Focal Point: Chris Vajcner celebrates 20 years with the National Screen Institute

Chris Vajcner

Rachel Young

Outreach and Engagement Lead

In April, National Screen Institute staff gathered to mark a significant milestone of one of our own – Chris Vajcner. Two decades ago, Chris began her journey with the National Screen Institute and has been an advocate and bright light for the organization and those around it ever since.

With change being the only constant in today’s world, it’s remarkable to witness someone who has dedicated their career to supporting creators in every region of Canada with extraordinary kindness and care. As Chris’ colleagues, we are proud to celebrate her two decades of hard work and devotion.

Chris started with the National Screen Institute in publicity and is now the director of partner support. She is widely known for her dedication to serving others and her unwavering commitment to excellence.

On this special occasion, we want to take a moment to acknowledge her contributions and showcase the heart of a person who has touched the lives of so many through her work.

We invite you to read the following excerpts to learn more about Chris’ journey, her impact, and the people she has touched along the way.

Chris Vajcner! 20 years! What an incredible milestone.

I have SO many great memories working with you and hanging out over those 20 years.

I will never forget the time you went shopping with me in Portage Place and I came home with a pair of great boots (totally unneeded but fabulous). John asked for your number and called you. When you answered, he immediately said: “Chris Vajcner! You are INCORRIGIBLE!” Still, to this day, he says that to you.

“All roads lead to figure skating.”

“Smile and nod.”

“It is what it is.”

It’s only right to mention your skillz in organizing special birthdays and bringing joy to so many team members. I was utterly speechless when you contacted all my friends in the UK to get them to send you special messages for one of my birthdays. Thank you for being an incredibly kind, generous, funny, smart and imaginative friend and colleague. You are one in a bazillion trillion Chris Vajcner and I am honoured to know you and work with you.

Congratulations on your incredible service to the National Screen Institute – you don’t know how fabulous you are! Lots and lots of love to you.

– Liz Hover, Director of Operations

• • •

Chris Vajcner is my rock of calm and cool during hectic industry networking events. Always generous with her time and knowledge regarding sessions, to catch folks to meet and would even take time to champion for talent she felt deserved attention and support. Selflessly promoting those who were too bashful or shy to try – she is a pillar of integrity. Congrats to Chris for her 20 years!

– Danielle Audette, Program Manager

• • •

Congratulations on your 20-year anniversary, Chris!

It’s been an absolute joy working with you! Thank you for the important work that you do and the time you’ve taken to make us all feel appreciated. From our daily conversations to our world-renowned bingo games; I’ve gathered so many NSI, Olympics, figure skating and Friends fun facts to almost last a lifetime!

– Oyin Bolaji-Idowu, Business Support Manager

• • •

My favourite non-WTN (Women’s Television Network) memory of Chris is running into her in the underground at Portage & Main. We hadn’t seen one another since the WTN days so when I started at MTS in 2008, bumping into Chris downtown was always a great way to start or end my day!

Congratulations Chris and thank you for everything you do at the National Screen Institute, particularly for your help and patience with Cinematoba.

– Cam Bennett, Program Manager

• • •

All roads lead back to … CHRIS. Thank you for holding memories of the National Screen Institute and sharing them with us. I am glad to work with you.

– Sarah Simpson-Yellowquill, Manager, Programs and Development

• • •

Dear Chris Vajcner – it’s been a sincere pleasure to share many of your 20 NSI years with you. My first impression of you was that you were kind, creative, nurturing and efficient. Bang on!!

Thank you for introducing me to the tasty Tastes of Sri Lanka; sharing long, fun hours preparing for FEX; being an enabler at vendor stalls during Fringe Festival; introducing us to the magic of the pasta express; showing us that all roads do lead to figure skating; and for your care in gathering work and personal trivia and celebrating all of our milestones over the years. It’s extra special when we can celebrate you! Cheers!

– U (Ursula Lawson), Senior Programs Manager

• • •

Chris – congratulations on 20 years with the National Screen Institute! Your contributions are immeasurable and you’re such a joy to work with. Thank you for always being so thoughtful towards the team and bringing us all together.

Whether it’s planning a birthday surprise, trivia party or staying late to help on a project – your dedication and love for what you do shines though. So today, we celebrate you!

– Rachel Young, Outreach and Engagement Lead

• • •

Happy 20th NSI-versary Chris!

Thank you for being such a gem! I am always so excited to see what fun activities (and hilarious prizes) you have in store for us.

I appreciate how much time and effort you put into making the National Screen Institute a fun and positive place to work! 😊

– Maddy / “Maddog”, Administrator, Programs and Operations

• • •

Chris – it has been a pleasure working with you in my previous role as board member and now as CFO. Your kindness, thoughtfulness and helpfulness have been much appreciated.

Congratulations on your steadfast contribution to the National Screen Institute for 20 years!

– Marlene Kendall, Chief Financial Officer

• • •

Chris is the National Screen Institute historian. It is always fun to hear her reminisce and connect filmmakers back to our programs and talk about the work they did with the organization.

– Jessica Gibson, Manager, Programs and Development

• • •

This past, August when I was opening an outdoor production of Hamlet while experiencing the worst case of first trimester pregnancy symptoms (we’re talking vomiting in bushes before going onstage and performing Shakespearean tragedy), recording and editing two voiceover contracts and managing the Business for Producers delegation to Toronto, I was a little overwhelmed.

I was doing my vocal warm up for the show while checking my work emails and realized I had never sent a fairly important email about industry passes to the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) that I honestly thought I had (to the point where I think I dreamt I had).

I had missed a deadline and thought I’d screwed up the entire magical trip for these producers. I immediately called Chris and, as I was trying to explain my error, started crying. She was so sweet and kind it made me cry harder, but she calmed me down and I managed to get in touch with TIFF and had it all sorted before I had to go onstage.

I ran the gamut of extreme emotions from doubt to fear to full blown panic to disappointment to frustration to shame to relief to disbelief to joy and then calm in the span of 20 minutes because of her and her efficiency and genuine care. I will never forget that. It reaffirmed what I already knew about the National Screen Institute: that it was an environment where you could fail forward; a place where mistakes were met with compassion and problem solving rather than blame and anger.

Also – and this one is shorter – I was amazed when I won bingo twice and the prizes I won ACTUALLY showed up on my doorstep: paper clip necklaces and all 🤣

– Amy Reitsma, Program Manager

• • •

Congratulations Chris on your 20th anniversary with the National Screen Institute!

You are such a valuable member of this team and you make it fun too! Wishing you continued success in your career.

– Julie Hackett, Program Manager

• • •

Chris V – between WTN and the National Screen Institute, I’ve worked with you for over two decades! There’s lots of fun, joyous and loving memories to draw from but the one that reins supreme is Nuit Blanche 2018. You, Liz H and I volunteered to host a pop-up photo booth right outside our 141 Bannatyne office. Our goal was simply to collect short stories of Manitobans out for a night on the town. You took our pop-up photo booth to the next level with your crafting and convinced both Liz and I to gussy ourselves up in Dollarama styled hats, boas and glasses. You made working on a Saturday pure joy.

Thanks for continually bringing out the JOY in serving others.

– Joy Loewen, CEO

• • •

Chris, you are an exceptional human being. You are kind, fun and funny, smart and loyal. It’s rare these days to celebrate a 20-year employee. We celebrate you for being the National Screen Institute’s first, longest-serving employee and for every single moment you’ve dedicated in service to the organization and our mission. You truly have made a difference.

With love and gratitude, we celebrate you. Happy 20th anniversary, Chris.

– Your friends and colleagues at the National Screen Institute

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