Not surprisingly, we found a number of common threads emerging over the course of the 8 episodes of this season:
- A new community-minded focus taking precedence for everyone from entrepreneurs to industry associations
- An awareness of the ongoing challenges of implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives that go beyond ‘ticks in boxes’
- A deeper understanding of the new demands on digital creatives working from home and for actors and crews working on set during Covid-19
“I felt useless sitting at home while Covid ravaged the industry. There were times where I was just twiddling my thumbs and thinking, I wish I could do something, and the only thing I can do is sit at home…[but] when I see that there’s a challenge, my instinct as an entrepreneur is: how can I help? That’s where Safe Sets came from. My way of helping is just to get education out there for everybody, and I think it’s the simplest thing I could have done.”
“I’ve been hearing about creating diversity and inclusion since the late ’70s. I’ve sat at more roundtable discussions about increased diversity and inclusion than most people have. And the needle is moving very slowly.” Those are the words of award-winning actor and founder and Executive Director of the ReelWorld Film Festival Tonya Williams.
Tonya joined us on the podcast to talk about both the achievements made and challenges faced over her 20 years with the festival whose focus is to support and showcase the work of Canada’s racially diverse filmmaking and production community. Most recently Tonya launched Access ReelWorld, the most complete database of Black, Indigenous, Asian, South Asian, Middle Eastern, and Latin American talent in the Canadian entertainment industry.
In recent years this style of production has moved from the exclusive domain of mega budget, major studio movies to the more modest budgets of indie and DIY filmmakers. This is because truly cinematic visual effects can now be rendered in real time using iPhones and video game engines like Unity and the Unreal Engine. As Dylan Pearce explains in this episode:
“If you have an iPhone or a camera that utilizes face capture technology, you can start to play with creating your own face capture and digital avatar. You can open up Unreal and use your phone, and then you can start to digitally move around a character’s face in real time. There’s also an app that utilizes your phone to fully mo-cap somebody. Now, this might not be Hollywood level grade, but it’s a wonderful foundation to learn the platform and to get familiar with it so that when you do have a production, you understand it and you can put your money in the right places for it. I think that’s the first step.”
Today, being in charge of sustainability initiatives is Clara’s full-time job, and she’s been able to do everything from keeping eco-consciousness on set top of mind, even during Covid-19, to reducing her productions’ overall carbon footprint by shifting from fossil fuels to the clean grid of hydroelectric power. Clara’s current plan is to take these sustainability initiatives put into place on her productions in Vancouver and create a template for the whole industry.
And then Covid hit in March, and the game industry was one of the first to go into ‘safe mode’. Developers, designers, and project managers grabbed their headphones and computers and quickly moved to working from home. Covid meant those legendary industry events were no longer possible. But then the Canadian game industry responded, with a virtual version of a large-scale networking event that came about as a collaboration between the provincial interactive media associations across the country.
On this episode we’ll hear about how a variety of game studios have been adapting, and how the virtual networking offered by the new Canada Games Online event helped keep the industry’s momentum going by bringing studios together with publishers, investors, and other strategic partners.
On this episode you’ll hear about how Hilary and Fiona have orchestrated the shift from a business model based on backyard and living room screenings to virtual events that aim to cultivate community by bringing a social dimension to the viewing experience as well as providing a new way for filmmakers to reach audiences.
On this episode Jacob explains his journey from the Canadian prairies to the heart of the global entertainment industry, and how he convinced Disney that the best way to break decades of on-screen stereotypes of Indigenous peoples was to work with him and his company. As Jacob puts it: “How can we reverse or eliminate those stereotypes? The number one answer for me was: Use the same medium that created and reinforced those stereotypes to reverse them.”
Marie and Jim are currently putting the finishing touches on the report, and its title, “Isolation Nation”, provides a hint at some of the findings. Not surprisingly, many are feeling anxious and alone and are having to learn new skills, such as being their own boss and finding ways to keep their morale up without the usual office socializing and team building events.
Marie describes the research project this way: “People are really isolated right now, and I say that’s more the case for people making games, especially small studios. Life is easier when people can solve problems together. So the goal of this project is to gather knowledge from people making games all over Canada, in small studios, in larger studios, or people working alone. And then gather that knowledge together into one resource so that people can share the things that they’re struggling with, and how they’re getting past them.”