Michelle Latimer: Sundance, Directing Trickster And The Inconvenient Indian

Director Michelle Latimer joins the Sundance Film Festival as their Artist in Residence and talk about her upcoming show Trickster and documentary Inconvenient Indian.

DGC Ontario Director Michelle Latimer is the January Artist in Residence at Sundance beginning Friday.

We caught up with Michelle to discuss the effect Sundance has had on her career and her upcoming DGC Ontario Production Trickster, along with the documentary The Inconvenient Indian.

Your films have previously screened at Sundance, how does it feel being named Artist in Residence at the January Screenwriters Lab?

From very early on in my career, Sundance has been like a supportive parent — they have said “you can do it, we believe in you” all along. My short film Choke premiered at Sundance in 2011 and received an Honourable Mention in International Short Filmmaking. In 2017 I had three episodes of the Viceland series RISE screen in the Indie Episodic Program and then, in 2018, my short Nuuca played there. Most recently, the Sundance Documentary Fund has supported development on my newest project and now I will work on my first feature script during my residency at the Labs this year. It’s not often you find that unwavering and consistent support as an artist and, for that, I’m incredibly grateful.

Can you tell us more about your upcoming projects, Trickster and The Inconvenient Indian?

As Indigenous people we’ve had to come together to fight for our rights, and this includes the rights of the land and waters. However, in this assertion we are perceived as ‘inconvenient’ in the eyes of the state. The Inconvenient Indian, is an adaptation of Thomas King’s book. The film explores the many ways Indigenous experience has been misrepresented in mainstream culture and what the active process of reclamation looks like.

In many ways, the mini-series Trickster embodies similar themes. The series is adapted from Eden Robinson’s best-selling Trickster trilogy. It’s about a teenage boy who is searching for who he is in a world where he feels invisible and inconsequential. It’s also a family drama that encapsulates elements of fantasy, horror and gritty realism. It’s also very much a contemplation of the devastating effects of colonization and assimilation. I’m very proud of what we were able to accomplish with making the series — it’s the first time our National broadcaster has produced a series helmed by Indigenous creators, led by an Indigenous cast and adapted from books by an Indigenous author. So if you take that into account, the very act of creating Trickster was one of reclamation and resistance.

Can you speak more on your creative collaborations with fellow DGC Ontario Members Director Tony Elliott and Picture Editors D Gillian Truster and Katie Chipperfield and Kye Meechan on Trickster?

I had the great pleasure of working with DGC member Tony Elliott to create Trickster. Together, we worked very closely to adapt the books for television. It’s a challenge to create an original series — it’s not like making a procedural or medical drama where there are tried and true formats to emulate. Trickster is very unique in that it’s a world we’ve never seen before. So collaborating with Tony was a real gift — we got to put our two brains together to realize this world and I think our skills complimented one another’s. We also have an all-star DGC Member editing team of Kye Meechan, Gillian Truster and Katie Chipperfield. They have all brought so much of themselves to the show and have elevated the work beyond imagination. The best part of filmmaking is collaborating with like-minded artists and I think we’ve achieved that in spades on Trickster!

What advice to you have for aspiring female filmmakers?

Keep your head down and do the work because nothing gets accomplished without a whole lot of hard work. Believe in your stories and why are you telling them. Have a special, private place where you can go to refill your solitude. And, above all else, be kind.

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