Documentary producer eyes the Ring of Fire – by Ian Ross (Northern Ontario Business – July 22, 2014)

Established in 1980, Northern Ontario Business provides Canadians and international investors with relevant, current and insightful editorial content and business news information about Ontario’s vibrant and resource-rich North. Ian Ross is the editor of Northern Ontario Business

Lalita Krishna has no intention of following the same contrived script that’s evident in the mining reality shows currently being embraced by network television.

The award-winning Toronto producer of television documentaries intends to drill down to the essence of the multi-faceted world of mining by documenting the lives of the people who toil at the grassroots edge of the industry.

Krishna recalls spending four bone-chilling days with Barb Courte Elinesky, CEO of two Thunder Bay drilling companies, and her rugged crew shooting video in a remote exploration site in Greenstone last March.

The conditions were harsh, a vehicle became stuck on an access road, and they returned to their hotel in Beardmore one night after an exhausting day to find all the restaurants closed.

“When I was with Barb in that extreme environment; the drama happens naturally, you don’t have to create those situations or stage anything.”

The mining industry is new subject matter for the Indian-born Krishna, who worked as a producer at TV Ontario before venturing out on her own as an independent documentary producer.

As founder of InSync Productions, her past work has featured the arrival of superstores in India, the journey of Tamil asylum seekers to Canada, and she’s profiled characters from around the world whose lives are totally immersed in the chocolate industry.

The common thread is the issues being tackled are all told through the eyes of the people whose lives are positively or negatively affected.

Krishna wants to use the same approach to explain the Ring of Fire and its potential impact on people’s lives, by taking the time to understand the nuts and bolts of how the industry functions while telling those personal stories.

“I want to get to the heart of the human story here. I like character-based stories so people can connect. That’s how you get issues across rather than just focus on the issues.”

The idea was first planted by her Toronto condo neighbour, John Gammon, a former assistant deputy minister with the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines.

Some of her potential storytellers have shied away from the spotlight, while others have suggested contacts, made introductions for her, and even opened up a vein into their personal lives.

Such is the case with Courte Elinesky, the brassy and straight-talking drilling boss, who is the central figure in the video trailer Krishna is pitching to major television networks and cable companies.

She released the seven-minute teaser, Drill Baby Drill, in May on the Vimeo website.

Courte became the head of a drilling company literally overnight following the sudden death of her husband while the family was on the road heading toward a new life in northwestern Ontario.

After meeting Courte in Toronto last December, Krishna knew she was a natural for the camera. “She doesn’t hold anything back. I hit gold right away.”

Krishna is particularly fascinated by the salty-tongued personalities and the hardscrabble lives of her crew, some of whom are Aboriginal.

Part of her introduction to mining included meeting Glenn Nolan, a former chief of the Missanawbi Cree and current vice-president of Aboriginal Affairs with Noront Resources.

“From talking to him, I understood how much this means to him because he believes the Ring of Fire is going to be the future of their communities and their development, and he’s trying to get people to believe that.”

In sampling some of the Aboriginal presentations at a Toronto mining show, she realized how much is at stake for these impoverished communities in dire need of jobs, suitable infrastructure, a reliable electricity supply, and the short-sighted approaches that have hampered progress in the region.

In working on her proposal, Krishna has received a lukewarm response from TVO – her former employer – and she’s applying to two media funds to finance the documentary which will take up to a year to produce and can range between $200,000 and $400,000, not including post production expenses.

When fully cashed up, she wants to journey up to the Ring of Fire communities.

Krishna believes the subject matter and finished product – which would include a multi-media education resource platform – will be of interest to a wide-ranging audience.

When asked if her introduction into mining has offered any discoveries of her own, Krishna laughs in relating how similar it is to making documentaries.

“There’s a lot of speculating, we’re all prospecting and we’re constantly trying to raise money to be able to fund the next big idea.

“In this industry, it’s like trying to find gold. We believe this is the next big project but the only difference is, at the end, I get my reward by telling the story.”