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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: The show you should be watching

If you haven’t caught on to Tribal (Season 2 starts Thursday, APTN, 9 p.m.), then you should. It was one of my choices for best new series of 2020 and the two leads, Brian Markinson and Jessica Matten, were on my list for best performances on Canadian TV.

The under-the-radar and unfussy First Nations police procedural offers no big bombshells, but it’s a gripping, nuanced and twisted cop drama about many morally compromised characters. And a morally compromised community that represents all of us. You could say it’s about tensions between the Indigenous community and the white establishment but you could also say it’s a propulsive crime drama about police corruption, missing and murdered women, and a deranged killer who claims, “I freed those people, they’re all in a better place.”

Jessica Matten plays Chief Samantha (Sam) Woodburn. DAVID T. BROWN/APTN

If the latter description sounds too conventional as a crime drama, it doesn’t match the dark texture of the storytelling and what lies beneath it. There isn’t a character here is who definitely positioned as good or bad; Tribal is about the history of its setting, the atmosphere and the societal mores that barely hold everything together.

In the first eight-episode season of Tribal (streaming on APTN Lumi) officer Samantha (Sam) Woodburn (Matten) was made interim chief of a tribal police force that is awkwardly integrated with the local urban force, and Sam was partnered with Chuck (Buke) Bukansky (Markinson), a prickly, bone-weary veteran detective with a lot of spiteful things to say about the tribal police force. Sam had her own aberrant habits. The two slowly made peace and are now more of a team.

What’s happened is that a tomb of Indigenous bodies has been discovered under the city’s water-filtration station, and while Sam and Buke try to piece together the puzzle of who was responsible and who knew that young women were disappearing, the urban side of the police force is trying to simply look good in the midst of a mess.

Stephen Huszar plays Detective Marcus Watkins. DAVID T. BROWN/APTN

Police boss Connie (Garry Chalk) is highly aware of the scrutiny that comes with the gruesome discovery. His tactic is to set up a task force run by an outsider. Someone who can either solve the case or take the blame for mistakes. His reliably sleazy underling Mitch (Ryan Northcott) solves the problem with a cynical move, suggesting that a Black woman, Victoria Mann (Marci T. House), who has some experience with Indigenous issues, but little police experience, be appointed. It’s all about window-dressing and hiding from responsibility. The mordancy of the tactic is very plausible.

Meanwhile, Sam and Buke keep digging. They interview that jailed, deranged killer (John Cassini, who is superb here) and poke around looking into the death of one particular young woman known to have drug problems. What’s being built is a storyline about mistrust and manipulation, including the use of the media to tell one side of what is a highly complex, fraught story. As before, the series is admirable in its lack of melodrama and ornamentation; it just moves along quickly and includes storylines that involve restorative justice, healing lodges and railway blockades, but without stopping to point out ostentatiously that these are socially relevant issues. It just embraces them.

Teneil Whiskeyjack, left, plays Alice Wajunta and Ashley Callingbull plays Rachel Chilliwack. DAVID T. BROWN/APTN

Tribal is created by showrunner and director Ron E. Scott (he also created Blackstone), who has said his aim is to offer “an entertaining, character-driven crime drama,” and he’s done that.

Made in and around Calgary, the series goes to shadowy corners and explores vulnerabilities, drawing the viewer in, making us complicit and creating an uneasy intimacy with the Indigenous perspective on contemporary issues that are part of the daily news agenda in Canada. And still, it’s a cop show with a furious pace.

Back in an early episode, Sam pointedly wondered aloud why there was no conversation happening with new partner Buke. Buke scoffed and said, “You’re a face, you’re an [expletive] and an Indian, you’re what they need right now. As soon as you screw up, you’re going right back to the reservation. How’s that for conversation?”

Tribal is one arresting, entertaining and terse conversation about a lot of vital issues, plus crime-solving. It’s a show you should be watching.

Blackstone creator Ron E. Scott filming First Nations crime drama Tribal in Calgary

There are worse dilemmas for a television creator.
But Ron E. Scott’s previous project, the Edmonton-shot TV drama Blackstone, was so dark and singular that it’s hard to imagine how he might top it with a followup. The series ran for five seasons on Showcase and APTN, offering an unflinching and often harrowing look at the corruption, addiction and violence that plagued a fictional Alberta First Nations reserve.

While it may be a stretch to suggest his new crime drama Tribal, which began filming last week on the Tsuu T’ina First Nation outside of Calgary, finds him lightening up, he will say that it has a different tone than his former series.

“It’s not in the same kind of vein as Blackstone,” says Scott, who is writer, producer and showrunner of the new series. “It’s a little more accessible, less confrontational, less aggressive in its narrative. That was how we shaped the show. At the same time, it does have a social relevance and definitely a commentary that is definitely interesting in our day and age.”

There is some other obvious overlap, including star and Blackstone alumni Jessica Matten. She plays Samantha Woodburn, interim chief of the Tribal Police Force. When the department of Federal Justice take control of the force, she finds herself tangled in political red tape and butting heads with a new partner, Chuck “Buke” Bukansky (played by Mad Men’s Brian Markinson), a seasoned detective from the Metro Police.

Scott, who is a member of the Metis Nation of Alberta, says the idea was to present a TV crime drama through a First Nations perspective. As with Blackstone, the stories will touch on racism, corruption and sexism and often centres on real crimes.

