Mentorship and growth came full circle when two Okotoks filmmakers garnered provincial titles.
Seasoned producer Scott Lepp shared the title of Best Scripted Series with Ron E. Scott and Janet Morhart for APTN’s Indigenous cop drama Tribal at the Alberta Film and Television Awards (nicknamed the Rosies) while newcomer Callum LeBlanc won Best Student Production with friends Isaac and Ian Lee for their film Solipsism.
“To me what makes (Tribal) special is its unique stories,” said Lepp, who cut his teeth with nearly a decade on the set of Heartland.
Filmed predominantly in and around Calgary, the show focuses on Indigenous police chief Samantha Woodburn (played by Jessica Matten) who is forced to work with Chuck “Buke” Bukansky (Brian Markinson), a senior white detective who’s rough around the edges.
“What happened is as it went along, it evolved into more of a character-driven show, so it became less about the crime, but it became more about the characters,” Lepp continued. “There’s the relationship of this young indigenous woman who’s thrust into becoming the chief of tribal police and then partnered up with this old-school washed-up metropolitan police detective.
“That dynamic is really what keeps people involved and what people love about the show.”
Lepp credited executive producer and showrunner Ron E. Scott drawing on his Metis roots for the success of the show.
“He brings that side of things to the show and allows us to tell these stories that have never been told before,” Lepp said. “He’s really good at finding these really unique, ripped from the headlines type of things to focus the crimes on.”
Bringing Indigenous characters to the forefront in mainstream media is something Lepp is proud to take part in.
“The future of storytelling is diverse stories, because they’re stories we haven’t heard yet,” Lepp said. “I feel like stories like Tribal are the future. That’s what drew me to it.”
Having a few years under his belt as he grew into the role of producer, Lepp was also happy to share that experience with LeBlanc, a student of the Alberta High School of Fine Arts (AHSFA).
As a member of the Okotoks Film Society’s board of directors, Lepp mentored LeBlanc and Lee as they crafted their film.
"I always jump at the opportunity to do mentorships as part of my role on the society's board, and he was doing the youth festival," Lepp said.
"I was their mentor for the project, and we had a few hours where I just went over filmmaking and producing to try and help them with their project."
Later in Sept. 2020, the film was entered in the Zooom Youth Film Festival.
“I got to judge his film and typically you expect at that level for it to lack in story structure and not show a ton of filmmaking prowess, because that comes with time,” Lepp said.
Lepp was quickly corrected upon viewing the film.
“I was just like ‘Damn, that was a great film,’” he said. “He kind of blew me away. His talent is quite raw, but you can see there’s some pretty extreme potential there.”
Having taken the Rosies’ youth title himself while going to Lethbridge Colledge, Lepp urged LeBlanc to enter Solipsism.
LeBlanc, who is only just beginning his Grade 11 year at AHSFA, didn’t expect the level of recognition he’s achieved for his film.
“It’s amazing, it’s a bit surreal, and I never thought I would be in this place,” LeBlanc said.
The short film was also surreal, featuring a character stuck in a forest that appears to change around him, with space and time shifting. The character remains in this confused state for much of the film as he’s pursued by an unknown entity.
The short starred Isaac Lee, who also took charge of sound and assisted with directing and script writing, while his brother Ian stood in as a double when needed.
LeBlanc was also recognized the year prior at the Skills Canada national competition with Bronze for video production.
The strong partnership he shares with friend Isaac Lee was a key part of the success.
“We’ve been making movies together for about seven years now, pretty much everything we do is 50-50, so it’s a great partnership,” LeBlanc said.
He also credited Lepp’s input in their endeavours.
“It was great, because it felt like he gave us great criticism, and great praise as well; he’s obviously somebody who knows what he’s talking about,” he said.
Award in hand, the young filmmaker doesn’t plan to slow down.
“What’s next for me is to just keep writing stories, keep making movies,” LeBlanc said. “I have some stories I’ve been working on.”