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Media Arts Centre helps people tell stories of the north


By Shari Narine Windspeaker Contributor IQALUIT







It has been decades in the making but Debbie Brisebois still can’t believe it’s officially here.

On Dec. 2, the Nunavut Media Arts Centre had its official grand opening in Iqaluit. The 8,000-square-foot building is located in the core of the business and government district.

“It feels totally amazing,” said Brisebois, executive director for the Inuit Broadcasting Corporation.

The IBC began operating out of NMAC at the end of March when the first phase of the equipment installation, primarily for post-production, was completed. But the second phase, the studio and control room, was only finished in the last month.

“We’ve got pretty much everything we wanted and need, but there’s still more. There’s always more,” said Brisebois.

The budget for the centre, which included the facility, equipment and training, was set at $8.6 million. Fundraising has fallen $1.3 million short. That shortfall will be felt in going beyond basic training on the new technology and state-of-the-art equipment, as well as seating for a live studio audience, a welcomed feature for IBC productions. New office furniture will also have to wait.

The federal and territorial government primarily funded NMAC, although financial support also came through partnerships with Inuit organizations, private corporations and individuals. Brisebois expects the remainder of the money will be garnered through grants and more traditional fundraising.

“We’ve been talking about the need for something like this for about 20 years,” said Brisebois. “We started for real the planning about seven years ago.”

The need for a new facility was evident from the time IBC set up shop in a 1950s warehouse, which was never designed for television production or for office space. It was the second facility occupied by IBC in Iqaluit.

“We survived all those years there, but it wasn’t the optimum situation,” said Brisebois, adding that safety and health of staff was always a priority. NMAC has eight to 10 permanent staff and a “multitude” of contractors depending on what production is being worked on and what stage the production is at.

IBC has five production centres across Nunavut, with 29 Inuit staff at every level of the production chain, from director of network programming to technical producer to administrative assistant. All programming is conceived, designed and produced by Inuit for Inuit. Presently, IBC produces five series.

Brisebois is hopeful that local and territorial freelancers, performers, artists and production companies working in Nunavut will choose to make use of the new facility. Most material produced by independents in the territory is either assembled in small, home-studios or shipped south at considerable cost for editing and mastering.

Already this past summer, a production company from Quebec used NMAC for work it shot in the territory for its feature film, Iqaluit.

IBC sustains its core operations through self-generated revenues, with grants and contributions supporting specific activities and projects. The new facility will diversify that revenue generation and reduce dependence on government funding.

NMAC also has an Inuit Film and Video Archive, bringing together more than 30 years of historic material, an estimated 9,000 hours chronicling, from the Inuit perspective, the division of the territories, the creation of key national Inuit organizations, the concept and signing of Inuit land claims, the creation of Nunavut, and the evolution of a new political, social cultural environment. The work will now be catalogued, digitized, archived and safely stored, enabling the network to introduce management and administrative systems for receiving and responding to requests for access to archived material.

“We’re really blown away by the amount of support that we did get and it was a good validation of people seeing the importance of what IBC does, that we had so many people pitch in to make this happen,” said Brisebois.

Photo option: Jim Papatsie, with Inuit Broadcasting Corporation, in the new control room at the Nunavut Media Arts Centre.