Workshop gives voice to First Nations people

Heather Latter

Five individuals from surrounding First Nations’ communities gathered together last week to learn to make documentaries from award-winning documentary filmmaker, Aron Ranen of San Francisco’s “Digital Video Workshops.”
The workshop, hosted by the Fort Frances Chiefs Secretariat, was meant to give participants the skills and knowledge to be able to tell their stories in a modern, up-to-date way.
“This is another way to give voices to aboriginal people,” noted Ranen.
“With the rise of YouTube and Facebook, there is a greater possibility of viewers and it’s a great avenue to share their own life and struggles that is not reflected in the mainstream media,” he added.
“Even in a small town like Fort Frances, there are so many stories to tell,” said Lincoln Dunn of the Fort Frances Chiefs Secretariat.
“They are able to be true to the story, and having the pieces come from an honest perspective is a good exercise,” he reasoned.
Dunn noted some of the stories being produced during the course of the week-long workshop included ones about the issues surrounding Pither’s Point Park, how technology is changing news delivery, a personal piece about friendship, and a promotional piece about a local business.
“They are able to tell the story faster,” remarked Dunn, citing with the way technology is becoming so mainstream, many people are beginning to use video in their work.
“And we thought it was necessary to learn more about video production.”
Dunn went to San Francisco and took a workshop from Ranen.
“I loved it and I loved what I did,” he enthused. “I thought it was the perfect way to develop capacity on First Nations.
“Making a documentary is a unique skill and it’s driving innovation more and more,” he added.
Dunn was able to find funding and brought Ranen to Fort Frances to hold a workshop for members of the local First Nations communities.
Given participants had to dedicate six full days to the workshop, just five were able to attend, but Dunn was thrilled with the interest and indicated they did a lot of hands-on learning.
“They learned everything from story-telling to shooting to lighting, audio, and editing,” he explained. “They learned how to interview and how to find their own voice in what they’re producing.
“There has been some really neat pieces come out of it.”
Dunn said he wanted each participant to walk away with new skills and knowledge.
“And I think that was achieved,” he remarked. “Aron focuses on getting stuff done and doesn’t get too heavily into the technology. He doesn’t let the technology get in the way of the story.”
“It’s been great. I’ve had a lot of fun,” said Ruby Boshkaykin of Seine River First Nation. “I learned how to use a laptop and I hadn’t even heard of Final Cut Pro before, so I’ve really learned a lot.”
She added Ranen was an excellent teacher.
“He made everything really exciting,” Boshkaykin noted. “I’ve never met anyone like him before. He told jokes and kept everything humorous.”
She found editing to be one of the most interesting aspects.
“It’s time-consuming, but it’s when you decide how you want things, where you want things, and how it’s going to look,” Boshkaykin explained.
Ranen also enjoyed his experience teaching the documentary workshop here.
“I was inspired,” he remarked. “There was no loss of energy and I loved learning about their culture. And I was surprised how quickly they picked up everything.
“I really hope to come back and train even more folks because this is the future,
“They will now be able to tell their stories in a modern age and people will actually be able to see them.” Ranen added. “YouTube and Facebook has made that possible and even video equipment is affordable now.”
Dunn indicated the stories produced during the workshop will be posted on YouTube for people to view at He also hopes the participants receive some grant opportunities to do culture-focused video work or for employment down the road at APTN or Wawatay News.
“I would like to look at doing this again,” he said. “It’s definitely something we could look at continuing.”
The Fort Frances Chiefs Secretariat has some video equipment that First Nations’ members can use to do video work and continue on sharing their voices.
For more information on Ranen and his workshops, visit