Final thoughts from the NSI Business for Producers class of 2021

NSI-Business-for-Producers-2020-participants

Communications

Published by communications

The National Screen Institute’s Business for Producers training program officially concluded in spring this year. Since then, participants have been wrapping up their mentorships. As they each returned to their regular routine, we asked for some final thoughts.

NSI Business for Producers is a distance learning and mentorship program designed to help emerging producers nurture creative ideas while navigating the logistics and legalities of screen-based storytelling in a COVID-19 environment. Read more about this year’s participants.

Note that, due to the differing mentorship schedules, the pieces below were written at different times over the past three months so you may notice events which have now passed.

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Richard Agecoutay – Spirits of Summer (Toronto, ON)

Richard Agecoutay

I’m sitting here watching an NFB documentary on TVO called Jordan’s Principle by Alanis Obomsawin.

This is a stark documentary that speaks to the treatment of Indigenous people at the hands of a Canadian Government who – through the Indian Act – have been practicing genocide against the Indigenous people of Canada.

Television documentaries have a place in a democratic society. Documentaries of this nature hold the feet of power to the fire of justice.

This program has given me insight into the business techniques and skill set that I need in order to practice the art of documentary.

[During the program] I learned advocacy and agency. Our Canadian production community needs a diverse voice in order to reflect the real voice of Canada.

I know that I need to develop my producing skills in order to bring diverse stories from the margins into the mainstream.

[Now that the program has ended] I will miss the sharing and diversity of the voices involved. I will miss hearing the daily struggles that independent producers face each day. I will miss the spirit of determination of all those involved.


Jason Arsenault – Off The Wharf (Charlottetown, PEI)

Jason Arsenault

With the last days of NSI Business for Producers coming to a close, I now head back into the business of producing with a new network of peers, more skills and fantastic experiences.

It feels a little odd returning to my old pre-Business for Producers daily schedule where I don’t get to see my new National Screen Institute cohort every week to learn and talk about movies and release some pandemic stress just by supporting each other. That said, I know that support is always there and available.

This was my favourite education program yet, and it exceeded my expectations in every way possible.

It was difficult to imagine at first that a program could have a ‘personal touch’ or feel like a ‘real classroom,’ but I think that the National Screen Institute managed to deliver something as close to the live experience as possible. The workshops were top notch, my classmates and their perspectives were varied and interesting, the mentor access was excellent, and the program leaders and staff were – as expected – awesome.

I always think the best part of these opportunities is meeting my classmates. I know from past experiences that these programs are an excellent opportunity to make new friends and lasting producer connections to draw on for a long time as we all progress in our careers. We’ve only finished the program a few weeks, and I’ve already turned to some of my friends [fellow classmates] for help and information.

The program was filled with useful information, exercises and methodologies. As an independent producer, I’ve spent the bulk of my working time so far developing projects, budgeting and seeking financing.

Through the workshops, along with the hindsight of my own experiences, it’s really become clear just how much negotiation and conflict resolution skills can make someone a better producer, manager and leader. This will undoubtedly change how I manage my projects right from the outset.

I’m looking forward to my next days on set and looking to take on the challenges of making movies with these new ideas.


Ian Bawa – The Amazing Alan Cassavettes (Winnipeg, MB)

Ian Bawa

I came into this program expecting to be bombarded with too much information about how to be a ‘proper producer.’ I should preface that by saying I am a producer, but have never done things by the book.

I’m the type of producer who just ‘gets it done.’ That being said, what I learned immediately was that a producer can be anything or anyone. There is technically no rule book to how a producer can function, and there are many benefits (at times) to doing things ‘by the book.’

My expectations were met by the fact that I’ve become more knowledgeable as a producer. The program has taken my past experiences and enhanced them through homework assignments, guest speakers and some very terrific mentorship from Graham Ludlow and Ellen Rutter.

As the program was delivered entirely online, it was a very unique and new experience to be back in school but over Zoom. I missed certain aspects of meeting the other students such as the spontaneous conversations you get when you’re put in a room with strangers. But our weekly Zoom check-ins really helped in getting to know the other students better.

Personally, I feel like it took me until the end of the program to really make some good connections, allies and friends and I am very grateful for that.

