NSI alumnus Kyle Bornais: Farpoint Films took the lessons we learned from NSI and implemented them across all our projects

Kyle Bornais

At the National Screen Institute, we’re blessed to see firsthand the difference training makes in the lives of storytellers. Throughout December we’ve been sharing impact stories from our talented alumni who told us how NSI training transformed their lives and careers.

Today’s featured alumnus is Kyle Bornais of Farpoint Films who developed The Rich Guy through NSI Features First with writer Chris Charney and director John Barnard.

Kyle is a Canadian Screen Awards-nominated producer that executive produces, and produces film and television for Canadian and international marketplaces.

He co-founded Farpoint Films and has worked to develop and launch new productions and partnerships for the company ever since.

Past projects include award-winning feature films Room For Rent, Sorry For Your Loss, Menorca, Teen Lust, Mother’s Day and Wild Cherry; television series Kid Diners, Escape Or Die!, The Illegal Eater (2014 Rockie Award for best lifestyle series), The Medicine Line (best documentary series at the 2014 Yorkton Film Festival) and House Party; documentaries Bachman, Randy Bachman’s Vinyl Tap: Every Song Tells A Story, Lost Heroes, The Sheepdogs Have At It and There’s Something Out There – CTV’s first HD documentary that had a million viewers for its premier broadcast.

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How did your training through NSI help you get to the place you’re at in your career today?

This is an interesting question since I went through NSI Features First many years ago. But it’s safe to say that without that experience I would never have made my first feature as early as I did.

However, the benefits went far beyond just helping me produce features. In the years since I have been fortunate enough to take what I learned from all of the teachers in the program and apply that knowledge to producing television series, television documentaries, feature documentaries, MOW’s and I guess, most importantly in relation to this program, seven feature films.

What was most memorable or helpful about NSI training?

Meeting people who were in exactly the same place as me from around the country. It was so great to become friends with all these other people who were trying to do the same thing I was and swap stories and advice.

Starting out in any industry is hard and, often, I felt like I had no clue what I was doing and I was never going to get where I wanted, and then all of a sudden I was in a room with other me’s. I probably learned as much from hanging out with all the teams and trading stories, thoughts and advice as I did from the people who taught us.

Did you make enduring connections with peers and industry folks?

There are two people I went through training with that I’m friends with today: John Barnard and Chris Charney. I still work with both of them on a daily basis.

Adria Budd Johnson and I have kept close and often discuss finding a project to do together … although we haven’t pulled that off yet.

Will Pascoe and I actually made the feature doc Lost Heroes together a few years ago.

I also met an analyst from the Canadian Audio-Visual Certification Office (CAVCO) who taught a workshop to us and, to date, she is still my go to person there when I have questions. Having relationships like the one I have with her have been invaluable to me when I attempt to decipher CAVCO rules that I may not be familiar with.

Have you continued to work with any of those people?

Together with Chris and John at Farpoint we’ve produced over 400 hours of television and film over the years. It feels like we’ve grown up together in this industry … probably because we have! And Will and I have gone back and forth a few times and I really hope to find another show to make with him.

What advice or encouragement would you give a prospective applicant considering NSI programs?

The first thing I would say is, “do it.”

NSI has been training our industry for years and they have a proven track record of success. When we got accepted I had no clue what I was doing (although I thought differently before staring the training) and the lessons I took away from every element of the program helped me become a far more well-rounded producer.

I also have to mention that, although we never produced the film we developed through NSI Features First, we did produce the next one. Not all films deserve to be made but NSI Features First teaches you how to make the ones that do.

The industry has changed a lot since I went through the program and I’m not sure it’s harder or easier to make your first feature now but I guarantee the people at NSI can help get you there no matter what.

What has your career trajectory looked like between when you completed training and now?

I guess I have a career now. Since going through NSI Features First Chris, John and I have managed to build Farpoint Films into a decent sized production company. Our shows have sold around the world and, in the last two years, we’ve produced over 100 hours of programming.

When we were in NSI Features First, Farpoint was just the three of us. Now we employ 15 people full time and every day I get to make film and television.

Sure I’ve had to adjust my plans here and there as the industry dictated, and one year I may produce nothing but lifestyle TV and then maybe make a couple movies the next, but NSI Features First was instrumental in getting me here. It helped teach me this is a business or at least it can be.

I know a number of producers and filmmakers that work in other industries while pushing to get their next feature off the ground and that’s great, but I love the fact that, while working to get my next feature off the ground, I get to make TV shows.

Farpoint turns 20 in February and I’m not certain we would have made it had we not taken the lessons we learned from NSI and implemented them across all our projects.

What was the most transformative part of your learning experience?

Learning to walk away from a project for sure. We developed a script through NSI Features First that, in the end, just couldn’t or shouldn’t be made. After all the work we put into it before, during and after the program the idea we would never see it on screen was a bitter pill to swallow.

Instead of pushing to get that produced we took what we learned as a team and went on to make different films. I look at development very differently now than before the program; I recognize that development is not just about getting a project made, sometimes it’s about seeing if the project should and can be made. There’s always another script and NSI Features First taught me to find that one and not dwell on the ones that just didn’t happen.

What project(s) are you currently working on?

I’m really excited about a few of the shows I’m producing right now. We just started shooting two series: a lifestyle series for Viasat Worldwide and Beyond called Ice Vikings and a documentary series for Bounce called Are We Famous Yet?

I’m also lucky enough to have partnered with Jane Loughman and Tony Wosk on the feature The Swearing Jar which goes to camera in spring.

I’m currently finishing a feature doc with Andrew Wall directing called Volendam and 39 hours of two other series with Farpoint.

I have a doc with CBC that’s almost done shooting about the band Eagle & Hawk. Plus I always have a few features in development with Chris and John that I hope to get made, and Farpoint always keeps six or seven shows active on our development roster.

Where can people find out more about your work online?

Farpoint Films and Refuge 31 Films plus the Farpoint Facebook page.

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