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Wapanatahk Media launches in Canada

Great Pacific Media in Canada is backing a new production outfit set up by Indigenous producers Tania Koenig-Gauchier and Shirley Mclean in Vancouver.

Tania Koenig-Gauchier

Wapanatahk Media has launched in partnership with the factual and scripted division of Thunderbird Entertainment to focus on original and authentic Indigenous stories.

Co-owned and headed by Koenig-Gauchier and Mclean, the fledgling company will develop and produce unscripted, scripted, digital and animated content, as well as provide training for Indigenous creators.

Wapanatahk translates as ‘morning star’ in the Plains Cree language, which the company said makes it an appropriate name for one that hopes to signal a new era in Canadian entertainment following calls for a greater diversity of voices in the industry.

Canadian broadcasters APTN and Blue Ant Media have commissioned the prodco’s first series, Dr Savannah: Wild Rose Vet (working title, 9×30′), which is due to go into production in April.

The show follows veterinarian Dr Savannah Howse-Smith as she keeps rural Alberta’s pet and animal population healthy, while learning more about her recently confirmed Métis Indigenous bloodline.

Shirley Mclean

The series will employ Indigenous production staff in Vancouver and Alberta, and sponsor apprenticeships throughout the summer of 2021. The series is scheduled to air on APTN and Blue Ant-owned channel Cottage Life in 2022.

“We are not waiting around for opportunities to come to us. We are taking Indigenous characters and stories to mainstream networks. Broadcasters like APTN and Blue Ant Media are supporting our productions and we, in turn, are in a position to offer emerging Indigenous talent training from some of Canada’s top media professionals,” said Koenig-Gauchier, who is a Métis (Cree) television producer whose family originated from Northern Alberta.

She has more than 20 years of experience in broadcasting and independent production, having worked as a producer for CTV, APTN and CBC. Most recently, she spent five years in the position of manager of programming (western region) at APTN.

Mclean, who has strong links to the creative communities of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, crew and producers, is of Tlingit and Tagish descent from the Dakl’aweidi Killer Whale clan and is a member of the Carcross/Tagish First Nation in the Yukon.

Currently, she is working on various productions at Great Pacific Media as a series producer, director, story editor and story producer. Prior to this, she spent eight years with APTN as a national reporter and producer in their Whitehorse bureau.

Mclean added: “It is our goal to create a space in mainstream media for Indigenous talent, characters and stories, and projects like Dr Savannah: Wild Rose Vet give us that opportunity. Dr Savannah is an incredible role model for Indigenous youth and her work to help animals is an absolute joy to watch.”

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