What I’ve enjoyed and will miss most is having one-on-one time with my mentors Graham and Ellen. It’s very rare to have someone read your script and spend time deep diving it with you. You forget this sometimes as you’re developing your work. It becomes exciting and almost more real as you start figuring out the nitty-gritty of ‘how are we going to make this,’ and ‘how can we make this better.’

I believe my biggest takeaway from the program was hearing others stories on how they got to where they are. I’m very easily inspired by people’s perseverance in doing what they’ve always wanted to do.

Since most of the presenters we heard from were producers, it was inspiring to hear how they got to be producers. What I’ve gained and learned from these stories is that, to me, there is no hierarchy between a producer and director. It is the flower and the gardener. One cannot exist without the other. As someone who enjoys both directing and producing it is a relief to hear that you can survive within this industry by mastering both sides, and it will in fact make you a stronger filmmaker.


Flore de Bayser – The Outsider (Waterloo, ON)

Flore de Bayser

It’s one thing to say the industry is all about building trustworthy relationships, it’s quite another to offer an environment allowing for these relationships to be built. The National Screen Institute has achieved that. Being part of this program has truly improved my perspective on the job, my willingness to learn from others and my long-term thinking.

My expectations were very high, and they were surpassed. As expected, this program brought invaluable clarity into the process of feature film production through a series of captivating lectures, a safe place to share ideas and concerns with peers, an excellent network of industry experts and hands-on production tools.

I truly enjoyed the sense of developing into a more established producer with knowledge, support and direction. I ended up knowing more about the funding and budgetary aspects I was already familiar with, and I discovered what I didn’t know and where to find the resources to fill in the blanks.

I had not expected that it would be such an exceptional human experience though, especially since I knew the sessions had to happen online: I was amazed by the commitment of the National Screen Institute’s supervisors, their sincere concern for everyone’s progress and their ability to foster the creation of a close family of students.

One of the main lessons learned is that you cannot achieve this alone: you need a community of support, a collaborative mindset and a solid network.

My second key takeaway is an understanding of the varying roles I will have to play as a producer, e.g. leader, manager, finance person, business person, diplomat and creative thinker, and I am more in touch with my own strengths and weaknesses.

I also acquired a deep sense of my responsibilities towards all the people involved in a project, the risks associated with it, and the necessary partnerships.

I am still very much driven by getting my company’s first feature film off the ground and advancing my producing career. I now have considerably more tools, resources and knowledge to help me succeed, as well as a few weeks of mentorship and a clear action plan for the months to come.

I have also become part of a diverse community of bright people sharing the same passion, doubts and commitment to becoming producers who will progress together.

Overall, I feel that I came out of this experience as a better producer much better equipped to work humanely within a challenging industry. I am also leaving with a long list of friends to obtain support from, and – hopefully – support in return. Our weekly rendezvous will be missed.


Hedyeh Bozorgzadeh – Brother, Man (West Vancouver, BC)

Hedy Bozorgzadeh

Looking back, I learned a lot about the business affairs side of producing, which is what I wanted and needed.

I feel more confident as a producer. I have a better understanding of the business side of filmmaking and the lingo involved; I have loads of sample templates of everything I will ever need (!) and I have a community of support to turn to with questions.

[Learning online wasn’t] the same as face-to-face of course but we are blessed to have the technology at our disposal to still interact and get things done. At this point, I’m a bit Zoomed out like most folks but feel grateful that we are now part of [the NSI] community moving forward.

[The key things I learned were] all about understanding cash flow, tax credits, financial structure, budgeting etc. I needed a better overview of what is entailed in a feature-length project financially supported by the big players and gatekeepers in the industry (e.g., Telefilm, CMF). I have knowledge of this now and it’s invaluable as I’m producing my first feature film Brother, Man and can apply what I’ve learned through the lab.

I’m more aware of the risks that producers are expected to take on with projects and have gained more respect for them as a result.

I’ve enjoyed the weekly online sessions and will miss those. I didn’t participate too much in the weekly hangouts but will do so in the WhatsApp group we’ve recently formed.

I am grateful to Ursula [Lawson, program manager] and Jeff [Peeler, program advisor] and the hardworking team at the National Screen Institute for making this virtual lab possible and helping us stay focused and productive during the pandemic – at a time when we needed the support most.

