Filmmaker Madison Thomas shares her experience directing American Masters – “Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry it On.”
I now find myself saying on a regular basis, “What would Buffy do?” My name is Madison Thomas. I’m a filmmaker based out of Treaty 1 territory in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Being raised in the city, Buffy Sainte-Marie’s songs were some of the things that connected my mom and I to our prairie Indigenous roots in an artistic way. As I grew up and spoke with others, it was obvious that many non-Indigenous Canadians either didn’t know Buffy, or had only heard her name in passing. When I was younger, I didn’t understand how someone whose name was a staple in my household could be so overlooked by others.
Reading Andrea Warner’s biography on Buffy opened my eyes to the active suppression of not only Buffy’s music and artwork, but more importantly, her messaging to the world. I was also blown away at how ahead of her time Buffy was in multiple facets of her life. How could someone share the truth and present a solution to the issues not only Indigenous people face, but the world at large, and not grow frustrated when the world isn’t ready for the conversation? How could someone be actively blacklisted by two U.S. government administrations and the music industry at large and still want to share and create amazing art?
As a documentary filmmaker, I try to let my own curiosity drive my approach in the search for story and truth, and then get out of the way for said truth to express itself as the subject sees fit. Working with Buffy closely on the film, it’s become more apparent to me and everyone working on it, that Buffy’s truth and message is what the world needs more than ever right now.
As usual, Buffy says it best: “Sometimes you have to carry the medicine awhile, before people are ready for it.”
About Madison Thomas
One of the most compelling and versatile filmmakers working in Canada today, Madison Thomas was named one of Playback Magazine’s “Five Filmmakers to Watch” in 2019. A storyteller of mixed ancestry (Ojibwe/Saulteaux & Russian/Ukrainian settler), Thomas is based out of Winnipeg, Manitoba in Treaty 1 territory. She has a rapidly growing number of credits as a writer, director and editor across several genres, formats and platforms. Her nuanced and unique work has played festivals and won awards worldwide.
Thomas’s artistic voice first emerged from within Winnipeg’s independent film scene, with her short narrative and documentary work quickly garnering her national attention. She was selected as a finalist in the 2014 CBC Short Film Face-off with her short drama, “Out of Reach.”
Thomas is an alumni of The Prague Film School, the 2016 Women in the Director’s Chair Program and the 2019 Canadian Academy Program for Female Directors. She is a member of the Director’s Guild of Canada.
Thomas was a key director, editor and researcher for the award-winning APTN/CBC Docu-Drama series “Taken,” which shared the stories of Canada’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls for four seasons. Thomas and the “Taken” research team were honored with a Canadian Screen Award nomination for their work on the series.
In addition to her vast short film filmography, Thomas has led two Telefilm supported feature films. Her first feature “Ruthless Souls” created with producer Darcy Waite, was part of the inaugural “Talent to Watch” program in 2018. “Ruthless Souls” premiered at the 20th Imaginative Film Festival, was selected for the 2020 Mill Valley Film Festival, and was chosen to be part of the “Perspective Canada” program at the 2019 Berlinale film festival. The film also played the 2020 Gimli Film Festival and Thomas won that year’s “Best Manitoba Director Award.”
Thomas went to camera with her second feature film, the post-apocalyptic drama “Finality of Dusk” in the spring of 2021. She co-wrote the film with deaf filmmaker Katarina Ziervogel with Eagle Vision Inc. producing. The film is currently in post-production with plans for a festival release in 2022. Recent TV credits include writing and directing on season 4 of the CBC/CW hit legal drama “Burden of Truth,” writing and voice-directing for the TVO animated pre-school series “Wolf Joe,” directing on season 2 and 3 of CBC/IMDBTV comedy “Pretty Hard Cases.” Thomas’ latest project is the feature length documentary “Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On,” which received a special mention at the Toronto International Film Festival 2022 for “Best Feature from an Emerging BIPOC Filmmaker.”
Thomas is also a committed youth mentor. She’s taught filmmaking and leadership skills to youth with various organizations and programs both in Winnipeg and internationally since 2013. In 2016 Thomas gave a TEDx talk called “Arts in the Hood” on her journey as an artist and the importance of art programming for inner city and low-income youth.