Lesley Johnson’s I Hold The Dehcho In My Heart won best documentary as the NWT held its first-ever film awards gala on Saturday.

Johnson’s 20-minute film, also titled Sedze Tah Dehcho E’Toh and produced alongside Amos Scott, follows Indigenous students and Elders on a six-week paddle down the Mackenzie River. It was broadcast by the CBC this summer.

Hay River’s Scott Clouthier and Heather Heinrichs won best narrative short for She Keeps Me Warm, a 2018 Dead North horror film festival entry.

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Peter Clarkson’s documentary on the opening of the Inuvik-Tuk Highway won best government commercial film, while an Artless Collective and Kellett Communications film for Dominion Diamond won the best non-government commercial category.

Terry Woolf, the Gemini award-winning backbone of NWT film for four decades – hailed as “Mr Fixit” by director and awards ceremony host Jen Walden – won a special award for his contribution to the industry in the Northwest Territories.

“I am honoured to be among such a flowering of talent, there is so much talent here now,” said Woolf.

“The NWT seems to be going through a renaissance of the arts, and I’m proud and honoured to be in a little part of it.”

 

Industry minister Wally Schumann used the evening to announce the creation of a new film apprenticeship program, which will help up to four people gain work experience on film or TV sets.

“This pilot program is designed to help our local film workforce gain on-the-job experience with major productions,” said Schumann.

“We want to build a sustainable film industry for the territory, which means getting that hands-on experience with large-scale productions.”

The idea stemmed, said Schumann, from a conversation with Walden at an event held during last year’s Yellowknife International Film Festival. The apprenticeship program will be delivered by the NWT Professional Media Association (NWTPMA), of which Walden is president, and jointly funded by two territorial government departments.

More details of the apprenticeship program are set to be posted to the NWTPMA website in the coming weeks.