There’s a saying that goes something like this: “If you really want to know what people are afraid of losing or what they are most passionate about, look at what they capture on film and photo.”
It’s a saying that resonates deeply with Jerri Thrasher. Originally from Paulatuk, NWT, she has made a name for herself as a television producer for the Inuvialuit Communications Society based out of Inuvik.
Along the way, she’s also making her dreams of being a film maker come true.
“I work in television and film for this purpose,” she says, “to preserve our unique culture for those ahead of us and to tell it in a way that demands attention.”
Thrasher’s film career reached a milestone this year with her directorial debut in The Last Walk — a collaborative project featuring five short films on a single theme funded in part by ITI’s Support for Entrepreneurs and Economic Development (SEED) program and the International Sami Film Institute. Thrasher directed one of the shorts, drawing all the cast and crew from the Northwest Territories.
The project made waves in Berlin at the Berlinale Film Festival’s European Film Market, where it was screened with other Indigenous-made films as part of the BerlinaleNATIVE program.
For Thrasher, it was the break that she’s been waiting for; and thanks to some additional SEED funding, she was in attendance when The Last Walk hit the screen. It was an investment that paid off immediately in professional development and networking opportunities – and one that she continues to build on.
“It was an amazing day for us, in terms of milestones reached and just being thankful and proud of everyone for their hard work on the films,” Thrasher says. “We received wonderful feedback and interest in having the film screened at other festivals around the world.”
Thrasher also took part in the Arctic Film Circle Panel, which followed the first industry screening of her film.
“I learned so much about the business side of making films: pitching them, developing marketing strategies,” Thrasher says. “This was a big opportunity to meet industry professionals from across the globe. I came back with more than a few new contacts.”
Other events at the festival also gave Thrasher a chance to meet and get to know other Northern and Indigenous filmmakers driving growth in the circumpolar film industry.
“It was eye-opening to share production experiences with my peers from around the world,” Thrasher says. “I came back with both new connections and collaboration opportunities. It feels good to support each other and help our small film industry grow.”
So what’s next for Thrasher?
Beyond its professional benefits, Thrasher sees film as an excellent vehicle to express, share, and preserve culture in the North.
“Film is my calling,” she says, “I hope for a long life in this industry.”
For now, Thrasher will continue to work in television. In fact, she’s hoping to start a series based on her corner of the Arctic.
“But, I’ve been bitten by the directing bug,” she says, “and I’m looking forward to collaborating on more films.”
When she does, there are programs and funding sources available from the Department of Industry Tourism and Investment to help make her next project – and many others – possible.
The NWT Film Industry contributes approximately 9 million in territorial gross domestic product and 100 full-time equivalent jobs. There are estimated to be approximately 24 film businesses operating in the NWT. IN 2013, GNWT investments in film were estimated to multiply 2.5 times in economic spin-offs and production activity.
To learn more about supports for the NWT film sector, click here.
Project Made Possible is an ongoing ITI blog series celebrating the achievements of NWT residents and businesses. ITI offers many programs and services to support economic development and growth. This series shares the many faces, stories and achievements that reflect their success.