Archive for the ‘Documentary Related’ category

DocsNorth – Hold Onto The Light

October 18, 2011

Just a short blog explaining the following video recently posted to my YouTube page. I was involved in a training program in Thunder Bay recently as refresher course for myself and others of varying degrees of experience. You can learn more about the DocsNorth training initiative


Here are the smiling happy folks involved. As part of the training we were schooled in the fundamentals of filmmaking by veteran filmmakers whom acted as mentors. The last two days culminated with the participants breaking up in to teams of 4-5 with a Mentor. In all, three teams were created. Incidentally, this photo-op presented itself, when during one of our sessions, smoke started billowing out the adjoining kitchen. Hence the firetruck!

The training btw, took place in Thunder Bay at the Finn Hall located on Bay Street above the world-famous Hoito Restaurant. Quite enjoyed this venue as it presented me the opportunity to tinkle the ivories on an old upright piano on stage during breaks. Moreover, plenty of good eats were catered to us by the good folks at the Hoito. Yum!


Aforementioned, the last days were reserved for shooting and editing a short film of 5-7 minutes length – all within about a 30 hr period! Groups were formed and we had to come up with a pitch. My group consisted of all the talented folks named at the end of the following video. Luckily, we had an enthusiastic and ambitious group, one of which was Phoebe who offered up her story relating to prescription pill addiction. With little discussion, we settled on telling her story. With some scrambling, we all settled into positions we were comfortable with. Our mentor was Kelly Saxberg, who was gracious in driving, toting stuff and advising us upon request. For folks who barely knew each other at the beginning of the week, we gelled as a group! As it is with most productions, magic and synchronicity became an ally despite the challenging circumstance presented. A big kudos to Phoebe for her allowing us to tell her story as part of this exercise. An important message for all. Perhaps, someone seeing this will realize there is hope and a way out from the grip of addiction. Hope this video serves as an inspirational story, and again, thanks to Phoebe for sharing.

I suppose I can go on in a long drawn out blog, but I think we are most are well aware that this prescription pill problem is a steadily increasing situation of concern, not only on many northern reserves, but in all communities and is having detrimental affects. If you were not aware of this, as I was until recently until I attended a small gathering at our local Friendship Centre as a journalist. It was there I heard many personal stories from visiting addicts and agencies alike involved in contending with this sweeping epidemic. I know locally, and in my community, places like our Friendship Centre and First Nation umbrella organizations like Mattawa and Nishnawbe Aski Nation and the like are making positive steps in contending with this problem. So as it is with the social ills heaped upon us, it will not happen overnight, but awareness and strides to coping and healing are being attended to. For many Methadone Clinics offer solutions. You can learn more here!
of the situation in the Thunder Bay Region. As many who still grapple with their addictions and attached stigma, I don’t think ostracizing individuals is not assisting in the fight to combat the problem, but rather supporting those seeking help should be commended on their bravery. In closing, thanks for the visit perhaps its best I quote Phoebe in saying in the video ” There’s a light that you have to sort of hold on to. To say that PAIN is sort of worth dealing with and there’s a lot of people in a lot of PAIN.”

Take care all and good health to you and yours.


P.S.S. One shocking thing I learned was the absorbent prices of prescribed opiate based pills, especially Oxycotin. An 80mg would run you $80 in Thunder Bay, $180 for the same pill in Geraldton – just 3 hours NE on Highway 11 and anywhere between $280-$380 is the going rate for fly-in reserves North of Geraldton. Apparently 80mg can keep you high most of the day. In any event, how is this affordable is beyond me? It really is a perplexing mystery.

P.S.S. Just as a sidebar, I was glad to lend one of my original tunes to the video. The song is called “Who Stole The Fire From Your Eyes”, a song I wrote in Moose Factory in 1994. I had never forseen it ever being utilized in this context, however, while digitizing the video for editing in Final Cut Pro, as an experiment Kelly, her husband Ron and I were listening to the tune and we thought out that perhaps “it just might work?” After consulting the rest of the team, we settled on it. You can find the full demo of the mp3 here!

