December 21, 2023

Shant Joshi: Championing BIPOC and Queer Stories

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Welcome to another episode of On Production presented by Wrapbook. Today we dive deep into the world of independent cinema with a trailblazer in representation and inclusion. Shant Joshi as the president of Fe pictures. Shant's work is unwavering in its mission to decolonize Hollywood prioritizing content for by and about queer, trans, and BIPOC individuals. His award winning projects have captivated audiences from Sundance to Berlin, con to Toronto. Beyond his work as a producer, Shant is actively shaping the future of the industry through roles such as the co-chair of the BIPOC TV and film board, and as an advisory board member at the future of Film Showcase. Today, we'll uncover the passion and drive behind his commitment to representation. And the journey that made Shant a true force in the world of cinema. Welcome, On Production. Thanks for having me. Can you walk us through your journey? And what inspired you to start Fae pictures?


Yeah, so I started a company with some colleagues when I went to film school before I started fake pictures. And that was a great opportunity to understand what I did and didn't want to do. That company was founded by myself and five other folks from film school, and we all had different differing goals and intentions and all that kind of stuff. So the content, which was quite compelling, didn't necessarily feel like it necessarily completely reflected what I wanted to do, you know, once I finished film school, so just as I was finishing film school, I decided I was going to move to LA, and some, some of my mentors, you know, told me, Okay, I'm gonna go to LA, and I went to film school in Toronto, you're gonna go to LA, and there's gonna be a million different opportunities for you, you're gonna be pulled in six different directions, you know, because, I don't know, they saw something in me that they were like, if you if you just go in, you know, aimless without any sort of like direction, you'll be pulled in six different directions, and it'll be difficult for you to find your way. So the recommendation was, when you got to LA, plant a flag in the sand, and say, This is who I am, this is what I'm about. And this is what my North Star is. And that was in 2017. So I, you know, had a couple, I, because I've been going to TIFF, because I'm from Toronto, I get a chance to go to TIFF every year because it's my hometown. So I've been going to TIFF, I think, for at least six years. So I went to tip first and 2011. So I think it's been six years preparing for the right to go. And I've been seeing a wide gamut of different films and global setup on Canadian cinema in American cinema. And what I felt was missing from a lot of Canadian, American and European cinema was a lot of people who, who came from immigrant backgrounds, or were queer, or trans, or people who, you know, came from the black community or an indigenous community. So I realized that that was something that I wanted to reflect in my own work, it was something that meant something for me. I mean, especially in 2017, it was, it was Trump's first year in his presidency. So a lot of people were asking me the question, why moved to America, you know, amidst all this, and so I felt like, you know, what Trump reflected was this division between a lot of different people, this frustration, and a lot of it has to do with economics, but a lot of it also has to do with, with social issues, and a lack of empathy, I think for you know, what some people call the other, alright, so obviously, Mexicans, Muslims, immigrants, you name it, there was a lot of animosity that was being built up around that. So it felt more of a prerogative for me to say, Okay, I'm going to move to LA, I'm going to start a company, I'm going to be a producer. What kind of stuff Am I gonna produce? If a great script comes my way? Am I just going to say yes to it? Or am I going to have a certain criteria by which I'm going to make decisions for that? So that sort of precipitated this idea of, I need to engage audiences with stories rooted in the perspectives of the other so that audiences can understand what that kind of life is like. And ultimately, the way we produce stuff and fake pictures is we are looking at inspirational stories, stories that show these quote unquote others as power sources of power as big as people you know, who can overcome adversity, are not defined by their adversity, but are defined by the potential they they bring into the world and their ability to ideally bring people together. So a lot of the projects we've been doing have been that


that's really powerful. That's really awesome. You know, in my business, I've always thought of the tools that we're building as a mechanism for more stories to be told, because as you know, creating movies is really complex and very expensive. And it makes it difficult for a large number of people with really important stories to be told, difficult to have their stories told. So it's really inspiring and really cool to hear about how your mission is kind of impacting our industry. It's really cool. What is the mission to decolonize Hollywood mean to you on a personal


