Cody Lightning – Hey Viktor!

The Mockumentary is a terrific format for talented content creators because it avoids getting overwhelmed with huge crews and as the Tragically Hip would put it “Blow at High Dough.” If you know you’re funny and believe in the other performers, you can have a lot of fun making something that almost everyone can enjoy. Hey Viktor! isn’t for everyone. It does have its share of nudity, violence, drug use, and course language. For most of us, it’s just a great time. 


We had a chance to sit down with Cody Lightning and producer Sara Corry before the big screening at the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF).


HNMAG: How did you get into acting?

Cody Lightning: First of all, Cody Lightning from Samson Creek, First Nation, in Maskwacis Treaty 6 territories. My Mom moved down to Los Angeles in the early 90s with my siblings and me and were raised in the film industry. My Mom went to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She was an actor, a filmmaker, a producer, and a musician, she played with so many people. So we were brought up that way. When I was around five years old, I got onto Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman as an extra. That was the first project I ever worked on. My first speaking role was Geronimo. 


HNMAG: How far was that from Edmonton, where you were born?

Cody Lightning: I was born in Edmonton. I’m registered so that is my treaty status. Maskwacis is about forty-five minutes to an hour south of Edmonton. 


HNMAG: Until you were five you lived on that reserve?

Cody Lightning: No, not on the reserve. I actually spent more time in a place just West of Edmonton. Maskawacis, used to be called Hobemma. They got the traditional name back. It means Bear Hills. That’s where my family on my Dad side is from. I spent a lot of time there with him. My Mom’s side comes from Sawridge. 


HNMAG: When you were five you moved to LA?

Cody Lightning: I was four. I was a tiny kid. I was barely over a toddler. I stayed in LA through high school. Then moved to Boise, Idaho. I lived there for a while. Moved to New York, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Washington. I tumbleweeded all over and worked on projects where I could. I got my degree in Washington and then moved back to Canada. 


HNMAG: After your first experience doing background work, did you get the showbiz bug?

Cody Lightning: For indigenous people, storytelling is so innate. We were a verbal people from the beginning. You share stories, you are communicating through talking and listening. Speaking and being silent. Listening and giving. Since my Mom raised me in the industry it was apparent that I was good at it. I feel that I am good at it. When I was a teenager my rebellious nature made me question that option. I’m a skateboarder, a snowboarder, a comedian, I did Stand-up. I didn’t know what path I wanted to go down. I also had an intense healing journey and I’m still on that. I dabbled and fully engaged in all the content that I wanted to make, with my partners, we can make some really cool stuff. We are going to make some stuff that is going to shine really bright.


HNMAG: You had a significant role in Smoke Signals which was very successful. It was also almost completely indigenous with cast and crew. 

Cody Lightning: I have to be careful how I say this. It wasn’t that the part was that significant but it became significant. It was an independent film, made for dirt cheap by indigenous people for indigenous people. 


HNMAG: Adam Beach wasn’t a star yet. 

Cody Lightning: No, he was on the come-up. It was an independent film that was made for us, by us, by contemporary indigenous people.



Sara Corry: That’s actually what FUBU stands for. 

Cody Lightning: FUBU 05, oh yeah!

Sara Corry: 05, totally!


HNMAG: Smoke Signals was an American film but so much of the talent was from Canada. 

Cody Lightning: Yeah! Me, Tantoo, Gary, Simon…


HNMAG: Adam!

Cody Lightning: The best shit comes out of Canada. We are the funniest ethnicity on earth! We are hilarious. We have a lot of depth to us. Look at Jim Carrey and SNL. Canada pumps out heavy hitters. It’s such an honour to be part of this new indigenous…we are getting our voices back. We were shut out for a long time for different reasons. The residential and boarding school era of shut up and don’t talk until you are spoken to, you know, the amount of molest, abuse, and dysfunction that happened in those systems, we’re gaining our voice back and it’s coming through in a powerful way. My contribution isn’t through informative stuff. I appreciate that important content. I’m a joke teller. Let’s make humor out of this dysfunctional stuff that we’ve been through. It’s amazing the heavy stuff that I’ve heard some of the elders go through and they are able to joke about. It blows my mind. 

HNMAG: The character of Cody Lightning in Hey Viktor! is a heightened version of yourself. I like that you are not winking when you play it. The audience believes that this guy “Cody Lightning” is really messed up.

Cody Lightning:  I love that. There was a casting director that I’ve known since I was a kid. We reached out, sent them the script, and asked them to help us cast Hey Viktor! Then a couple of hours later I got a call. “Cody, are you sure you want to put yourself out there like this?” I said “Yeah, why?” “Because some people are going to think this is real, and that’s how you are.” “I don’t care.” I’m a comedian, I’m for anything for a laugh. I’ve gone through some gnarly things. I would be the most depressed, saddest person if I wasn’t able to crack a joke. I’ve learned, from a young age, that we have to laugh at certain things, even if they’re messed up. I don’t want to be a very dark person. Do we want to sit in this pit of anger and nastiness? Let’s crack a joke once in a while.