P.S.S.S. DocsNorth Team: Phoebe Sutherland, Clarence Michon, Kelly Saxberg, Brendan Petersen, Rowena Moonias and Alethea Arnaquq-Baril


Lake Nipigon – A Midsummer’s Cruise – Short Film

September 5, 2011

Just a short blog regarding a wonderful cruise I had the opportunity to take this summer as a part of my parents 55th Wedding Anniversary. Many members of the family were in attendance and we had a quaint celebration at the local Community Hall in McDiarimid, Ontario a.k.a Rocky Bay or, as it is now known, Biinjitiwabik Zaaging Anishinaabek First Nation. The community is nestled in Pitijawabik Bay on the southeastern shore of Lake Nipigon. In any event, I just wanted to document the trip, seeing as I hadn’t been on the lake for sometime. Nothing complicated. Just took in the scenery. No narration. Just the events of the cruise as it unfolded. Incidentally, I also took it on as a challenge for myself as a documentary filmmaker. In all I took 80 shot periodically throughout the trip, bearing in mind I didn’t want to do a lot of editing. All shots were utilized. I edited in my mind as I shot. Only some fine cuts were required upon returning home. I’m happy with the results. Hope you enjoy it!

It’s evident, a great day on the lake was had by all! Special thanks to our Captain, and my cousin, Harold who made it all possible and made my parents anniversary that much more memorable. Also, along for the ride were my siblings Ernest, Brian, Bernadette and Vivian, along with her son Lennox. Also, in attendance were my cousin Dorothy and her husband Gilbert.


Depicted above is a painting by my very talented brother Brian, who painted this on the occasion of my folks 50th anniversary. It won him much recognition as a renowned portrait painter in a Canada-wide portrait contest. To learn more about his work, you can visit his blog here!

Incidentally, three generation – well now four – given my nephew was along for the ride, have enjoyed the magnificent scenery and the flora and fauna that surround this large freshwater lake. This is the lake the original inhabitants – the Ojibway – once called Animbiigoong, meaning ” waters that extends [over the horizon].” Though some sources claim the name may also be translated as ‘deep, clear water”. In my estimation, both apply. In any event, my grandfather fished the lake back in the day when commercial fishing was thriving. Though thought of as a reserve, Rock Bay was actually a good mixture of both Aboriginal and persons of European decent that partook in the economy of the lake during its heyday as a fishing village. Many of the Europeans, btw were of Nordic extraction.


And finally, credit for the music can be attributed to Mike Hardy, a former Rocky Bay/ MacDiarmid resident, who grew up with my Dad. I recently was given an old cassette that I turned into a CD and when I was looking for music for this short film, I thought this to be appropriate. My father, who is a great guitar picker himself would have also been appropriate, but I’m saving that for a later production. Incidentally, it is said, that in order to be accepted into the community, you pretty well had to have some musical talent. A guitar, fiddle, accordion and even a good knowledge of the spoons were your passport into the community. Cause after a long week of fishing on the lake the weekend provided ample opportunity for kitchen parties were musical jams abounded – along with sipping on Grandad’s Hooch! That’s all for now! Hope you enjoyed your visit!



– Often referred to as Canada’s sixth Great Lake, Lake Nipigon has a total area (including islands within the lake) of 4,848 km2 (1,872 sq mi)

– The lake is noted for its towering cliffs and unusual green-black sand beaches composed of the fine particles of a dark green mineral known as pyroxene.

– The French Jesuit first visited the area as early as 1667.

– The main line of the Canadian National Railway runs to the north of the lake at Armstrong. Another branch, now defunct – The Kinghorn/ CNR runs through Macdiarmid/ Rocky Bay.

– The first nations CBC TV series Spirit Bay was filmed on the lake at Macdiarmid/ Biinjitiwabik Zaaging Anishnabek First Nation Reserve in the mid-1980s.