I’m going to miss my weekly one-on-one’s with mentor-producer Christine Falco who’s been lovely and great to get to know as she’s been helping my creative team and I strategize and navigate the next steps for Brother, Man. But I know she’s now part of my network and great contacts which is what it’s all about.

Last but not least, I’m grateful to the other participants for their support and assistance as we continue to stay connected and engaged on socials. Thank you all!


Ervin Chartrand – Highway 45 (Selkirk, MB)

Ervin Chartrand

With the program over, I feel I have a little more insight into producing a show; a little more is stretching it.

The program far exceeded my expectations, but with a lot more questions. I’ll definitely need a refresher soon though.

I’m sorry I didn’t have time to connect with anyone. I wish I had, though, because I know how important it is to create meaningful bonds in this industry. My time was limited, and I felt the course load was heavy enough.

The things that most stood out for me were the tax credits and budget. Maybe because I was familiar with them.

My interest in producing has changed, and I think I’ll leave it up to the experts. I’ll stick to writing and directing, for now.

I enjoyed learning how to use Zoom. I’ll miss Ursula’s smile and friendly greeting.


A.J. Demers – Old Growth (Toronto, ON)

A.J. Demers

Having completed this program, I feel I have a greater handle on producing a feature film in today’s landscape.

Different methods of producing, a quickly changing market and new financial models are only a few of the challenges facing content creators. This program allowed me to work with smart, talented, experienced producers and professionals to refine best practices and identify my strengths as a producer.

NSI Business for Producers did an excellent job getting at some of the most vital issues facing newer producers today and it offered high-level insights into many of the aspects of creating content.

While the scope of content creation is huge, this program found the essential areas that all producers can benefit from. The program was responsive to individual requests and specific questions. That factor helped tailor some of the learning to be relevant to my current projects.

We all know, this was an unprecedented year. The National Screen Institute staff, consults and advisors did an amazing job delivering the program online. In some ways, the longer, digital rollout of the program was a benefit. With so much information coming at you at once, having more time online to consider, think and digest it was a real help.

The biggest challenge was the lack of connection between participants. Nothing really replaces meeting other colleagues and artists in person. While the live Zoom platform was great for learning, the social connection, discussions and personal connections were missing. It is a grand trade off – more time to learn and understand but with less connection between participants. Despite that, or maybe because of it, my group of fellow participants have spent more energy maintaining a connection after the program which, perhaps, may prove to create those connections in the future.

My most valuable takeaways revolve around budgeting and financing plans. Coming from a writing and directing background, the financial end of producing was always the most intimidating for me. Digging into real budgets and plans with professionals who are currently working on projects was an amazing source of practical, real-world knowledge. Seeing how other producers work with their budgets to bring a film to completion is something I will take with me into all future projects.

Having a mentor (Daniel Bekerman – Scythia Films) work with you one-on-one after the core program culminated meant I could take the knowledge I’d acquired and use it to ask detailed follow-up questions on my project. This was perhaps the most impactful part of the program. Having a mentor answer specific questions and help unwind the producing knot of my current feature was exceptional. I will miss meeting with my mentor and talking film.

To summarize, NSI Business for Producers was more like practical field work on my project than theoretical learning. The projects I work on in the future will all benefit from the work and the individuals I met through the program.


Alex Duong – Breaking Bread (Burnaby, BC)

Alex Duong

I’m more motivated than ever to be the best producer that I can be.

[Getting to know the other participants online] was certainly different because of Zoom, so you don’t really get that personal connection. Hope to see them in real life soon.

[My key takeaways were] budgets and taxes mostly but all aspects were important.

I’ll for sure miss the mentoring. My mentor Paul-E. Audet was really a good fit for me. Thank you so much for finding Paul.


Andrea Feltrin – Natural Habitat (Vancouver, BC)

Andrea Feltrin

I feel much taller [now the program has ended]. Although I’m sad to see it come to an end, I definitely feel better equipped to handle upcoming projects and future opportunities.

I’m more familiar with the backend of producing and, if I don’t have an answer to something, I know where I can go to find one. Problem-solving is a big part of filmmaking and this program has given me the tools to get stuff done … or at least started.

