Nyla Innuksuk is the founder of Mixtape VR which produces Virtual and Augmented Reality content. A writer for Marvel Comics, Innuksuk co-created the character of Snowguard, a teenage superhero from Pangnirtung, Nunavut and a member of Marvel’s Champions League. Working in mixed media allows Nyla to channel her passions for technology and genre storytelling among mediums that include interactive graphic novels, film, television and synthetic experiences. Originally from Igloolik, Nunavut, Innuksuk studied film at Ryerson University before working as a producer at the Aboriginally owned and operated Big Soul Productions. She then went on to found Pinnguaq VR before establishing her own company in Mixtape. In addition to her film and digital work, Nyla sits on the board of directors of Ontario Creates (formerly the OMDC) and the Glenn Gould Foundation. She was recently selected by Google to be included in their exclusive Google Jump program, is an ambassador for the Northern Indigenous Film Fund in Norway and was the 2018 imagineNATIVE artist in residence.
READ OUR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH NYLA BELOW:
What motivates you?
A passion for telling stories and snacks (skittles are my top choice, closely followed by liquorice all sorts).
How do you stay motivated in this industry?
I have to focus on creating things that I’m really excited and passionate about. There are a lot of opportunities and creative avenues to explore, but having the ability to say “no” and prioritize the stories that you care about is essential to staying motivated. I’m also lucky enough to be able to work with friends of mine who really push themselves creatively within their field. I really love working in interactive spaces and being able to play with the same world in different ways. By working in different mediums like film, VR, AR, video games, comic books, you get to explore and have a little
Advice to someone just starting out?
I would advise someone just starting out to find people you enjoy making stuff with and making stuff with them. The best way to get experience is by doing it, and a lot of it doesn’t require a lot of money. On that note, it’s also important to be able to pay your bills and your dues and taking on production coordination jobs for a few years before you become an associate producer is normal and fun and a great learning experience.
Who impacted your career the most?
I think fellow artists have impacted my career the most. And in particular Indigenous artists. I grew up watching movies like Scream, The Shining and E.T., but it wasn’t until I started working with Indigenous artists that were representing their communities in their work that I started developing myself.
How did you build the team around you?
Hahaha. You mean my family and my friends who I work with? My older brother is curating this exhibit with me and my little brother is working on my film’s storyboards. My producers are my pals and my friend is doing the music and I’m pulling in another favour for the alien voices. I think the team is whoever you feel comfortable creating stuff with. I’m very collaborative in the way that I work and I like having creative feedback and as a result I have to like the people I work with.
Was it luck or strategy that helped you find success?
A little bit of both. I am very privileged in a lot of ways. Capacity building and mentorship have always been an important part of the way that I work because I know that I’ve had certain advantages. I have worked with young people who don’t have a quiet safe place to sleep at night, let alone access to internet or a VR headset. I was able to go to University in Toronto and English was the language spoken at home and I was able to track down a camera and editing equipment with relative ease as a teenager.
So yeah, I was lucky, but I also was quite ambitious. I still am. I have a lot of work that I want to make and I know that it takes more than just some unique opportunities to get stuff done. In May of 2017 I had a full liver transplant. I was told that I had a 50/50 chance of surviving the month and I knew I really didn’t want to die. I had to make a lot of strategic choices, and that strategy saved my life and made it possible for me to be directing a feature at all. I quit my job working for jerks who were using my Inukness to legitimize a company, I started my own company and I decided to not work on other peoples projects because I had my own projects to work on. I decided that I would not only produce this alien movie I had in my head, but that I would also write and direct it as well.
Did you ever give up hope that you'd not make it?
I realized that the worst thing would be to not even get the opportunity to try. And that a lot of the things that were getting in my way were the result of me trying to work within a system that didn’t make sense for me and the kind of stories I wanted to tell. I think that when I realized that I really might not get to make these things I was dreaming up, the priorities shifted from “making it” in the industry to “making it” as a creator of stuff.
What was your worst experience in this business?
Being the co-owner of a tech company with an Inuktitut name, Pinnguaq, and being paid less than half of what my white, male co-owners were being paid. It was really hurtful to be told that my value was less than theirs for no other reason than their inability to expect anything from me. They saw me as a token at the company and it was reflected in the way I was treated. Whoops.
What was your best experience in this business?
I’m in Nunavut. We are exactly two weeks out from my first day of filming my first movie ever. It’s a horror movie and I’ve pretty much wanted to make a horror movie as long as I’ve known about horror movies (which was when I was 8 years old and my mom showed me The Birds). This is pretty great.