Script Reading with Friends - Round One!

After five years of research and keeping the idea to myself, I finally got up the courage to share my drama scripted series with my group of friends.

PHOTO BY RYAN COULDREY

PHOTO BY RYAN COULDREY

KYLE reading descriptions | PHOTO BY RYAN COULDREY

KYLE reading descriptions | PHOTO BY RYAN COULDREY

I am so fortunate enough to have these people in my life who, even if shy or semi unwilling, brought my words to life!

PHOTO BY RYAN COULDREY

PHOTO BY RYAN COULDREY

KIRA playing ELLA D'ARCY | PHOTO BY RYAN COULDREY

KIRA playing ELLA D'ARCY | PHOTO BY RYAN COULDREY

I got to hear voices associated to what had been, up until this point, figments of my imagination that remained firmly in my head.

BYDEN, ALANNA, KRISTINA, and ANDREA | PHOTO BY RYAN COULDREY

BYDEN, ALANNA, KRISTINA, and ANDREA | PHOTO BY RYAN COULDREY

It was shocking, gratifying, and extremely rewarding! I couldn't have asked for a better group!

BYDEN and ALANNA | PHOTO BY RYAN COULDREY

BYDEN and ALANNA | PHOTO BY RYAN COULDREY

Thank you.

- Jenn

Coal Mine Theatre - Working with the Best

It's been two years since my journey with Coal Mine Theatre, Toronto's hottest rising east-end theatre company (in my humble opinion).



... Actually STAGE DOOR, THE GLOBE AND MAIL, and NOW MAGAZINE (NNNN) agree with my opinion too!

Chief Engineers Diana Bentley and Ted Dykstra have been SO open, patient, and kind and I feel very blessed to be a part of such an inspiring team.

PHOTO BY MICHAEL COOPER | PROPERTY OF COAL MINE THEATRE

PHOTO BY MICHAEL COOPER | PROPERTY OF COAL MINE THEATRE

You know how they (who is they?) say to place yourself around successful people who are doing innovative things? Well that is how I feel each and every day I get to work alongside the entire creative and artistic team.

DIANA BENTLEY, SHAUN BENSON, TED DYKSTRA, and CHRIS HAYES on set 

DIANA BENTLEY, SHAUN BENSON, TED DYKSTRA, and CHRIS HAYES on set 

After completing the website, Diana and I bonded over SM discussions and coffee! We began working on Twitter and Facebook, and saw a 73% increase over a year and a half!

PHOTO BY SHAUN BENSON | PROPERTY OF COAL MINE THEATRE

PHOTO BY SHAUN BENSON | PROPERTY OF COAL MINE THEATRE

We even ventured into producing video content this year and it was a pleasure to put together short vignettes about the BREATHING CORPSES cast.

We tried our very first holiday themed show and it was a blast. Louise Pitre and Kenneth Welsh on stage. Sweet melodious music mixed with a live reading of "A Child's Christmas in Wales."

PHOTO BY SHAUN BENSON | PROPERTY OF COAL MINE THEATRE

PHOTO BY SHAUN BENSON | PROPERTY OF COAL MINE THEATRE

PHOTO BY SHAUN BENSON | PROPERTY OF COAL MINE THEATRE

PHOTO BY SHAUN BENSON | PROPERTY OF COAL MINE THEATRE

PHOTO BY SHAUN BENSON | PROPERTY OF COAL MINE THEATRE

PHOTO BY SHAUN BENSON | PROPERTY OF COAL MINE THEATRE

We are half way through Season Three, and I couldn't be more excited to be a part of the team that is putting on the Canadian premiere of SUPERIOR DONUTS. Tracy Letts, the wondrously talented writer (August: Osage County, and KILLER JOE)

PHOTO BY ATSHUTTERSPEED

PHOTO BY ATSHUTTERSPEED

We close this season with what Diana likes to call, "our dark horse." - ORPHANS. We were at Evergreen Brickworks this past weekend shooting out on the train tracks. Actually let me rephrase. I was safely on firm ground while the cast and photographer, Shaun, were out on the train tracks.