To be honest, I didn’t really have any expectations going into the program, I was just happy to be along for the ride. If anything, the program went beyond what I could’ve imagined, taking into account all elements of producing and leadership education to create a well-rounded course that touched on a variety of important skills.

I loved getting to know the other participants in our cozy little virtual classroom. We were a diversified, friendly bunch and it created a safe space to learn, ask questions or discuss topics among our collective experience.

I learned so many things – and I’m still learning! There were so many great takeaways from each session.

I really appreciated that they included sessions on leadership, conflict resolution and human resources as I feel that’s an often-overlooked component of producing that can lead to toxic work environments. Given my lack of experience with budgets, finance plans and contracts I learned a lot from those sessions in particular.

Having the skill set to produce my own work and push other projects forward is invaluable. It helps to know all sides of production, despite your specific role. Knowing how the different pieces come together makes you really appreciate and respect every person for all their hard work in making a project come together. It’s a collaborative process.

I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the people – both the other participants and the administrators at the National Screen Institute. Everyone has been so kind and encouraging, it’s been awesome having such a great network of support. I’ll miss seeing them all on a regular basis.


Kate Fenton – Filmores (Toronto, ON)

Kate Fenton

Since the program began I have submitted my project Filmores to Ontario Creates and Bell Fund for funding to support season one of Filmores the web series. Although we didn’t secure production funding at this time, we were given in-depth feedback. Both funding bodies encouraged us to develop the project further, produce an original teaser, seek out additional funding and re-submit. Now we’re working on securing development funding with a plan to reapply for production in the fall. In the meantime, I had the opportunity to pitch the show to Crave and CBC Gem, and it’s an ongoing conversation.

Most recently, Jennifer Podemski agreed to join our team as an executive producing consultant. Jennifer has already begun to help us define ownership and our corporate structures; she is providing mentorship for members of our team and will be facilitating our Indigenous protocols and best practices strategies for development and production.

The program has provided me with incredible support. The Indigenous protocols session and the BIPOC session were both very informative and helpful for this project in particular. Now that the program has ended, along with the feedback I received from the funding bodies and broadcasters, I feel more invigorated to continue developing the show.

I knew that, given the circumstances and the nature of this virtual program, we would be limited in our interaction with each other and other members of the program and I was delighted to still connect with producers despite the challenges of virtual learning. We continue to meet and connect via email, Zoom and WhatsApp. Hopefully these relationships that have begun to form will just continue to evolve over time.

Our breakout rooms really helped to establish relationships right away. But even above and beyond that, many of us were reaching out to each other on social media and via email almost immediately.

As the program progressed, and the amount of information increased, we all felt a bit overwhelmed and disconnected and so we finally took the advice of Ursula and began meeting on our own once a week for an hour or two. I think I would have benefitted from more of these sessions earlier on but I am so grateful we got them going and have continued to connect over the past several months and well into our mentorship phase.

I learned too many things to list them all. The leadership and conflict resolution sessions were particularly helpful since I had just come from producing two projects. Creative tensions and conflicts always arise. The content of these sessions was very timely and easy to implement immediately.

This program has solidified my desire to produce. The time with my mentor (Tara Woodbury – Sphere Media) has been invaluable. She helped me set goals for the year and each quarter and continues to advise me as I develop more projects.

I enjoyed the regularity of the program. As much as we have discussed and compared the benefits of intensives and full-day boot camps to weekly virtual sessions, I have actually appreciated the weekly sessions during this incredibly unstable and unpredictable time. It has been nearly impossible to feel normal or have any routine in my life due to the disruption of COVID and these weekly sessions provided me with a community and way to focus my day and my week. Thank you!


Carmen Forsberg – #generation:ocean (Richmond, BC)

Carmen Forsberg

I can’t praise Ursula Lawson and Jeff Peeler enough for all the work they put into organizing and hosting this program.

It was a month-long, detailed dive into all aspects of producing – 100% updated to present day. While we all wished these sessions could have been in person, we all knew it was impossible given the circumstances.

However, the course was laid out so well that it allowed us to continue day-to-day operations in our own businesses, while participating in info-rich panel discussions and sessions on a weekly basis.

