Jennifer Podemski is an award-winning, Gemini-nominated actress and producer best known for her roles in Bruce McDonald’s acclaimed feature film Dance Me Outside, CBC’s The Rez and Degrassi: The Next Generation. In more recent years, she has spent most of her time working behind the camera as a producer, writer and director with Redcloud Studios, her independent production company.
SDTC: Can you describe your career trajectory to get to where you’re at now?
JP: I trained for many years to be a triple threat: dancer, singer, actress. When I was in the high school for performing arts in Toronto, I began working as an extra on TV and film projects and I guess I got the bug. I knew I wanted to direct and produce. It wasn’t until I was 25 that I took the leap of faith and put my acting career on hold and opened my first production company. I so desperately wanted to make a change and do something about the absence of indigenous voices and perspectives in film and TV. And today, at 43, I am committing to my original dream of being a director; that is where my efforts will be focused.
Can you walk us through a typical day in your life?
I have a 4 and a 6 year old, so no day is typical. They are growing up so fast and I am just trying to keep up. Recently, my kids began sleeping in their own beds. I am a fierce advocate of co-sleeping. After 6 years, my husband and I get to sleep together! We typically wake up early, my husband and I have coffee while we putter around the kitchen and make lunches while the kids eat breakfast. Maybe we eat too, or make a shake, something like that. We are very committed to our morning routine and we do our best to keep it up. Kids go to camp or school and by 9 AM we are both working.
I live in Barrie, so sometimes I am doing the commute to Toronto for meetings, but for the most part I work from home. Kids are home by 4 pm and that is typically family time. We spend a lot of time in the kitchen, hanging out, listening to music, cooking and catching up on the day. I find that the time between after school and bedtime goes so fast and I want to be “in” it and available to my kids.
What is the best advice you’ve gotten?
There was a time in my life when I had so much guilt around being a producer and not wanting to act full-time. I shared my anxiety with my agent (at the time) Celia Chassels, and she told me that I can do it all. There is no reason to limit myself or my goals. I can do all of those things at once and be successful. I will never forget how relieved I felt, it was like she gave me permission to fly.
The other piece of amazing advice came from my dad. I remember he picked me up from the airport after my first husband had declared that he wanted a divorce and didn’t love me. I was so broken. I got into the car and my dad had a braid of sweetgrass there (on my First Nations side we use this for cleansing and prayer), some Kleenex and a note that said: common ground, common values, common goals. He told me that those were the most important values of a good relationship. I believe I have that today and I am so grateful.
What projects are you currently working on?
Next year will mark my 11th Indspire Awards. When I began producing this (award-winning) awards show, it was called the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards and it has been such a wonderful and rewarding journey. It is the only show of its kind that celebrates outstanding Indigenous Canadians who are changing the world. I also get to work with some of the most talented performers in Indian country and I am just so grateful to be a part of it.
I am also in the new season of a great show on APTN and TVO called Hard Rock Medical (out in 2017). I can’t say enough about this show; it is just so good and I had such a blast shooting it. I am also proud of my series, The Other Side. It’s a paranormal investigative show from an Indigenous perspective and we are in our third season (which airs on APTN on October 29). I am also honoured to be included in this years Birks/Telefilm Women in Film honourees. There will be a gala held at TIFF and a huge spread in Elle Canada‘s September issue. I am just tickled about it! There’s so much more! I am feeling very grateful and very busy and after 25 years of pounding the pavement, my career is finally taking off!
What is the best part of being your current age?
Ugh, forties are awesome. If I only knew then what I know now. I guess I am more comfortable in my skin, I am confident in who I am and inside I still feel like a kid but I have way more wrinkles and grey hair and jiggles where I didn’t have jiggles before!