PHOTO BY ATSHUTTERSPEED | PROPERTY OF COAL MINE THEATRE | ORPHANS

PHOTO BY ATSHUTTERSPEED | PROPERTY OF COAL MINE THEATRE | ORPHANS

PHOTO BY ATSHUTTERSPEED | PROPERTY OF COAL MINE THEATRE | ORPHANS

PHOTO BY ATSHUTTERSPEED | PROPERTY OF COAL MINE THEATRE | ORPHANS

Tickets are selling fast for the final two shows! If you like innovative, challenging, modern, and enticing art, Coal Mine is for you. If you like sheer entertainment - you have come to the right place!

Nominated for DORA awards three years running, I very much look forward to moving up and beyond in our next season of work!

- Jenn

At Shutter Speed - So Far This Year

As TIFF is coming around the corner, I had a moment to reflect this morning about my year. I looked back on all the wonderful people I have had a chance to work with and some truly outstanding projects. These I shall relate to you in a JAMES JOYCE rambling sort of way. Apologies:

My year started off with a bang, and I was able to work with a dedicated team to produce a local award show that honoured ingenuity and entrepreneurialism in Canada.

SPIN MASTER

Working with a truly creative team at SPIN MASTER and maintaining a connection with my favourite creative director of all time, MIKE ARNOTT, and all my friends (cough cough Rachel, Dave and Sylvia).


GINUWINE CONCERT

Next came a GINUWINE concert at The Danforth Music Hall. I met two ambitious and hard working producers from IMPOSSIBLE Productions and we nailed it. Literally!

GINUWINE | DANFORTH MUSIC HALL

GINUWINE | DANFORTH MUSIC HALL

DELON | BTS | DANFORTH MUSIC HALL

DELON | BTS | DANFORTH MUSIC HALL


DOCUMENTARY PROMOS

I have also been working closely with two talented producers / directors to help them create documentary promos that aid with outreach and funding initiatives.


HOT DOCS

OH, and of course working with the best team ever at Hot Docs 2016 this past year was a journey I shall never forget! I got to see 15 docs and met a wealth of talented people. If you can, go see: HOLY HELL, LEAGUE OF EXOTIQUE DANCERS, UNDER THE SUN, and MR GAGA.

ME | HOT DOCS 2016

ME | HOT DOCS 2016

BLOOR TEAM | HOT DOCS 2016

BLOOR TEAM | HOT DOCS 2016


SHORT FILM

Working with an amazing group to produce a short film! We filmed at a local shop called Tatyana's Boutique and braved the five degree Canadian weather (it was a piece of cake, eh?). Looking forward to seeing the final results!

TATYANA'S BOUTIQUE | TORONTO

ACTORS AND CREW | TORONTO

ACTORS AND CREW | TORONTO


TORONTO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

I am currently partnering with an outstanding team who will be producing videos for The Toronto Symphony Orchestra. All 24 concerts, and here we come!

ROY THOMPSON HALL | TORONTO

ROY THOMPSON HALL | TORONTO


LADIES SOCIETY

Just a week ago I got to spend an entire evening with the most inspiring and wonderful group of women. SHELLEY SAYWELL (Emmy nominated director), Deborah Parks (outstanding producer), Mary-Ann Bedard (City of Toronto, and the most heartfelt person), Jackie Garrow (Impact Producer, and mother of two), and Jean Stevenson (Maddison House, and the life of the party). 

We talked about everything under the sun, unrestrained. I felt as if I were in some secret society and club in which we wile away our time drinking wine and talking philosophical jargon. 


COAL MINE

I was invited back to work with the team at The Coal Mine this season and AHHHH it has already be crazy and fun and amazing. Looking forward to some rock'n'roll theatre on The Danforth!

DESIGNED BY KOSTIS PETRIDIS


MUFF SOCIETY & HER-STORY

AND, if that isn't enough, I have been so honoured and involved with The MUFF Society for 2 years and now will be spearheading out Documentary Series called HER-STORY and oh my, I cannot wait to tell you the line up of amazing female documentarians we have in store for you Toronto!


I haven't even begun to process just how blessed I feel.

I must close with a final note. My mind is overwhelmed in the best way possible and my heart is ready to burst. Thank you thank you thank you to all the people who have made my life amazing this past year.

- Jenn

A Night with Nickolas De Pencier: DOC Masters' Series Class

One of the many organizations I have joined this year is the Documentary Organization of Canada. I came across this gem at Hot Docs Film Festival 2015.

DOC offers programming to emerging film professionals for a variety of roles.

