BIPOC filmmakers have something to say — and this short film fund will help amplify your voices
The Reel Work Filmmaking Initiative will award two filmmakers $10,000 each
My name is Jackie Batsinduka, and I am an emerging Black woman filmmaker.
Emerging. It's one of the biggest buzzwords in the film industry today. What does that word even mean? Depending on how I've heard it used in a sentence, it usually either means wistfully optimistic or condescendingly natal. In an interview I did with CSA-winning writer/director Alicia K. Harris, she told me that she prefers the term "ascending." But it's quite difficult to ascend when you're trying to break in during a pandemic.
Sure, film sets supported by major broadcasters can afford enforcing strict health and safety protocols. These protocols involve all known precautions against COVID-19, short of stuffing crew members into hazmat suits. Here's a picture of me on a union set, in all my PPE glory.
But on the whole, we emerging filmmakers have to fend for ourselves. With no money to self-finance, few broadcasters that are willing to take a chance on us, and networking opportunities reduced to awkward Zoom hangs, what is an emerging filmmaker to do? Adding race into the equation complicates things further. If there's one thing that this pandemic has made abundantly clear, it's that racial injustice has long infiltrated Canada's film bubble. This bubble is beginning to burst with various damning call-outs, like the Black Alumni of the Canadian Film Centre's open letter to their former school or Toronto's commercial production companies' overwhelmingly white and male director rosters.
Despite the progress that we BIPOC filmmakers and our allies are incrementally achieving, this fight for equity is extremely mentally taxing. Movies and TV no longer offer a distraction from a revolution that is all-consuming. Fighting for our cause also means collectively grieving a new person every day: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Joyce Echaquan, and so many others. With the added barrier of being stuck in our own homes, it feels like we're living in a powder keg.
But as more is stacked on top of us, one thing becomes clearer and clearer: BIPOC filmmakers have something to say.
Vinay Virmani recognizes this very urge, no doubt because he has experienced it himself. An Indo-Canadian who has not only excelled in the competitive film industry as an actor, writer, and producer, but is also the Chief Content Officer of Lebron James and Maverick Carter's athlete empowerment brand UNINTERRUPTED, Vinay breaks barriers daily. He's recently partnered with BIPOC TV & Film to give emerging filmmakers a chance to break their own barriers, arriving in the form of the Reel Work Filmmaking Initiative.
Along with opportunities for mentorship, private workshops, and donated equipment packages, Reel Work will award two BIPOC filmmakers with $10,000 each to fund a short film. These films will act as the filmmakers' calling card for bigger features or television projects. Vinay sits on the all-BIPOC jury alongside writer, director, producer, and BIPOC TV & Film's founder Nathalie Younglai; writer, director, producer, and BIPOC TV & Film Visioning Committee member Gillian Müller; writer, director, producer Winnifred Jong; and etalk Canada host Tyrone Edwards.
When I was offered the chance to support this initiative as its program lead, I jumped on it. I've learned so much about myself as an emerging BIPOC filmmaker since. I'm working alongside BIPOC leaders in the Canadian film industry as they fulfil their childhood dreams of making movies while working toward our community's mission for equity. They've taught me that being a BIPOC filmmaker doesn't have to be about exploiting our trauma onscreen, or that our work must be dependent on the validation of certain people in privileged positions. They've shown me that my race and my perceived inexperience are not deterrents, but are a part of my truth — and my truth is just as powerful as the next person's.
If you're an emerging BIPOC filmmaker with something to say, check out the Reel Work Filmmaking Initiative and consider submitting your application. Submissions close Thursday, October 8th, 2020 at 8pm EST. If you have any questions, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Good luck, go forth, and submit your truths!