“I love to ground any show I do in reality,” he says. “They are inspired by true events. They’ll definitely have some relevant topics that some people recognize and some that they may not recognize or realize this is actually happening. For example, some of the pipeline issues. We also go after some of the native justice and go over healing lodges and how they relate to native justice and the criminal justice system.”

Eight episodes will be filmed on both the Tsuu T’ina First Nation and in various areas of Calgary. It is scheduled to air on APTN in the fall. Justin Rain, Garry Chalk, Adam MacDonald and Julian Black Antelope will also star. Calgary actress Michelle Thrush, who won a Gemini Award for her turn as troubled alcoholic Gail Stoney in Blackstone, plays Woodburn’s mother in Tribal. That character is world’s away from Gail Stoney.

“She is a very different kind of character,” Scott says. “She is very polished and refined, which is something that we haven’t always seen. There are other aspects of Indigenous people. There are successful Indigenous people, they don’t all live on reserves. Although that’s important to for our story purposes, that’s not Michelle’s character in this.”

Scott is the founder of Prairie Dog Film and Television, which is now based in Calgary. He says he hopes to produce more projects in town and “put people to work” while continuing to tell stories through an Indigenous lens.

“I think it’s critical,” he says. “I think Tribal has some characters who are real people operating in the real world. I don’t think we put them in a box. There’s compelling drama, entertaining drama set in an Indigenous world with an Indigenous voice. The lead character is a rock-solid hero type. It’s going to be interesting to see how that plays out. There will be an Indigenous voice on screen, at the same time it is still an entertaining show that strives to be true to the genre.”

– From the Creator of BLACKSTONE –


CALGARY, AB – May 29, 2019 – APTN and Prairie Dog Film + Television’s new one-hour crime drama series, TRIBAL begins production today in Calgary.

TRIBAL follows a First Nation Tribal Police Force as they navigate a controversial new Chief amid allegations of corruption and takeover from the federal government. TRIBAL’s award-winning cast includes Jessica Matten (Frontier, Blackstone) and Brian Markinson (Mad Men, Unspeakable). The series will also feature the talented Michelle Thrush, Justin Rain, Garry Chalk, Adam MacDonald and Julian Black Antelope.

In TRIBAL, the department of Federal Justice attempts to save political face under the mask of inclusion and collaboration as they take control of the Tribal Police Force. Interim Tribal Chief Samantha Woodburn (Matten) attempts to overcome political red tape, and must also prove herself amongst the old-white-boys club of the Metro Police. Thrust into an unfamiliar world, she navigates politics and procedure as she clashes with her new partner, Chuck “Buke” Bukansky (Markinson), a seasoned but broken-down Metro Police detective. This season examines First Nation crime stories based on real world cases, including mistaken identity, pipeline controversy, healing lodge justice, social services, tobacco and missing Indigenous Peoples.

TRIBAL Showrunner and Director Ron E. Scott is a prolific producer and innovator, who has contributed to over 190 episodes of TV that have broadcasted globally on Netflix, including the ground-breaking one-hour dramatic series Blackstone, now streaming on APTN and CBC.

TRIBAL is a fresh take on the dramatic crime genre and is told from a First Nation perspective,” says Ron E. Scott. “The narrative voice reflects relevant and universal dynamics, including racism, sexism, corruption and social futility – all within a world of political correctness and posturing. The show challenges the perceptions of the relationships between different cultures, generations and genders.”

Filming locations include Calgary and the Tsuu T’ina First Nation in Alberta, Canada.

TRIBAL is produced by Ron E. Scott, Janet Hamley, Adam Frost and Nancy Laing from Prairie Dog Film + Television. The series will broadcast in Canada on APTN.

TRIBAL is produced in association with APTN, in participation with the Canada Media Fund and the Rogers Cable Network Fund, with assistance from the Government of Alberta, the Screen-based Production Grant and the Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit.


Twitter: @tribaltvseries
Instagram: @tribaltvseries

Twitter: @APTN
Instagram: @aptn_ca

Founded by Ron E. Scott, Prairie Dog Film + Television is a world-class independent production company. With over 190 episodes of television produced, Prairie Dog’s content has streamed worldwide on Netflix and Hulu, and its programs have aired on major networks across North America (APTN, ABC, CBC, City TV, CTV, Global and Showcase). It is also active in global markets, including New Zealand, Australia, China, Europe, Russia and South Africa. In addition, their programming is used as an educational resource and has been donated to numerous universities, educational institutions and libraries around the world.

Prairie Dog’s programming has been recognized and awarded for excellence in Canadian drama through the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, the Leo Awards and the Alberta Media Production Industry Association – with over 140 nominations. Selected wins include Best Dramatic Series, Best Writing for Television Drama and Best Performance by an Actress at the Canadian Screen Awards.

APTN launched in 1999 as the first national Indigenous broadcaster in the world, creating a window into the remarkably diverse mosaic of Indigenous Peoples. A respected non-profit and charitable broadcaster, it’s the only one of its kind in North America. The network is Sharing Our Stories of authenticity in English, French and a variety of Indigenous languages to approximately 11 million Canadian subscribers. With over 80% Canadian content, APTN connects with its audiences through genuine, inspiring and engaging entertainment on multiple platforms.

For media inquiries, please contact:
Justine Gamez
Publicist, Intercommunicate

For more information about TRIBAL or Prairie Dog Film + Television, please contact:
Carmen Bachez
Associate Producer, Prairie Dog Film + Television
(403) 457-7735

For more information about APTN, please contact:
Emili Bellefleur
Manager of Communications, APTN
(514) 544-6124 ext. 227

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