For many of us, it actually ended up working perfectly. One of the challenges of this ‘Zoom world’ is the lack of spontaneous gatherings and ‘let’s grab a drink’ moments, but Ursula and Jeff set the bar high in humanizing this inevitably structured method of communication.

In a way, it keeps pushing us to think outside the box, in our own space, as the majority of markets and festivals are also online.

As for where my project stands now, I’ve just signed up for Banff and I’m feeling pretty good about it. I feel that all projects, at their early stage, are a sincere collaboration of like-minded individuals (call it passion or subjects of interest).

The program, along with its one-on-one mentorship component, is an invaluable experience for any producer wishing to push their slate to a solid next phase of development or packaging, and I highly recommend it.


Stuart Matheson – True Hearted Punk (The Pas, MB)

Stuart Matheson

We covered all the topics that I needed to learn to become a better producer and develop my own projects.

It was tricky getting to know the other students at first because I’m oriented to learning about people by being in the same room as them. As time went on and we had more meetings, I became familiar with them and I hope they became familiar with me.

I learned the producer’s relationship with production, the fundamentals of budgeting, how tax credits worked and keys to successful pitching.

I enjoyed going over technical details in planning productions and budgeting. The one thing I will miss most about the program is the guest speakers. It was great to have people in the industry talk to us.


Carla Robinson – Bully (Brantford, ON)

Carla Robinson

I feel like I have been shown the path to take, given the tools I need, and now I just need to step out on the film road and do it.

I know the program has been delivered differently than in years past [Ed: a version of it was delivered in 2016 but the two formats were very different] but the online version worked well for me. I got to absorb the information at a comfortable speed and develop my project at an even pace.

The mentor I was assigned (Christina Fon – Rezolution Pictures) has given me such great advice and helped point me in the right direction. She also assigned me weekly tasks which helped keep me accountable.

I have enjoyed getting to know the other students. It would have been nice to meet everyone in person but I understand the limits we are under with the pandemic. Maybe in the future the program can be a mixture of in person and online?

I’ve learned that, as a producer, a lot of your success depends on learning the ropes, reaching out for help, trial by error and working collaboratively with other people. I also realized there are a lot of resources out there such as the Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA).

I enjoyed the weekly Zoom calls, the presenters, the CMPA’s conference networking events and meeting with my mentor. She knows the business side of things and has a way of explaining things where something complicated suddenly seems very straightforward and doable. I will miss being in regular contact with Ursula who is so down-to-earth and is an amazing resource.


Alex Sangha – Emergence – Out of the Shadows (Delta, BC)

Alex Sangha

This was an amazing learning experience for an emerging producer like myself. Everyone had so much passion for filmmaking.

I had a lot of catching up and learning to do. I was always encouraged to ask questions and follow up with Ursula or Jeff if I needed more assistance, and they were always supportive and helpful, and quick with emails.

As a BIPOC and queer filmmaker I felt welcomed and embraced. Not only did we learn about Indigenous protocols, we learned of the various initiatives developing to support BIPOC filmmakers. I was happy to see a prestigious school like the National Screen Institute incorporating diversity and inclusion within its curriculum.

The online portion of the program was not only a necessity during COVID but also practical. This allowed me to keep working my day job and support myself and my family. It was time-efficient and allowed people to connect further if they lived in one part of the country.

Some of my fellow students added me on LinkedIn, Facebook and WhatsApp. All the students I reached out to were very helpful and wanted to learn and make new connections. It was an ideal learning experience for a new filmmaker.

The program taught me about pitching, storytelling, conflict resolution, post-production and human resources. I also completed a Digital Marketing for Media course which opened my eyes to a whole new world of data analysis and effective tools and strategies to market your film.

Most importantly, I am grateful I got to work with such a great mentor in Avi Federgreen of IndieCan Entertainment. He taught me about the various platforms for distribution and window periods. Before this program I didn’t even know what PVOD, TVOD, SVOD and AVOD were.

The distribution landscape is changing and I was happy to have someone walk me through it. Avi also provided me with detailed information about what platforms are looking for in terms of deliverables. Avi watched the rough cut of my film and provided excellent feedback. In addition, he was supportive of me working with Sean Farnel who is the former festival programmer at Hot Docs helping me develop a film festival submission strategy.

