John Barnard always knew Dave Gaudet would be as good of a fit in front of the camera as behind it.
The North Kildonan-based director had worked with Gaudet, a cameraman who calls Lord Roberts home, on several projects, and had an inkling the switch would work.
He just needed to find the right project, and Gaudet drove the RV — Mucho Aloha — that he’d just purchased to Barnard’s office. The idea for a travel program popped into Barnard’s head, with Gaudet as the main personality.
"He’s crazy enough to have his own show," said Barnard, who also served as the show’s executive producer with Chris Charney, the show’s head writer.
Gaudet remembers Barnard telling him he was going to pitch a series involving him criss-crossing the continent in his RV to tell stories, but was told not to expect it to come to fruition.
Lo and behold, the project pushed forward and was picked up by the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network and became The Medicine Line. The show received the Golden Sheaf Award for Best Documentary Series at the 2014 Yorkton Film Festival at its May 24 gala. The premiere episode, Icons of Oppression, in particular, was honoured. The episode featured the Mardi Gras Indians in New Orleans and a segment in Lejac, B.C. detailing reported miracles associated with a local woman.
The name of the series refers to a nickname for the Canadian-American border, which Barnard said some Aboriginal people don’t make a point of recognizing because their history in the land predates the border. In this spirit, each episode features one American and one Canadian segment.
Other episodes have explored the Native American Occupation of Alcatraz in San Francisco, following the Peyote Trail in the southwestern United States, and Gaudet connecting with long-lost relatives in Louisiana as part of the 40,000 kilometres the crew travelled while filming the show in 2012.
The 51-year-old Gaudet discovered his First Nation heritage later in life, and has been able to use his opportunity with the series as a crash course of sorts in his cultural heritage. With the show’s tight shooting schedule, though, he regrets not being able to spend more time in each location.
"You meet somebody, get to know them, gain their trust, and tell their story," he said. "The next morning, we’re gone."
Barnard credited Gaudet for having the courage to put himself out there for the show, as he was constantly learning new information about his heritage on the spot.
"He embraced it and owned it," he said. "Dave just jumped right in."
The Medicine Line wasn’t Gaudet’s first time in front of the camera — he has appeared in television series The Sharing Circle and Oceans of Mystery and documentary Drop the Nickel in the past — but The Medicine Line was his first opportunity to roll with an opportunity.
"All my times (I’ve ended up) in front of the camera, I actually ended up with different directors going ‘Maybe you’re supposed to be in front of the camera," he recalled.
Gaudet and Barnard both hope for a second season, though nothing is confirmed as yet.
"If we took all the effort that went into our mistakes and put it into the show, we’d literally have a smokin’ show," Gaudet said. "We had a good show, but I know it can be better.
"I want National Geographic-quality images, and I know we’re capable of it."
Full episodes of the show are available online at http://aptn.ca/medicineline/