Petie (Danette) Chalifoux

    • 2017 Convocation Student Address

      June 5, 2017

      School of Motion Picture Arts

      Petie (Danette) ChalifouxGood morning faculty, fellow graduates, friends and family members. It’s an honour to be here today as the student speaker of the Capilano University’s Motion Picture Arts Program. I would like to share two life-changing events that helped bring me to where I am today.

      The first change was leaving my family, my friends, my small tight knit First Nations community of Driftpile in northern Alberta. But, I did so in order to reach out for the opportunities that this world offered.

      Moving to Vancouver was a drastic change for me when I went from living amongst less than 2,000 people to living amongst over 2.5 million. It was strange and fascinating to be in a place with millions of people yet everyone seemed to be strangers to one another. But, in time one finds and makes their own communities.

      And Capilano University became a very important part of my community. Becoming a student at Capilano’s Motion Picture Arts program was a very exciting time for me. Although it became very clear to me very quickly that the film industry was a man’s world. Women were quite often looked to last when it came to making films. And out of the women guess who was the very last? Yes - Indigenous women. At first I was surprised at how the system worked but then again not surprised. This is something that many Indigenous women have faced and continue to face in all walks of life.

      But, this is a happy story because I was very determined that my voice would be heard. I would not give up. Nothing was going to stop me.

      And not even being in the front seat of a 17-car highway accident pile up was going to stop me. In my second year of school I was in the front seat of a greyhound bus that rammed into 3 vehicles that were stopped on the highway near Chilliwack followed by 14 other vehicles ramming into the bus from behind.

      After your life flashes before your eyes you really can’t help but question everything about your life. You truly realize how precious life is, how valuable your time here is and what really matters in life. Even though I ended up with a serious concussion I asked myself; was I really doing the best that I could with the time that I was given? Could I do more? The answer was absolutely yes. Although I had a huge learning curve in front of me, such as having to relearn things like how to put batteries into a boom mic, I knew that my 3rdand 4th year of university was going to be a challenge, a challenge that I was going to face with every ounce of energy I had. With every waking moment I was going to push harder, I wanted more in my life. In my 3rdyear of MOPA I began the process of preparing to create a feature film. In my 4thyear my husband and I were successful in our application to Telefilm’s micro-budget program and we made our very first feature film called River Of Silence. Capilano was a huge part in this success but of course I still had essays and exams - they didn’t let me forget that I was still in school. So there I was on set writing my final exams in between takes and dressing the actors.

      But that’s the beauty, as artists we all have the ability to create beautiful things and I’m saying go out there and continue to be creative and do it with all of your heart.

      In conclusion, I would like to thank Capilano University. I would like to thank all the MOPA faculty. I would especially like to thank Doreen Manuel, Ki Wight and Murray Stiller - you have all made my time at Capilano a very life affirming experience, I would also like to thank my parents who drove from Alberta to be here today and my husband Micheal, who have stood by me and encouraged me every step of the way.

      The two most important points I want to leave with you are, one, no matter the challenge you can rise above it, and two, embrace every single opportunity that comes to you.

      Congratulations graduates of 2017.