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imagineNATIVE announces the first producer-focused professional development lab for emerging and mid-career Canadian Indigenous Producers looking to hone their skills in dramatic feature film production.

In recent years, the Indigenous film community has identified the immediate need for increased training and professional development opportunities for Indigenous creative feature film producers in Canada. As audience appetite – and opportunities – continues to grow for Indigenous directors, there exists a need to nurture Canadian Indigenous film producers by providing them with development not found elsewhere.

The imagineNATIVE/CMPA Canadian Indigenous Film Producer Mini-Lab, generously sponsored by the Canadian Media Producers Association, is designed to hone the skills and knowledge base of emerging Canadian Indigenous producers through dedicated one-on-one engagement with an established Indigenous creative industry leader.

For 2015, imagineNATIVE has invited Heather Rae (Cherokee) to lead this new initiative.

Arguably the most prominent Native American producer in Hollywood, Rae’s 20-year career has spanned documentary and dramatic work, with over 36 films as director, producer and executive producer. Her award-winning work includes producing the twice Academy Award, Sundance Grand Jury Prize, and seven-time Spirit Awards nominated Frozen River (2008), for which she received the 2008 Spirit Award for Producer of the Year. Her directorial effort, the multi-award-winning Trudell (2005), premièred at the Sundance Film Festival and played at over 100 festivals including imagineNATIVE. For six years, Rae ran the Native Program at the Sundance Institute and was a programmer for the Sundance Festival. She has worked as an advisor or consultant to Sundance, ITVS, the Rockefeller Foundation, National Geographic, PBS, Film Independent, the Independent Feature Project, Berlinale and other media companies and organizations. She has spoken at universities, conferences and summits the world over and remains a vital force in the independent and Native American film industries.

Through a public application process, imagineNATIVE will invite four emerging Canadian Indigenous producers – with minimal credits on professionally presented short or feature film work – to participate in a three-day “mini-lab” with Heather Rae.

Through a series of daily private, intensive half-day sessions running October 15-17, 2015 guided by Canadian producer and imagineNATIVE board member, Paula Devonshire (Mohawk), Rae will discuss her own projects and experiences, share best practices of creative and business production, and equip participants with producing savvy needed to develop their projects.

Rae will discuss through her own projects and experiences, sharing best practices throughout the creative and business production processes, including:

  • Evolution of a career: Rae discussing her professional career trajectory, the lessons learned and experience gained, what drives her decisions, the cultural impact and influence of her Indigenous heritage on her career, managing and committing to creative and economically driven projects, and work/life;
  • Producing vs. Executive Producing: distinction, benefits and challenges;
  • Case studies of her leading works to provide guidance and insight on practical producing processes for large scale dramatic feature film;
  • Navigating larger feature film funding applications and opportunities in the US
    for international (co-production) projects; and,
  • Building relationships with high-level funders, studios, professionals, and talent.

CMPA President and CEO, Reynolds Mastin remarks “CMPA is proud to support the inaugural ImagineNATIVE/CMPA Mini-Lab for Indigenous Canadian Producers. We believe this initiative will help launch a new generation of Indigenous producers, and their stories, establishing fresh voices that will enrich audiences around the world. “

Daniel Northway-Frank, imagineNATIVE’s Manager, Festival Initiatives adds, “Heather has achieved a level of success in the American industry that few Native American producers have. For emerging Canadian producers to learn and be inspired through her experiences and insight, we hope this mini-lab will spur the charge of our selected participants to succeed in producing within and outside of Canada’s media arts sector.”

Artist Spotlight

In addition to the mini-lab, Rae is also the focus of the inaugural Artist Spotlight.

The imagineNATIVE Artist Spotlight acknowledges Indigenous creative leaders whose work has broken new ground through art and industry and who continue to make lasting contributions to the Indigenous media arts landscape. For this inaugural Spotlight the Festival brings Heather Rae (Cherokee) and her celebrated work to imagineNATIVE audiences in three screenings with engaging Q&As with the artist. The full line up will be announced in mid-September.


Applicants must be Indigenous Canadian (First Nations, Inuit or Métis) and be resident in Canada. Travel and accommodation are not provided; this lab takes place during the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival in Toronto from October 15 to 17, 2015 and all successful applicants must be available for this period.

Applicants must submit the following via email to

  • Name
  • Location (Country, Province, City)
  • Indigenous Affiliation
  • CV and filmography including awards and festivals listing
  • 1 page (max) letter of intent detailing your interest and how you hope the mini- lab will improve your skills.

Deadline for applications is September 28, 2015. Applicants will be notified of their results by October 1, 2015.

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About The Author

MUSKRAT Magazine

MUSKRAT is an on-line Indigenous arts, culture magazine that honours the connection between humans and our traditional ecological knowledge by exhibiting original works and critical commentary. MUSKRAT embraces both rural and urban settings and uses media arts, the Internet, and wireless technology to investigate and disseminate traditional knowledges in ways that inspire their reclamation.

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