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Wapos Bay

The Series

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The kids of Wapos Bay love adventure. And their playground is a vast area that’s been home to their Cree ancestors for millennia: northern Saskatchewan.

Ten-year-old T-Bear, 9-year-old Talon and 6-year-old Raven star in Wapos Bay, a lighthearted stop-motion animation series about growing up in a remote Cree community. In Wapos Bay, modern life and ancient traditions meet. Hunting and gathering, dog sledding and shimmering northern lights are part of every day but so are video games, TV and cell phones. Guided by elders, extended family and their own insatiable curiosity, the three children learn how to balance traditional ways with newer ones. Their discoveries unfold against the backdrop of northern Saskatchewan’s varied seasons – winter, spring thaw, spring, summer, fall and freeze-up.

As they explore the world around them, T-Bear, Talon and Raven acquire some valuable lessons about respect, cooperation, honesty and tolerance. And of course, they also teach the adults a few things.

Aboriginal filmmakers Dennis and Melanie Jackson’s exquisite characters come alive with the voices of well-known Aboriginal performers such as Gordon Tootoosis (North of 60, Legends of the Fall), Andrea Menard (The Velvet Devil) and Lorne Cardinal (Corner Gas). Wapos Bay is a fascinating, and often humorous portrait of a northern Aboriginal community from the perspective of its children.

Writers / Directors: Dennis and Melanie Jackson, Cam Lizotte, Trevor Cameron

Producers: Dennis and Melanie Jackson, Anand Ramayya, Derek Mazur

Co-Producer / Distributor: The National Film Board

Broadcasters: Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, Saskatchewan Communications Network

Demo

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The Team

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jacksonsDennis and Melanie Jackson, Creators, Directors and Writers of the Wapos Bay Series

Dennis and Melanie Jackson are the creative forces behind the Wapos Bay series. The enchanting world of Wapos Bay was first brought to life in Christmas at Wapos Bay, an animated special directed, produced and written by Dennis and edited by Melanie, which premiered at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival. Drawing on this success, they joined forces with the National Film Board of Canada to produce the Wapos Bay series.

Married for twenty years and parents to two children, Dennis and Melanie’s partnership also extends into their professional and creative endeavours. In 1998 the couple founded Dark Thunder Productions (DTP). Their first project, Journey Through Fear, won the Telefilm Canada/Television Northern Canada Award at the 1998 Banff Festival).

Dennis’s interest in filmmaking began in elementary school while watching 16 mm prints of animated Aboriginal creation tales. Since this introduction, he has excelled in writing stories about his own people in the northern community of Sandy Bay, Saskatchewan, with the help of his mother and grandparents. In 1998 Dennis obtained a B.A. in Film and Video Production from the University of Regina. As producer and director he has received recognition and awards for the series Heartbeat of the Earth and Open Fire, a documentary on the Aboriginal men and women involved in fire suppression in northern Saskatchewan.

Melanie began her career in film and video with her volunteer work at the Saskatoon cable channel, where she co-produced the 13-part series Voices of Aboriginal Youth. She made her directorial debut with Episode 2 of the Wapos Bay series – Journey Through Fear. She was also editor on Heartbeat of the Earth and Open Fire. Melanie draws inspiration from her family as well as from her own Saulteaux people in southern Saskatchewan.

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anandAnand Ramayya, Prodcuer

Anand Ramayya grew up in a film family and has been working on dramatic films since the age of 15. Anand spent several formative years in his twenties working and backpacking extensively throughout Asia. Upon his return to Canada he completed his Bachelor of Commerce degree and began working full time in the film industry.

Ramayya is a four-time Gemini Award winning producer and filmmaker who has worked with a number of creatives and companies from across the country. His projects have ranged from independent feature length films to stop motion animation and documentary films. “Cosmic Current”, which he wrote and directed for the National Film Board of Canada, went on to receive the 2004 Gemini Canada Award which honours excellence in Mainstream programs that reflects the cultural diversity of Canada.

