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The 2012 10 to Watch: Lisa Jackson

The young writer and director tends to make Aboriginal-experience-based films and docs that transcend cultural boundaries: her credits include the Genie award winning short Savage, and she is currently working on a feature called Mush Hole.

Each year, Playback puts out a call for the industry to recommend its best and brightest up-and-coming talent for our 10 to Watch list. And the search keeps getting tougher, as the professionals who make up the screen entertainment industry keep getting better. The selection represented here were carefully chosen with input from a variety of industry sources and organizations. This year’s 10 to Watch were revealed in Playback‘s Fall issue; the stories here are longer versions of the Q&As that appear in the print publication.


The buzz: This young Vancouverite tends to make Aboriginal-experience-based films and docs that transcend cultural boundaries: her credits include the Genie award winning short Savage, which screened at Berlinale and SXSW in 2010, and she is currently working on a feature called Mush Hole.

What influences the subject matter of your projects?

The heart of my films is usually character. I generally like films that leave viewers with questions rather than answers. So if there’s something about a film that genuinely intrigues me and leaves me questioning something larger thematically, that’s what engages me.

What is the doc-making landscape like in Canada, in light of the funding cuts?

The landscape is dire. I’ve been in the industry coming up on 10 years, and the change in that time is incredible. It used to be that most broadcasters had a documentary strand, now almost no broadcasters do. Canada is known for its film, but it’s really known for documentary. The documentaries from Canada win awards all over. The NFB has an historic and incredible reputation. It’s a sad state of affairs.

Does your directing approach change when you’re doing fiction versus docs?

My approach to directing is project-specific. I tend to blend genres, but that always comes from the content of the film itself. I thought I would never do a zombie film [Savage], but I have because it suited the subject matter of residential schools to me in an interesting and thought-provoking way.

What are some of the challenges you face in being both the writer and director?

It’s something that comes naturally to me. Before I got into film, I was a writer. I find the fact that my roots are in documentary is a really good basis for being a fiction script writer, because you’re exposed to so many types of people. So I found that my documentary background actually put me in a really good place for the fiction film writing.

What’s coming up for you?

I’m working on a feature film with the working title Mush Hole. It’s my first feature and I’m at first draft. I’m also just finishing this one-hour documentary [How a People Live].

I’m interested in following what I did with [short film] Savage, which was this more imaginative theatrical piece, and I’ve got a larger piece in mind that would be even more theatrical. That’s at the early stages. In August I’ll be shooting a short film that’s a commission. It’s called Snare, and it’s a more movement-based piece commenting on the issue of violence against aboriginal women.

What’s your take on the future of indie filmmaking Canada?

That’s anyone’s guess. I’ve heard a lot of talk about new distribution and financing models. In terms of the mechanics of how films are made, the ground is shifting hugely, and how that will eventually look, I can’t really tell. What is true is that there are a lot of people making indie films in this country and the technical quality of those films is really high.

Correction: An earlier version of this story included an erroneous reference to the project Jenny Two Bears, the scriptwriter of which is Shannon Masters and is based on a Joseph Boyden short story. In fact, Jackson is not attached to this project.

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