Producer/Director Jason Brennan Grew up immersed in the richness of her heritage. “I think everyone is influenced by their history in their youth and what they’ve lived when it comes to their work, but in my case I see it more as making who I am as opposed to being influenced by my upbringing. . I grew up as an English-speaking First Nations person and a French-speaking Québecois. I spent most of the school year in town and then my summers in Rez. I have to admit that it was through my First Nations that I developed an interest in storytelling, I think it’s an integral part of being Indigenous. Stories heard from uncles, cousins and aunts. I also think that as a person who likes to experience things and observe closely what is happening around me, it has helped me to write, direct and create some of the stories that I wanted to tell. I like to think that I am someone who observes first and speaks later. I reflect on what I see and hear and then make my own assumptions and thoughts about it. But what I create is based on lived experience. I think that’s why it gives it a certain sense of realism,” he says.
Jason’s new photo, inhuman, presents the horror through an indigenous lens. “I think we’ve gone beyond changing representations, which I think other great indigenous filmmakers have already done in the last few years, and we’ve moved towards telling stories with a certain authenticity. What’s great is that we’ve moved to a place where different stories and genres are being explored from an indigenous perspective. I don’t think I went into my film saying I wanted to portray this or that. I wanted to tell a story that was relatable and that explored the Wendigo story but with characters I knew and based on people I lived with. As mentioned in my film, this is my own interpretation based on accounts and stories I have heard from elders in my community as well as some older people. If it changes the presentation then great but first and foremost I wanted to tell the story of an indigenous main character and how his cultural dilemma is lived through this story. I wanted to tell a story that felt real to me even though it dealt with a ‘somewhat’ mythical creature.”
Previous sour experience in the industry led him to found his own company, Niche Media, prioritizing an indigenous workforce and developing untapped talent. “After being a ‘token Indian’ in a few shows I ventured into the business which left a bitter taste in my mouth. I decided to start my company because I never want to be in that position again. I think that if you want to tell a story with a certain authenticity, there has to be as much indigenous input as possible in front of and behind the camera. It’s important to say that in Quebec we lag behind the progress we’ve made in the rest of Canada when it comes to Aboriginal filmmaking so we’re still at a stage where we’re trying to develop talent outside of TV or film. . So we are constantly on the lookout for new voices or potential talent in any field related to our projects. And we understand that these voices have to have some room to develop and make some mistakes and learn on the fly so we create projects that allow us to do that. There’s no better way to develop talent than actually being involved in the show, which means you can only learn so much in shadow roles. We’ve built some screenwriters and some directors by putting them in positions where they help more established writers and directors and help them understand and progress. We hope that one day we can catch up with the rest of Canada and be able to hire and develop editors, directors of photography, sound people and all the different roles that exist.”
inhuman Explores the Wendigo, a supernatural entity from the spiritual traditions of the Anishinaabe people of North America, in the context of today’s world. “The film is a contemporary take on the story of the Wendigo as it was told to me by my elders or people in my community. I remember growing up hearing about the Wendigo and although at first it was a bit of a joke, the kind of story you told around the campfire to scare each other. The story became more specific and bigger when I started hearing older people talk about it. That’s when I really started to understand the symbolism and how the story is a real staple in my culture. When I started hearing more about it, I thought that the themes behind the Wendigo story are still really relevant today. We are talking about selfishness, culture of loss, wanting to belong, greed. The film is just that, it is the story of a man who has lost himself. He has lost his sense of self, his connection to who he is, and has replaced them with something. This slowly brings him closer to the Wendigo.” People who have gone through rough times like the main character Matthew are particularly vulnerable. “From what I understand, the Wendigo is always around and preys on people when they are at their lowest. People have seen the Wendigo and unharmed and I’ve heard a few stories of people actually being killed by Wendigo. I think the film walks a fine line because I know for many the Wendigo story is one that shouldn’t be shared and many feel that talking about the Wendigo will give it more power. I I think it’s cleverly addressed in the film because we never officially refer to what’s going on as the Wendigo, and rather the whole concept is hinted at.” The narrative of the wendigo can only be authentically relayed through an indigenous perspective. “This is a story that I am very proud to have brought to the screen and then told. I’m not the first filmmaker to bring the story to the screen and I think that for once, it’s being taken into account by people who actually know about the animal’s cultural significance. In the past ten years alone, many non-Indigenous filmmakers have attempted to tell the Wendigo story and failed miserably. They presented it as a creature that hunts and kills men but it’s more than that and I think that’s what I wanted to do was to get behind that first idea and really understand what the story of the Wendigo really is.
Matthew has recently been disconnected from home and is feeling the full impact of that cultural drift. “It makes a statement about society today that if you’re an Aboriginal person who decides to leave home for school or work, you end up drifting away and it becomes difficult for you to maintain your ties to your community. I want to give credit to a lot of young adults who are experiencing this right now because there seems to be more of a renaissance in terms of being able to juggle both of these lives, but a lot of people around my age felt like society made it so that you had to pick one or the other. . Many who decided to leave had to go through a process of reconnecting or figuring out how to coexist in both these worlds. And unfortunately as an Indigenous person, when you grow up away from home, sometimes it’s easy to brush off that aspect of who you are away from or to self-medicate to help deal with feeling isolated or losing your cultural anchor. . In the case of our main characters, it’s easy to see or imagine that choosing a profession to be a neurosurgeon would require him to give up a lot and gradually return to his current home community so little and so far in the middle that he loses most of his ties and most of his culture. will lose.” The Wendigo is a metaphor for this sacrifice. “Like everything else that comes with different teachings in Aishnabe culture, there’s more to a particular story to help us understand something about life. That’s what I love about telling stories in my community, because I’m the other. Not wanting to speak for anyone’s community, there’s always a way to help you understand things or teach you things beyond the first degree.”
Although Jason enjoys managing, his priority is helping others succeed in their art. “To be honest, I’m more known as a producer than a writer director, so my plan is still to help indigenous writers and directors with their own projects. I think I’ll eventually write and direct something else, but for now I’m going to focus on producing. I’m also very aware that I’m privileged to be in my position as an Indigenous creator and that should come with a responsibility to allow other people to tell their stories.” He has many other projects to focus on! “I just produced and finished a drama miniseries here in Quebec for our national French broadcaster, Radio-Canada. This series is called plant for you and explores the impact of residential schools and how it affects a particular family over a 50-year period. It is written and directed by Sonia Bonspiel Boileau, who is an excellent writer and director. It is one of the first 100% Aboriginal drama series produced in Canada. So far it’s been very well received in Quebec and now we’ve signed a deal to bring it to an international audience. It has been selected at several major television festivals around the world. We are very excited. We are developing a few more drama series which we hope will get greenlit in the next few years. I am also developing a few documentary series that will involve some new writers and directors. I have some ideas for my next project as a writer/director, but I’m not sure yet if it’s going to be a series or a movie. It’s once again exploring one of the unresolved or unexplained phenomena of Anishnaabe culture and using it as a catalyst to explore the coexistence of rage and the non-Indigenous city.” Just as he was inspired by his predecessors, Jason would inspire countless other young Indigenous creatives.