Onkwehón:we artists have taken centre stage after more than one hundred years of misrepresentation and cultural appropriation in the entertainment industry. We are being seen and heard in the mainstream media now more than ever; however, we still have a long way to go as many artists continue to overcome obstacles such as funding, regulation policies, rights and proper representation to get their message out to the world.
Derek Miller is no stranger to the challenges of establishing freedom of expression in the face of the Canadian government. Derek’s performance variety TV series The Guilt Free Zone had been in conflict with some Canadian entertainment industry policies and had fought to bring it into its second season.
“We are a performance variety TV show and we actually got into a little bit of trouble with tax credits and everything from the Canadian government last time,” said Derek. “They said we were a talk show and with the rules they didn’t define what was what between a performance variety and a talk show. So we ended up having to go to court and we beat them.” Derek goes on to mention that they’re one of the only productions to have a ruling overturned in their favour and had been re-writing the rules the second time around.
“I’m pretty proud of that, that they got their back up too because we were attacking the Canadian government pretty hard in the show,” laughs Derek. “It’s needed because they got to be put in their place where I think they need to understand there’s relationships and agreements between our people and we need to figure those things out and be united to do it.”
Given the court ruling, the performance variety aspect of the show has been reworked into a new format.
“It’s a whole kind of Bugs Bunny versus Yosemite Sam sort of deal, plus a little bit of Muppets and Cheers and Saturday Night Live all put together. I’m really excited about this season. I think it’s gonna be really fun and I’m looking forward to shooting the comedy aspect of it,” said Derek. “It’s more like a comedy drama that plays out. It’s pretty absurd. I got a bunch of oracles in the basement of this place, my bar the Guilt-Free Zone. This Texas billionaire is trying to take over my bar because he wants to make condos out of it. So there’s this conflict between me and this guy who is trying to shut me down. I got this basement full of oracles making potions and medicine men and stuff. They made me a portal in the bar so I can go anywhere, so it’s kind of out there.”
Production began last week with the live performance pieces shot on set at Revival Studios in Toronto. The show featured 39 performances throughout five days. This week they are shooting the comedy drama segments of the show.
“We’ve had almost every indigenous artist that is doing something big in the business. I’m really proud to showcase the talent that we have,” said Derek, who goes on to say that they were unable to afford some of the bigger acts they wanted to feature because of the supply and demand that is generated under more capitalistic standards.
“It’s weird to put that up against me. I have a big heart, I like to give everybody everything and I don’t care about money. If it’s there, take it, but that’s just the Onkwehon:we in me. That’s where we come from, these sort of democratic/socialist origins. So to try to work within a capitalist society it’s weird, but it’s necessary because we’re living in it so we have to figure out our ways. I just hope we can support each other. That’s what I’m trying to do here, to support the arts and support the people and their creativity.”
Derek wants to thank Big Soul Productions and the whole team that came together to make the show happen.
“They’ve done a fantastic job of making the set look great, we’re writing great scripts, trying to make these things absurd and funny and we’ve hired a lot of great comedic actors. I’m just proud of Big Soul and everybody that came together for this. I’m stoked,” Derek said.