Alumni Engagement

Proud Digital Film and Media Alum launches filmmaking career and production company after graduation

April 10, 2024

Fawnda Neckoway had two paths in front of her in 2021: going to Vancouver Film School to study acting on a full-ride scholarship she won; or dive deeper into filmmaking and attend RRC Polytech’s Digital Film and Media Production program.

Either way, she knew she wanted to start her own production company. With her family and adapting to new changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic both top of mind, she envisioned launching her business and operating from anywhere.

Having already received a diploma from the Academy of Acting in 2008, Neckoway had worked in the film industry as both an actor and casting director. She appeared in the film We Were Children and did the casting for shows like Wolf Joe and Taken.

While in the Indigenous Women in Business program (available through SEED Winnipeg), Neckoway leaned on her experience as a casting director to help build a business plan to launch her own company. When she completed the program, she knew she needed to take things a step further, so she applied to and was accepted to both colleges. In the end, she chose RRC Polytech.

“Part of that was because of my future plans at the time. I was preparing for other life changes, and Iwanted to stay close to my family while still pursuing my professional goals,” said Neckoway. “After seeing what was available with the new Digital Film and Media Production program, I felt RRC Polytech was the right choice—up until then, we hadn’t had a film program quite like this available in Manitoba.”

Neckoway decided to stay in Winnipeg to pursue her dream and build on what she’d achieved so far in her career. She described the Digital Film and Media Production program as amazing but intense. She said she still works with people she met in the program to this day.

“It was everything I anticipated it to be—and then some,” said Neckoway. “We not only had the opportunity to gain confidence with the camera and film our own creatives, there were other areas of study that were really beneficial. It was a pretty diverse curriculum even though it was only a year.”

Neckoway said the Independent Film Project assignment was pivotal for her. Neckoway pitched her story, Kita kiskihtihtakwaw: So They Will Know. Inspired by an innocent question between a child and parent about Residential Schools, So They Will Know provides insight for parents and educators who may be having similar conversations with the children in their lives. The story resonated with her peers and was one of the five projects selected for production.

“I was fortunate enough to be one of the students selected to move forward with my film as the writer and director,” said Neckoway. “I discreetly gripped my son’s feather for comfort as I shared our story, I was nervous”. As a result, this assignment taught me the whole process of writing, pitching, and presenting ideas…it prepared me for what I’m doing now.”

Neckoway graduated in April 2022 and hit the ground running, launching her business Nikâwiy Productions the same month.

“I’ve named Nikâwiy Productions in honour of my father, late grandfather, and our family last name, while keeping our Ithiniw language at heart. A relative once shared (to the best of their knowledge) that our last name was translated from Nikâwiy to Neckoway,” said Neckoway. “My late grandfather is an Ithiniw veteran. I’ve grown more curious about him and his experiences as I got older…it’s important to continue carrying on his name.”

Before graduating, Neckoway received the Winnipeg Film Group’s 2021 MOSAIC Film Fund in January 2022 to create Language Keepers, which is now in post-production. The short doc is about Indigenous language revitalization.

“As a filmmaker, it’s allowing me to dive into scripted narrative content while I’m still working on the documentary. I feel like there’s a lot of learning and a lot of growth happening within Language Keepers.”

In addition to running Nikâwiy Productions, in fall 2023, Neckoway took a position with Film Training Manitoba (FTM) as the Senior Projects Manager. She had worked at FTM before attending RRC Polytech as the Aboriginal Liason Officer, but with the knowledge from the program she was able to take on a slightly different role.

Currently, she oversees FTM’s involvement in the EmpowHER Women in Trades program. The program’s goal is to help women develop the skills they need to get entry-level jobs or accelerate their careers through mentorship in industries, like film, where they are underrepresented.

“It was an opportunity to get more involved with the community,” said Neckoway. “It’s a tri-sector initiative between manufacturing, construction, and film. As a team, we’ve welcomed a group of women who are coming from different backgrounds and have different stories themselves…It’s been a lot of work because it’s brand new, but it’s rewarding.”

In addition to curating the structure of EmpowHER’s film program, Neckoway is working with industry colleagues and partners to pair the 15 women with mentors.

“I get emotional when I think about my path. There have definitely been some hardships along the way, but I’ve stayed true to what I envisioned doing as a youth” said Neckoway. “I really love that I can do what I do in film, work with the community and bring those aspects together as an Indigenous storyteller.”

Speaking of mentorship, Neckoway recently completed a residency with the iconic filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin. Her constant pursuit of education and desire to create and give back have made her unstoppable.

Even after a bad accident, Neckoway wanted to challenge herself artistically to produce something while recovering. That’s how the film If You’re Looking For a Sign, This Is It came to be as part of the 2023 WNDX One Take Super 8 Film Event.

Neckoway said RRC Polytech’s instructors and curriculum content opened her eyes to what she could accomplish as a writer and director with Nikâwiy Productions.

“I want to contribute to the growth of our industry here in Manitoba and to continue to encourage a greater representation,” said Neckoway. “The process of creating Nikâwiy, filmmaking, and reconnecting to my culture all kind of came together nicely, and it’s happening organically.”

Her career proves that if you have a dream and the drive, and pair those two things with the right training and education, you can make your dream a reality. 

Profile by Raegan Hedley (Creative Communications, 2016).

RRC Polytech campuses are located on the lands of Anishinaabe, Ininiwak, Anishininew, Dakota, and Dené, and the National Homeland of the Red River Métis.

We recognize and honour Treaty 3 Territory Shoal Lake 40 First Nation, the source of Winnipeg’s clean drinking water. In addition, we acknowledge Treaty Territories which provide us with access to electricity we use in both our personal and professional lives.

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