Patrick Shannon

Film, Fashion, Founder: Haida Gwaii Creative Patrick Shannon Makes Moves and Movies

“Business is just a tool. It's a Western tool we have to use but it doesn't mean we have to give up on our values, our ethics, our morals, our Indigenous viewpoints and ways of life to be successful,” explains Patrick Shannon wisely. His traditional name is Nang Ḵ'uulas and he is a film and television director and a modeling agency and media collective cofounder. Haida Gwaii is where he’s based out of, as his family has been for over 14,000 years. 

He founded the modeling agency with Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week founder Joleen Mitton after they noticed Indigenous models faced microaggressions, misrepresentation, and exploitation and had advocacy support. Supernaturals Modelling Agency, which puts community, people and culture before profits, was born to address those needs and they’ve grown from eight models to over thirty.

“We didn't know what we're doing. I would argue we still don't. But I think that's actually a benefit because we didn't learn the bad habits of the industry. We went forward with our own protocols, our way of doing and our values and then everything that happens in the modeling industry, and the agencies are secondary to who we are as a people, as a culture,” he explains. 

Shannon’s had a life of trying new things. At 14 he left his reserve to go to school in Vancouver and ended up working as a background actor on X Men 3. He found a passion for photography in the city, too. After graduating, he worked full time in film for seven years, not making much but gaining experience. When the Canon 7D camera came out, the first stills camera that could shoot high quality video, he quit the industry and went independent. “I guess the rest is history there,” he beams. 

His advice for students considering leaving their home communities is to get exposure to different lifestyles and opportunities without forgetting where they come from. In his home community, nobody shared the passions he was pursuing in the city but when his grandmother fell ill, he came home to care for her. The decision was a game changer, connecting him with community, culture, and family in a new way. 

He kept learning online and gave back through after school film and photography programming, starting the Haida Gwaii Media Collective. He found balance building his career remotely, travelling for work while based out of Haida Gwaii. 

"It took me leaving to realize what potential there was for passions I didn't even know I had."

Travel opened Shannon’s eyes and he encourages youth to see the world. “See as much as you can, the more diversity that you're able to witness to be a part of, or life circumstances you're able to see, it really just opens up your perspective and makes you appreciate where you come from a lot more than you may have otherwise, because I really took my home and my community for granted. It wasn't until I was able to travel and see how other things were that I realized how special what we have here and what other people have in their communities truly is,” he elaborates. 

Attending elementary school and part of high school in Haida Gwaii and the rest of high school on the mainland, Shannon felt disillusioned with the education system and didn’t continue on to post secondary. “I think education is huge and important. But the colonial western Canadian education system isn't the only way to learn,” he reflects. 

Instead, he hung out with east Vancouver poets, worked on movie sets, and learned wherever he could. Now he teaches entrepreneurship, marketing and branding as a self-taught professional at a university.  “You can learn and you can build careers just on your own but it requires a lot of work. If you don't go to that traditional system, you often have to work much harder. But for me, at least, that's something I was up for,” he explains. 

"For all of us for human history, [life] has been our post secondary."

Fear of failure and putting himself out there has been one of the biggest obstacles Shannon has faced. He learned people don’t view failure critically but rather admire the bravery of someone who tried. After trying and failing most of a dozen initiatives over the last decade, Shannon learned a lot, setting himself up for future success. 

“We are so intelligent, we have access to the world's information. If you just believe in yourself enough to just try something, take that little step and just commit to doing it, even if you don't know how. We are the limiting factors in most situations,” he asserts.

If he could give his younger self advice it would be to trust himself and to never compromise his values, prioritizing integrity over profit. He would say to do what’s right rather than what’s easy and that there’s always time to move back towards our values. 

Recently, Shannon has struggled with burnout, establishing healthy boundaries and had to figure out who he is. Journaling, working out, reducing distractions and screen time, practicing mindfulness, as well as spending time daydreaming and being bored have helped maintain his mental health. 

These days, Shannon is inspired by collaboration, people he meets and content he makes travelling, and by the world and cultures around him. The magnitude of the challenges his ancestors faced help him gain perspective when he’s feeling sorry for himself. “I just think the fact that we're here is not only a miracle, but is a deliberate act of defiance and resilience,” he remarks. 

In closing, Shannon encourages youth to dig deep into what inspires and motivates them and what kind of change they want to see in the world. With that in mind, he encourages them to evaluate their decisions against those desires and dreams and to use those hopes as a measuring tool to see how aligned they are. Jotting down ideas in a notes app or on a scrap piece of paper, it’s a practice to repeat and refine until there’s clarity in direction. 

Business has been a tool Patrick Shannon has used to be successful without giving up on his values, ethics, morals,  Indigenous viewpoint and way of life. From behind the camera to the behind the scenes of international fashion shows, he’s bringing his creative perspective forward in new ways. Rooted in his values, he’s growing his businesses and his impact alongside his connection with his home.

Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.

  • 0:00 - Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit
  • 1:11 - Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.
  • 2:22 - Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet
  • 3:33 - Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor

Key Parts

  • Career
  • Identity
    First Nations
  • Province/Territory
    British Columbia
  • Date
    April 3, 2024
  • Post Secondary Institutions
    No PSI found.
  • Discussion Guide
    create to learn discuss

Similar Chats