Harsh winters, competitive canines and a young sled dog named Ellesmere who finds her place in the pack.
It’s an underdog story — steeped in themes of resilience and harmony between Indigenous mushers and their dogs — that Miranda Currie has long wanted to tell.
Now, with industry insight and the financial backing to boot, she’s doing just that.
Currie, a Yellowknife writer and musician, is one of four budding filmmakers recently awarded $16,000, plus an additional $10,000 of in-kind services, after being selected by a jury following a two-week bootcamp in Winnipeg as part of the National Screen Institute’s IndigiDocs training program.
“I’m super excited,” Currie said. “I’ve got stuff supporting this now and I don’t have to work so hard to find different supports in order to do the film,” she said.
Currie, an artist of Cree heritage known for her music and her Anna Up North children’s book series, joined seven other fledgling filmmakers in Manitoba’s capital in February. They attended an immersive mentorship workshop and learned the tools of the trade from industry professionals. From storytelling theory and technical training to entertainment law and insurance, it was all covered.
Usually someone who creates in solitude — alone in her room or by herself out on the land — Currie quickly learned how important collaboration is in filmmaking.
“It’s not that I’m not a team player, it’s just that you have to involve so many people and that was a change and a shift for me,” she said.
Having more people on board means more time to focus on the creative process, said Currie.
“Collaboration makes it happen.”
At first, Currie found the experience a bit intimidating. She was learning alongside participants with experience in the industry.
“I haven’t really worked in the film industry at. I thought: my film’s never going to make it,” recalled Currie.
But it did. Currie thinks her project’s strong and unique storyline made the difference.
“It’s a story that’s maybe not as commonly told. We don’t see a lot of stories from a Northern Indigenous perspective,” she said.
Since her foray into filmmaking, that’s been Currie’s goal: to bring family and children-friendly Northern Indigenous content to the big screen.
With her in-the-works project Tails on Ice, Currie captures the tale of Ellesmere, a yearling who trots alongside sled dog team members, Niyanin and Newo.
It’s a coming-of-age story centred on Ellesmere; finding her place in the pack’s hierarchy.
“It’s also a story about female empowerment,” said Currie.
She said male Canadian Inuit sled dogs are usually the most sought after; they’re perceived to be able to pull more weight. The three strong female dogs featured in Tails on Ice challenges that notion, said Currie.
Covid-19 has disrupted production plans for the film projects that advanced following February’s bootcamp, but Currie — practising physical distancing while adhering to government guidelines — has been hitting the trails with her dogs out on Yellowknife Bay before the season winds down.
Some of the dogs are becoming videographers themselves — Currie is harnessing GoPros to the animals to give audiences a point-of-view look from the dogs’ perspective.
She’s aiming to wrap up post-production by the fall.
Projects nurtured through the IndigiDocs program will be aired on APTN following next year’s deadline.