Northern Manitoba writers getting schooled in storytelling though National Screen Institute program

Writers from The Pas, Opaskwayak Cree Nation (OCN) and Gillam began a part-time online course to strengthen their screenwriting and storytelling skills on Feb. 17.

Rochelle Dyrkacz from The Pas, Steven Bignell from OCN and Ryan Goossen from Gillam are the participants in the National Screen Institute’s (NSI) New Northern Voices 2021 writers edition and will be mentored by Jordan Wheeler, whose screenwriting credits include work on North of 60, Arctic Air and renegadepress.com.

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Dyrkacz, Bignell and Goossen will develop ideas for a short film or web series and learn the essential elements of short fiction screenwriting through workshops and one-on-one story editing consultations. Topics the course will cover include story structure, formatting, character development and other structural devices. By the end of the program they will have a well-developed script ready to pitch to funders, producers and production companies. One participant will also have their script produced by an NSI producer trainee in a future edition of the program.

“The NSI is excited to welcome these northern storytellers to our virtual classroom today,” said program manager Ursula Lawson in a press release last Wednesday. “Steven and Rochelle are alumni from the first edition of NSI New Northern Voices so it’s great to further develop their skills, along with Ryan’s, as we work towards growing capacity within the screen industry in The Pas, Manitoba and surrounding areas."

Dyrkacz was born in Winnipeg but has spent the last 12 years in The Pas and completed a film called Ni Mama with NSI New Northern Voices in 2019.

Bignell was born and raised in OCN and worked on the short horror film Black Ice in 2019. It premiered at the Storytellers’ Film Festival in The Pas. Bignell has also had roles in productions including Moccasin Flats and Beyond and as an extra in Just Friends and Tideland. He is currently working on a series of short Second World War films about an Indigenous Canadian solider.

Gosseen has First Nations and Russian ancestry and his interest in filmmaking was sparked when his family watched James’s Cameron’s Titanic at a Christmas gathering one year.

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