Indigenous

Online platform aims to help Indigenous women pursue careers in TV and film

Award-winning Anishinaabe/Ashkenazi producer and director Jennifer Podemski is launching an online platform for Indigenous women interested in pursuing careers within the television, film and media industries.

Jennifer Podemski says goal is to increase representation in media through professional development

Jennifer Podemski is an award winning Anishinaabe/Ashkenazi producer and director. (George Pimentel)

An award-winning Anishinaabe/Ashkenazi producer and director is launching an online platform for Indigenous women interested in pursuing careers within the television, film and media industries.

Jennifer Podemski has produced TV shows and films such as Moccasin Flats, The Other Side, Empire of Dirt, Future History and the Indspire Awards, and has acted in Cardinal, Hard Rock Medical, Degrassi: The Next Generation, Fire Song, Sensitive Skin, Blackstone, The Diviners, and Dance Me Outside. 

The online platform, the Shine Network, will provide a digital space with access to resources like master classes and tutorials and will also have an exhibition component to showcase content created by Indigenous women. 

She said the idea for the platform came from the feeling that a space for Indigenous women to expand their potential in the media arts was needed "and I was compelled to do something about it."

I know what it's like to be the only one in the room and that is not just a scary feeling but it's an unnecessary feeling.- Jennifer Podemski

She said the platform had been in her mind for about a year but during the pandemic she had time to make it a reality. 

"With everything that was happening with the protests, issues of representation, issues of systemic racism, the realities being faced by Indigenous women in terms of disproportionate outcomes when it comes to success in all sectors and murdered and missing Indigenous women, I just got to thinking I want to be a part of the solution," she said.

"I think in order to really change things for the better, my best option is to offer my services and answer the call to provide a platform to Indigenous women who are in pursuit of a career in the film television and media arts sector." 

Over the last four months, Podemski has been working with three other women — her sister, social media strategist Rebecca Nixon and web designer Victoria Vaughan — to create the platform. 

So far the initiative has been self-financed and Podemski is looking for donors and strategic partners for support. 

In 2019, the fifth On Screen Report by Women in View, a not-for-profit organization for strengthening gender representation and diversity in Canadian media, found women, especially Indigenous women and women of colour, were underrepresented and underemployed in Canadian publicly-funded film and television productions. 

For example, the report said that in 2017 in Canadian publicly-funded television, women made up 43 per cent of writers, 27 per cent of directors and nine per cent of cinematographers, but zero per cent were Indigenous women, across all categories. 

Between 2015 and 2017, there were 267 publicly funded film projects and 12 contracts went to Indigenous women: six for writing and six for directing. 

Podemski said in her 30 years of experience in the television, film and media industry landscape she's faced an array of barriers, from the impact of systemic racism, lack of support for Indigenous perspectives and access to funding.

"My focus for this initiative is to accelerate the professional development of Indigenous women so we can see more of us reflected in front of and behind the camera," she said. 

"I know what it's like to be the only one in the room and that is not just a scary feeling but it's an unnecessary feeling.

"I think the most important thing is to build capacity and to create the kind of inspiration and knowledge required to take the next step in your career."

The Shine Network is slated to launch in January 2021. 

About the Author

Rhiannon Johnson is an Anishinaabe journalist from Hiawatha First Nation based in Toronto. She has been with the Indigenous unit since 2017 focusing on Indigenous life and experiences throughout Ontario. You can reach her at rhiannon.johnson@cbc.ca and on Twitter @rhijhnsn.

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