“Wapos Bay – There’s No I In Hockey”, of which Ramayya is a producer, was also honoured with the Gemini Canada Award in 2006. Most recently, “Wapos Bay – The Series” was awarded the 2008 Gemini Award for Best Individual or Ensemble Performance in an Animated Program or Series. In 2007 Ramayya co-produced his first feature length dramatic film “45 RPM” starring Michael Madsen (Kill Bill), Amanda Plummer (My Life Without Me), August Schellenberg (Free Willy) and Kim Coates (Black Hawk Down). “45 RPM” is currently enjoying a festival run and is scheduled for Canadian theatrical release in early 2009.

In 2002 Anand created Karmafilm to facilitate the production of a growing slate of projects. Karmafilm is a boutique production company which focuses on intelligent, challenging and relevant content for theinternational marketplace. Anand served a term as President of the Saskatchewan Motion Picture Association and three years on their Board of Directors. By regularly attending markets and festivals, Anand has built strong relationships with a number of Canadian broadcasters, distributors, and production companies and looks to develop co-production opportunities with like-minded creators from around the world. Anand resides in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, the “Paris of the Prairies”, with his wife Teresa and young son Owen.

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derek-mazurDerek Mazur, Producer

Derek Mazur is one of western Canada’s most acclaimed producers of entertainment programming. Over the past thirty years, he has earned a reputation for excellence by producing and/or directing award-winning animation, television commercials, sponsored films, documentary and drama.

Derek began his film and television career in 1974 as an animation producer with a client list that included Sesame Street, the CBC and the National Film Board of Canada. Animated films such as Blowhard and Get a Job (both NFB) received many awards, including a 1987 Genie.

In 1988, he produced and directed a multi-screen showcase, Canada: Another Government Movie, for the Canadian Pavilion at the 1988 World Exposition. The film was described by World’s Fair Magazine as the best production at Expo’88.

Derek produced his first feature-length TV drama, Lost in the Barrens (Disney Channel/CBC/Global TV), in 1991 with Atlantis Films. An international success, it won the 1991 Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Children’s Special and two 1992 Geminis, including Best Youth Program.

Early in 1993, he celebrated the national broadcast of the television movie The Diviners (CBC/Channel 4). The program, which he co-produced, was the winner of four 1994 Geminis, including Best Television Movie. The epic drama was based on Margaret Laurence’s honoured novel.

In October 2005, Derek joined the National Film Board of Canada as the executive producer of the NFB’s Prairie Centre, which is responsible for production in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Northern Ontario and Nunavut.

Derek Mazur is the founder and former president of the Manitoba Motion Picture Industry Association. He was awarded a Manitoba Blizzard prize for Outstanding Achievement and Canada’s 125th Anniversary Medal for Significant Contribution to Canadian Culture.

Director’s Statement

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Dennis Jackson on Creating Wapos Bay

While Wapos Bay is a fictional town, the characters, community and stories are based on my own life experiences in Sandy Bay, Saskatchewan. My interest in animation began at the early age of 8 when I made my own films using a Super 8 mm camera. As an adult, I felt compelled to share the vivid childhood memories I had of my rich and unique Cree culture.

The world of Wapos Bay originated in a short story I wrote in high school for a creative writing assignment. The story was about a trapper in the North who realizes how much his environment has changed in such a short time. I took this same story and made a 6-minute, 16 mm stop-motion film in my final year of film studies at the University of Regina. Entitled Journey Through Fear, the film went on to win the Telefilm Canada/Television Northern Canada Award for Best Aboriginal Production at the 1998 Banff Television Festival.

