Toronto ⏤ The Board of Directors of the Indigenous Screen Office (ISO) announces that Jesse Wente is stepping down as the organization’s Co-Executive Director. The Board is pleased to announce the appointment of Kerry Swanson – who currently serves as Co-Executive Director with Wente – as incoming Executive Director. Wente will remain with ISO until the end of the calendar year and continue to engage with the organization on future strategic initiatives.
“The Board thanks Jesse Wente for his invaluable contributions as the ISO’s founding Director. The broader Indigenous production community has benefited greatly from the impact of his presence, voice and advocacy for Indigenous narrative sovereignty,” said Jean La Rose, Chair of the ISO Board of Directors.
“The Board congratulates Kerry Swanson, who has accepted the position of Executive Director,” said La Rose. “Kerry is a leader who embraces the values of the ISO and her proven commitment and deep knowledge of the Indigenous media sector will ensure the organization’s continued growth and success.”
Jesse Wente started with the ISO at the beginning of 2018, with a modest operating budget provided by a consortium of funding partners. Early in his tenure, he was a strong advocate for changes to the Canadian Broadcasting Act, now poised to be passed as legislation in Bill C-11.
Together with Kerry Swanson, who started the following year, they subsequently secured a $40-million three-year allocation from Canadian Heritage and have built Canada’s first independent Indigenous-led screen-based funding body. In the last two years, ISO has delivered over $20m in funding directly to Indigenous storytellers across Canada, and developed innovative partnership programs with organizations including Netflix, Directors Guild of Canada, Amazon Studios, MIT, Sundance Institute, and the Banff World Media Festival. They have continued to develop initiatives with founding partners CMF, APTN, Telefilm Canada and CBC.
“It has been my great honour to work for the ISO since its inception and to advocate for the many talented and inspiring Indigenous storytellers in our community. I have achieved the goals I set out to accomplish when I joined the organization and I will continue to use my voice to advance Indigenous sovereign rights to tell our own stories,” said Jesse Wente.
Kerry Swanson is an experienced executive and fundraiser dedicated to the growth and development of some of Canada’s leading Indigenous arts organizations and initiatives over the last seventeen years. In the last three years, she has been responsible for building the ISO’s administrative infrastructure, partnerships, and funding framework. Her experience as former Executive Director and Board Chair of imagineNATIVE, and leadership roles at Ontario Arts Council and Toronto Arts Council, have made her uniquely qualified for the leadership role at ISO.
Kerry has a Masters in Communication and Culture from Toronto Metropolitan University. She was born and raised in Chapleau, northern Ontario, in a Cree/Ojibwe, Irish and French family. She is a member of Michipicoten First Nation with familial ties to Chapleau Cree First Nation.
“I look forward to continuing my work in service to Indigenous storytellers, and to the exciting next chapter of the ISO. I can’t thank Jesse enough for the rewarding partnership we have had and which will only continue in a new form,” said Kerry Swanson.
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About the Indigenous Screen Office
The Indigenous Screen Office (ISO) is an independent national advocacy and funding organization serving First Nations, Inuit and Métis creators of screen content in Canada. The ISO’s mandate is to foster and support narrative sovereignty and cultural revitalization by increasing Indigenous storytelling on screens and promoting Indigenous values and participation across the sector.