PEOPLE OF BEHAVIOUR
Stéphane Nepton is a VFX artist at Behaviour and co-founder of Uhu labos nomades, which encourages First Nations youth to discover and embrace digital creation as a means to protecting and promoting Indigenous culture.
His new experimental short film, The Future Innu, will make its festival debut later this year.
Tell us about yourself: Where did you grow up? How did that influence you?
I grew up in Sept-Iles on Quebec’s North Shore, between the communities of Uashat and Maniotenam. I am a real “gars dla Côte” who loves human contact, nature, the sea, the cold, and the snow!
Tell us about your path as an artist
The spark that started it all for me was when I saw the first Jurassic Park; I knew right away that I wanted to create in this digital universe. I did a general 3D course for film and television in Quebec City (Cyclone) and that’s where I got into special effects. That’s where I created my first demo of a campfire using Alias Wavefront on an O2 [an early multimedia workstation]! After that I had to develop my own expertise in VFX, which wasn’t obvious since tutorials and Youtube weren’t an option at that point. This led me to work on exciting projects in France, Singapore and Berlin.
You’ve explored your Innu heritage in earlier works. Can you tell us about your work with Uhu labos nomades?
It was on my return from Berlin that my partner, Andrea Gonzalez, helped me to see that I had this rare and sought-after expertise (VFX) and that I had to share this knowledge with the youth of my community. Uhu labos nomades stems from this vision. Uhu uses digital creation as a means to encourage young people to stay in school and to send strong, positive and inspiring messages. Uhu’s vision is to create links between elders and the current generation and between the community and the land through digital arts workshops. We believe that it is essential to value and protect Indigenous cultures through their intergenerational transmission.
What’s different or new about The Future Innu from your past work?
The Future Innu stems from a personal journey, a quest for a confirmation of what I am in the present moment; a search for cultural health. It’s also my first time exploring the short-film medium.
It’s a deeply personal work – how does it feel putting it out in the world for everyone to see?
Indeed, I laid myself bare with this film, I really exposed my fears, my concerns and my desires. It took me a lot of time and courage to decide to move forward with this film and it really took me far emotionally. This film is part of an identity-based trilogy that will take place over the next few years and explore my Abenakis-Innu roots.
Canada is facing a moment of truth about its treatment of Indigenous Peoples and the legacy of its residential schools system. What is the role of artists at moments like these?
It is in these difficult times that we are currently experiencing the natural impulse is to denounce the injustices and horrors of the past and what is happening in the present: racism, social inequalities, poverty, discrimination, no access to drinking water, etc. For an Aboriginal artist, these topics are painful and a source of inspiration. Art and language are the foundations of First Nations culture and that is why more and more attention is being paid to emerging Aboriginal artists who are working in different traditional and digital artistic spheres here in Quebec.
What do you hope comes out of this moment of truth?
The wounds of the past are always fresh in the collective memory, but the people of Canada’s First Nations are resilient, courageous and confident about the future because the daily struggle against colonialism pushes us and confronts us with the fact that everything remains to be built. We must focus on our youth and education. They are the next torchbearers.