Lisa Meeches is one of the most dynamic and respected Aboriginal producers in Canada. She is Executive Producer and president to Eagle Vision Inc. and Meeches Video Productions, two Winnipeg-based production companies. She is also the Co-President of Century Street Distribution, as well as Executive Producer, Producer, and host of The Sharing Circle.
As its title suggests, The Sharing Circle is a documentary series that offers insight into the Aboriginal way of life from a traditional and spiritual perspective. Further demonstrating her passion for Aboriginal culture, Meeches is Executive Producer of the Parents’ Choice award-winning series Tipi Tales, an animated children’s show available in both English and Ojibwa.
Meeches’ Aboriginal heritage has informed her creative approach throughout her career. Many of her productions even have a semi-autobiographical element.
“I’m very proud of my culture, my heritage, and I was raised to understand every component of what it means to be an Ojibwa woman. Every show I’ve produced has been different levels and different ages of my life. For example, Tipi Tales is based on my life as a pre-schooler,” she says.
After studying broadcasting in North Dakota, Meeches began her career in 1986 with the Winnipeg-based Native Media Network. She later began news reporting for Craig Broadcasting Systems in Manitoba and Alberta, where she established a liaison team who connected the newsroom with surrounding First Nations communities. Although broadcast journalism provided her with “a nice foot in the door,” her first experiences in the field also gave her a “rude awakening” with respect to outside perspectives on Aboriginal people and their culture. This exposure to prejudiced views in part fuelled her drive to produce Aboriginal programming like The Sharing Circle.
But, according to Meeches, the most important battle ground is not to be fought over external perceptions, but over the self-perceptions held by Aboriginal people. “Right now the struggle, in my opinion, is how much we love ourselves and value ourselves. It’s not even for me a factor – what other people think of me.”
For Meeches, providing Aboriginal people with the opportunity for creative expression is an important step in fostering a sense of communal pride and self-dignity. It is a matter of putting self-definition back into the hands of a culture that has historically been systematically undermined by the institutions in power.
Recent Eagle Vision Inc. productions include Walk All Over Me (2007), which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, the politically-charged romantic comedy Blue State (2006), the Academy Award-winning feature film Capote (2006), and the CTV movie-of-the-week Elijah. Winning two Gemini awards, Elijah is a biopic that chronicles the political influence of Aboriginal leader and activist Elijah Harper.
Among her numerous awards and nominations, Lisa received the 2007 National Aboriginal Achievement Award for Media & Communication, the 2009 YMCA-YWCA Woman of Distinction Award in the area of Creative Communications, the 2009 University of Manitoba's Excellence in Aboriginal Business Leadership Award and the Women in Film and Television-Toronto 2009 Crystal Award for Mentorship.
“Right from the time prior to residential schools, there was a mandate sanctioned by government to ensure that we would also be ashamed of who we are. You have five generations that have bought into that ideology and that fear-based marketing plan, and then of course today you are going to have people who deny who they are and are ashamed of who they are.”
Contributing to the process of recovery from these historical traumas, Meeches’ most recent position has been with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada as the National Events Director. In this capacity, she produces events across the country that give residential school survivors a platform to share their stories. This opportunity for self-expression has brought reconciliation for thousands of Aboriginal people. For Meeches, the creative element of this process is fundamental to its success: “To share a testimony, if you’re an inter-generational survivor, is poetic. It’s a form of artistic expression When you speak from your heart and your spirit, it completely constitutes healing, no matter if it’s done in the form of a song, a play, or to sit down and share your testimony.”
Further, Meeches believes that First Nations values have influenced Canada’s larger culture, “even going back to freemasonry.” To her, one of the chief values of belonging to the Canadian Media Production Association is the opportunity it affords to gain a holistic view of Canadian culture. “It allows me to take a step back and really have a wholesome look at who I am as a Canadian and who I am as an aboriginal person, and try to find a common ground.”