DOVE RELISHING OPPORTUNITIES IN ACTING
There are few universal traits among cultures, but storytelling is one of them. Regardless of which First Nation across Canada you belong to, or from which ancestry you are descended, the telling of stories is a foundational reality.
In a thousand years, that will still be true, which is why Noirfoot Narrative Labs was in Prince George earlier this month. This initiative puts Indigenous people in touch with the most modern of storytelling genres: filmmaking. Teaching the skills of cinema provides power to collect and disseminate information to anyone who wants to know. One no longer needs to be a Hollywood insider to use the filmmaking medium. The technologies and hardware are readily available, but the know-how isn’t always available or intuitive.
One of those Hollywood insiders was in Prince George to help pass on these skills to grassroots storytellers of the future. Grace Dove rocketed for international fame in the movie The Revenant, then carried her fame deeper in the Netflix hit movie How It Ends, and is now the star in the upcoming film version of the bestselling novel Monkey Beach.
However, Dove is also a Prince George insider. She is Tsq’escenemc First Nation (CAnim Lake, near 100 Mile House) by heritage, raised at Salmon Valley in Lheidli T’enneh territory here in this city. She is a graduate of Kelly Road Secondary School where she was a standout in the drama department.
It is the third time in the past month that Dove has travelled to Prince George to take part in mentorship sessions. Each time she gets in some visits with family and friends, but this is a busy part of the audition season for the film industry, so she has to quickly return to Los Angeles and Vancouver for a heavy schedule of meetings and readings leading towards future roles.
“It’s very rewarding,” she said. “I was in L.A. just a few months ago literally living my dream and doing what I had always imagined. There was one day where I had three auditions in the one day.”
That may not sound like “the dream” to which most young actors aspire. Most cut the corner straight to their face on the silver screen. For Dove, the dream is being a working actor, not a celebrity. For Dove, the dream is the job and the job is 90 per cent auditions.
These auditions each come with their own form of stress. Each one is a miniperformance requiring costume, characterization, and delivering lines, all for someone’s judgment. (And it is hard enough just getting to three places in one day in the ocean of traffic that is Los Angeles, let alone getting into three completely different characters, each one representing a potential career eruption.)
“It was for three leads of three pilots, and I had to learn 30 pages of dialogue. It was so committed, fully. I knew that if I did that, that’s all I can do, give it everything I’ve got, and then you’ve got to let it go.
“That hustle was just as I’d always dreamed it, and in that moment I had to stop for a second and celebrate that win not booking the role, but just getting that far, just being there in that opportunity.”
She is landing good roles, though. Playing opposite Forest Whitaker and Theo James in key segments of How It Ends, and being the love interest of Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant have seen to the interest she’s getting from casting directors, and that is going to increase again when Monkey Beach reveals her abilities as a lead actor.
Mix in some pivotal public appearances like a TED Talk and at We Day, guest spots on the television series Coyote’s Crazy Smart Science Show, her hosting duties for the adventure sports reality show UnderExposed and it’s easy to see her value as a mentor to local youth and Aboriginal cultures looking for examples to look towards.
In this case, Dove is one of the professionals brought in by Noirfoot Narrative Labs to teach a guerrilla seminar in how to make films.
“We are doing a 72-hour film competition, so we are actually making a high quality short-film,” she explained. “We are starting from the very beginning, writing it ourselves and filming it. So that’s why we are doing 12-hour days and we will be done by the end of the weekend. We split into two teams of about 12. In our group we only have one youth and the rest are adults.”
She knows what that means. It is highly suggestive that Indigenous people are anxious to say what’s on their mind, and document their realities. Young people are typically interested in filmmaking because they want to pursue it as a profession, be that as an actor or set-builder or costume designer or film editor, or any of the many trades within the industry. But adults dive in to acquire filmmaker skills because they have something important to say and film is a way they hope to say it.
“My friend is making (the movie Portraits From A Fire) in the Williams Lake area, said Dove (it is a co-production by Trevor Mack, Kate Kroll, and Rylan Friday). He is from the Chilcotin area. He’s based in the Vancouver film industry now. Imagine coming from the Chilcotin, training for 10 years to be a filmmaker, then getting to go back to community and make a film. That’s most Indigenous filmmakers’ dream, to tell their stories on their land. That’s what he’s doing, that’s what we did with Monkey Beach, and that’s what we’re setting out to do (with Noirfoot Narrative Labs). I think a lot of people in our groups here have never been able to learn filmmaking even though they’ve been interested their whole lives. That’s what I’m hearing. And it’s adults. And we are teaching them.”
Noirfoot Narrative Labs has been conducting crash courses in filmmaking for Indigenous and other marginalized or underrepresented communities since 2016. Their Prince George seminar was supported by Telus’s StoryHive program.
Actress Grace Dove and her parents at UNBC in March 2016.