Fort William’s Erin Collins and cousin Steve Collins check out some of the Wapikoni Mobile equipment that a group of First Nations youth used to create five films from May 5-30.

By Rick Garrick

FORT WILLIAM—A film about former Olympic ski jumper Steve Collins was among five created by youth in Fort William during a month-long visit by the Wapikoni Mobile travelling training and creation studio.

“We went up to Big Thunder for an interview,” Collins says about the former Big Thunder ski jump facility that is located near Fort William. “I just loved being there because of the experience I had in my career there.”

The Fort William citizen competed with the Canadian National Ski Jumping team for eight years, including at the 1980 and 1984 Olympics. He enjoyed working with the Wapikoni Mobile program, which included his cousin Erin Collins, a Confederation College film student who worked as the local coordinator for Wapikoni, and a group of First Nations youth.

“It was excellent,” Collins says. “It’s just nice to do that with our own people.”

Erin says the Wapikoni program was a “great opportunity” to get some hands-on experience in filmmaking after completing her studies in April. The program ran from May 5-30.

“It’s been quite the experience to see people come in and discover or rediscover their joy of filmmaking,” Erin says. “It’s been great for me personally to work with people who have done so much work in film. And it’s a great resource for people who have never had any experience in film.”

Erin used interviews and some archive photos to create the film about Steve.

“We had some good [footage] from today, but we ended up using mostly old things and looking back,” Erin says. “We hiked up to Big Thunder. It was quite the hike.”

Fort William’s Ed Collins also completed a film, Driving Forward, during the program.

“It’s a great experience to kind of get back into something that I was really connected with, which was writing,” Ed says, noting that the film was about getting into a new relationship. “It was something personal to me. It was me kind of coming to terms with my past relationships to kind of get into the next one.”

Ed says it was an “amazing” experience to work with the Wapikoni staff and participants.

“This is the best group of people I’ve ever met and worked with,” Ed says.

Couchiching’s Sarah McPherson says it was a “fantastic” experience to work in the program.

“I felt really encouraged to do what I love and to use all of this to give myself a voice and to give other people a voice,” McPherson says. “My film was about my photography and how I’m using it to make people feel more confident in themselves.”

Aroland’s Edmund Narcisse says this was the first time he created a film.

“They made it really fun for me and more comfortable,” Narcisse says about the Wapikoni staff. “[I learned] how to operate cameras and edit and get sounds. It’s really interesting stuff to do.”

Fort William’s Gail Bannon says the youth’s work was “amazing.”

“I was just telling someone about planting seeds and planting seeds of film,” Bannon says. “Some of these kids are going to take it and go with it. Right from day one people were in that trailer just writing out some ideas and look what came out of it, some pretty cool short films.”

About 30 youth participated in the program, with about 10 of them working on the five films.

Funded by the federal government and the United Nations, Wapikoni is scheduled to travel to 21 First Nation communities across Canada this year, including Wikwemkoong, and a Sami community in Norway.