level, on a personal so I grew up with a diet of Hollywood and Bollywood. So when I was a kid, I would watch a lot of Disney stuff, and etc. You know, Miramax, and searchlight and send picture classics and big studio movies, big Disney movies, big, you know, all that kind of stuff. As well as, as well as, you know, Bollywood cinema, which has its own sort of form of mainstream cinema. And why I took issue and I, I love independent cinema, I love world cinema. That's, I mean, going to tiff that that's really what you get. But I took issue with filmmakers, and even professors when I went to film school, who would be adamant that they are making films just for themselves, that's it's like, I have made a vision for my movie, and I'm gonna make it. And it doesn't matter if nobody watches it, or everybody watches. And my response to that is, as a producer, or not just as producer, producer, as a fan of storytelling through cinema, through film and television. If nobody's watching it, what's the point? It felt pointless to me. So while I don't completely love every big mainstream movie, in Hollywood, or Bollywood, or whatever, I can learn to appreciate why your local mailman or person who works at McDonald's, or the person who works at a big, you know, top 500 company will get out of the house, go to the cinema or turn on Netflix and watch this piece of content. And if we're trying to change hearts and minds, we have to understand why people make the decision to go out to the cinema or turn something on Netflix, watch it on their phone, or whatever. And so it's really an emphasis on understanding audiences and understanding why Hollywood, I mean, historically has worked so well. Because it has managed to bring not just an American audience, but a global audience to watch their films. It's the only cinema that really has such a massive global reach. So, that was the sort of idea of like, okay, so Hollywood has this massive global reach. But Hollywood is also reporting certain stories, that position certain people in positions of power, or in the sort of, we understand, we're looking through an American lens, basically, when we look at Hollywood, and so to decolonize, it is to say, well, we can take this massive global cinema. And we can basically decolonize. Let's look at, when we take away the colonial lens, we take away the American colonial lens of the world, and look at it from a perspective of the people who are being affected by all these things, right. So when, for example, Jason Bourne, or James Bond, go to a country in Africa and blow shit up. Right? We see it from their lens. And so the question is, What would our stories look like if we saw from the perspective of the people who were, you know, there in that country in Africa being affected by these? So that kind of, that's the sort of crux of all, you know,


kind of a cool idea, like, let's double click on the story of a person that was just affected by the traumatic event of somebody blowing up their village. He said, great, well, look. That's super interesting. I mean, so you produced a lot of different projects, but something that's just about to premiere is your film, Queen tut, can you tell us about the experience of producing it?


Yeah, so queens, that was actually a story that I learned about through a colleague of mine at film school, so we were just in our first screenwriting class in third year, and the first step of screenwriting is to write a logline. So my colleague Brian Brandmark wrote this logline about an Egyptian teenager moving to Toronto who becomes a drag queen. And it's called Queen Tut. So the sort of evocation of, you know, an immigrant storyline mixed with a coming of age, or try Queens storyline in that world of drag. How do you compare that with the world of sort of, you know, I mean, Cairo, Egypt, the hit the legacy, the history of, you know, that culture and, and all that stuff and connect those two things so that that's what queenside is. So that was in 2016 2015 2016 was when I first heard that logline. And I got the chance to sort of throughout the class throughout my first met last few years of homeschool third year and fourth year, witness that project that that story got developed into into a feature film script. So I picked up the option once we graduated film school. It was the first project I optioned for a picture and ran with it and developed it for about four more years with different writers coming on board and different perspectives. And just making sure we're getting it right, you know, and then we financed it and took it to production last year with Alexandra Billings, who was someone that we had discussed back in 2017. When I first optioned the script, we were talking about the character of Malibu, this trans strike mother. And we discussed Alexandra billings, and I was really able to get her and early last year, we managed to put an offer in and she accepted the offer. And now we've become good friends. And throughout the process of producing this film, you know, it's been a really great experience. So bringing in what we do a lot beyond just the stories that we tell it fake pictures, we bring in people from those communities that have the stories that we're telling into the production process, not just in the cast, but also in the crew. So you know, we worked with Hollywood Jade, who does choreography for Canada's drag race. So he came in and did the choreography for the film. We had a fantastic costume designer, Leland Mitchell, who was there for his first first time costume designing a feature film, he had mostly been working on the film side, like on Star Trek as an assistant. But on the other side, he'd also been designing a ton of dresses for drag queens, so it made total sense for him to come in. And not only did he just, he didn't just assign the drag queen costumes, he also designed the normal Joe Schmo, you know, day to day costumes, and my goodness, like it's Rellenas beautiful, it's colorful, it's relevant. It's true. So yeah, so across the board, when we brought in our crew, we prioritized you know, queer, trans and bipoc. Folks who could relate to the story, primarily because, you know, we're working in these very low budgets, you know, this movie was produced at $1.5 million, not that big of a budget. And so when you're bringing people in, you're saying, Hey, you are working on the show, and we're going to pay you but we're not going to pay you all that much. You want to bring in people who have a sort of beyond the financial motivation of getting paid to do work. Also this sort of spiritual motivation. You know, it's supporting a story that they believe in, and that they want to see the screen


as really powerful, you know, each of your products tells a powerful story. And I think you're alluding to this in terms of who you bring in, and who you work with, and how you build that culture on set. But how do you choose which stories to tell and ensure that they retain their authenticity? For sure,


