Nate Bower

Cover photo of Nate Bower

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Happy to Work Hard on Job Creation

photo of Nate Bower
Interview with Nate Bower

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People are hungry for stories. It’s part of our very being. — Studs Terkel

Engaging stories about our lifestyles and history told by a talented group of sixteen Brandon filmmakers has been ongoing for several years.

Their original, short- and long form docs are funded by Bell MTS  and featured on Stories From Home.

Filmmaking is a side hustle for all but Nate Bower who works full-time as a filmmaker:

Quotation mark left Before becoming a filmmaker I was a competitive figure skater, and then skated with Disney on Ice.

Through that experience I became interested in performance, film, and video and decided to go into filmmaking.

So I left Disney on Ice in 1996 for university. After graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film Production, I had a good possibility of getting a job in Toronto with a filmmaker, so I took a risk and moved there.

The job didn’t work out but I loved Toronto, so my wife, Leann, and I decided to stay on.

But the timing wasn’t right, it was difficult to get established, we had a baby, and after about a year we thought it would be better for our family to move back home to Brandon.

I worked for local media companies doing commercials and promotions, and coached figure skating.

Then MTS expanded their Stories From Home service into the Brandon market and began working with local filmmakers to produce original, made-in-Manitoba programming.

So, in 2012 — sixteen years after I started in filmmaking — I decided it was time to start working as a full-time filmmaker.

With MTS as the catalyst, I started my own production company, Collective Mind Entertainment.

It was terrifying to leave a job with a steady paycheque. I had enough money to last for five months.

I really wanted this to work — I didn’t want to go back to a job that wasn’t a passion.

Fortunately, I haven’t yet had an extended period of time when I didn’t know what I’d be doing next.

I’ve made at least one Stories from Home film a year, and have been hired as a technical advisor by other filmmakers.

I do freelance corporate work, and have clients outside Manitoba, so I get to do some travelling.

I film conferences and produce training videos for a client in Vancouver that involves working in places like Toronto, Detroit and Las Vegas.

Being the only full-time filmmaker in Brandon can be an advantage. When the Canadian National Mixed Curling Championship was held in Swan River, last November, the CBC hired Westman Communications to produce it and hired me to be part of the production crew.

There aren’t many people who can take time off for a week unless they are working at this full-time.

For several months I’ve been working on a full-length feature film project with two Los Angeles-based producers.

It’s an action adventure movie that’s a cross between the Hunger Games and Indiana Jones.

We’re looking at filming this year, mostly in Brandon, with a day or two in Winnipeg and Minot. Most of the cast and crew will be from our area.

It’s a far larger project than my production company has taken on. But, it’s basically the same process as my other filmmaking projects, there’s just a lot more logistics and planning.

It’s an exciting project for me — I’m that go-to guy who doesn’t crack under pressure, I always stay focused on solutions instead of problems.Quotation mark right

by Brandon Now
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Shaun Cameron

Cover photo Shaun Cameron

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Loving the Administrative Worklife

Interview with Shaun Cameron

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Brandon’s Administrative professionals are the backbone of the office.

Working under the radar, they perform countless tasks that ease the way for others to get on with their jobs. Decision makers rely on them to collect on-topic material for review.

Admin’s need to be good communicators and problem solvers, and stay calm under pressure.

These professionals include Shaun Cameron whose administrative activity encompasses visual document creation:

Left quotation mark My job at Assiniboine Community College has two parts. As secretary to the board of governors, I provide members with administrative support.

And, act as a liaison between the president’s office and the board. I also work on photography and videography projects with the media department.

I came to the job in December 2016. There was a learning curve on the administrative side during the first six months.

But, I have served on boards before, including the Downtown Development Group, as chairperson. So, I understand the systems and mechanisms of board meetings.

On the media side, I had a level of comfort. This came from the experience of operating a production company for several years. I was able to step in and contribute right away.

I enjoy this diversity. It would be a very boring life for me to do the same thing every day.

There is an element of this job that does have a routine to it, which is good because it provides some structure.

I work as a liaison between board members and senior leadership. This group consists of the president, vice-president, deans, and directors.

They set the agenda for meetings, then submit relevant documents to me. I prepare the agenda and get documents to the board members in a timely fashion.

Our ten-member board meets seven times a year. They have oversight of the college so I have to be sure all items needed for decision making are available to them.

There is a lot of forecasting for three, six, and twelve-month windows. So, I know in advance what decisions need to happen to trigger other decisions.

And, what we’re responsible to have happen legislatively at various times of the year. My level of engagement is to be knowledgeable about whatever item is coming into play.

I enjoy the working relationship I have with the president. Mark Frison was one of the biggest reasons I wanted to work at the college because he’s very dynamic.

