Jessica Matten and Brian Markinson in an episode of the Calgary-shot Indigenous police drama, Tribal. Courtesy, APTN.

Eric Volmers, Postmedia News

After a six-month delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the second season of Tribal will begin production in Calgary next week.

Cameras are set to roll Nov. 17 for the 10-episode season that is scheduled to air in the fall of 2021 on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, says creator, showrunner and director Ron E. Scott.

“We have protocols that are industry standard and above and we are all adhering to them and happy to do it,” Scott says, in an interview with Postmedia earlier this week.

APTN ordered a second season before the first premiered back in February 2020. Production was supposed to start in May but was delayed not only by the pandemic but also by insurance concerns. Insurance companies that serve the film and TV industry are now refusing coverage for COVID-19. Scott joined other members in the film and TV industry in lobbying the federal government to supply a short-term backstop insurance program. In late September, the federal government announced its “Short-Term Compensation Fund” for Canadian audiovisual productions. As much as $50 million will be available to the industry, administered by Telefilm Canada and the Canada Media Fund, to compensate independent production companies if there is an interruption or shutdown due to confirmed COVID-19 cases.

“It’s still being untangled,” says Scott. “But it means that they are committed to helping producers produce their shows. It’s all very new. We’ve been dealing with Telefilm and CMF, that underwrites it, for 20 years or so. We have a good relationship with them. So we can be confident going into production that we will have insurance to keep everything safe for cast and crew and everyone related to the production.”

Tribal is a police procedural that offers a traditional crime-of-the-week structure set against the backdrop of timely issues impacting First Nations People. Jessica Matten stars as Samantha Woodburn, the young interim chief of the Tribal Police Force who is mismatched with a non-Indigenous and bitter detective named Chuck (Buke) Bukansky played by Brian Markinson. The first season explored corruption, missing Indigenous women and pipeline protests among other storylines.

It also ended with a harrowing cliffhanger that had Woodburn and Buke discovering Indigenous bodies underneath a water-treatment plant. Both Woodburn and Bukansky will be deeply affected by the grisly scene going forward in Season 2, Scott says.

“Their relationship is growing, it’s evolving and progressing,” Scott says. “(Buke) starts trying to understand Native culture. He tried to start to get back with his wife or try to get back. Sam does the exact opposite, disconnecting from her family which is going to be very interesting.”

Season 2 will feature stories tackling issues such as Indigenous blockades and poaching on Native land. There will be an episode about a complex missing-person investigation and one about a hostage-taking inside a healing lodge.

“It talks about restorative justice and some of those deeper elements that are in question across the justice system in
Canada,” Scott says. “So it’s a very interesting episode.”

A member of the Metis Nation of Alberta, Scott created Tribal after enjoying critical and commercial success with Blackstone, an unflinching, five-season drama about corruption, addiction and violence on a fictional Alberta First Nations reserve. That series was filmed near Edmonton, but Scott has since moved his Prairie Dog Film and Television production offices to Calgary.

Season 2 will use many of the same locations as the first, including various areas of Calgary and the Tsuut’ina Nation just southwest of city limits. Tribal is just one of the projects Scott hopes to develop and film in the city.

“It’s been great for us to be in Calgary,” Scott says. “I was just on the phone with my agent today and my manager yesterday and we have several things that are very exciting that will possibly come to the Calgary area.”