Continuing her quest to inspire kids from all cultural backgrounds to learn more about science—particularly of the Indigenous variety—Vancouver-based Cree filmmaker and self-professed amateur science nerd Loretta Todd has a lot on her plate these days.
For one, the award-winning content creator’s second season of adventure series Coyote’s Crazy Smart Science Show for Canada’s Aboriginal People’s Television Network (APTN) began production last month. With Todd on board as creator, writer and executive producer, the 13 x 22-minute series encourages youth to explore the world of science from an Indigenous perspective. For example, season two will see the show’s stars welcome inspirational guests including NASA astronaut and Navy Commander John Herrington—the first Native American to fly in space—and musician/rapper Kinnie Starr, to name a few. Filmed in British Columbia, Alberta and Iceland, the upcoming season will also explore how Indigenous science applies in the digital realm by looking at how people can now “create” places in video games and virtual reality.
“I decided to make Indigenous science shows partly because our kids sometimes think science isn’t for them…because it’s Western,” Todd says. “But Indigenous people are natural scientists who observe, learn and apply knowledge. We have Indigenous math and science.”
In that same vein, Todd is also prepping Fierce Girls, a new tween-skewing transmedia project in collaboration with New Zealand-based Maori news and information site TangataWhenua.com. The 21-webisode co-pro is the first superhero series designed for Indigenous girls and their friends. Combining live-action, 2D-animated and social-media storytelling, the series follows a pair of up-and-coming Indigenous comic book writers who create their own superheroes.
“I came up with the idea for Fierce Girls after discovering a lack of original shows like this for our girls and youth,” Todd says. “I know the word ‘empowerment’ gets used a lot, but that’s what the show is really about. If girls get to see themselves as superheroes or comic book writers, it’s aspirational.”
As creator, Todd assembled an Indigenous production crew and creative team including New Zealand-based Nikolasa Biasiny-Tule as producer, TangataWhenua.com’s Potaua Biasiny-Tule and David Oxenbridge as co-producers, and Stephen Gladue and Rhid Catrill as the project’s Canadian animation directors. All of the show’s live-action footage was shot in Vancouver, while TangataWhenua.com handled animation in collaboration with its Digital Natives Academy, a content creation school for the Maori community.
Funded by Canada Media Fund and the independent broadcast funding agency NZ on Air, the project is expected to launch on June 21, which also happens to be National Aboriginal Day in Canada.
In terms of IP growth, Todd is now calling on youth educators and organizations to potentially use Fierce Girls in their curriculum, and a TV series may be in the works, too. Todd is also keeping busy as the creator of IM4 Lab, the first Indigenous virtual and augmented reality lab in Canada. “As Indigenous people, our economies were originally knowledge-based, so we should be leading in these industries,” says Todd.