I mean, we get a lot of pitches constantly. And, you know, there's a couple of factors that we look at, obviously, I think, primarily, what we're always looking at is the story is, it does, firstly, does it work? This is a story that works. Do we think we sensed all those kinds of basic stuff, but also beyond that? You know, we're asking ourselves the question, especially our team, which is fairly young, I think basically, everyone on the team is under 40 years old. So we're quite a young team. And we always share projects with each other in terms of like, what we're reading and what we're looking at. But the biggest question we ask ourselves is, would we watch it? Would we want to watch it if we saw this, you know, on a marquee, if we saw this on a listing or you know, a trailer on Instagram or something like that, would we say yes, I'm going to pay 15 bucks 20 bucks to watch it or you know, gonna go see it at a festival or something like that. So that's the key part of looking at the story is that would we Watch it is that something that excites us is something that feels like something we would want to watch? And then we look at the creative team. Behind the project, you know how big the team is sometimes seen. In some cases, we look at a project, and there's tons of producers, and there's tons of people behind it. And it feels like, Okay, how much of value are we actually bringing to the table? Or is it does it just feel cosmetic, because if it's just cosmetic, it doesn't make sense for us to come on board, we really like to think about projects, beginning to end, you know, we, we aspire to become, you know, our own studio is, you know, however way you define that, but we want to be there from, you know, not doesn't necessarily the inception of the project, but throughout the development of the project through to its released, we want to have that hands on approach. Because we want to see the audience respond to it, we don't, we don't just want to produce it. And then it's done. Like you deliver it to the distributor, and the distributor does whatever they want to do with it. Now we actually get involved in in process of the releasing and the marketing and, you know, in the conversation with the audience, because that is the biggest satisfaction, especially for the question when we when we look to the project from the beginning, and we asked ourselves the question, would we watch it, we have to see our audiences watching it, and how our audience is responding to it. So we are very involved in the process. So we want to make sure that there's space for us to be there. And then finally, you know, it's looking at the team with regards to the tracker. What have they done before watching their films? You know, it's not just like, you know, we've gone down that path before, we've just been like, oh, it looks great on paper, you know, great resumes, all that kind of stuff, and are great bios and let's just do it. No, he went to watch the films and watch the thumbs up that they've done before. Do we engage with that? Do we understand? Are we aligned on the vision for their vision and our vision for the project? Because, you know, we are creative producers on it. So you know, it's not just, it isn't a job , it is I go to work every day. But you know, I like to go to work smiling and getting excited about the projects I'm doing. So those are definitely all factors.


That's awesome. Well, obviously Queen Tut will be coming out. Audiences will be seeing it and engaging with it, which is gonna be fantastic. You know, other than Queen Tut, which is just you know, about to be given to the world. Is there a particular film or series that you've produced that holds a special place in your heart?


