June 11, 2004

Film Artist Entrepreneurs Jennifer Podemski and Laura Milliken saw a lack of representation for Aboriginal people in television, and set out to solve the problem by involving Aboriginal communities.  After meeting at the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards in 1999, Podemski and Milliken formed Big Soul Productions and began to produce their award-winning television series, "The Seventh Generation".
Thirty-nine episodes of "The Seventh Generation" have been produced and are currently airing, or will soon air, on the Saskatchewan Communications Network (SCN), the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN), Canadian Learning Television, and ACCESS Education in Alberta.  The show acts as a vehicle for young Aboriginal achievers to showcase their excellence in various fields, including arts, entertainment, music, business, politics, sports, medicine, science, and technology.  This serves to cast a positive light on Aboriginal youth, taking a pro-active role in removing stereotypes.  "The Seventh Generation" is produced, directed, researched, and written by an entirely Aboriginal production staff, and is hosted by Podemski.  Big Soul’s efforts on this production have been rewarded with screenings at the Sundance Film Festival, as well as being nominated for Best Public Service at the American Indian Film Festival, and has received the honour of Best Television Program at the imagineNATIVE Aboriginal Media Arts Festival.
In 2000, Big Soul began a series of Aboriginal youth media empowerment workshops, entitled "repREZentin’".  These half-hour episodes focus on real-life situations in First Nations communities, while training Aboriginal youth in all areas of filmmaking - culminating in half-hour drama episodes for television.  “A lot of talent in our community was being overlooked,” said Milliken.  “So we thought, ‘Let’s start training actors, craft people, directors and writers.’”
The first instalment, "repREZentin’ in Kettle and Stoney Point", broadcast on APTN in June 2001.  A second workshop took place in Fort Chipewyan, AB, at the Mikisew Cree First Nation.  "repREZentin’ in Ft. Chip" aired on APTN in April 2002.  Both of the first two instalments were nominated for Best Live Short at the American Indian Film Festival in 2001 and 2002.
The latest, "repREZentin’ in Regina – Moccasin Flats" was shot with youth in North Central Regina, Saskatchewan.  "Moccasin Flats" aired on APTN in 2003, and was invited to the Sundance Film Festival in January 2003.  "Moccasin Flats" has been developed into a six-episode dramatic series for APTN, and was seen in the Fall 2003 season.  It was the first Canadian television drama produced, directed, written and acted by Aboriginal people.
Since the "repREZentin’" workshops include the entire community in their production process, television production skills are transferred to the youth of each participating First Nation.  These skills will, in turn, provide employment opportunities, as well as an eye-opening experience for many Aboriginal youths.
Both Milliken and Podemski have big ideas for the future.  “We are really entering into the communications area,” Podemski says, “trying to do more graphics and workshop design.”  With the success of the "Moccasin Flats" series and the continued accolades for their work, Milliken and Podemski are sure to continue to make waves in Canadian television and media.
Big Soul also prides itself for their cutting edge technical prowess, with emerging technology that allows them to do everything in house.  "The Seventh Generation" was one of the first series on television to be shot on digital video and edited on Final Cut Pro.  With all their accomplishments, the final thing that stands out is that, “these two young ladies are very dynamic as individuals and even more so as a partnership”, says nominator Brad Brownlee of the Tecumseh Community Development Corporation.  “They exude confidence and a high level of energy in everything they do.  All of their actions are based on sound business principles and anchored by a high level of social responsibility.”