Creating industry change: how programs inspire and impact the careers of staff and alumni

Great Canadian Giving Challenge

Rachel Young

Outreach and Engagement Lead

Help us win $20K to serve more Canadian storytellers

June 2021 is the Great Canadian Giving Challenge – a contest hosted by CanadaHelps – which gives charities like the National Screen Institute a chance to win $20K. From June 1 to 30, every $1* donated to NSI via CanadaHelps.org enters us for a chance to win $20K* towards training future creators like you or those you work with.

The more donations received, the more chances we have to win. Whether we win or lose, your donation is vital to the work we do.

Thank you to those who have already donated during the Great Canadian Giving Challenge. Your donations are furthering the National Screen Institute’s vision to support creators as they change the world through the power of story.

As we near the end of June, we want to share some insights into the impact your support and donations have on our programs and the storytellers within them.


NSI Business for Producers alumnus Alex Sangha produces his first feature film

NSI Business for Producers is a six week, online ‘how-to’ training program designed to increase the network of producing talent. Twenty-one participants began the program in fall 2020 with industry-level training and mentorship, graduating in February 2021.

Alex Sangha, an emerging Queer-BIPOC producer, entered the program to complete his first feature film, Emergence – Out of the Shadows. The film follows three South Asian people as they come out to their conservative families. Alex believes his story is one of many, but they don’t often get the recognition they deserve.

“You don’t get to see a lot of Queer-BIPOC films produced at this level. We need to have our lived experience shared with the world,” said Alex.

The program offered Alex and his classmates the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of producing while speaking with world-class industry leaders. Although Alex did not previously have any formal training, he felt the National Screen Institute valued his skills and encouraged him to tell his story.

“It’s really tough to break the glass ceiling. The National Screen Institute is doing its part to make sure opportunities are provided to everyone,” said Alex.

Program manager Ursula Lawson formed a close bond with participants and was inspired by the class’ camaraderie and friendship. Their encouragement of each other and their projects created a supportive learning environment that went beyond the classroom.

“Not only were many of our participants diverse filmmakers, but they also focused on marginalized stories and having them heard,” said Ursula. “They became a community of allies.”

Today, Alex continues to stay in contact with his program mentor, Avi Federgreen. Avi’s mentorship provided Alex with support and customized advice from the beginning of his training to this day.

“You can’t put a price on this type of knowledge,” said Alex.

Alex began the program with the goal of seeing more Queer-BIPOC films produced at a high level. Now, not only is he producing the content he craves but he is also providing opportunities to his community by hiring Queer and/or BIPOC cast and crew in the production of his film.

Emergence – Out of the Shadows will begin it’s film festival run this July.


NSI Art of Business Management – Indigenous Edition grads reflect on inclusivity in the industry

NSI Art of Business Management – Indigenous Edition is a part-time training program designed to foster the growth of Indigenous producing professionals and increase the network of Indigenous production companies across Canada. At the end of this month, eight participants will graduate from this four-month program.

The course covered fundamentals like contracts, accounting and law – but it also covered Indigenous elements such as incorporating Indigenous traditions on set and how to start a production company on reserve. Program manager and National Screen Institute alum Cheyenne Bruneau said this course is the first of its kind.

“We are addressing barriers that Indigenous producers will face, and how they can move forward within this industry. Someone has to make these changes,” said Cheyenne.

Participant Pepper O’Bomsawin has been in the film industry for 25 years and wanted to learn more about the business side of film. She realized herself and her classmates had all faced similar barriers as Indigenous creators, and it was time for a systemic change.

“The program was more than just building producers, it was about building changemakers,” said Pepper.

Fellow participant and emerging producer Everett Sokol was surprised by the bonds he formed with classmates and advisors in the program. The sense of community and shared experience within the course encouraged him to continue fighting to have his authentic voice heard.

“My biggest takeaway was the confirmation that Indigenous people have a place in the industry,” said Everett. “It gave us the confidence to continue speaking through the lens we have, and not to budge on that.”

This inaugural program was extended from 24 to 32 sessions due to demand and interest from the participants. Program manager Cheyenne hopes participants move forward with confidence, knowing they have the power to tell their own stories and help others share theirs.


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PS: If you’re unable to donate, you can still help by sharing this post with your community and asking others within your networks to donate. Every share matters!

Terms & Conditions
*Donations must be made via canadahelps.org. Minimum $3 donation required. Contest runs from June 1, 2021 at midnight Newfoundland Daylight Time (NDT) to June 30, 2021 at 11:59:59 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time (PDT). See full rules. The Great Canadian Giving Challenge is an initiative of CanadaHelps.

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