I mean, we just premiered Inflamed at TIFF, which premiered at Cannes earlier this year. That's a really special project, I met the filmmaker and the Canadian Embassy in Berlin in 2020, right before the pandemic hit, actually. And we'll Zahra the filmmaker and I have a quite a little bit of a similar story with regards to how we both left Canada. So I left Canada, I went to LA, he left Canada, he moved to Bacchus. We both went to school, we both went to university in Canada, and he was someone I had never met before. And I know my way around the Canadian industry decently well. And so he was a Canadian who I did not know. And I was very surprised. And we were to brown guys, you know, in the Canadian Embassy and see a lot of Europeans and Canadians, you know, they're, and so we got a chance to know each other just personally, but also understand each other from our story in terms of how we left Canada and are thinking about, you know, returning because I left in 2017. And the biggest reason I left was beyond the opportunity that was present in LA was the limits that I saw in the Canadian funding system where I just didn't see myself fitting in and similarly as Aurora felt the same way. And so he whereas I moved to LA he moved to Pakistan, and in LA, I did my work with Fei pictures there. And in Pakistan. He built his own company, City Lights productions in Pakistan, and he produced short films that ended up going to Accardo and competition, Ronde, B phi TEF, and I'm looking at the sky at brilliant Berlin, and I'm like, I don't think anyone in Canada knows who you are, like, just being serious and honest with him. And he's like, I don't think so either. And I knew that his accolades, his success, his vision, his work, definitely deserved support from the Canadian industry and audiences. So after the pandemic hit, we were both you know, he was in Pakistan. I was staying with my parents in Toronto. and we chatted and I recommended that he applied for funding with Telefilm Canada with the Canada Council for the Arts. I helped facilitate that. We got the financing, and he made plans through that the film is completely in Urdu. The film was completely shot in Pakistan with primarily a Pakistani cast and crew. We have a Canadian actor Omar Javaid who plays a role in the film but he's also bauxite or semi Canadian. And, you know, really exciting Canadian crew on the composing side and the editing side of the post production side. But ultimately, you know, it is a Canadian production, telefilm proudly, you know, financed it and presented it. But you know, it's a Pakistani production. And for me, as someone who's busy in TN, especially amidst what's going on right now, between India, Pakistan, which is insane, it was another way of looking at decolonizing Hollywood, almost in a sense of decolonizing Bollywood, because, you know, India has its own colonial power at this point right now. So to be able to give opportunity and voice to a Pakistani filmmaker, help him you know, make his movie and tell his story. It's just really special. And I think it's a fantastic film. That's, it's about a young Pakistani woman who's studying to become a doctor, who is haunted by these ghosts of patriarchy, in Karachi, it's quite a compelling and you know, it was compelling script when I read it, and it's every time you know, I'm a TIFF, and people are coming to speak coming to me being like I loved inflame such a fantastic film shelf, it felt really special. So that's definitely got a great placement.


That is so wonderful. And I think it speaks to a success along the lines of fulfilling Fe pictures mission. I'm curious, can you share some other successes or challenges Fe Pictures has faced in creating inclusive stories and content?


Yeah, for sure. I mean, what I would say is that the reason why I left Toronto in 2017, was because the Canadian system I don't think was built for us. And when the pandemic hit in 2020, you know, I moved back in with my parents, as most people, many people did during the pandemic. So I was back in Toronto, you know, in that world, and I was hearing from different colleagues in the Friends of the Canadian industry about, you know, how they were faring through the pandemic. And then about March, April, May, a three month, three months into the pandemic, you know, the death of George Floyd, which, you know, created really a global reckoning across the world. And so for me to be in Toronto, in that in that moment, and, and convene, you know, over zoom with, you know, I think we after George Floyd, I think a week later, at eight producers all across Canada, got on a zoom call together, and asked the question, what do we do about this? How do we make sure that this kind of thing doesn't happen, that, you know, our, our police or our, our citizens, our society, doesn't alienate someone like George Floyd to the point that he, you know, died? So a lot of questions around systemic racism, and all that kind of stuff. And what precipitated from that call was a lot of action. A lot of activism. I mean, we granted we had a lot of spare time on our hands, you know, and I think it was, it almost was necessary that, you know, you have all this spare time on your hands, you're frustrated about how the system works. And now you've got all this time, and you're gonna try and fix it. So that's what we did, along with a collective number of other producers and filmmakers. We pushed the system to the point that things started to change. So reforms were happening at Telefilm Canada at the Canadian Media Producers Association, at the Canada Media Fund, these massive, you know, funds that have carried, you know, up to $500 million a year in financing. We're now shifting, you know, their language and shifting, not just their language, but also their programming. You know, telefilm in Canada Media Fund introduced programs funding programs that were dedicated towards black, indigenous and people of color. And that actually ended up while that was, you know, activism on one side of things. It benefited my business as well because for Queen Todd, I was mad I was able to close my financing without any producer investments, because the Canada Media Fund introduced a new fund called the pilot program For racialized communities, which granted, us thought that last bit of money that we needed to close our financing, go to production, and, you know, not be personally held in an equity stake, where I'm investing my own money into the production, especially in this economy, and in this marketplace where, you know, film's not necessarily selling at high prices, to not have that risk. And to be able to, you know, feel safe, and collecting my own producer fees, and collecting my own corporate overhead fees, without having to put that back into the production was exceptionally meaningful, it meant that I was not going to sleep stressed about the production or going to, you know, all those kinds of things. And so I think it made a better opportunity for us to make a better production because we weren't so stressed or concerned about, you know, how are we going to make the money back, rather just make a good film and put it out there into the world? So, yeah, that really, that struggle of being able to close your financing without putting an investment in is now sort of, sort of, not necessarily solved completely, but it was definitely helped through that process. So definitely, as you know, my role in bipod TV and film in the board of directors, is to ensure that other filmmakers, from those communities are able to feel safe when they go to production, not just financially but also, but also, you know, on crew on set. So we do a lot of life training and anti racism training, especially on set and stuff like that. So we do a lot of programming in those spaces, ultimately, to create safer and better spaces, you know, in production.


