DIY is a short drama about Adam, a skateboarder, who meets an unexpected stranger Joe, a Cree man who shares a traditional song which inspires him to get back to his roots.
This is Taran Kootenhayoo’s first ever written and directed piece of work, and it features iconic skaters Adam George and Joe Buffalo. This film was shot at East Vancouver’s DIY skatepark – Leeside – built by the skate community in honour of Lee Matasi, a victim of a downtown shooting.
Here is a short conversation we had with Taran.
Hey Taran, do you want to start by telling us a bit about your background?
Yeah so, first of I am Denesułįné and Stoney Nakoda, I was born in Cold Lake, Alberta and I am a member of Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation, which is in Treaty 6 territory. I started skateboarding when I was 13 in Cold Lake and before that, when I was a little kid, I was a powwow dancer and I traveled around with my mom and sister and we did the powwow trail, that was fun. And around 14-15, we moved to Edmonton and that’s when I started meeting more homies and I remember seeing Jo Buffalo at the West 49 at West Edmonton mall skatepark, absolutely destroying it.
When did you got into film making?
The film making stuff kinda came in around that same time, in Edmonton I took this film making workshop called “Dreamspeakers on Tour”, it was a 10 day summer program where a bunch of indigenous youth and mentors would get together and go somewhere, like Banff or Drumheller and you basically make your own short film and I did that for 2 years and when I turned 18 I moved to Vancouver.
Is this when you met Adam George?
Yeah, Adam was actually my roommate when he moved from Toronto. Adam is also native and it’s interesting when you are native and a skater, it’s a different way to meet you know, when you meet a skater at the skatepark it’s like,”hey what’s up” but when you are native it’s also, “hey where are you from” and it’s totally a different engagement and it makes it so much better.
Do you want to tell about your short film D.I.Y? I heard it’s based on a true story?
Yeah it is based on a true story. I was skating at Leeside and this random native dude was standing there, in the rain in a trench coat and we started talking he shared this powwow song with me and it was a Stoney powwow song, which was cool because being on the west coast, I don’t really engage with a lot of my Stoney background but there I was at Leeside and this Cree dude shared this song with me that’s from the Stoney people I thought it was amazing. And he did it with the stick just like in the movie.
So is it the same song you used in the movie?
No because I could not find that song so my relative, they have a drum group called the Logan Alexis Singers so I asked them if they were interested in being a part of the film and giving us permission to use the song for the film.
What would you say you were trying to tell with D.I.Y?
I think that no matter where you are, there will be some encounters that will bring you back to who you are. Some people will say Creator will always find their way to you in different ways that remind you of whatever you might need or a reminder of who you are. For me, D.I.Y is just a good example of you can be native, you can skate, you don’t have to be overly indigenous to still be able to share things that are inherently indigenous. Ever since I’ve got into acting, I’ve always wanted to combine skateboarding and being native and this was a great opportunity to do exactly that. To make an native skate film.
Taran Kootenhayoo is a Denesułįné and Stoney Nakoda multi-disciplinary artist from Treaty 6 territory in Alberta. He currently pays rent in Vancouver on the unceded and unsurrendered territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples.
He has written and co-written over six plays & one screenplay since graduating from Capilano University’s Acting for Stage and Screen program in 2015. He is signed with Premiere Talent Management and is a member of Full Circle’s First Nation Performance Ensemble. Taran has been awarded ‘Star to Watch’ at the Whistler Film Festival (2018) and also the ‘Sam Payne’s Most Promising Newcomer’ award at the Jessie Theatre Awards (2019). He is taking a stab at comedy through making memes, doing stand-up and writing comedic stories.