Technicolour studio

This month's masters series class was on cinematography and lead by Nickolas De Pencier. He is known for his TIFF success, Watermark (2013). 

Nickolas graduated from school with a BA' in English Lit. and Art History. Growing up as a photographer who developed b / w photos from film, he carried this love over to working on set in a variety of roles. 

Laughing to himself, he says he never chose film as a career. Especially not documentary. He started working on feature film sets for drama and fiction. From PA'ing to grip, he tried out every role to get a good sense of the entire process.

"Start small and be excited about everything" - Nickolas.

On his spare time, he worked on dance films. His roommate at the time knew a group of dancers and Nickolas developed his cinematographic eye through fun experimentation.

After deciding that fiction film was not a long term career for him, he jumped ship to documentary filmmaking. Not only did he change subject matter, but he made the leap from film to digital.

My favourite part about De Pencier's talk was his philosophies, some of which I will share with you below:

"Rare link between subject and what you are reporting"
"Authentic subject = unobtrusive cameraman"
"Use what is there, the mechanics of production. The smaller the better"
"creatively owning camera is better"
"Ask yourself what can this camera do..."
"ethics of DOC filmmaking: good practice leading to stronger material"
"there is a difference between an authentic relationship in film and an expose film"

He then shared two of his personal mantras that I shall carry forward with me for life:

"never move until it improves on stillness"
"something human is more dear to me than all the world"

Nickolas ended his talk by addressing questions from the audience, one of which asked about the future of DOC filmmaking in terms of finding funding. He suggested that the current model of sponsorship may change in five years. Most DOC full length films attract a niche audience, meaning it is hard to make a solid living off of it. He has, though, and is living proof. Perhaps that generation is dying out slowly but it is good to see someone who is able to make it while still inhabiting the outskirts of the filmmaking industry. Further, as a filmmaking you might have to weigh in whether your sponsor has the same agenda as you or is looking to improve business through product placement and ads. This can affect the authenticity of your film and whether your film receives funding or not. It is always a delicate line to balance on.

Thank you DOC for such a great evening spent at Technicolour (Toronto) and the chance to play around with top gear sponsored by Vistek.

- Jenn

Women in Film and Television: My First WIFT-T Meeting in Toronto

I attended an AGM event this past Monday with WIFT. Hosted downtown Toronto at Goodman LP, I found myself immersed in a group of talented and career driven women.

| What WIFT-T excels at is creating a supportive community where women can meet, network, voice our concerns, face common challenges, and celebrate our triumphs. No other organization does this for women filmmakers - Stephanie Law, WIFT website.

What an organization like this does for women is provide a platform for women to discuss challenges, issues, and everyday career obstacles together in a non-judgmental atmosphere. From entry level industry members to members with 30+ years of experience, WIFT-T excitedly invites anyone and everyone who is interested.

Membership Flexibility

Membership is flexible and based on your industry experience. This is important because some of their networking events and professional development courses are catered to level of expertise in the industry.

The thing I am looking forward to the most as a new member with WIFT is the educational opportunities and course modules they organize and host. These intuitive courses are catered directly to industry professionals and offered for a fraction of the price of other development courses. 

Media Business: Marketing and Distribution

The landscape for our industry is changing. Digital media is going to take over TV distribution sooner or later. We have to stay at the forefront and be a part of the box that pushes the boundaries for content creation. WIFT provides incubator programs for emerging talent that go through the entire production and business end of media creation. They offer a Digital Media Bootcamp course:

| Content creators will learn about the technical environments available to them to tell their stories and distribute their work – plus manage projects on deadline and on budget. Participants will leave confident with the understanding of what it takes to get their original or digital extension project executed. This program was formerly called the Convergent Media Program - WIFT website.

Other exciting events to look forward to: a short film festival championing member work, a TIFF reception party, and networking opportunities.

At the AGM I met the Chair, Joanna Webb. She approached me with a smile and personally welcomed me to the event. I felt instantly warm and at home. I also got to talk to a new board member, Andra Sheffer, who has such an inspiring career tract: from working at festivals to being the CEO of the Independent Production Fund and other Canadian film industry companies. This was enough for me. I felt included, excited, and on board with their mission statement.

If you are interested in joining, visit their website and check out all the flexible membership options.

- Jenn

*Stay tuned for our blog tomorrow: In Conversation with Andrea Ziedenberg, Far From the Madding Crowd.

