Offering BIPOC filmmakers a chance to hone their craft and grow as filmmakers, is what the Reelworld Producer Program grants.
The program, presented by Bell Media, is a year-long venture where selected candidates can learn the ins and outs of choosing projects and seeing them through to completion.
Among those selected this year was Yusuf Alvi, an account manager who attended Humber’s Film and Television Production program in 2014.
“It’s a great opportunity that I’m thankful to be a part of,” Alvi said. “As a young filmmaker who isn’t white, it can be hard to find those ins to establish yourself, so the program is a great way to learn, get started, meet professionals and expand your skills.
“I’m excited to learn the exact process of pitching a story, you know, the core steps needed to even get to a pitch meeting, and then securing funding and seeing the project through to completion,” Alvi said.
He was one of 12 candidates chosen out of hundreds that applied, each coming from all walks of life, including a former entertainment lawyer, some who have acted as independent producers and another who is an illustrator.
“We’re going to take these people that have these transferable skills and are going to have them go through a program that is a year long,” said Barbara Mamabolo, the programming manager at Reelworld.
“I think there are still a lot of gatekeepers in the industry and I think that there are still a lot of people that in conversations will say, ‘Well, I don’t know where to find so and so,’ that’s why we’ll have access Reelworld, which is a database for Black Indigenous people of colour in the film industry, from creative roles to crew,” she said.
“So now, when somebody says I don’t know where to find anybody that is from that background to support their project there’s some place that they can go,” Mamabolo said.
February is Black History Month and as it’s the forefront of most people’s minds, a program that focuses on BIPOC talent in the film industry remains a hot-button topic.
“Oftentimes it’s about you (getting) in based on who you know,” said third-year film student Kijhai Boreland.
In her second-year, Boreland directed a documentary titled The Lone Wolf, which told the story of the abduction and murder of Jammar Allison as well as the emotional aftermath. Allison’s remains were found in Hamilton in 2020, two years after he was kidnapped from Toronto.
“Sometimes we just don’t even know that there is an industry, and a network of filmmakers in Canada, in Toronto and in the cities, because it’s just not common amongst amongst our people, I guess you can say,” she said.
“So even though there could be crazy amounts of talent out there we don’t know anybody, or we don’t know people who are in high enough positions to get us in the door, or to even hear about those opportunities that are out there,” Boreland said.
The Reelworld Producer Program launched virtually on Jan. 28 with Prime Time Online and will run until Feb. 10. From there, chosen candidates will participate in online workshops to learn the ropes of producing their content.