Technicolour dreamer

November 2020

“Some folks dream of the wonders they’ll do before their time on this planet is through. Some just don’t have anything planned, they hide their hopes and their heads in the sand. Now I don’t say who is wrong, who is right. But if by chance you are here for the night, then all I need is an hour or two to tell the tale of a dreamer like you.” – Andrew Lloyd Webber, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Thunder Bay’s Michelle Latimer dreamt of a life making movies. Now, with dozens of films, documentaries and V shows under her belt, and a slew of awards including two from the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival, it’s clear that her dreams can come true.

“It’s a little bit surreal,” says Latimer. “Like it’s not really happening. But I’m excited to be working on projects that I love, and I think it shows.”

I spoke over the phone with Latimer in early October, on the very day her television series, Trickster, made its debut on CBC. Based on the best-selling novel by Eden Robinson, the series premiered to rave reviews at TIFF. That same week, her film, Inconvenient Indian, (based on Thomas King’s novel, The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America) was also screened at TIFF, winning both the People’s Choice Documentary Award and the Amplify Voices Award for Best Canadian Feature. That’s a remarkable double header and it firmly established this young filmmaker as a brilliant light on the Canadian scene. I asked her how she felt about this recent success.

“Success is a funny thing,” she says after a moment. “A temporal thing. If one of my films resonates with people, if they’re relatable, then that’s success for me.”

Michelle grew up in Thunder Bay, and her high school theatre experiences in both Westgate and St. Patrick’s Collegiate (where she co-starred in their 1994 production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) solidified her commitment to and talent in the performing arts. She enrolled soon after in the Theatre Performance program in Montreal’s Concordia University with a plan to embark on a career as an actor. It was a good plan, with ground-breaking roles in both television and on stage, but once she stepped behind the camera, she knew that was where she belonged.

“I won a contest through ImagineNATIVE and the Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto (LIFT) to produce my first short,” she says. “And it changed everything. Suddenly, someone wanted to take a chance on me, on my vision, and it was validating. When my second film proposal won a Toronto Art’s Council grant, I knew that, not only could I do this, but I could do it professionally.”

That film was Choke, and it won the 2011 Sundance Festival Special Jury Honourable Mention for Best International Short Film. She continued acting in television and film, (including a breakout role as Trish in Paradise Falls) but telling the stories as writer, director and/or producer, lured her back behind the camera. Directing documentaries like Rise, Nuuca and Alias focused on telling authentic Indigenous stories, while writing/directing episodes of Frontier, Little Dog and Burden of Truth broadened her sense of scale. She loves to reimagine a story and take it from predictable to provocative.

“I prefer the story to guide me in how to tell it,” she says. “Even in my documentaries, I don’t try to ‘educate.’ I just try to create connections. I want to highlight the interconnectedness of people, reflect our mutual humanity to create empathy. Art can help do that.”

“Let your voice carry, drown out the rain and light a patch in the darkness.” – Andrew Lloyd Webber, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Finding a place where she can think and create is key for Latimer. She discovered the joys of being a Writer in Residence in Utah at the Sundance Institute Screenwriting Lab and has found creative freedom living solo for long stretches of time in Dawson City, Yukon.

“I like to be in the woods,” Latimer says. “I need a place to write and create, on my own, in nature. Most art now, films and writing for films, it’s become a product. You work to please your viewers but I need to hear myself and be true to myself in order to create.”

Recently, she found a property 2 hours north of Thunder Bay. It’s off-grid, isolated, and perfect for focus, work and dreams. When it came available, she ‘hopped right on it’ and it immediately became her sanctuary. After travelling the world, and living in cities like Toronto and Montreal, I asked why she would choose to relocate here, in Northwestern Ontario, where her parents and extended family still reside.

“Thunder Bay is truly beautiful,” she says, and I can hear genuine warmth in her voice. “There is no place like it. We have a lot to offer, and our natural spaces are perfect for inspiration. We’re also isolated and pretty self-sufficient, so our entrepreneurialism is without equal. But like all other places, we can choose to lean into the beauty or lean into the shadows. If we have the fluidity, we can be adaptable and make space for each other. Art can help foster understanding and make those connections.”

Connections are foundational to Latimer’s work – between art forms (ie, book to movie), between art and people, and between people themselves. With her current work based on great Canadian novels like Son of a Trickster and The Inconvenient Indian, I asked Latimer what’s next.

“More adaptations! I love adaptations!

I’m currently working on season 2 of Trickster, based on Robinson’s sequel, Trickster Drift. I’m also working on an adaptation of Richard Wagamese’s Medicine Walk. And maybe a podcast.” She laughs through the phone. “I’m going to be busy.”

“If you think it, want it, dream it, then it’s real.” – Andrew Lloyd Webber, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

For Michelle Latimer, she has woven her own dreams and they have become real. And with the scope of her talent and vision, I have a feeling they’re also in Technicolor.

Heather L. Dickson is a photoshop guru, zoologist and author of 6 novels.

Visit her website at

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