Mark’s a professional mentor in how he deals with people. And also where he’s taking the college and where he’ll take it in the years to come.

I’m able to be out among the students with some of the photography and videography projects.

That lets me have my finger on the pulse of what’s going on at the student level.

I especially enjoy the technical aspects of videography. A lot of times the media team will have a great idea and ask me, ‘How do we translate that?’

And that’s a lot of fun because I can, for lack of a better term, geek out a bit. And, hopefully, do justice to the story they want to tell.

Projects range from photographing college events to doing a full-on video production. For example, we recently created four commercial spots for various advertising initiatives.

I deal with a lot of information and a lot of people.

The beauty of the work I’m doing is that I’m learning about so many different aspects of the college.

It’s exciting because you feel like you play a role that’s important. Quotation mark right

by Brandon Now
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Darren Wright

Cover photo of Darren Wright

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Working to Create Opportunities

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Interview with Darren Wright

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Like many tradespersons, Darren Wright wanted to be his own boss. Instead of quitting a job and then starting a business, Darren bought the company he worked for.

Nine years on, the job of operating his company continues to be as interesting and challenging as he hoped it would be:

Left quotation mark In 2007, after working as a journeyman electrician in England for almost twenty years, I moved to Canada because I wanted better opportunities for my kids.

We planned to live in Winnipeg but that changed when I came to Brandon for a job interview. As I drove into the city, I thought, ‘Yes, this would be a great place for my family.’

I got the job with All Points Electric, and eighteen months later, bought the business.

It was a steep learning curve going from employee to owner but I did get a bit of mentorship from the former owner.

A couple of years later, Jeff Roziere from Siere approached me because he could see the company was growing and thought I might want some business coaching.

At first, I was very hesitant because of the unknown. I thought, ‘How could they help me, they don’t know my business.’

But decided to go ahead — I was with them for two years. They really helped me learn how to manage a growing business.

I never went to business school, in fact, I didn’t graduate from high school.

I’m dyslexic and the teachers had no idea how to support me, so I left when I was sixteen years old to train as an electrician.

It’s really frustrating when people think that if you have dyslexia you’re stupid.

Thinking I had something to prove, I decided to go to university for a Bachelor of Science in Computer Systems Engineering.

After I got my degree, I realized I didn’t have to prove anything to anybody. I was just trying to prove it to myself.

I struggled with my degree, but you can’t give up, you have to keep going. Now technology has removed so many blocks.

It has helped me with the business — there are features like spell check, and I can even ask my phone to spell words for me.

I oversee the operation of our commercial and residential divisions.

When I expanded into the residential market I found that the billing model was opposite to what I was used to.

With commercial work, I identify jobs to bid on, cost out the job, then give the customer a price.

If they accept it, we do the job. But, residential customers didn’t know how much they would be paying until they received a bill after the work was done.

That was frustrating for me and for my customers. So, I created a straightforward pricing system that enables our technicians to tell customers exactly how much it’s going to cost before any work is performed.

We’re constantly doing staff training. People think training is an expense but it’s an investment in the business.

Our technicians are happy because they want to improve themselves.

And, I will soon bring a new apprentice into the business — my son, Kelvin, just completed Level 1 of the Construction Electrician Apprenticeship training. Right quotation mark

by Brandon Now
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Annie Papadakis

Cover photo Annie Papadakis

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Loving a Worklife Lifestyle

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Interview with Annie Papadakis

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To be honest, we really don’t want to meet disaster management workers in their professional capacity.

But, if that did happen, we would be very grateful for their services.

We would be feeling helpless and vulnerable. They would be taking charge and helping us navigate through uncharted territory.

We can make it easier on ourselves should we ever have to deal with a disaster — download the Canadian Red Cross Be Ready app and follow their suggestions.

Think it can’t happen to you? Recent events in our city have shown how easily it can.

Among those working on the frontline is disaster management professional Annie Papadakis:

Left quotation mark Working with the Red Cross in disaster management is more than a job or even a career for me, it’s a lifestyle.

I knew at the age of nine that I wanted to help people.

I was frequently at the hospital to support my sister after she was diagnosed with bone cancer.

She went through chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and other treatments. And, also went through a number of amputations on her leg.

There were a lot of organizations such as The War Amps and Make A Wish Foundation, helping my family and my sister throughout her experience.

From seeing them rallying for our family, I wanted to help others but just wasn’t sure how I could do it.

I didn’t know there was a degree in disaster management until I found out about the Applied Disaster & Emergency Studies program at Brandon University.

It was the only one in the country at the time, and I said, ‘Yes, that’s for me’ and moved here from Montreal.

While at university I worked for the Red Cross as a 2011 Flood Recovery Supervisor, and in finance, administration and operations.

After graduation, I was the First Nations Flood Recovery Coordinator in Brandon.  In 2015, I became the Westman Outreach Coordinator for disaster management.

