people sitting on fold out chairs in front of a projector screen

My Experience Filming, Producing, and Screening Documentaries as a Student 📹

Being a student commands a lot of time and energy. Being a student here at the University of Toronto has given me access to knowledge across fields as diverse from astronomy to sociology, and it has led to connections with students, professors, and administrators who have supported my endeavours.

I especially enjoy political science courses, which explains my status as a political science major. Though I take great pleasure in using the lessons learned and papers read as the foundation for my term papers, I acknowledge that the end-product—a 20 pager racked with academic jargon and references to published articles—is not accessible to most people. Yet, I think there are important topics, be they political or not, that are discussed in classrooms, deliberated in papers, and confined to our campus. In search for a venue to share pieces of history and new ideas, I turned to documentary filmmaking.

I started my journey as a filmmaker last summer, when two friends and I received the University of Toronto Student Engagement Award. The financial support from the award allowed us to travel to Vancouver for the purpose of shooting a documentary on East Asian food access during the pandemic. We bounced from one farmers market to the next, asking vendors and volunteers if they’d be interested in sharing their ideas and experiences on camera. Enough of them agreed, and so we wound up with a 12 minute film at the end of the summer. 

This is a still of drone footage I'd taken over the Humber River, as part of my scoping out the area surrounding the church

Since then, I have completed a longer documentary film on the Central United Church's 200 year old history. This started with my response to a call for submissions from Shakespeare In Action, which is a local non-profit. I am thankful for the artist fee and the material fee made available with this opportunity. This greatly offset the equipment costs (microphones, transportation) and also compensated me for my time (I visited the church on multiple occasions to film interviewees). I found this opportunity by browsing STEPS Public Art's monthly round up, which is a list that includes current opportunities for artists.

Are you also an art-maker? I hope to hear about your practice in the comments below. I hope you will also be able to find opportunities from organizations like STEPS. My tip is to sign up for their newsletter. You never know what opportunity you might find! It might be a call for artists or a series of free lessons.

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