Juggun Kazim - A Night with Western Alumni

Last night I attended my second Western Alumni event in Toronto at the Rosewater building. First off, let me say how much I have so far enjoyed these evenings. Western U Alumni your hard work and dedication to reaching out to past Western students makes me feel purple and proud all over again. Thank you for providing an extraordinary experience.

Last night, Juggun Kazim gave an emotional inspiring talk about her journey from Pakistan to Canada when she was 17 to attend Western U. She didn't know anyone at the school. She knew it was a good school but that was it.

Western Alumni Gazette - Ft. Juggun Kazim - 2015

When talking about her culture she says, "I am Pakistani. I am Muslim. I am Canadian. But first - I am a human being [...] religion has nothing to do with who you are."

This was the basis of her entire talk: the Power of Human Beings.

From a privileged family, Juggun said she never would have ended up with such a successful career in the media without having attended Western U. She strongly believes that Western provided her not only an education but a lesson on being human: "Western teaches you how to be an extraordinary human being."

"The only way the world will respect you is if you respect yourself" - Juggun Kazim

During her time at Western, she enrolled in the Western Work Program to help pay the international fees. She says it was heart warming dealing with all the wonderful people who worked at Western. They laboured endlessly to make sure she could stay in school. All she had to do was give back to the purple community.

"Western opened up my perception..." - Western Gazette - Alumni issue. 2015.

After graduating, she entered the media sector in Canada, much to her family's distaste, and flourished as an actress. This was not without its trials. At this point she laughed. Working as a new Canadian actress in Canada, she was either auditioning to play a "desolate" Pakistani woman - to which she said her skin tone was not dark enough for - or she was invited to audition to be a Canadian - which she also laughed and said she was not "Canadian" enough due to her accent. Being stuck in limbo, and feeling slightly spent, her agent suggested to change her name to J. It seemed to work and she landed a role in a film and two stage plays.

She returned home shortly after. She was quickly engaged and married to a man from home. I will leave this part of her story out as she has asked the people who were present last night to keep this part private. But I will say she went through an extremely rough patch in a bad marriage (really bad).

She must have seen the shock and sympathy in our faces. She replied slowly and said (and I paraphrase here) the reason I don't talk about this is because this is something that happens everywhere. It does not define me as a Pakistani woman. "You have to get over it and move on." 

From here, she got out. She left and pursued her media career as a Breakfast television host: Mornings with Juggun Kazim.

She remarried. "I don't have to look far outside my home to find inspiration." And she pointed to her husband in the audience, "that man there deals with me in all my crazy and erratic moods." 

"Keeping Smiling" - Juggun Kazim

She ended her tale by saying an amazing array of inspiring words:

"Work from the inside out." - (paraphrased) everyone says to think outside the box. I say become the box and slowly help to reshape the world around you to bring about change. 

Her biggest conflict now is changing the perception at home (Pakistan) of being a woman who is both "beautiful" and intelligent." Most people tell her that she can't be on screen and be those two things synonymously. You have to be very careful saying what is on your mind, she told us. She has found that using positive reinforcement is the safest path.

When talking about serious issues such as child molestation, she said she can't come out and just say it point blank. She has to instead guide parents by insisting to care and listen to their children. To watch over both their young girls and boys.

"Send kindness forward, give back" - Juggun Kazim.

Being the ultimate nerd that I am, and having now a massive female crush on Juggun (who is a fellow purple warrior) I asked her to sign my copy of the Western Alumni gazette.

I shared an experience I had and she told me: "whatever you do, do not be silent. Always talk to someone about your experiences and share."

Keep smiling!

- Jenn

TECH-nically a Women - Fully a Person

Two experiences in the last two weeks that have changed my perspective

After having watched The Hundred Foot Journey (Lasse Hallström, 2014), I picked up the novel and whipped through it in under a week. Quick plot: a family from Indian emigrates to a small country town in France. The family opens up a restaurant, attracting much attention from a local high top restaurant owner, Madame Mallory. She takes the main character, Hassan, under her wing and he ends up in Paris with his own 3-michelin star restaurant. My favourite part about the story came at the very end, when the michelin-inspection committee calls Hassan to award him his third star. The critic says, "you are the first foreign chef in the city to ever win a third star." Quite a backhanded compliment.