Volunteers make up over seventy-five percent of the Canadian Red Cross workforce and are a huge part of who we are.

We value our volunteers so much. We’re always looking for volunteers to add to our team.

I recruit volunteers by going to career symposiums or giving presentations to various organizations and companies.

I do regional training with our volunteers as well as mentor and coach them to take on supervisory roles.

Every month I focus on a different aspect of disaster response training. I try to make training exercises fun because being a volunteer should be an enjoyable experience.

This past January, we turned our office into a giant escape room for one of our exercises.

Everyone had to use their critical thinking skills, problem solving skills, and knowledge of disaster management to ‘unlock the door.’

It was a lot of work to put together, but it was so well worth it.

During a response situation, my role varies depending on the scale and scope of the disaster.

Last summer, for example, because of wildfires in northern Manitoba several communities had to be evacuated. We had about 2000 evacuees staying in Brandon.

In that instance, my role was Field Operations Team Lead. So, I was coordinating the lodging sites and reception centre, and overseeing other components related to disaster management.

Our functions change within disasters according to what’s needed, and who we have available for that day.

My disaster management area goes from Swan River down to the United Sates border and from the Saskatchewan border to Portage la Prairie.

For me, an important part of disaster management is to visit communities in my area to get to know the people that I’ll be in contact with if a disaster occurs.

We can do preplanning, and talk about processes that could be put in place.

It’s the same with volunteers. Getting them together for training, meetings and workshops is a way for them to get to know one another.

Then, in a disaster they know which person to go to for a particular area of expertise.

This is an exciting job. I love that I get to be part of providing some comfort and relief to people who are impacted by a disaster.

Right quotation mark

by Brandon Now
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Kris Desjarlais

Cover photo of Kris Desjarlais

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Doing Homework with Care

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Interview with Kris Desjarlais

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Home is the nicest word there is. — Laura Ingalls Wilder

A community is ‘a great place to live’ when residents look out for one another.

In Brandon, Housing First program staff, together with several supportive local groups, help folks who are homeless find a place to call their own.

Kris Desjarlais is Coordinator of the Housing First program:

Left quotation mark Over ninety percent of our clientele has experienced trauma. Because of this, the addictions, mental health issues or other struggles they face are rooted in that trauma.

I had supportive parents and have a lot of friends and family. If something happened to me it likely wouldn’t trigger a post-traumatic response because I have so much support.

I was also able to develop strong coping skills, but that’s not true for everyone.

Our role isn’t to insist people deal with their trauma, it is to settle them into a home of their own.

It’s much easier for someone to make improvements and changes to their world when they have a bed and heat and food on the table.

What makes Housing First work is that it’s always client-centred, and takes a harm reduction approach.

Our expectations are that they meet with us and are willing to work on their issues at some point.

So, when clients are ready, we can connect them to services for addictions, mental health, employment, family reconciliation, that sort of thing.

We meet with most clients at least once a month, and with some I work one-on-one.

We have a good team — the case managers take a lead role but I’m there to assist if they need help.

We have an amazing community of collaborative stake holders that support the housing first approach and assist us in making things work for these individuals and families.

If you ask landlords what is most important to them, they will say: the rent being paid on time, and having repairs to damaged property paid for by the tenant.

Someone who has a low income usually doesn’t have the means to take care of damages. And, they likely don’t have references, so they wouldn’t be accepted as a tenant.

I explain to landlords that in lieu of references, we’ll cover repairs, and because of that, they are willing to rent to our clients.

I tell them to call me if there’s an issue with a client, and I will take care of it right away. I do everything I can to keep people housed.

There has only been one time when an individual who was causing a disturbance initially refused to leave.

But I said, ‘I understand why you don’t want to leave. You don’t want to be out on the street. I promise we will find you another place, but it will be harder for us to do that if you fight this.

The landlord let you come in but you didn’t abide by the rules. So, let’s be fair to him and move on. We’ll find you another place, it’s not the end of the world.’

So, that landlord continues to rent to our clients because we held up our end of the bargain.

It can be a challenging job but it is rewarding when someone is receptive and grateful for the work you’re doing with them.

In 2014, I was elected Councillor for Rosser Ward. I’ve always valued the importance of being an active citizen and was at a place in my life where I was able to offer whatever I had to the community. I really enjoy council and I am going to run again.

I truly believe that Brandon has unlimited potential. I really love this city. When I moved here I felt a connection. Right quotation mark

by Brandon Now

Editor’s Note: Kris became Coordinator for Housing First when the program was introduced into Brandon in 2015.

Over the next three years his commitment to the program helped put it on a firm footing.

In May 2018, Kris made a career change to take on the newly-created Director of Indigenous Education position at Assiniboine Community College. 
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