HNMAG: How much was improvised in Hey Viktor!?

Cody Lightning: There was quite a bit and the Colin Mochrie stuff was so fun. Colin Mochrie is amazing. It was such a blessing to work with him. We emailed him and said this is our project, give it a read or don’t. Just give us the thumbs up or thumbs down. He was thumbs up, right away. He’s such an amazing dude and contributed so much. We played so well off each other. We let everyone know the script is not glued, it’s not concrete. Let’s play with this. If you can add something for this type of project, let’s play with it. Let’s make this work however we want. Some cast and crew were wondering when we were still rolling but it was a blast. We all had a blast. 


HNMAG: This was filmed in Alberta? Were most people there or did you bring them?

Cody Lightning: 90-95% of the funding had to be from Alberta. I had a lot of friends from the States that I wanted to bring on board but I couldn’t. We looked at a book in Alberta.


HNMAG: Did the province provide a book of potential investors?

Sara Corry: Calgary Economic Development sort of helped us to connect with North Country Cinema and Lightning Mill. They were looking for who had done this before in Alberta. We have a pretty good relationship with Calgary Economic Development. 

Cody Lightning: Sara is my producer. One of my main producers here.


HNMAG: I was wondering if Cody Lighting was a stage name because it’s such a cool name. 

Cody Lightning: No that’s my real name and my sister is Crystal. I would get into fights defending her from other kids. 


HNMAG: We’ve all had survival jobs in this industry. What was that like for you?

Cody Lightning: I worked at Costco. I scrubbed toilets, I worked construction cleanup. I worked at a youth centre, hanging out with the kids which is my favorite job, even more so than acting, to be honest. Hanging out with the kids, coaching, skateboarding, taking them to the go-carts, waterslides, and that stuff. I love that shit, that’s me! It’s a blessing now to have this opportunity and as an indigenous person, it’s my job to give back. I am not an owner of anything. It’s my job to get something and give it back. 


HNMAG: Where did you two meet?

Sara Corry: As I was saying, Calgary Economic Development had connected us. Cody’s co-writer, Samuel Miller, had written an email to my fellow producer and me, Kyle Thomas. It’s funny because we do get emails from other projects where people send us their scripts. We read Sam’s email and we said “I think these guys might be for real. Let’s give them a call.” We did and then we came up to Edmonton and met with Cody, Josh, and Sam and we were pretty much fast friends right away. Then we said “Let’s do this.”

Cody Lightning: Josh and Sam are on the emails every day. They reached out to Calgary Economic Development. 


HNMAG: Did you keep in touch with other cast members of Smoke Signals over the years? 

Cody Lightning: Some I kept in touch with. Gary Farmer and Adam Beach stayed with us any time they came down to LA. My mom had the indigenous hub of Los Angeles. Tantoo Cardinal, I just did Echo with. Simon and I kept in touch.  He’s my brother through and through. We’ll be connected for the rest of our lives. 


HNMAG: Hey Viktor! has been getting a terrific reception.

Cody Lightning: It was showcased at Tribeca in New York, at TIFF, Edmonton, Calgary, and Crave and it’s making its rounds. It’s very emotional to be on that journey. It means so much to me. 


HNMAG: When can most viewers see Hey Viktor!?

Sara Corry: We have our theatrical release at the end of February or early March. We are with Level Films as our distributor. We also have Visit in New York. 

Cody Lightning: We also have two years with Crave after that. We will be on Planes, Trains, Automobiles, and everywhere that John Candy went. I want to show it anywhere close to Indigenous audiences. I want our people to see it first. I want the people that I know that had a huge influence on me and the things that I’m doing, to see it first and foremost. 

Sara Corry: That’s why it was so important to not only do the film festivals but also do the friends and family screening we had in Edmonton. It was completely free for anyone who wanted to see it. For anyone who worked on it, anyone’s family and friends who were connected. It was at the Metro Cinema at Garneau, where some scenes were shot. It was really nice to come full circle. 


HNMAG: What would you say to someone considering seeing your movie?

Cody Lightning: If you are interested in seeing Hey Viktor!, we use the F-word often, and there is a lot of full frontal nudity, and drug and alcohol consumption, it’s not for everyone but it’s for a lot. Some might say “Oh my” but there are a lot more that will say “hell yeah!”


Cody Lightning is very passionate, driven, and funny. When you watch Hey Viktor! you can see how much fun everyone is having. This is more evidence that you can celebrate who you are, and where you come from when you have an engaging and entertaining story. A movie can be shot and set in Edmonton with very specific characters but still have universal appeal. 

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