KDFN Citizen Kiri Geen builds a career in Hollywood North

KDFN Citizen Kiri Geen says she got her first job in the film industry almost by accident. A friend was casting background extras-the people you see walking behind the main characters in a film scene-and Kiri stepped forward for the job. Little did she know that side gig would turn into a life-long love and lead her to a career in writing, acting and producing.

Just take your time with these things and believe in yourself. You’re capable of more than you give yourself credit. It’s like bungee jumping. You’ve got to take that first leap. That’s the most terrifying, but once you do it, it’s amazing.”

Kiri, who prefers to be called by her first name rather than her last, has been involved in the Vancouver film industry-affectionately known as Hollywood North-for a decade now. During that time, she’s been involved in hit shows, such as CBC’s Arctic Air.

Kiri spent two years earning a Fine Arts diploma at the Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art in Terrace, BC. Now she is preparing for the debut of her new short film Kiri and the Girl, which she produced and co-wrote with collaborators Christopher Logan and Ken Shapkin.

Chris and I wrote a script about a girl, we used my name (for the character), who has lost her mother,” explains Kiri, “She and her mother were very tapped in to the spirit world and her mother was her guide. So young Kiri feels a little lost and disconnected from the world and her dad, and she finds herself through the powwow culture and culture of ceremony.”

Kiri’s First Nations ancestry plays a large role in her creativity. In addition to her busy film schedule, she spends time with bead work, painting and carving.

Kiri Geen

I think it’s amazing timing right now for a film like this because it’s such a positive story and it’s about healing, it’s about community, it’s about culture, it’s about healing through your culture. And I think it’s a good time, especially with the children being found right now, to have a positive message. And even my own personal healing journey, the majority of my healing has been done through ceremony and First Nations culture.”

Kiri and the Girl was a low budget, independent production. As such, it came with its own unique set of challenges.

Our biggest challenge, I think, was filming in the time of COVID,” says Kiri. “We had a lot of safety precautions and a lot of planning to make sure everybody was safe because we did have Elders and children on set. But it worked to our advantage.”

I might sort of call it a COVID opportunity because we got the crew we wanted because the whole industry was shut down.”

Kiri’s dream cast and crew included director Grace Dove, an established First Nations actress who has been featured in The Revenant and Monkey Beach. And Whitehorse actor Tahmoh Penikett, who was a series regular on Battlestar Galactica and Dollhouse. Up-and-coming actor Isla Grant plays the main character, Kiri.

The film may have an extremely talented and respected cast and crew, but its existence was never a guarantee.

When we applied for the grant to the Canada Arts Council, we never thought we’d get it,” says Kiri, “But we spent five months researching which grant would work best for us.”

The hard work and dedication paid off. And, Kiri has some advice for those looking to pursue their dreams.

Just take your time with these things and believe in yourself because you’re capable of more than you give yourself credit for,” she says. “It’s like bungee jumping: You’ve got to take that first leap. That’s the most terrifying, but once you do, it’s amazing.”

So far, Kiri and the Girl has screened at the Vancouver International Film Festival, the Victoria Film Festival, the American Indian Film Festival, the San Francisco Film Festival and the St. Johns International Women’s Film Festival.

This story was provided by Kwanlin Dün First Nation as part of its series featuring Citizen success stories. If you’re looking to find out more about Kwanlin Dün they invite you to read their award-winning book Kwanlin Dün Dǎ kwǎndur ghày ghakwadîndur Our Stories in Our Words. It’s available through the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre in Whitehorse.

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