Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 01/25/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
Last Modified: 01/25/2014 10:06 AM | Updates
It's the day after police went public about their nine-month Project Falling Star investigation of the Manitoba Warriors, which seems an ideal time to offer the latest news on a true aboriginal star who is the antithesis of what street gangs represent.
Not that as a kid from the North End, Adam Beach didn't experience the lure of that life.
It was his business associate, local film producer Jeremy Torrie, who contacted me to say Beach was in town and they had something exciting to announce. The first time I met the lead actor on the CBC series Arctic Air was in December 2002. He was in the lunchroom of a film-production facility on Pacific Avenue, where he was starring as J.J. Harper in the made-for-TV movie Cowboys and Indians.
No, not Cowboys & Aliens.
That would happen much later for Beach. Cowboys and Indians was based on my book with a similar title about the 1988 police shooting of native leader Harper. The movie was co-produced by Torrie, which is how I came to meet Beach that first time. "Hi, dude," he said.
And that was the end of that.
Until Tuesday night, when we reconvened in the lobby of Waterfront Drive's boutique Mere Hotel where Beach was staying. He and Torrie had just been at a Portage and Main dinner meeting at Hy's Steakhouse where, along with their other business partner, former CBC reporter Jim Compton, they had been at a table for 12 that included First Nations leaders from Saskatchewan. Beach, Torrie and Compton -- the three Aboriginal Amigos -- hoped to impress the assembled with their latest business brainwave called Bandwidth Digital Releasing, a new company whose profits are supposed to support the non-profit, Winnipeg-based Adam Beach Film Institute.
If you've never heard of the ABFI, I'm not surprised. Despite having his name attached, it's had almost no profile since it was incorporated in the spring of 2012 and officially launched just last summer with a $200,000 gift from the San Gold Corp. Fundamentally, the institute is aimed at attracting aboriginal film-industry students but is more about on-the-set training than classroom study. Not that the ABFI has any classrooms yet. All they have is an office on McMillan Avenue and lots of hope for developing a campus, maybe centred in the old Ellice Avenue movie theatre building where Adam could also have a condo.
"Getting this far, we've proven it can be done," Beach says. "We're taking it on a scale that nobody thought could ever happen for aboriginal people."
The broader vision is to turn it into what he calls a "new native Disney," with studios that produce movies and TV shows and work for his students and graduates.
But to make any of that come true, they need money, which brings us back to Bandwidth and a right-out-of-the-movie-box-office idea. They want to truck first-run Hollywood movies where they've never been before: to First Nations reserves in Manitoba. They hope to start this March in Norway House. Eventually, if the model works, they want to expand their road show to reserves and tribal homes all over North America.
"Bandwidth," Torrie explains, "ties into the Adam Beech Film Institute because all the profits that we make... every popcorn that we sell, every drink, every DVD, every ticket we sell goes toward the philosophy of what we're doing in the film institute. Which is, we are going to create the next generation of aboriginal filmmakers.
"The next Adam Beach."
Which prompted me to wonder who inspired Beach as a 14-year-old, when he was involved with gangs, people were telling him he should be a carpenter, and he was thinking of killing himself. That's when he turned to acting at Gordon Bell High School. Was there someone who helped him then the way he's trying to inspire other aboriginal kids to help themselves?
"It was just something I fell into," he says of acting. "I loved the idea of recreating myself through these characters. I could be a ninja. I could be a sailor. And that imaginative circumstance led me to say, 'I want to get far away from the lifestyle I'm living now.' And I just had the passion to want to pursue the ability to transform."
Beach recalls doing a six-month course in a volunteer theatre group at the Freight House, and the Manitoba Theatre for Young People helped him out, and of course, his high school.
"I never imagined me to be where I am now. I wasn't capable of having that foresight."
Now he says he wants his film institute to open doors for other aboriginal kids.
"So people can get ahead quickly and have the same growth, but without the frustration."
But back to my question.
Surely, given how it's turned out, someone recognized he was special and encouraged him as a kid.
"No," he says, "just myself."
So Adam Beach made Adam Beach.
Not that any of us should really be surprised by that.
But there's gotta be an inspiring lesson there for kids today who face the lure of street gangs as he did.
The lesson being:
You can be a bad actor.
Or a good one who comes back to show what being a real Manitoba warrior looks like.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 25, 2014 B1
Updated on Saturday, January 25, 2014 at 10:06 AM CST: adds missing word
Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories? Please use the form below and let us know.
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
MKO's Chief Harper loses more support over spending scandal after FN pulls out
Woman identified in city's 18th homicide
A man is dead after a fight at a home in Norway House
3 missing Afghan soldiers in custody
Winnipeg's firefighters are backing Judy Wasylycia-Leis
Assiniboine zoo becomes one of five Canadian zoos to get prized accreditation
Time to vote for the all-time offensive line Bomber player
MTS Centre renovations have expanded restaurant and lounge areas
Police looking for missing 16-year-old girl last seen in the West End
Brian Sinclair's lawyers argue that his right to sue medical authorities did not die with him
Officer wins bid to move inquest to Winnipeg
WPS overstaffed and inefficient: Fraser Institute
Host of young Winnipeg actors nominated for the Joey Awards
Katz, Browaty announce $520K investment at Chornick Park
Upcoming exhibition game chance for new Jets prospects to shine
Democratic-independent ballot scramble panics GOP
Authors Stenson, Pick at news café
Winnipeg Jewish Theatre back in December with first of two-show playbill
Environmental progress is feasible
Questions remain after White House security breach
'Amazing Race Canada' winners speak out
Confusing WSD boundaries on candidates' meeting agenda
Weather warming up for first week of fall
Police continue probe of 'very horrific incident'
Wrong to count NDP out: experts
Unfinished galleries make for a disappointing opening for human rights museum
Feeling lukewarm over the summer that was
Fall TV preview: Four new shows hitting screens on Monday
Slick Nik Ehlers Jets' big story as pre-season begins tonight
Green protesters join thousands worldwide
Sextet gets its groove on
Maze Runner leaves A Walk in the dust
Minimum wage hike necessary as CPI climbs
ALS volunteer knows value of care
Drug policy seriously outdated
Chiarot all meat and potatoes
Downs crosses finish line with special day
Chrétien's speech a highlight of human rights gala
Minnesota Wild at Winnipeg Jets, Sept. 22
Edge gets an edge on mountain homes