I am actually now interested in raising more money and hiring experienced professional directors and cinematographers, cast and crew, and putting out the best film possible for my next project, which Avi has already got me thinking about. I would like to produce not only documentaries but also narrative feature films.

I would love for the National Screen Institute to develop a campus in Hollywood North in my hometown of Vancouver. Everyone at NSI realizes that you are learning and they provide honest, critical and ‘balanced’ feedback that gives you hope and inspiration to improve and continue with your filmmaking journey.


Kulbinder Saran Caldwell – The Nightbird (Toronto, ON)

Kulbinder Saran Caldwell

I feel profoundly grateful to have been part of NSI Business for Producers. I really enjoyed the program and now I’m a bit sad that it’s ended.

With the pandemic continuing, it was important to me to have some consistency with the program and connect with everyone on a regular basis. Even after the classes ended, we were fortunate enough to have a weekly check-in and now, as the program wraps up, we are lucky enough to have one of our classmates create a group so we can continue to stay in touch.

Even though this was the inaugural year of this program, which usually means it will take time to iron out the wrinkles, it far exceeded my expectations.

The program was well organized; the presenters, mentors and the team at the National Screen Institute provided personal insight and practical tips to include in our producers toolkit; and we also got to learn from all the talented producers in the cohort.

Getting to know the other students is always the highlight of being part of a program and this was no different. However, where it did differ was having the entire program online with very few opportunities to connect outside of large classes with everyone participating. Although it is always preferred to connect live and in person, the chance to jump onto a Zoom call each week allowed us the flexibility to get to know one another more consistently over a longer period of time.

The key things I learned were applied to my project The Nightbird and it was reinforced through working with my mentor. The team at the National Screen Institute was able to secure fantastic mentors for all of us and mine was no exception – it was Christina Jennings and the Shaftesbury team. I spoke about structure and creative with Alexandra Finlay who provided absolutely invaluable feedback on our pitch package and pilot script, not to mention the active listening and support she embodied as my primary contact throughout my mentorship.

I also got some keen and specific insight about business affairs, contracts and possible co-production connections for The Nightbird from the entire, talented and really smart team at Shaftesbury. Being able to ask them questions and brainstorm different angles was a huge highlight. I know the connections and advice are career-changing and I am a better producer for it.

I’m even more excited about the possibilities and collaborations to come. I know I have found my calling as a producer, especially focusing on stories about South Asian women, by diverse women and for BIPOC women.

I most enjoyed the people I met through the program and that’s also what I’ll miss most. Producing can be quite a solitary endeavour and to have someone [you can] talk and relate to is extremely important. And when that someone is also willing to share their expertise and provide feedback on all the things you are working on … you know you’re fortunate.


Bram Timmer – Netherworld (Calgary, AB)

Bram Timmer

It’s like Aristotle said, “The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know.” With NSI Business for Producers having come to an end, the biggest personal shake-up result would be that … the island vacation is over!

With decades of knowledge wrapped into a program, it’s fair to say you can only dive so deep in an online classroom setting. As deep as we went though, we will all still be continual learners while we’re exposed to the dynamism of our own projects.

Through the program, I’ve been introduced to invaluable peer and mentor relationships that would not otherwise have developed and we will continue to lean on one another as we evolve.

The regular video calls with each other to discuss our projects has been a really welcome change to the monotonous routine of life during the pandemic. The ability to share our own work experiences, discuss challenges and find or offer help when needed has been a joy. Even to share personal stories with a much deeper level of consciousness and emotion has made the group connections so much more intimate.

Even though we’ll make an effort to continue the sessions, with everyone’s lives getting busier, and an end in sight for the pandemic, I’m sure to miss those touching moments.

The program itself has made the Canadian media landscape feel much more accessible for emerging talent as has been truly evident in the mentorship phase.

Sure, we’ve been exposed to a bunch of teachings and have a thorough understanding of theory which is the reason I applied to the program to begin with, but it’s the in-betweens that exceed the expectations I had. I didn’t expect to feel as connected and accepted or supported as I do now.

Aside from the program’s content that I described in my last post, the biggest takeaway for me would be the actual hierarchy and intricacies of the proper steps from pre-development to development to pre-production.

