Two veterans in uniform sitting in a field / still from Cree Code Talker

Our history

How the National Screen Institute became a champion of Canadian creators

From the spark of an idea at an Edmonton film festival in 1984 to the respected training and mentoring institute we are today, our history illustrates how we've evolved with the help of the creative community in Canada and a network of visionary supporters.

Read our full history


The Canadian Screen Institute was formed on April 7 to meet increased demand for film and television training outside Canada's larger urban centres. Later that year, the name changed to National Screen Institute - Canada. DramaLab and Local Heroes were flagship programs.


1990 – 1997

NSI Drama Prize and NSI Features First launched, going on to train 450+ writers, directors and producers who created 26 features and 119 short films through the programs. A second office in Winnipeg opened in 1998, and the Local Heroes festival event began screening Canadian films exclusively.



The Edmonton office closed and Winnipeg became the official headquarters. The Edmonton Local Heroes program was transferred to Edmonton International Film Festival Society, and Winnipeg Local Heroes was renamed NSI FilmExchange Canadian Film Festival. NSI Global Marketing ran from 2001 to 2011 training over 100 Canadian creators to successfully market their projects to international audiences.



NSI Totally Television launched and ran from 2002 to 2020, training 170 writers and producers and developing 86 projects. Twenty-two (22) projects went into further development or were broadcast, winning 16 Canadian Screen / Gemini Awards.



Introduced the first programs designed for underrepresented communities including international co-production advancement through NSI Aboriginal Cultural Trade Initiative (NSI Storytellers). The first trade mission was to Australia and New Zealand.

Aboriginal Cultural Trade Initiative

2004 - 2007

Launched CBC New Indigenous Voices, Telefilm Canada Spark Plug Program, DiverseTV (with VisionTV), NSI Storytellers (with APTN) for TV series Cashing In, Featuring Aboriginal Storytellers Program (with Telefilm and APTN), NSI Aboriginal Journalism, NSI IndigiDocs, NSI Diverse TV Director (with Corus) and NSI New Northern Voices. Over 400 storytellers have trained through these programs.



The NSI Online Short Film Festival began, providing an important platform for Canadian content, programming thousands of films and presenting over $125K in award money. The festival closed in 2020. Over one thousand (1,000) films are still available to watch in the festival archive.



A partnership with TELUS STORYHIVE led to the creation of a mentorship program supporting 500+ community storytellers in rural and urban locations across British Columbia and Alberta.



Pivoted all in-person programs online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Launched Manitoba Content Creators Development Accelerator, Conflict, Cooperation + HR Principles and NSI Business for Producers.



Launched NSI Market-Ready Producers - PEI Edition, NSI Art of Business Management - Indigenous Edition, TikTok Accelerator for Indigenous Creators, NSI Series Incubator and EAVE On Demand Access Program.

Photo at top of page from NSI IndigiDocs film Cree Code Talker