In Search of Samuel Iserhoff – Part I

March 10, 2011


This is a genealogy story. The story starts back in the day, just after my completion of film school. Well, actually prior to that because the name “Iserhoff” was bantered around our household whenever my Mother was asked of our heritage on her side of the family. However, you see in the early days when my siblings and I were still kids, little of the our Iserhoff/ Russian connection was known, because my Mom was orphaned at a very young age. Thereafter, she was raised at Macintosh Residential School near Kenora, Ontario where she lost the connection to her Iserhoff family connection. So, this is an abbreviated story of my genealogical sleuthing for, “In Search of Samuel Iserhoff”, with a few of the pieces of the puzzle missing. That being said, it could very well serve as a basis as a documentary as I continue to piece together and find the missing pieces. To date it’s been very compelling and for a good part the final answers may be found in this picture. A picture that I found in the archives that identifies the man furthest right as Samuel Iserhoff.

Aside from the aforementioned rumblings in my youth of my Mother’s Russian heritage, my course was further solidified in the years that followed my completion of Film School. A journey that had more windings, twists and tributaries than both the Albany and Moose River where much of this story takes place.


Film School to Moose Factory – The Search Begins

I finished film school in Vancouver in 1991 and thus began my career in the Canadian Film and Television industry. Luckily, I was employed directly out of Film School and went on to work with National Film Board of Canada as they commenced to document the proceeding on the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. The proceedings took me throughout Canada and into many of the small reserves that dot this great expanse that we call home. In short, it was a great experience that would served to inform me of the history and plight of various Aboriginal communities. In short, when all was said and done, the experience served to shape me as to the kind of documentary filmmaker I wanted to be. Why is this important? I think it’s important to mention, because this infused me to better know my own history and that set me upon my journey to sleuth out my own heritage. As the old adage goes ” You can’t know your future, unless you know your history.” or words to that effect. With that, little did I suspect that fate would intervene and immerse me into a portion of Canadian history that is little known and certainly was never taught in the history books I learned from. Please accompany me as I explore.

Off To The Great White North

Well, after my gig with the NFB, I returned to Toronto. To be honest, I felt I really didn’t want to be there after having already lived there for seven years while working and attending Ryerson. In fact, I was still reeling from the stories I heard on the road with RCAP and was itching to do something pertinent to history of the Canadian Aboriginal experience! In part, that was satisfied by having opportunity to work with some documentary filmmakers who were of the same mind, but I wanted more. It was about this time, the jobs ran out and my saving were also dwindling fast. Moreover, the Christmas season was upon me and I was in desperate need of work…and fast! That’s when the call came through. A former colleague from NFC, informed me he was leaving his employment in Moose Factory and asked if I was interested in stepping up to bat. My initial thought was thinking if I could handle that isolation. My second thought was I needed the money. The latter ruled over. Like I said, I needed cash. My only consolation, is thinking this could be an opportunity to explore my heritage. Also, it may be important to note, that I knew of an Iserhoff that worked there back in the day as catechist for the Anglican church. Canon Samuel Iserhoff. The name I so often heard of as a kid. ” I’ll try it for a few months until they find someone permanent. Sign me up!” And with that I was off to Moose Factory. Canada’s No.1 Reserve by the way. A Hudson Bay Company post on near the shores where the Moose River flows into James Bay.

Arrival at Moose Factory and First Glimpse of Samuel Iserhoff

So off I went. With my stuff now in storage in Toronto, I ventured off to Moose Factory. I had my flights booked from Toronto via Timmins to Moosonee/ Moose Factory. It was early December and to be honest, I knew absolutely nothing about my destination with the exception that some of my history lie there. So off I flew. After about 4 hours of flying I arrived to greet a brisk Moosonee morning when I stepped off the AirCreebec Dash-8 onto the tarmac. From here I was on my own. I mean I had the address to my new employers, but that was about it.