Journey Through Fear is about a mushom (grandfather) who utilizes the trapline to feed his family by selling furs. Because we did not see his family in the short film, I wrote, directed and produced the one-hour animated special Christmas at Wapos Bay, in which the mushom’s family visits him on Christmas day. This story introduces his grandchildren, Talon, Raven and T-Bear, and tells of their adventure on the trapline. Christmas at Wapos Bay premiered at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

The setting of Christmas at Wapos Bay is the trapline cabin. The community where the characters come from is not pictured. Wanting to flesh out the characters even further, we were inspired to create, write and produce the Wapos Bay series in co-production with the National Film Board of Canada. This gave the creative team on Wapos Bay the opportunity to create an even more vivid animated world by developing more characters and stories.

Animating the World of Wapos Bay
Wapos Bay is a collaborative effort of over 40 technicians, animators, artists, administrative personnel and a key creative team of writers, directors and producers. The animation studio extends over a 11,000 square foot warehouse and houses all aspects of our production, from the art department and the animation bays to the post-production facilities.

The world of Wapos Bay is brought to life using stop-motion animation. The Wapos Bay characters are 6-8 inch puppets made by a team of craftspeople using plastics and foam latex, metal wire and various other materials. All the characters are animated using wire armatures, which are movable metal frameworks manipulated by the animators. As the armatures are positioned, 24 high-resolution digital still photos are taken of each small change in movement to create one second of on-screen motion. (If one second of on-screen time requires almost an hour of work, imagine how long it takes to make a full 24-minute episode!) The eyelids and eyebrow movements of the puppets are hand-sculpted by the animators using Plasticine. Vinyl mouth shapes, designed and crafted in the studio, are carefully placed on the character for every frame of dialogue or expression change, finishing the intricate work of animating the puppet.

Hundreds of hours have been spent by a team of carpenters and craftspeople to create this miniature world that appears life-size on screen. Miniature house interiors and other props are painstakingly handcrafted so they appear lifelike on camera. Forest landscapes are created using a variety of natural and artificial materials to showcase the realistic northern look of Wapos Bay. The look is then augmented by realistic background photos taken in and around northern Saskatchewan. Many backgrounds are also inserted at the post-production stage by using “bluescreens” and computer effects.

The voices of the Wapos Bay characters reflect some of Canada’s best Aboriginal talent. Actors like Gordon Tootoosis, Lorne Cardinal and Andrea Menard bring their own personality and humour to the stories written by Dennis Jackson, Melanie Jackson, Trevor Cameron, Elizabeth Denny and Jordan Wheeler.

The Wapos Bay team includes a mix of seasoned professionals and numerous emerging technicians and animators from Saskatoon’s dynamic animation community. The skills and talents they bring to this production reflect the growing pool of impressive artistic and technical talent in Saskatoon. It is through a tremendous combination of creativity, hard work and vision that Wapos Bay has come into being and continues to capture the imaginations of children and adults alike.

Awards

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Wapos Bay – The Series

Best Individual or Ensemble Performance in an Animated Program or Series
2008 Gemini Awards
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Best Children’s or Youth Fiction Program or Series
2007 Gemini Awards
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Canada Award
2006 Gemini Awards
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Nominated for Best Writing in a Children’s or Youth Program or Series
2008 Gemini Awards
2007 Gemini Awards
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National Aboriginal Achievement Award for the Arts 2009
Dennis and Melanie Jackson
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There’s No “I” in Hockey

Best of Saskatchewan – Saskatchewan Showcase Awards
2005: Saskatchewan, Canada
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Best Writing for Drama
Saskatchewan Showcase Awards
2005, Saskatchewan, Canada
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Outstanding Animation Award
ImageNation Festival Award
2006, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
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Golden Sheaf Award – Best Children’s Production
Golden Sheaf Awards /Short Film and Video Festival
May 25 to 28 2006, Yorkton – Canada
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Best Short Drama
Imagine Native Media Arts Festival
October 19 to 23 2005, Toronto – Canada

Contact / Press Kit

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Anand Ramayya

Producer, Wapos Bay

Cell: 306-221-8664

Office: 306-652-9222

Fax: 306-652-9339

Email: anand@karmafilm.ca

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Download Press Kit (PDF)

Buy

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All purchasing info can be located at the National Film Board store.