Heather Hatch, 2017 recipient of the Banff World Media Festival Mentorship, is devoted to collaboration and self-reflexivity in her work. With positive media representation of Indigenous women and girls as her focus, Hatch uses her talents in writing and filmmaking to put Indigenous community, language, and values at the forefront of the moving-image screen. Her recent project The Girl Who Talks to the Moon (created in partnership with Rebecca Campbell at Catapult Pictures and Frederick Kroetsch), which was picked up by CBC for a pilot episode, highlights the value of connection to Indigenous culture at a young age—the show revolves around a girl from the Haida Nation, Harmony, and her quest to build a kite for Nanaay (Grandmother) Moon. The pilot beautifully combines stop-motion animation with live-action and engages young audiences in Haida traditions of creativity and language. This success is just the beginning for Hatch; she plans to continue her work as filmmaker concerned with Indigenous voice and collaboration.
I spoke with Hatch over the phone one weekday afternoon, just after she had left a meeting regarding her latest endeavour—a documentary about the controversial Site C Dam. I was interested to know more about her process and her goals for this latest work. We talked about these and several other topics, with Hatch’s enthusiasm for collaborative filmmaking and cultural representation shining through with each response.
Sarah Bakke: How did you first find a passion for film?
Heather Hatch: I’d say it was a mixture of things. My friends had been in the industry for a long time, and I often ended up helping them with their projects. In university, I took some film [studies] courses and really liked to write and research, so it all kind of happened naturally.
SB: Yes, you mention a love of writing in your artist bio. You also mention that seeing your writing onscreen is a really inspiring process. Can you elaborate on that experience?
HH: I guess, when I’m trying to think of ways to illustrate a point or a feeling, I try to write what I see in my head. Being able to communicate that through film really got me interested in exploring [the medium] more seriously.
SB: How else has your experience at Banff influenced your career as you’ve moved forward?
HH: I think meeting so many industry experts made it easier to attend future meetings and having to pitch fast makes it easy to define what the thread of your project is. If you can’t see it clearly [as you’re pitching it], perhaps you need to work more on the story. The mentorship from Cynde Harmon was really great, too.
SB: You mentioned a collaborator in Fort St. John. Can you describe the project that’s in the works currently?
HH: Yeah, I’m currently working on a feature-length documentary called Della and Goliath. It focuses on the Site C Dam that’s being built on treaty land, and on an elder named Della Owens, whose life is deeply affected by this dam. I’m focused on how First Nations’ connection to the land is integral to their identity, and on the [continually perpetuated] destruction story and legacy of Canadian cultural genocide. I also want to say, this project was funded through the 2017 Telefilm Talent Fund.
SB: You’ve stated that your focus as a filmmaker is to create positive media representations of Indigenous women and girls—have you encountered any challenges or unexpected obstacles in completing that work?
HH: The biggest challenge is constantly educating yourself about the issues, and listening to the community you’re looking to serve [through] telling their stories. For example, I took some Indigenous studies on the history of Canada and its treaties while working on this film, to understand the importance of what’s happening to Treaty 8, and with Site C and in the Fort St. John area. It’s just a constant learning curve.
SB: What are your go-to strategies for overcoming those challenges?
HH: Well, being humble. I think because I work in documentary a lot, [it’s important to] be humble, respect my subject and the information I’m given, to listen, learn, research, and collaborate.
SB: Is there a specific filmmaker, writer, or film movement that has influenced your work?
HH: Yes—the documentary Finding Dawn by Christine Welsh. When I saw this film, I realized how powerful documentary filmmaking could be, and how much important information it could give, and in such a personal way.
SB: What is the most impactful piece of advice that you can give to aspiring filmmakers?
HH: Work with experienced filmmakers as you’re starting out, so you can learn from their experience. Even just having the help [as you’re] learning how to write grants. It helps you develop your own projects. And I would say that collaboration is really important—film is very collaborative in itself, but working with other people can really clarify your ideas. Also, taking classes at your local film co-op creates a supportive environment.
Finally, if there’s an idea or an image that has caught your attention, it’s probably something you are passionate about, and you should focus on it.
Follow the development of Heather’s latest documentary project, Della and Goliath, at #DellaFilm.