Armed with checklists and potential pitfalls, it’s the process that I was hoping to gain a better understanding of rather than relying on my ad-hoc approach, and that’s certainly something I accomplished here. It helps that it has reaffirmed my passion for this industry. It answered why I want to continue to be a producer and has shown the limitless opportunities that spawned from the course material.

I feel privileged to call myself an alumnus of the National Screen Institute’s Business for Producers program and have enormous gratitude toward our supreme team leader Ursula, program advisor Jeff, the teachers and the entire team that facilitated all the content and contacts.

I look forward to seeing how the National Screen Institute will continue to shape emerging talent and take comfort in knowing they’ll always be a resource in my career. From the bottom of my heart, thank you!


Jen Viens – Autonomic (Montreal, QC)

Jen Viens

I am extremely grateful for having had this opportunity.

At the beginning of the program, I was excited to expand my skill set, and I feel that I was able to achieve that.

I really felt that this program exceeded my expectations. I knew I would learn a lot, and be connected with other emerging producers and industry professionals. However, I admittedly wasn’t prepared for just how much I learned, and how many incredible people I met.

I also feel very fortunate to be connected with my mentor (Carrie Mudd – Peacock Alley Entertainment). The pairing is a perfect fit based on my project and career goals. I appreciate that the National Screen Institute took such great time and care to pair us with well-matched and experienced producers.

In terms of taking the program online, I initially felt a bit unsure about what it would be like to learn and connect as a group without being in the same room together. However, in the end, I think it ended up being fairly successful. We managed to forge some genuine and valuable relationships. I really enjoyed getting to know everyone and learning about their projects. In fact, I’ve already embarked on a professional relationship with one of my cohort members.

A major reason I applied to the program was to be able to cultivate more practical, technical skills. I learned how to produce through active experience, so I wanted to take a step back and learn proper budgets and business affairs. I think that the National Screen Institute allowed me to achieve this goal. Granted, there was a lot of valuable information provided in a short span of time, so I’m sure I will continually return to the documents to review. But as Jeff said, the secret to being a producer is not about having all the answers, it’s about knowing what questions to ask and who to ask.

My excitement and drive to produce has increased since this program began. I always enjoyed producing and knew I had a knack for it, but I think the program has given me a newfound sense of confidence, and a spark for the job. I wear many hats in the film industry, but I’d say that producing is now much closer to the top.

I’ve really enjoyed the fellowship with the community each week. That is something I already miss! We haven’t seen nearly as much of each other since we all split off for our mentorship phase. I’m looking forward to continually touching base with everyone, and to hopefully working with each of them in the future. And of course, I’m so excited to see what everyone accomplishes in the years to come.


Seth Williams – Baiter (Canmore, AB)

Seth Williams

NSI Business for Producers was an outstanding program that exceeded all my expectations. I’m grateful to the team at the National Screen Institute for their passion, professionalism, patience and dedication to nurturing the next generation of Canadian producers.

To be honest, the program was so in-depth and covered so many areas of producing that it’s going to take a while to process everything I’ve learned.

Much like my film school education, completing this program feels like the first step of a lifelong journey. At times it was overwhelming. At times I suffered from imposter syndrome. At times I thought about pursuing a career in plumbing! But, knowing the other producers in the group had my back was a real comfort. I commend the National Screen Institute for including producers with varying experience as part of the same group. I felt everyone could contribute and it was a truly supportive environment.

Some key takeaways for me included tips on budgeting, tax credits, business affairs, distribution, marketing, entertainment law and so much more.

I’ll miss my fellow students who were a diverse group from across Canada. It was an education in itself listening to their stories from the field. On one hand I’m sad it’s over, but on the other I’m excited to apply these new skills as I continue to develop a slate of projects.

As an alumnus of this program, I’m stoked to be part of the NSI family!

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NSI Business for Producers is funded by Program Partner Canada Media Fund (CMF); Strategic Sponsors Telefilm Canada and The Winnipeg Foundation; Supporting Sponsors Corus Entertainment and Super Channel; Industry Consultants Executive Education Centre, Asper School of Business, Facilitated Solutions and People First HR Services. NSI Core Funders are Manitoba Sport, Culture & Heritage and the City of Winnipeg through the Winnipeg Arts Council.

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