That's great. You know, I was, it actually leads into my next question, and you just brought it up naturally, which is, you know, in being the co-chair of the bipoc. TV and film board and a part of the Canadian media producers associations EDI Action Committee. Like I'm curious, how do you see these organizations shaping the future of inclusive filmmaking in Canada? And a part of that question, I'm also curious, because I think you spoke to it that like, you all, are changing the culture and creating opportunities for different types of stories to be told, in addition to maybe giving some more nuanced ideas or your perspective on how the organization's are shaping the future. I'm also curious about how those programs work, like you were just mentioning, like, maybe some funding goes to a film, should that film be profitable? Does it get paid back? Like, how does the splitting work of these types of stories coming to market become successful and what happens then?


So we've been pretty lucky. In Canada, a lot of the funding is soft, in some ways. So some of its grant money. Some grant money means you'd have to pay it back, which is great, and some of it is equity. So, you know, the Government of Canada through telefilm takes an equity stake in the productions that it finances at a certain budget level. The Canada Media Fund, on the other hand, what they do is they top up license fees. So if you have a Canadian broadcaster that finances your film, so you like Bell Media, which is our HBO and Canada says okay, we want to finance 10% of your movie. Okay, great, you get the 10% financing, the Canada Media Fund can then come in and say okay, we'll fund another 20% of your production. And that comes in the form of a license fee top up because the way they're funded is through broadcast. Right, all broadcasters in Canada have to pay around 5% of their profits into the Canada Media Fund. This is also just there's been and we're also part of this at CMPA. And bypass even film if there's a new bill that was introduced. It's been going for the last couple years, it's been about three years, it's been going C 11, which modernizes the Broadcasting Act. So the Broadcasting Act basically tells all the broadcasters you have to pay by percent of your revenues into the Canada Media Fund to create Canadian content that benefits Canadian audiences and benefits the Canadian industry, Netflix, Amazon, Paramount, plus all these streaming services were excluded from that definition of a broadcaster. The new legislation that has been passed and is currently being implemented now includes the streaming services into that broadcasting definition. So now there's basically Netflix, Amazon, all these companies have to start putting money into the Canada Media Fund that then goes towards Canadian productions. So that's all great and good. The work that our organizations have been doing as well as other organizations in Canada have been making sure that okay, great, we have this new bill that's coming into parliament. How does this affect racialized communities? How does this affect LGBTQIA? Plus communities? How does this affect the other communities that have been marginalized or underrepresented for so long in the cleaning media industry. And so what's been Gray has been a conversation between a lot of our organizations and government with regards to inclusion practices and policies in the letter of the law. So in Bill C 11, there is language that includes special conditions or considerations for communities that have been underrepresented in the Canadian media landscape. You know, to run a business, as a production company, to live your life as a filmmaker, as a director or as a writer, you have to get work constantly. And the issue that the reason why BiPAP TV and film was formed about 10 years ago, was because a lot of these writers rooms, and a lot of these directing spots, a lot of these production companies, a lot of these broadcasts, executives, were primarily straight white men. And, you know, it didn't necessarily reflect the demographics of Canada. Canada is an increasingly more diverse country, even in the last 10 years, although I think the numbers of the immigrant population and the racialist population have nearly doubled. And it's only growing from here. I mean, we, Canada specifically and uniquely, is a country that encourages immigration, primarily skilled immigration. But nonetheless, immigration is looking for talented people from all over the world to come and be Canadian. So our funding system, the way we discuss Canadian Heritage, and Canadian identity has to shift to align with these, you know, economic and immigration policies that our government is reporting. So those two things coming together have been really important in terms of making sure that those considerations are made. And so there is specific funding that is meant to be earmarked for those communities in, in Canadian legislation in Canadian law.


