Voices and vision With her production company, Fawnda Neckoway wants to tell stories that are personal and political

In the realm of filmmaking, $10,000 may seem like small potatoes for getting a project off the ground.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 02/02/2022 (358 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

In the realm of filmmaking, $10,000 may seem like small potatoes for getting a project off the ground.

But it is a good start — call it a down payment on a dream — for Winnipeg’s Fawnda Neckoway.

The Cree artist has worked in the film industry for years in various capacities, as an actor — she starred in dramatic re-creations in the 2012 documentary feature We Were Children — and worked in voice casting on the animated television animation Wolf Joe, as well as casting two seasons of the Eagle Vision TV series Taken. She’s also worked on the administrative side at Film Training Manitoba as the Aboriginal liaison officer.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Fawnda Neckoway received the 2021 Mosiac Film Fund award from the Winnipeg Film Group.

While working each job, Neckoway, 35, nurtured an ambition to start her own production company one day. That day came closer last month when she received a $10,000 prize from the Winnipeg Film Group’s Mosaic Film Fund to start a short doc that will be called Language Keepers.

“Even back when I started to take acting, I totally had this vision of starting my own production company,” Neckoway says in a phone interview.

“It’s fairly common in the industry that everybody kind of dabbles in other areas,” she says. “For me, the end goal was to be able to create my own films and stories. As I was training in various areas, I was able to see what all departments are doing.”

“Even back when I started to take acting, I totally had this vision of starting my own production company.” – Fawnda Neckoway

Neckoway is currently working closely with a business consultant, following her completion of an Indigenous Women Exploring Business program, as a stepping stone to that dream. She is also at work completing another documentary — titled Kita kiskithihtahkwaw: So They Will Know — that takes on the delicate subject of how to talk with young children about the residential school experience.

Her vision for the film Language Keepers is to complete a short documentary with a running time of around five minutes. But she says the subject can be expanded to something far greater down the road. After all, the subject of learning Indigenous language is both personal and political.

“I think what it first came from was I noticed in the past year there was a commonality between the Indigenous people in my generation who had specifically grown up in the cities, where there is a bit of a disconnect with our languages,” says Neckoway, a born and bred Winnipegger who is also a member of the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation, based in Nelson House, where her mother was raised.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Winnipegger Fawnda Neckoway, a member of Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation, is using her Mosiac Film Fund award to make a short documentary called Language Keepers.

“So maybe it’s because we weren’t with our families daily back home growing up,” she says. “But what I’ve noticed is a lot of people expressing that desire to want to learn.

“I found that encouraging because I have always wanted to learn and dive into it myself. I do have an understanding. But I want to learn to have a conversation in Cree.”

Neckoway says she’s far from alone in wanting to pick up more of the language: “I’ve been encouraged by peers. There’s a whole lot of us.”

There is also a generational aspect to her projects so far. As the mother of an eight-year-old son, Tyrell, Neckoway says much of her drive comes from that role.

“For me, the end goal was to be able to create my own films and stories. As I was training in various areas, I was able to see what all departments are doing.” – Fawnda Neckoway

“It’s all to ensure that my son can learn,” she says. “He’s very motivating when it comes to my story writing.”

Indeed, the concept for Language Keepers, she says, was “based on a conversation that he and I had and I guess I just wanted to dive further into that. My son has been very much in front of a lot of the writing I’ve done so far.”

That makes the name she’s chosen for her production company all the more fitting. Taken from her own last name, it will be Nikâwiy Productions.

“It means ‘my mother,’” Neckoway says.

randall.king.arts@gmail.com

Twitter: @FreepKing

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Randall King

Randall King
Reporter

In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.

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