So, I thought would I do what any urbanized Indian would do. I would simply collect up my belongings and go outside to “arrivals” and flag down a Cab. Yep, that’s what I’d do and all my problems would be solved! WRONG! Well, as it turns out, I stepped outside of the airport and looked about for a Cab. Not a single one to be found. Nothing! Nobody, just a Raven perched on a nearby tree cawing at me, and seemingly taunting me. With that, I went back inside and inquired to the ticket agent who informed be I needed to call for one. It wasn’t until about 20 minutes later that my ride arrived. There I was now. Off to the races! Once on my way, I engaged in pleasant talk with my driver about my big city life and how this was all new to me. He must have been totally enthralled, because he didn’t say much until we began to seen a hint of the Moosonee suburbs. I wasn’t until then that he asked were I was going. I told him the employer’s name and address. Things suddenly went silent and then he turned his head to me in the back seat – cause that’s where Urban Indians sit eh – and told me he couldn’t complete the trip. As you can imagine I was taken aback a little. My first thought was whether I had insulted him in some way. ” I got money.” I proclaimed. ” That’s not the problem Chum. It’s Freeze Up!” he replied. “Freeze up?’ I inquired “What’s that?” He went on to explain “Freeze up” referred to few weeks the Moose River takes to form ice in the river around Moose Factory. Thereafter, he explained it would safe to drive over to Moose Factory with vehicle via a winter road.
” So, what you’re implying is Moose Factory is an island?” I jested “Yep! you got it!” he teased. Dumbfounded, I asserted “Well I really need to get to work for my new job. Can you tell me how I might go about that?” His answered ” You know where I picked you up?’ “Uhuh.’ I acknowledged “Well you get on a helicopter right near there!” Excited by the prospect of my first ever helicopter, I instructed him to take me there ASAP! Upon arrival at the landing pad, he dropped me at a small makeshift shack that served as the ticket office for the company that provided the helicopter excursions. I paid the man and stepped inside the shed where a handful of people were waiting. One Elder First Nation gentleman must have detected I was and outsider by the what must have been evident by my confusion “Over there!” he pursed his lips, pointing to a guy behind a counter “Get your ticket.” With ticket in hand, it wasn’t too long thereafter that the helicopter arrived. It was a six-seater Ranger I was informed. Knowing it was my first ‘copter ride, ’cause I was sure to announce it, the locals let me take the copilot’s seat. Happily I climbed in as the rest of the patrons strapped themselves in the backseat. I can assure you, there is nothing as exciting as your first helicopter ride as being a “co-pilot” no matter what your age. Though the ride only lasted about five minutes, I can see we were headed directly to Moose Factory. However, something curiously went wrong. The community got bigger as we approached it, and then got smaller again as we flew passed it.


However, it wasn’t too long until we scooted on past a church nearby where we hovered above and landed where a small collection of cars that had gathered near the shores of the Moose River. Four cars to be exact. “Wait!” I thought and made a quick calculation whilst thinking to myself. “K, the pilot isn’t getting off. There’s four people in the back. Uhm…that means…” Before I had a chance to further contemplate, we landed. Within moments the four in the un-strapped, gathered their belongings and went to their respective vehicles. The helicopter pilot motioned for me to un-strap and be careful stepping down into the mud. With the door near slapping my ass on the way out, I felt my feet slosh in the mud as I made my way to higher ground. The helicopter lifted off. The cars departed and there I was! Abandoned, clueless and alone. “Whaa just happened here?” I stood sloshing about in runners, sorely under-dressed in what amounted to little more than a mere windbreaker. I peered about looking out onto the Moose River. Cold bleak nothingness was all I saw! I turned toward the road the cars departed. There I could see above the tree-tops was a steeple of a church. I gathered up my belongings and amble on down the road toward that church. A church, I was later to learn, would hold many clues as to who the real Samuel Iserhoff was!


To be continued…

In Part II we meet Samuel Iserhoff, but like I mentioned at the outset of this story, it has many twists and turns


Another Clue! – Excerpt from the book Land of the Moosoneek


Things start to get real peculiar in Part II. Thanks for the visit. Hope you enjoyed the journey so far….