When Minister of Canadian Heritage Mélanie Joly announced in June the creation of the Indigenous Screen Office, she explained that Indigenous creators often face challenges that make it difficult for their stories to be created and shared.
Consequently, the office was created to focus on the development, production, and marketing of Indigenous content and the Canadian Indigenous screen-based industry. One of the purposes of the office is to foster relationships with broadcasters, distributors, institutions, and federal funders. Another objective is to support talent, including training as well as script development.
As Joly stated in a news release, the office will "help address…barriers, provide direct support to creators and showcase Indigenous content in Canada and on the world stage."
On January 31, Toronto-based broadcaster and cultural-industry leader Jesse Wente was announced as the first director of Canada's Indigenous Screen Office, and he begins the position today (February 1).
Wente has been a film program director at TIFF Bell Lightbox, a CBC culture columnist (including appearing on CBC Radio One’s Metro Morning), and has worked on numerous boards, including the Toronto Arts Council, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the imagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival.
The Toronto-born Wente is Ojibwe from the Serpent River First Nation.
“I look forward to working with the stakeholders in the Indigenous Screen Office as well as my colleagues in the broader sector, to expand the reach and impact of Indigenous stories on screen and further the opportunities for Indigenous storytellers on all levels of production in Canada,” Wente stated in a news release. “Now more than ever, the need for Indigenous narrative sovereignty is evident and I’m excited to work with the community of Indigenous creators to help grow our industry and amplify their voices.”
The office is a collaboration between the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN), the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation/Radio-Canada (CBC/SRC), the Canada Media Fund (CMF), Telefilm Canada, the Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA), and the National Film Board of Canada (NFB).
Additional partners include Bell Media, the Harold Greenberg Fund and VICE Studio Canada. The physical location of the office is yet to be determined.