap some of the most heartening events, accomplishments and initiatives going on around town.

Here’s a look back at 54 good things that happened in Calgary over the course of 2021.

Winners of the 47th Annual Rosie Awards Announced

The winners of the 47th annual Rosie Awards, awarded by the Alberta Media Production Industries Association for excellence in Alberta’s screen industries, include a healthy showing of Calgary companies. Several Calgary companies, including Prairie Dog Film + Television, A Parent Media Co. Inc. and Queer Code Collective, won in categories like best scripted series or mini-series,  best children’s program or series and best narrative game or interactive project. Check out the full list of winners here.

…Tribal, goes dark and deep in Season 2

Calgary-shot Indigenous crime drama, Tribal, goes dark and deep in Season 2

When the cast and crew of Tribal were shooting the fifth episode of Season 2 in late 2020, news began to spread about life imitating art.

The episode dealt with poaching on Indigenous lands, which is a complex and divisive issue. It’s also a timely one. While they were filming that particular episode in rural Alberta, poachers were caught and arrested on a nearby reserve.

“It was ironic that this was happening while we were shooting the episode,” says Ron  E. Scott, the creator of Tribal. “(Actor) Bernard Starlight said to me, ‘Yeah, they just caught somebody on my reserve.’”

It shows that Scott’s original vision of his Indigenous police procedural will remain intact for Season 2, which begins airing on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network on Oct. 21. From the beginning, the idea was to keep the cop show grounded in real-life issues that shine a light on modern Indigenous life in Canada. Of course, the risk of basing TV narratives on ripped-from-the-headlines true crime is that it can become sensationalistic. Scott gained a reputation for offering an unflinching look at life on a reserve through five seasons of his Edmonton-shot drama, Blackstone. But as a member of the Metis Nation of Canada, he has also been sensitive about how Indigenous people and issues have traditionally been presented in popular culture; portrayals that are often told through broad strokes and cliches rather than nuance.

“I feel there is a line and I feel after doing five seasons of Blackstone what happens is you have a radar and a responsibility at the same time to find a tone that is, first of all, grounded in truth and grounded in great drama. At the same time, what Tribal has always tried to do is show two sides of the story. But the show is a character-driven, Indigenous crime drama. That’s why Tribal was created, (to show) crimes against Indigenous people. Every single one of the crimes is based on some form of headline. We try to be responsible given the day and age we live in and respectful. I really feel like we don’t cross that line. That was really important to me as the creator, to really respect that. At the same time, we are storytellers and there are some stories that need to be told.”

In Season 2, that includes episodes that deal with restorative justice, Indigenous celebrity, blockades and drug abuse. Episode 7 is particularly harrowing. Its storyline involves so-called “starlight tours,” where police officers pick up and abandon people, often Indigenous, in rural areas in the dead of winter. It’s a practice that made headlines when a series of these “tours” in Saskatoon were believed to result in at least three deaths.

Sam (Jessica Matten) and Buke (Brian Markinson) investigate the death of a poacher in Season 2 of the Calgary-shot crime-drama Tribal. Courtesy, Prairie Dog Film and Television.

But, the show is also character-based. Unlike some of its American cop-procedural brethren, Tribal spends a good deal of time looking into the family and private life of its characters. While the ensemble cast has expanded for the second season, its protagonists remain ambitious Tribal police chief Sam Woodburn (Jessica Matten) and the damaged Detective Chuck (Buke) Bukansky (Brian Markinson). These seemingly mismatched partners spent much of the first season working out the broader conflicts between the Tribal and Metro police forces that they represent. In Season 2, we will get insight into Sam’s family life and history. There is also more domestic drama brewing in Buke’s life, particularly involving his troubled son.

“It opens up the story world to accessible, universal themes and truths that we all face,” Scott says. “Some of the other shows that are more streamlined, procedural are designed that way and don’t want to engage on an emotional level all the time. The choice for us was to engage on a more emotional level with the characters so the audience can feel that connectivity to them. It’s also another opportunity to show that police are people too and they are not perfect and sometimes that goes overlooked.”

While the second season will continue to offer an episodic, crime-of-the-week structure, it will also dive deep into broader recurring themes. We will get more insight into a shooting from Buke’s past and how it relates to ongoing cases and his post-traumatic stress disorder. A number of issues dealing with police corruption, focusing on a timely question about whether the racism and rot are limited to a few bad apples on the force or indicative of wider, systematic corruption. Throughout the season there will be questions about authority, both in Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, and the divide between traditional and modern approaches to leadership.

Season 1 ended with a devastating cliffhanger, which revolved around the discovery of a tomb containing Indigenous victims buried under a water treatment plant. This narrative will be resolved in Season 2 with a breakout episode, although its widespread implications will continue to haunt the characters.

“The tomb aspect of the show was built up from last season and was an opportunity to have longer commentary about missing Indigenous people,” Scott says.” We really felt the explanation of the tomb couldn’t be one episode. It needed some build and some explanation.”

After an eight-month delay due to COVID-19, Season 2 of Tribal began shooting in November 2020 in Calgary and Bragg Creek. APTN has shown a lot of faith in the program, greenlighting a second season before the first had even aired. There has been no official word on a third season for the series, although Scott and his team are developing new storylines for Tribal. Scott relocated his production company, Prairie Dog Film and Television, to Calgary before shooting Season 1 and says he has a number of projects in pre-production.

“We do have properties in development and we are pitching certain things and the real hope is to bring a show to Calgary and to continue Tribal,” he says. “It’s a passion of mine to have a narrative and have fresh, relevant meaningful Indigenous-voiced stories. So I want to continue that.”

Season 2 of Tribal begins airing on Oct. 21 on APTN.