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Making it to the big screen

Student Adam Solway’s independent film debuted in Los Angeles

Photo of Mount Royal broadcasting student Adam Solway.

Mount Royal broadcasting student Adam Solway wrote, directed and produced the short film A Night Out, which premiered at the LA Skins Fest on Hollywood Boulevard.

As 2019 came to an end, Mount Royal University broadcast media studies student Adam Solway was strolling along sun-drenched Hollywood Boulevard in L.A., checking out the Walk of Fame and waiting to see a film. He didn’t have tickets to your typical Hollywood blockbuster, though. It was his own film being screened at the famous TCL Chinese Theatre, the same cinema where Star Wars was first seen.

Written, produced and directed by Solway, the short film A Night Out played on the final day of the LA Skins Fest, which describes itself as a “Native American Arts organization that offers year-round programming in film, television and music.” The film’s description, as written by Solway, is as such: “The story follows a slacker named Jared as he pressures his younger cousin Tommy to come with him to a Rez party. Jared sells it as a night out for the boys but really wants to run into his ex-girlfriend, Nance. Life doesn't stand still and the night doesn't go as planned. It soon turns into confronting insecurities and fears about leaving home and the chances we miss in life.”

The L.A. experience was unforgettable, Solway says. “It was cool to meet a bunch of Indigenous filmmakers from all over the U.S. and Canada. I got to watch a lot of different films from everywhere.” He adds that his own work was received well, with members of the audience coming up to him afterwards to discuss some of the Indigenous humour and “little quirks,” he included, which resonated with many.

Photo of Jared making an awkward attempt to communicate with his ex-girlfriend, Nance.

In A Night Out, Jared makes an awkward attempt to communicate with his ex-girlfriend, Nance.

Made through the NAPI Collective, a filmmaking group based out of the Siksika Nation (Solway’s home community), A Night Out was the collective’s third film. After his script was chosen from a group of submissions, Solway decided he wanted to direct. They held a casting call and the vast majority of the actors and crew members ended up hailing from Siksika as well, including Brett Spring Chief (Jared), who is also a hip-hop artist. Locals Tawnya Plain Eagle plays Nance, Madden Running Rabbit is Tommy, and Telly James (a well-known stage actor) plays Cory, the guy everybody knows is great fun at a party but it’s a bit of a gamble to invite them.

“The characters are kind of floating and don’t have the means to go out and do what they want to do. It all of centres around this house party that they go to,” Solway says. “They want to have fun, but instead they have to deal with these things that they're feeling.”

It’s a familiar scene for many: a slightly ramshackle house stuffed full of couches filled with people who are not quite sure what to say to each other. Solway drew on his own life for his script, saying, “I think it's important for artists to not to be afraid to talk about things that they've experienced. You shouldn't feel like you're limited to express yourself only in ways that people will accept you for. I think with A Night Out, I brought up a lot of stuff, not even just about myself, but about a lot of people, my cousins, people who I've grown up with, things that I've seen. I wanted to present that in a way that I felt comfortable with, which was through film.”

Photo of brothers Jared and Tommy and their cousin Cory.

Brothers Jared and Tommy and their cousin Cory are each in different stages of their lives, and each experience a different night out in Solway’s film.

Solway remembers always having a passion for movies and filmmaking, admitting he watched a lot of late-night TV as a kid. In Grade 6 he begged his parents for a video camera, was successful in the endeavour, and he never stopped. He attended SAIT for film and video production, and is now in his second year of the Mount Royal broadcasting program, having become interested in the field after working for Siksika Media’s radio station (CFXX 104.7 FM) and newspaper (Aitsiniki). It was his desire to obtain a full degree that brought him to MRU.

“I want to learn as much as I can while I'm still young and we'll see what happens in the next two years,” Solway says.

So far he is enjoying getting to know the faculty and students in his program and learning new skills, such as voice for radio. His know-how and capabilities are appreciated.

“Adam brings his industry experience to the classroom and his classroom experience to his film work,” says associate professor Alana Gieck. “He provides a unique perspective to the discussions in class and we all learn from his accomplishments as a storyteller.

“Even as a student, Adam doesn't just dream or talk about making films, he's actually out there doing it.”

Jan. 24, 2020 ― Michelle Bodnar

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