Melanie Nepinak Hadley has had an interesting journey to get where she is today. Hadley is from Pine Creek First Nation, but was born and raised in Winnipeg, MB. She currently lives in Toronto, ON, where she works as the executive in charge of production at CBC.
She’s been working at CBC for the past four years, and says her job is to field through pitches on behalf of the network for new scripted programs, and has worked on titles such as Heartland and Frankie Drake Mysteries.
“Typically, we look at thousands of pitches a year. But we only process about 750 of them. Of those pitches, we’ll probably put and these numbers sound bleak. But we probably put 10 into development,” said Hadley.
“Of those projects that are in development. Some of which may go forward to production. Then once it’s in production, I’m actually just overseeing the day-to-day matters that pertain to it.”
In addition to this, she says because she is the only Indigenous executive at CBC she ends up “pinch hitting” other departments.
She says CBC as a whole is really working on their relationship with Indigenous content creators, and says she is often asked to come in.
“Not to say they are extracting information, but they’re definitely asking me a lot of questions. But it’s worked twofold because I’ve been able to also ask them questions,” said Hadley.
An example would be CBC Kids, a department she doesn’t work in, asked her to come in early to take a look at a few scripts and take a look at people she’d worked with in the past.
Hadley says in those sessions, she was able to glean information about how their department works and whenever an Indigenous content creator that maybe makes kid content comes across her, she can share that information.
“Not only was I giving it a bunch of information to these individual departments to help them make more informed decisions. But I was also getting a little roadmap to help other indigenous content creators, be able to access other areas of the network,” said Hadley.
Currently, she is only developing one-hour series, with the most recent one being Trickster, which is based off Eden Robinson’s coming-of-age novel and aired during the fall on CBC.
Prior to her stint at CBC, Hadley worked with the Aboriginal People’s Television Network (APTN) and even before that worked for a production company that made content for APTN.
Hadley says she had a very unconventional career trajectory for people who are in her job, and says a lot of people will have gone into law school or film school.
“I was a theatre actor in Winnipeg as a child. So I did some plays at the gas station theater back in the nineties and then got cast in a commercial. On set for the commercial, it’s funny,” said Hadley.
“On set that day, recording commercials, my first commercial. I was like, “Whoa, there’s a lot of people here. There’s like a hundred people for one 15-minute commercial. What is going on?” Then just ask for a job. I would have been like 12 years old and I asked for a job. They were like, ‘No, we can’t hire you. You’re 12. That’s crazy.’”
She said a woman came up to her and told her if she was seriously interested in what they were doing, she could tell her a little bit more of production and that’s what got Hadley started.
She started making short films, and went to a camp for girls that were run in Winnipeg. She eventually started working for the Women’s network on weekends, helping with whatever she could.
Right when she graduated high school and turned 18, Hadley was told about a pilot program from the National Screen Institute where it was specifically for Indigenous youth to learn about the industry.
“The program was short. It was like five weeks. From there, I got a job that was actually subsidized by an indoor indigenous organization card. They subsidized me to work at CBC for a number of months. I’m forever indebted to them for that, because it gave CBC the opportunity to have me around for longer than a regular internship. I was there for a long time,” said Hadley.
And if Hadley could give a message to her younger self, it would be that she’s going to get in the room and have a skill set and toolbox of skills that is equivalent or better than those that meet the requirements.
She also says finding the importance of allies and ally ship is something to look out for, and also finding validation in yourself and whatever you do.
“That’s weird that I couldn’t even validate myself. That’s so weird. So I’m trying, working on that now. It’s definitely the advice I would give to anybody coming up. Try to find ways to validate yourself and try to find allies.”
Special thanks to Jasmine Kabatay for authoring this article.
Future Pathways Fireside Chats are a project of TakingITGlobal's Connected North Program.
Funding is generously provided by the RBC Foundation in support of RBC Future Launch, and the Government of Canada's Supports for Student Learning program.