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Looking to Vegas. (Canadian actor Tom Jackson)5 (Native Entrepreneurs)

The other life of Tom Jackson

The power of television has vaulted Canadian actor Tom Jackson into the living rooms of Canadians from coast to coast. But Jackson, the entrepreneur of aboriginal heritage, wants to be famous in Las Vegas.

Besides his role in the acclaimed CBC Television drama series -- North of 60 -- in which he stars, the multi-talented, 44-year-old Jackson owns Tomali Pictures Inc., a four-year-old Winnipeg-based firm which specializes in "industrial theatre."

When a large corporation is celebrating an anniversary or special occasion, Tomali Pictures will script a special show illustrating corporate lore -- or some other high point of company history -- in a dramatically staged production. Jackson creates the script with music, lights, a custom-built stage and skilled actors to provide a splashy performance to fete shareholders' annual meetings, conventions or company banquets. This kind of tailor-made theatre by Tomali is proving to be as major a hit as Jackson's personal television career. He says the corporate productions are responsible for 70 per cent of the revenues of the business. Jackson is in the enviable position of having to turn away contracts because of the pressure of current business.

The remainder of Tomali's revenues comes from video assignments. They have produced films for clients such as Employment and Immigration Canada and the Native Council of Canada, and as co-producer, Jackson was partly responsible for this year's Canada Day extravaganza on Parliament Hill.

One of the biggest assets Tomali Pictures owned immediately when it started was Jackson's list of contacts, built-up over 30 years of travelling.

Jackson says, "The success the company has experienced is in part due to networking." In his small, spartan office on the third floor of Portage Place Mall, he explains that the network list was far more important than the fact the company is native-owned. "We don't use the Aboriginal identity as a marketing tool," Jackson emphasizes. "The company has to stand on its own merit in a competitive field."

Jackson is plotting to turn up the competitive thermostat for Tomali. Within two years he wants to take on the lucrative field of corporate conventions and trade shows in Las Vegas, the apex of industrial theatre in North America. If Tomali's current momentum in Canada is a sign of future strength, Jackson's star may well rise in the desert city.
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Author:Ryan, Bramwell
Publication:Manitoba Business
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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