Similar to this experience, I read an article in LinkedIn called "Recruiting, and Retaining Women in Tech." A good brief article about why women feel unwelcome in tech related careers,

"If your company is mostly male, you will have to work extra hard to create a women-friendly culture, where women don't feel they are different" - Caterina Fake (CEO, Findery).

The article ends with a call to action: 

"Don't just sit and wait for women to apply for jobs. Make sure your company is friendly to women. Let it be known that you are interested in recruiting and retaining women. Build your own pipeline for applicants."

My immediate reaction was positive. Of course women (like men) want to feel comfortable and safe entering a work environment. And let's be honest, certain jobs have a reputation of being ill-suited for women. Upon further consideration, however, I also realized that it might potentially be backhanded. Like our compliment above. What if you found out after being hired at the workplace of your dreams that you were considered there, not solely based on skills, but because you were a woman? How do you feel?

WHY

Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant write a column called Women at Work in the Sunday TIMES. This past week, they explored "Why Women Stay Quiet" in workplace environments. They open with an example of an incident I believe we have all been through:

"Almost every time [women] started to speak, they were interrupted or shot down before finishing their pitch. When one had a good idea, a male writer would jump in and run with it before she could complete her thought." - [reported by Glenn Mazzara]

Sound familiar? 

Women of Influence, Magazine

I attended an extremely inspiring and helpful talk by Carolyn Lawrence, President & CEO of Women of Influence. She talked about how men and women learn differently, but that both genders are key ingredients for a company's success. It is figuring out how to use each other's best qualities / assets that is the challenge. Once this hurdle is overcome, however, success follows.

I walked away with two feelings. The first is, no longer will I remain quiet. If I have ideas, I will share. Later that week I did just that. And what happened? I was immediately interrupted. However, unlike the ladies above, I took matters into my own hands. I stopped that male speaker right away and politely said, "I am sorry, I was not finished my thought."

What happened next?

They were not offended and actually stopped talking. I was able to finish my thought and even though they shot it down shortly after, I had at least commanded the attention of the table for that split second without endangering myself as being called rude.

 

The second lesson I learned is to ACTUALLY walk away. She said that if your situation has reached a point where you feel unhappy, then leave. So simple. The grass is always greener on the other side.

Concerning Balancing Gender Diversity in the Technical Sectors

OKAY. So. How do we balance these ideas? How do we address the need to have gender equality in the technical sector without calling attention to gender itself?

Women as persons. That is my balancing solution.

Another article was brought to my attention at a meeting with MUFFS (Monthly Underground Female Film Society, Toronto) this past weekend: "Ten Surprising Movies Directed by Women". 

First off: Dear writer who is indeed a woman, why is this surprising at all? Did these films possess an overall male-aesthetic and male-perspective? What is the surprise: the fact that these films are successful? The fact that these films won awards?

"Not only did the film get nominated for 4 Canadian Screen Awards, and 3 Oscars, it was directed by a woman (whereupon multiple exclamation points appear - profusely overused - for an exaggerated effect)."

No more.

Support for women locally

To me it is so simple. People are people. Women are people. Therefore, let's celebrate human achievement - irrespective of gender. His-story is made up of Her-story too.

*Excuse my lack here at this moment of mentioning RACE or SEXUALITY or CULTURE. These are three completely different (yet interrelated) topics to tackle for a different week.

What can you do? Join a club. Join a society. Volunteer. Blog. Listen. Read. Educate yourself. Empower the people around you. Use language as a positive inducer versus as a Debbie Downer.

I helped volunteer at a really cool event this past November called Women Who Rock - Auction for Action. A collection of top mining CEOs gathered that evening on stage and were auctioned off to women in the mining industry for a one-on-one counselling session (career advice and young entrepreneurs). All proceeds ($6,000) were raised for the Alma Fund, which financially supports women in South America.

Support for women internationally

I recently signed a petition with Global Fund for Women concerning "ending the gender technology gap." This initiative supports international women by making available all areas of technology / science / development to both genders in an equal environment.

To conclude my analysis, there is definitely a move towards awareness in the workspace concerning the lack of women in the technical sectors or even the absence of female contribution or shared opinion. Please share some articles you found intriguing and continue the talk moving forward.

People as people,

- Jenn

BLOG CONTRIBUTORS

Charlotte Ficek