Our full history

1984: the organization gets its start

In 1984, filmmakers from coast to coast converged in Edmonton, and at the first Local Heroes Film Festival they showcased independent Canadian short films and features from around the world.

Those Canadian filmmakers wanted to strengthen the distinct regional voices across the country, and they discussed training strategies for filmmakers to tell their stories without having to move to Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal.

The result of this first meeting was DramaLab, a hands-on professional development program for writers, directors and producers.

For the next two years, emerging professional filmmakers honed their creative, technical and business skills under direct guidance from industry experts, with the goal of producing 15-minute, 30-minute and feature length films.

1986: the National Screen Institute is formed

On April 7, 1986, The Canadian Screen Institute was formed to meet an increased demand for comprehensive film and television training outside Canada’s larger urban centres. It was the first of its kind in the country.

The Institute adopted DramaLab and Local Heroes as its two flagship programs. The organization’s name was changed to National Screen Institute – Canada later that year.

1990: evolving with the industry

In 1990, after an in-depth evaluation, the National Screen Institute’s Board of Directors introduced a new flagship program, NSI Drama Prize, to adapt to the industry’s ever-changing needs.


NSI Features First was introduced for writers, directors and producers working on their first or second feature film.


The National Screen Institute opened a second office in Winnipeg and, the following year, introduced a second Local Heroes program to Winnipeg that screened exclusively Canadian film and video.


In spring 2001, the National Screen Institute consolidated its operations in Winnipeg, transferred the Edmonton Local Heroes program to the Edmonton International Film Festival Society and renamed the Winnipeg festival the NSI FilmExchange Canadian Film Festival.

NSI Global Marketing was introduced in 2001 and NSI Totally Television in 2002, completing the circle of early plans the organization had to develop stories for big and small screens, ensuring Canadian film and television stories reach Canadian audiences.

The NSI Aboriginal Cultural Trade Initiative launched in 2003, and later became NSI Storytellers. The program was designed to help Indigenous film and television producers advance their projects as international co-productions through guidance and access to new markets. The first trade mission was to Australia and New Zealand.


After extensive consultation with the Indigenous community, the NSI Aboriginal Youth Pilot Project was launched, eventually becoming CBC New Indigenous Voices. The curriculum introduces emerging Indigenous artists to creative and challenging employment opportunities in film, TV and digital media.


The Telefilm Canada Spark Plug Program was offered in 2005 and 2006. It was a diversity initiative geared towards mid- to advanced-level visible minority and Indigenous producers with an interest in developing dramatic television programming.


DiverseTV was launched in collaboration with VisionTV and trained diverse writers to create dramatic television series for national broadcast.


In collaboration with APTN, a new NSI Storytellers program launched in 2007 with the goal of developing above-the-line Indigenous talent. The program was an early part of the creation of Cashing In, which ran for four seasons on APTN.

NSI FilmExchange was retired in 2007.

In 2008, after in-depth research and alumni and industry consultation, the National Screen Institute’s website was redeveloped to offer more professional development and industry resources, and the NSI Online Short Film Festival was introduced.

Featuring Aboriginal Storytellers Program was introduced in 2008 in partnership with Telefilm Canada and APTN. The program encouraged established audiovisual professionals to move into feature film.

In 2008 NSI PlayWRITE was introduced to find and train undiscovered Canadian writers, helping them break into the video game industry as narrative designers.


NSI Aboriginal Journalism was introduced, giving students the skills needed to advance their careers in news and journalism.


NSI Script to Screen was introduced in partnership with Corus’ western-Canada pay TV service Movie Central to provide established and emerging Canadian screenwriters with robust funding, creative support and industry guidance to fully develop feature film concepts for film and television.

NSI IndigiDocs (formerly NSI Aboriginal Documentary) began in 2012 as a development launch pad for producer/director teams looking to produce a short documentary.


NSI expanded its digital initiatives with TELUS STORYHIVE in late 2014 for content creators in British Columbia and Alberta. Applicants submit pitch ideas for a chance to win a production grant and distribution opportunities.


NSI Diverse TV Director was launched in spring 2015 for directors ready to make the leap to TV series direction with development training and job shadowing.


NSI Business for Producers was introduced in partnership with On Screen Manitoba. The program was aimed at film, television and digital media content producers and trained them in best practices for running their company.


The National Screen Institute collaborated with the Indigenous Leadership Development Institute Inc. (ILDII) on a documentary film and training project associated with ILDII’s Strengthening and Revitalization of Indigenous Languages & Cultures initiative – Indigenous Languages and Culture Documentary Project.

The National Screen Institute was contracted by First People’s Development Inc. (FPDI) through funding from Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) to deliver screen-based media-skills training to Indigenous youth from First Nations communities in Manitoba.


NSI New Northern Voices was launched in 2019 and was the direct result of a National Screen Institute feasibility study and framework for northern training, supported by Manitoba Sport, Culture and Heritage, The Winnipeg Foundation and Manitoba Film & Music.

The program takes place in The Pas, Manitoba, providing an introduction to media-based storytelling and production experience on a short film.

2020: COVID-19 global pandemic

The National Screen Institute redesigned its programs and leveraged digital platforms in the early months of the pandemic, a major switch from our long history of in-person instruction. We started small and progressed to delivering all new and flagship programs online. No programs were cancelled because of COVID-19.

In partnership with Film Training Manitoba, the National Screen Institute presented the Manitoba Content Creators Development Accelerator for creators to develop their story ideas while in isolation due to COVID-19.

The National Screen Institute partnered with On Screen Manitoba and The Winnipeg Foundation to present Conflict, Cooperation & HR Principles – a series of online business management workshops for local producers.

CBC New Indigenous Voices was the first longstanding program affected by COVID. The curriculum was redesigned for online delivery and the start date was postponed to fall. In place of short film projects, students created podcast episodes. The program maintained the traditional and spiritual components led by Elder Colin Mousseau.

A new, online version of NSI Business for Producers was introduced to help emerging producers nurture creative ideas in a COVID environment and beyond.

The second edition of NSI New Northern Voices launched with a focus on producers and writers developing a short film for production in 2022.


In partnership with founding and presenting sponsor, the Indigenous Screen Office (ISO), we launched NSI Art of Business Management – Indigenous Edition. Participants learned business management, negotiation and leadership skills and received customized mentorship to develop their projects.

In collaboration with Film PEI and Creative PEI, NSI Market-Ready Producers – PEI Edition was introduced. Producers from Prince Edward Island developed essential producing skills and prepared a pitch package for a project currently in development.

The National Screen Institute continues to deliver training and mentorship through TELUS STORYHIVE with a podcast edition completed in 2021, and Black creators and game changers editions in 2022.

TikTok Accelerator for Indigenous Creators, presented by the National Screen Institute, provide 28 Indigenous creators with customized, hands-on online training to succeed on TikTok and beyond.

NSI Series Incubator was introduced for producer / writer teams from underrepresented communities to meaningfully develop a scripted series with support and guidance from experienced industry professionals. The program culminates in the creation of a series proof-of-concept film (a stand-alone short film, a scene from the series or a promotional trailer).

In partnership with Canada Media Fund (CMF), the EAVE On Demand Access Program began in 2022, providing training and mentorship for Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) producers in Canada to develop themselves, their projects and their companies to compete in the global market.

NSI Business for Producers – Atlantic Women’s Edition launched in 2022 to foster the growth of producing professionals in the Atlantic provinces and increase the reach of the region’s production across Canada and globally.