Indigenous Screen Office establishes Solidarity Fund for BIPOC creators

The Indigenous Screen Office is now using its network to help other BIPOC creators through its Solidarity Fund. 

Partnership has funded 125 projects since its inception, with 58% of funding going to Black creators

Jesse Wente is the executive director of the Indigenous Screen Office. It started a Solidarity Fund to help Black and people of colour creators in Canada. (David Donnelly/CBC)

The Indigenous Screen Office is now using its network to help other BIPOC creators through its Solidarity Fund. 

"The ISO wanted to stand in support of other racialized creators and we were in a position to offer support like this," said Jesse Wente, executive director of the ISO.

In a news release, the ISO said it disbursed over $3.8 million in development funding for Indigenous, Black and people of colour creators across Canada in 2020.

While the office's goal is to support Indigenous screen storytellers, Wente said establishing the Solidarity Fund for other racialized communities was a response to the Black Lives Matter movement.

"It started out pretty modestly," said Wente, in reference to the fund.

"It's a way to get funding to other communities with an organization that has more infrastructure."

The initial funding included $800,000 through the Canada Media Fund's COVID Response Fund and expanded through funding from partners including Amazon Prime Video, Creative BC, IMPACT's Producers Pledge and Inspirit Foundation.

Creating sustainable partnerships 

Since the fund was launched, it has supported 125 projects with over 58 per cent of the grants going to Black creators.

Wente said that it's important for organizations like the ISO to have control of where money will be disbursed and through the Solidarity Fund, BIPOC creators will have fewer barriers to go through to access grants.

"I think what it demonstrated was that when you lower those barriers and just find a way to get the money into people's pockets, it can do a lot of good," said Amar Wala, a writer, producer and director based out of Toronto.

Wala is the co-founder of the Racial Equity Media Collective, which partnered with the ISO.

Amar Wala and Sherien Barsoum are the co-founders of the Racial Equity Media Collective. Wala said its important to have BIPOC creators in control of the funds that are being distributed. (Christina Carvalho)

He said partnerships like this are the result of BIPOC creators and organizations working together toward a common goal and that other communities can use the ISO as a model moving forward.

"This industry is not going to become equitable overnight," said Wala. 

He said as institutions like Canada Media Fund and the National Film Board move toward transformational change, "We do need to set aside certain pools of money that can be controlled by our communities and given out by our communities."

Wente said he hopes the new partnership will also lead to more BIPOC creators collaborating with each other.

"Collaboration and partnership, that's the dream," said Wente.


Lenard Monkman is Anishinaabe from Lake Manitoba First Nation, Treaty 2 territory. He has been an associate producer with CBC Indigenous since 2016. Follow him on Twitter: @Lenardmonkman1