Reelworld had the pleasure of Zooming with Tamara Podemski while she was filming on location in New Mexico. Mrs. Podemski is a Canadian film and television actress and writer. She spoke to us about her journey and why being acknowledged by Reelworld as a trailblazer meant so much to her.
Tamara is most noted for her regular supporting role as Alison Trent in the television series Coroner, for which she won the Canadian Screen Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series at the 9th Canadian Screen Awards in 2021.
When did you first hear about Reelworld Film Festival?
“In the very beginning of film festivals, Tonya was always there at every native event. If there was anything in the world of indigenous cinema or television, I always remember Tonya being a huge supporter and friend of everyone there. Very early on I understood that being a part of a marginalized voice in the industry meant that you were a part of a VIP club, and it was a great club because it was made up of fierce advocates, and so Reelworld, to me, was always one of those players in that work.”
When we at Reelworld honoured you as a trailblazer in the industry, what was that moment like?
“It was really meaningful for me... Four Sheets to the Wind was a small, passion project, and I loved it so much. I mean, we didn’t even have money for a poster. We were not expecting to get acknowledged for the film, so getting into Sundance and winning the special jury prize for acting was exciting. You just do it because you love it. But the next day, the Canadian press had the headline ‘No Wins for Canada at Sundance.’ It was a little crushing. So, when Reelworld reached out and told me I was being acknowledged by this amazing community that celebrates artists. Artists that are, maybe on the periphery, but who work really hard to tell their story, this is the reason why the Trailblazer award meant so much!”
When did your writing journey begin? And what is that process like?
“I always loved writing. I never wanted to be a playwright. I was hired to be a script reader for Sundance. I love how film scripts are written. My sister knew I had aspirations to write for film and television but the real moment came when my sister created a documentary show called “Future History” and asked me to be a writer for her show. I still had to prove myself, but she had seen enough of my own scripts and most importantly, she trusted me with the subject matter.”
Do you think there has been a shift in the Canadian television and film landscape regarding indigenous storytelling?
“Absolutely! Because we are now in charge of the stories. We are taking up more space than we ever have, in front of the camera, behind the camera, in the board rooms and the jurors and in the funding bodies.”
Do you think it’s crucial to decolonize white institutions in Canada, or is it more important to simply create our own foundations like Reelworld that celebrate BIPOC filmmakers?
“Well, like Reelworld and ImagiNative, we had to do that because we weren’t being included in their festivals. So it’s a grouping, a kind of an insulating and protective measure, so we could celebrate our work and generate more. And the gains and awards of that work we are now living in, that era. However, I do think that decolonization is important because we have to get in there, and we have to take up that space. We need to open people’s eyes to another way of approaching creation of work or supporting new voices, or creating relationships. Everything is made better when more of us are at the table. But I don’t believe in an overhall of every system. There are limits, but that also forces creation of all things.”
Besides being an award-winning actress on the Coroner, what other projects are you currently working on?
“I will be starring in a new family TV drama called “Unsettled” that will be airing n the fall on ATPN and TVO. Shot in North Bay on the rez. This was the first show to be a part of the ingenious language Production Program supported by Telefilm, so 50% of the show is in a native language.”
Follow @reelworld on Instagram to find out who the 2021 Trailblazers are.