Len Lindstrom of the Tseshaht Nation is following his passion and pursuing a career in film.
Many artists have been known to suffer for their work and Nuu-chah-nulth filmmaker Len Lindstrom is no exception. In fact, if it weren’t for a debilitating back injury, Lindstrom, who recently earned second-place in an Aboriginal People’s Television Network (APTN) digital film contest, may still be working a construction job full time.
But upon doctor’s orders to take care of his body, Lindstrom –who keeps his hand in seasonal commercial fishing too–decided to turn his passion for filmmaking into a career as a cinematographer, and fate has taken him far.
Last month Lindstrom’s creative efforts came to fruition with his second-place nod in the contest, which was a collaborative initiative between the Indigenous Independent Digital Film program [IIDF] at Capilano University in North Vancouver and APTN. Lindstrom won $1,000.
The competition, which was open to past and present Capilano University IIDF students, boasted 12 digital short film entries. Lindstrom’s three-minute film “Lost” beat out nine other films. Métis filmmaker Jay Cardinal Villeneuve won first place for his short “Reserved for Hollywood.” Judson Pooyak won third place for his film “Boogie.”
“I thought it was great!” Lindstrom said of his accomplishment.
“I totally feel like I won twice,” he added, explaining that he was the cinematographer for Villeneuve’s first place short.
“It was always just a dream,” he said of his film career. It was a dream that Lindstrom initially realized as a child, acting in school theatre productions and then later as the family camcorder aficionado.
Today Lindstrom, who grew up on the Vancouver Island west coast First Nation community of Tseshaht, has many short films under his belt, including one about sex addiction titled “Only once” and another humorously called “Where You From, Indian?”
But Lindstrom is not solely a fiction filmmaker. Creating short documentaries is also a labour of love for the 33-year-old. With historically-inspired bio-flicks “Indian Cowboys” and “Ha-Shilth-Sa Bob,” Lindstrom is refreshingly well-rounded in his craft.
“Ha-Shilth-Sa Bob” is a work-in-progress, explained Lindstrom. He said the film pays homage to the Nuu-chah-nulth newspaper’s first editor, Bob Soderlund. Lindstrom plans to give the film as a gift to his community to be held in their archives when the work is complete.
Asked what the most difficult part of following his filmmaking dream has been? Lindstrom doesn’t hesitate.
“It’s the poverty,” he said, referring to the financial bind most students find themselves in when pursuing higher education.
Prior to being accepted in IIDF, Lindstrom was enrolled for two years in Vernon College to upgrade his education. While in Vernon, Lindstrom said being away from his wife and young child was extremely difficult. He also said living in student “poverty” proved one of the biggest obstacles on the path to his dream.
Lindstrom admits that going from earning nearly $3,000 a month to living off a measly $600 a month was one of the biggest challenges he has faced throughout his education.
But he has survived and today Lindstrom is on his third year of the five-year film program at Capilano University. He is currently taking courses in cinematography, and while he enjoys directing and acting, Lindstrom said being behind the camera is where he is meant to be.
Sean Rickner, APTN’s director of marketing, said the Short Cuts competition is a wonderful way to encourage youth to get involved in film.
“I think it’s great to showcase young aboriginal talent and encourage them into film,” he said.
“It was great to be a part of,” he added.
Rickner said the remaining nine entries will be shown on the network throughout the year.
The winners were chosen by the public. Viewers we’re able to watch the shorts online and vote for their favourites. Online voting took place from mid December until the end of January. Winners were announced in February.
“We got quite a few hits,” Rickner said of the online downloads to view the short films. “And in terms of votes we had over 2,300 voters,” he added.
“I hope people can realize these ways of telling stories,” he said of filmmaking.
“We had some fantastic stuff,” he concluded.
Lindstrom advises up-and-coming aboriginal filmmakers to surround themselves with positive energy in order to succeed.
“Find the good support and family network to help you get through—healthy friends,” he said, adding that he has been sober for eight years
“Once you get into it you can do it,” he assured. “I don’t regret anything.”