June 24, 2011

Just What is Derek Miller Doing in the Guilt Free Zone?

Here is a great clip put together by Big Soul Productions called “Guilt Free Zone—Opener.”

We think it’s great, but we don’t really know what “it” is just yet. If we didn’t know any better, we’d say it looks like the intro to a show hosted by Miller, a Mohawk bluesman/rock musician from the Six Nations Reserve. And it’s a show with a bunch of cool people—model/actress Ashley Callingbull; Urban Native Girl Lisa Charleyboy; blues duo Digging Roots; and rapper Joey Stylez.

Click here to view the embedded video.

(Rai-Chi? Can’t help you with that one.)

It’s like a big party full of our favorite Canadians. Or TV show. Or web series. Or maybe just a joke? Just what is Derek Miller doing?

We’re gonna have to have a talk with that boy.

P.S. There is another Guilt Free Zone clip, this one a skit based on TMZ. It’s cute, but it doesn’t answer our original question.

Click here to view the embedded video.

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June 30, 2011

Derek Miller Doesn’t Need Your Guilt

Derek Miller Guilt Free Zone

Dancing girls are a must in the Guilt Free Zone

Recently an interesting clip of blues-rock musician Derek Miller showed up on YouTube—it’s called “Guilt Free Zone intro” and it looks like an opening sequence for a late-night talk show. Miller runs around doing various inappropriate things (using the ladies’ restroom, eating a hot dog in one bite, stealing a dog) and apparently not feeling guilty about any of it.

It’s a fun clip to watch, and it touts appearances by some of Canada’s hippest natives. But the original questions remains: What is the Guilt Free Zone?

“We’re not really sure what it is at the moment,” Miller admits. Big Soul Productions, an aboriginal owned and operated production company located in Toronto, was due to celebrate its 12th anniversary, and Miller figured that was as good an excuse as any to throw a party. “I had this idea of putting a talk show together,” he says, then goes on to describe something that might have been a little risqué even for late-night network TV. “We had a lot of gogo dancers wearing sexy outfits,” he recalls. “Lisa Charleyboy played my secretary and I kept sexually harassing her. I called her a high-priced whore, so she whipped me throughout my [musical] performance. That was all improv. She was really whipping me hard. We had a ninja—a guy in a ninja costume—giving out Jagermeister shots to everyone. My stage manager Rai-Chi said he needed a little help, so we had this little person dressed up in the same clothes…”

(Ashley Callingbull, second runner-up in Miss Universe Canada 2010, was the host at the very beginning of the show, before things went downhill, and did not participate in the debauchery. Probably a good move.)

And the lesson here is…?

Lisa Charleyboy whipping Derek Miller

Derek Miller on guitar; Lisa Charleyboy on whip

“I think it’s important to have these things out there,” says Miller. “There’s a place for the traditional, and there is a place for people who like to push the envelope. The Guilt Free Zone is a positive place. We’re saying, have fun, you shouldn’t feel guilty about having fun, about having a big party and letting loose. American Indians have this image of being very serious, of being not very fun. We’re saying, if it’s fun—and you’re not hurting anyone—do it.”

Showing Indians’ guilt-free fun side plays into the bigger picture as well, says Miller. “We have a lot going on, as Native Americans in media,” he says. “We have our own production companies, we have very talented people. If we’re going to show the world what we’re really like, we have to take control of the media. Because if we let other people decide how we’re portrayed—well, we know what that looks like, right?”

The Guilt Free Zone show, which happened May 31 at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto, also included a surprise guest appearance by Adam Beach and musical performances by rapper Joey Stylez and blues duo Digging Roots, and closed with a two-hour concert by Miller himself. It was a one-off—for now. “We don’t know what will happen with it next,” Miller says. “We’ve talked about getting it on TV somewhere, maybe APTN [Canada’s Aboriginal People Television Network], we’ve also considered doing it as a webcast. We’re open to different possibilities.”

