Mushkeg Media’s president Paul M. Rickard is an Omuskego Cree from Moose Factory in Northern Ontario. For the past ten years, he has been working as a producer, director and cameraman in collaboration with independent production companies and organizations such as Nutaaq Media Inc. Wildheart Productions, Wawatay, CBC North and the National Film Board of Canada. Now Paul is venturing into the area of independent production.
Paul studied radio and television production at the University of Western Ontario School of Journalism before joining Wawatay Native Communications Society as a television producer.
In 1994, he went south to Montreal to train as a camera operator with the National Film Board of Canada. In this capacity, Rickard did cinematography on several NFB documentary films for broadcast, including Multiple Choices (Alison Burns), and First Nation Blue (Dan Prouty). He worked on a number of other independent productions, and in 1996 was producer/director of the CBC North TV series Maamuitau.
In 1996, he wrote, shot and directed his first film, entitled Ayouwin: A Way of Life. This documentary about Rickard’s father, a trapper in Moose Factory, Ontario, was produced by Wildheart Productions for broadcast on the TV Ontario Aboriginal series.
In 1997, he directed Okimah at the National Film Board. This film focuses on the knowledge handed down by Cree hunting leaders, the okimah, and stresses the importance of the annual goose hunt to the survival of traditional Cree culture. Released in 35 mm, it premiered at the Vancouver Film Festival in 1998. In 1999, he directed and CO-produced Finding My Talk, a pilot for the 13 part series; Finding Our Talk, on APTN, now in its second season.
Interview with Paul M. Rickard
When Paul Rickard was growing up in Moose Factory in the 1970s, he remembered that his uncle was one of the only people who owned a TV. His brother Fred presented “Hollywood” é film screenings, which Paul watched with keen interest. He also helped his brother organise the screenings.
At University of Western Ontario, Paul studied journalism, not film. When he went home to Moose Factory, he worked in the community’s brand new communications centre. This was in the 1980s and they were producing TV programs in Cree for James Bay and the surrounding area. He stayed on for three years, interviewing elders, covering events and conferences in Cree, his mother tongue.
The film “The Winter Chill” was based on a story his father told him about his grandfather. It was a short story, scarcely a page long, and his father said it would be a good story to adapt to the screen.
Paul had always been interested in making feature films, although he had mostly made documentaries. So, he adapted the story, and decided to set it in the present day. The old stories were designed to teach lessons that are just as relevant nowadays as they were in the past.
Nowadays people live in communities and don’t necessarily live off the land and by their parents’ ways. Paul simply wanted to show that traditional stories had a place in the contemporary world.
“The Winter Chill” was filmed in Moose Factory. If he had been a producer, he might have opted to film in the Laurentians. But he was adamant that the action had to take place in its original setting. This was quite a challenge because we were filming in February in minus 30 temperatures.
Five years ago, Paul made a documentary about Aboriginal languages throughout Canada. It was interesting to see how people in the communities are working on projects and making some headway towards revitalising and strengthening their languages. Thus, all these documentaries were made in Aboriginal languages.
Film directors have an important role to play in the communities. If Paul makes a film in English, he’ll have it translated into Cree or whatever Aboriginal language his film subjects speak.
Paul is very inspired by elders and the stories they tell. He thinks filmmakers have a role in passing on their stories by putting them on screen. It is also important to transmit knowledge to youth and to work with them through training programs or by providing workshops. This is one of the goals of the Moose Factory Film Festival where Aboriginal filmmakers have been hosting workshops since 2001.
Excerpts from the film The Winter Chill by Paul M. Rickard
A winter scene. In the woods we can see the form of a deer, or similar animal. The next shot shows coniferous trees swaying back and forth in the wind. Then a close-up of spruce branches, and a zoom out to the coniferous trees. An expanse of snows marked by footprints appears in the foreground.
The following scene shows what a person would see when walking through the woods. Viewers see the silhouette of a man running ahead. Then we see more trees as we move.
In the next scene, a middle-aged man is sitting at a table in what looks like a hunting lodge. An oil lamp suspended above the table lights the scene. The man is cleaning a rifle. He turns around when the door opens, as another man comes in. This man is young and seems out of breath. He stares at the man sitting at the table.
We can see the young man, who has just come in, taking off his mittens and unfastening his coat. It is obvious that the men know each other. They begin to converse. The young man seems nervous. He moves around the table while grabbing a bottle of whisky from a cloth bag. The man with the gun looks at him. He speaks to the young man who sits at the other side of the table, also talking. He has kept his tuque on his head and is still out of breath. He looks very angry. The man with a gun keeps silent and listens as the young man has his say.
The young man serves himself a drink of whisky in a metal cup. The man with a gun says something to the younger man. The latter keeps on talking, but he seems to have calmed down.