“Professional training helps storytellers move their careers forward” – Kaya Wheeler

FTM’s 21 for 2021 Reel Career Profile Series – Kaya Wheeler

Kaya works across many of NSI’s courses and helps run the day-to-day activities of CBC New Indigenous Voices and NSI IndigiDocs.

Kaya graduated from the University of Winnipeg with a bachelor of arts in Indigenous studies, and has been working within the Indigenous community in Winnipeg for more than 10 years. She has spent a large portion of this time working with Indigenous youth in many areas, including acting and storytelling for theatre. She has had experience both volunteering and working on film sets, and even had a small stint on the stage and in front of the camera.

Kaya is excited to be in a role that helps hone and amplify new and existing voices in the industry.

When and how did you start in the media production industry?
I was a bit of a child actor. When I was four I played Neesa Dééla on North of 60, and did that for about four years. That was my first official foray into the industry but I was very lucky to grow up in a family of storytellers, so it has always been a part of my life in some way.

What area of the film industry do you work in now and why?
I am currently a program manager at the National Screen Institute. Growing up in a family of storytellers I saw firsthand the importance of story, how it can bring people together and create community, how it can heal and foster conversations and change. My current role allows me to help upcoming storytellers create and explore their stories. I strive and hope that I’m helping to create a safe and inviting space for them.

What has been a substantial change in the industry since you started? Just within our CBC New Indigenous Voices program, we’ve seen a huge amount of growth in opportunities for students, both while they’re in the program and after graduation. The industry in Manitoba has been incredibly supportive.

What is advice you would give to someone starting off in the media production industry?
Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask questions. There are a lot of fantastic people and organizations out there that want to see new people get involved and succeed.

Why is learning and training important?
There are a lot of reasons why this is so important. At the National Screen Institute we provide participants with space to learn, grow, and make mistakes in a supportive and safe environment. It empowers creators to make their stories as impactful as possible. Our programs are customized to meet the individual needs of storytellers. Guidance and feedback from expert mentors and faculty strengthens participants’ skills and allows them to continually improve their projects for the marketplace. Ultimately, professional training helps storytellers move their careers forward.

Where do you see yourself in ten years from now?
I hope I’m still helping to create safe and inviting spaces for storytellers.