McMahon’s pitch green-lighted by imagineNATIVE

Ryan McMahon’s feature film script pitch has been selected by the ImagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival’s inaugural script development lab. 

McMahon (Anishinaabe/Metis), 37, lives in Winnipeg, Man. Originally from Fort Frances, Ontario, McMahon’s family is from Couchiching First Nation.

McMahon has been a stand up comic since 2008. In 2001, he started doing sketch and improv comedy and he’s never looked back.

“After graduating from Second City in Toronto, I knew I wanted to do comedy for a living. I’ve never really wanted to do anything else. I don’t have a Plan B per se. I’m lucky it’s working out so far,” said McMahon about his career.
He pitched a screenplay to imagineNATIVE because of the lack of representation of Indigenous peoples in cinema.

“I don’t feel like my ideas or thoughts are represented when I look around the media landscape so I decided to start writing my own stories,” said McMahon.

After years of writing for his solo career and for comedic troupes like Tonto’s Nephews, McMahon finds that the writing process flows for him.

“One of my blessings and one of my curses is that it’s very easy for me to generate content. I’m a storyteller. I’m always looking for stories. When it comes time to telling those stories, it’s very easy for me,” said McMahon about turning a story into a screenplay.

“I had the idea of turning a couple of characters I thought about using in different types of stories – bringing them together in this world. Once I did that, it was like the story wrote itself. It became very clear how the characters would interact,” he said.

With his screenplay, McMahon wants to explore things not yet done in Native cinema.

“We always talk about how funny we are as Native people but we’ve never really hit a home run in terms of comedy on a big screen,” said McMahon.

He described his film, Bamaapi, as “part-heist movie and part-road movie about a family that has to come together during a heist gone wrong.”

Bamaapi means “See you later” in Ojibway. “It’s the word we use for good-bye,” said McMahon. “I’m using it in a funny context like if you said, ‘See you later’ running out the door.”

McMahon’s story is about a young man who leaves the reserve to get a higher education.

While at school, the young man takes a job at a bar. After a night out on the town with his co-worker friends, he wakes up in a hotel room alone.

He returns to work to find out that the bar has been robbed and that his employers think he’s done it.

He escapes briefly and calls on his family back on the rez to save him. Then, hilarity ensues as his uncles and aunties come to his rescue.

The beginning steps of McMahon’s feature script start this week as he meets with three other writers chosen for imagineNATIVE’s lab at a four-day retreat on Atikameksheng Anishnawbek territory (formerly Whitefish Lake First Nation).

The Indigenous screenwriters were chosen from submissions across Canada. The other three selected writers are Michelle Latimer (Metis), Craig Lauzon (Ojibway/French), and Kaherawaks Thompson (Mohawk).

Former imagineNATIVE Festival Director Danis Goulet (Cree/Metis) oversees the lab. Darlene Naponse (Anishnaabe), filmmaker and councillor, hosts the participants during the retreat.

Mentors for the screenwriting lab are Shannon Masters (Empire of Dirt), Shereen Jerrett, and New Zealand-based Briar Grace-Smith.

The lab helps the writers develop their projects from the treatment stage to the first draft of a feature-length screenplay to be ready for imagineNATIVE’s 15th annual festival in Toronto, this October.

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