Comedy and hosting are just a couple of things Miller wants to try; he’s also interested in acting and perhaps directing. “Right now, I feel like the world is my oyster,” she says. “I don’t mean that in a conceited way. It’s true for all of us. We all have to fight the same crap, we have to overcome our self esteem issues, every day, and if we can do that our possibilities are unlimited.” On the acting front, he’s working with Sherry Wray, widow of Link Wray, on a planned film about the seminal rocker’s life in which he would play the lead. He’s also got two musical projects in the works; first he’ll be recording an album as a member of a band called Indian Booze Machine, and then he’ll head into the studio with his own band, Bliss Fiasco.

Perhaps the project he’s most excited about at the moment is a deeply personal one: Swinefest, a charity event featuring several local bands held on the Six Nations Reserve, where he grew up. It’s named after himself, in a way: “My nickname on the rez growing up was ‘Little Pig,’” he admits. Swinefest 2011 happens on August 20—“it’s on my family’s property,” he says, “on my grandfather’s land. That makes it really special for me.”

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January 10, 2012

APTN’s Rez Drama Blackstone Returns

Blackstone, one of the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network’s (APTN) most popular and top-rated television programs, will kick off its second season on Wednesday, January 11, 2012.

This original Canadian drama boasts an all-star cast made up of a veritable who’s who of First Nations actors including Eric Schweig, Gemini Award winner Michelle Thrush and Gemini nominee Carmen Moore. Other First Nations actors include Nathaniel Arcand, Roseanne Supernault, Steven Cree Molison, Andrea Menard, Justin Rain and Ashley Callingbull.

Joining the series are acclaimed First Nations actors Tantoo Cardinal and Gary Farmer of the cult-classic Smoke Signals, Georgina Lightning and Michelle Latimer, as well as Cameron Bancroft, Frank Cassini, Vincent Gale and Lori Triolo.

Blackstone is about the real-world struggles faced by the fictional Blackstone First Nation, and the first episode of season two will pick up where season one’s cliffhanger ending left off. Topics that have been tackled by Blackstone include foster care, toxic water and the fight of indigenous people seeking the betterment of their community.

The show is written, directed and produced by Ron E. Scott of Edmonton’s Prairie Dog Film + Television, along with producer Jesse Szymanski, producer/writer Damon Vignale and writers Gil Cardinal and Penny Gummerson. It has achieved a high level of success because, according to Scott, “Blackstone gets under your skin; it makes you think, feel and want more.”

Scott certainly has been doing something right, as the first season of Blackstone reaped two Gemini Awards, two 2011 Leo Awards and three 2011 Alberta Film and Television Awards. Season 1 of Blackstone currently broadcasts in Canada on APTN, and in New Zealand on Maori Television. The series is distributed internationally by PPI Releasing.

“I am humbled to have this opportunity to be involved in a show that has reached into lives and has spoken into subjects that have not been presented on Canadian television,” says Scott.

September 1, 2011 marked the 12-year anniversary of the launch of APTN, the first national Aboriginal television network in the world with programming by, for and about Aboriginal Peoples to share with all Canadians and viewers around the world. APTN is available to approximately 10 million Canadian households and commercial establishments.

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January 24, 2012

Ashley Callingbull Is a Miss World Canada Finalist

Filed under: Arts & Entertainment,Canada — Tags: , , , , , — ICTMN Staff @ 10:21 pm

Cree model and actress Ashley Callingbull is among the final 20 women competing for the Miss World Canada title. She has previously represented Canada in the Miss Humanity International, Queen of the World, and Miss Friendship competitions, and was second runner up for Miss Universe Canada 2010.

Callingbull is currently appearing on the acclaimed APTN drama Blackstone, about the fictional Blackstone First Nation. As her profile rises, her appeal is also broadening—she was recently featured on the popular men’s entertainment site theChive, and received rave reviews.

“Best Chivette ever,” reads the first comment on the page.We’re guessing many ICTMN readers will agree.

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