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Pine Needle Blankets Production: first nations business award of excellence.

Darlene Naponse is definitely convinced that business and politics can mix. An accomplished filmmaker and owner of a successful multimedia company, the 30-year-old Aboriginal woman is clearly going places and believes that she can speak to the issues that affect her community at the same time, she says.

"I want to keep creating films and other works that help and contribute in a social, political and environmental way," she says.

Her work, which looks at such issues, has appeared on such forums as the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) and the Woman's Television Network (WTN).

From Sudbury to Sundance, Naponse is constantly stretching the boundaries of artistic expression, including the development of a unique filmmaking technique called 'Rez-style'--a method that "alternates between narrative and poetic styles of fiction." The style also tends to focus on aspects of "cultural and physical violence" occurring in Native daily life.

"Ever since I started in this line of work, I have incorporated the work into jobs in my community," Naponse says. "Three years ago I produced a documentary on the youth of Whitefish Lake."

Naponse, from Atikmegoshing, Whitefish Lake First Nation--a Native band outside Sudbury--owns and operates the four-year-old multimedia venture and yet still manages to find time to produce and direct her own films. Those films have been screened at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah for two years in a row - a great honour for any filmmaker.

"It really pushed me into the national and international stage of filmmaking," recalls Naponse, referring to the experience.

Despite the fact that Pine Needle Blankets Productions has only been around since 2000, it has earned its place as a strong multimedia player in the Sudbury region. As a sole proprietorship, the company has been able to develop a niche in the market, covering an amazing range of services, from Web site design, graphic design, CD-Rom and DVD production, and film and video making.


Graduating with a multimedia diploma from Humber College and an English degree from Laurentian University, Naponse, after doing freelance work for seven years, created Pine Needle Blankets Productions. The business venture, she says, was to fill a long-awaited desire to be self-employed. Not satisfied with working for other people, she sought funding and support from her local band and other financial agencies.

She was able to secure funding through the Youth Entrepreneurship Program through Waubetek Business Development Corp.

"It was tough for a while," Naponse says. "It is tough to allow yourself to be broke. And it is challenging to stick to a budget for your business. I had a hard enough time managing a budget for myself, let alone for a business."

Roughing it out the first year, as is common for most startup companies, came to an end when she started landing contract work from the region and gained notoriety with her own films.

Her engine for success, she notes, is staying current with technology.

When she is not busy dealing with clients, Naponse says she is reading multimedia trade magazines and learning about the newest trends. Naponse is currently researching new 'after effects' techniques.

"I enjoy expanding and changing with the technology," Naponse says. "I am constantly reading trade magazines about the field, learning about any new technology. I want to go wherever technology takes me, but only to a certain point. You have to be able to balance the new technology with the traditions of our people. That is a very important balance."

The strength of her company, besides its range of services, is the artistic flair Naponse brings to her work. Although Naponse deals with both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal clients, her style encompasses ideas and designs that come from her Aboriginal roots.

Growing up in the Native community has shaped her experiences, she says.

"My background is my everyday because I'm First Nations," she says.

Two of her own short films, Abandoned Houses on the Reservation and Retrace made it to the Sundance Film Festival in 2001 and 2002 respectively. Both films dealt with Native life and issues.

She says she is also proud of a recent musically driven independent film she produced, called Cradlesong, a real-time production that looks at the dysfunction common in Native communities.

Her latest project is a feature-length film called 4$ Indian, an historical documentary film that looks at the Robinson-Huron Treaty, the treaty that the federal government negotiated with the Ojibway in Northern Ontario.

Naponse is still writing the script for this project.

Her greatest inspiration, not surprisingly, is Canadian Aboriginal filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin, the Abenaki Nation filmmaker and activist. Obomsawin is best known for producing a series of films about the controversial Oka Crisis in 1990 where the Native community there staged an armed standoff against the Canadian government over traditional territory.

In the meantime, Naponse wants to continue to create and explore new areas of creativity, including the possible development of a television series.

By Joseph Quesnel

Northern Ontario Business
COPYRIGHT 2004 Laurentian Business Publishing, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Title Annotation:Celebrating Excellence 2004
Author:Quesnel, Joseph
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Nov 1, 2004
Previous Article:Stroma Engineering: innovation award.
Next Article:Erik Van Beek: essay scholarship winner.

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