That's fascinating. I mean, you seem like an incredible resource to the community on how to navigate some of these sorts of subjects and opportunities. To that end, I mean, how does your role on the advisory board at the future of Film Showcase kind of help emerging filmmakers?


Yeah, no, I think it's, it's, it's a great opportunity that I've had, I actually co-founded the festival with Eric Bizzarri. co-founder, who is currently the artistic director at the festival. So he and I started the festival. First year at Film School in Toronto, we both felt like there had not really been space, we're showcasing, you know, future talent, especially in a very, like, celebratory. And yeah, and it's in a celebratory way and experience that felt more than just the festival more than just like, oh, we'll put it up on a screen somewhere, you know, at a museum or at a school and play it there. We really wanted it to feel like it was going to the movies, and you're going to the movies, and you were seeing the future of cinema. Look, you gotta get an early look, first, look, you know, everyone likes a good first look. So that was the idea behind the Feature Film Showcase. When we co founded it, I left the organization when I moved to LA and now I sit on the advisory board. And you know, it's a couple of things. It's making sure that the organization can sustain itself, you know, a lot of these nonprofit organizations, you know, it's not easy to get operational funding for them. So, you know, think about the future from the showcase. Rep has about, I want to say, at least 10 to 15 staff year round. And that's, you know, it's a big cost for the festival. So, in terms of building opportunities for emerging filmmakers, the first thing, first thing first is we got to make sure our staff get paid. And, you know, then the organization can run itself so that we can continue to provide the programming so it's similar it's a bit bipartisan from they're both nonprofit organizations that, you know, require funding to be able to proceed with their, their their stated mission, you know, for future from showcase that's for emerging filmmakers from hypoxia calm, that's for bipoc filmmakers. So I do a lot of work with helping them fundraise, as well as figure out the programming and help to make sure that we continue to align with the original stated mission of the organization, or that next generation of filmmakers, and make sure that we're doing that not just through the screenings, but through industry, programming, mentorship, you know, meetings with executives, bringing in executives, doing keynotes, doing industry panels, all that kind of stuff, gives it a full, you know, 360 experience, basically. So the idea is that the the festival is that 360 experience where you get to, if you get selected with your film, or even if you don't get selected with your film, you just show up to the festival, there are all these opportunities, where you can grow your career by connecting with these people that, you know, folks on the advisory board or folks on the staff have already been connected to, and you sort of have that door open. So I've generally been someone who likes to open a lot of doors. And, you know, even like, for example, like within flames, it's just like, the way I see it is I just opened the door, and I just said, walk through it if you want to. And that's what sort of, you know, they are dead with, within flames and and what we've seen in the festival has been going on a feature film showcase for about I think 10 years now we've hit our 10 year mark. So


congrats to both the showcase and as well as all those filmmakers. It's awesome.


So we've had a chance to see the proof in the pudding with regards to one of the first filmmakers that we've supported. One of my favorite filmmakers that we've constantly been featuring, and constantly working with, as Ben Carol and Gwen, who I met when she was 16 years old. So she was still in high school at the time, and she was making some really fantastic films. And so we put up one of her films at our festival and helped her and supported her. And, you know, she's got to come back to us and send stuff over and work with us, you know, not not only in showcasing her films, but also at this point, you know, speaking at panels, and you know, mentoring future filmmakers. So there has really been this proof in the pudding with regards to the give and take and the growth of filmmakers


through the festival. That's great, you know, a slight pivot, but you know, you spend some time at Osgoode Hall Law School. And I'm just very curious how if at all, intersects with your career in film,


massively, I mean, my legal bills are far smaller than, you know, some other producers, I do a lot of my own paperwork, which may not necessarily be the best. You know, not everyone advises that that's what you do. But especially when you're running a small independent production company where you have to make ends meet, you have to run your payroll and everything like that. Some of these contracts, these agreements, I don't want to say they're fairly simpler, boilerplate. But through that education at Osgoode, Hall Law School, I was able to understand what I'm signing, understand what I'm having other people's side and understand what I'm drafting how I'm drafting, how to make sure you know, I've introduced language, and in contracts and agreements that no one's ever told me to include that language. And for example, for indigenous projects. We have a company policy, or across all our projects, basically, that if we do have any, and this is based on pre existing literature and guidelines, basically, that there's pathways and protocols, guidelines that was issued by the indigenous green office that basically says that project produced a crate, or a project that surrounds Indigenous stories should have a sovereign holding with indigenous communities. So whenever we get involved in indigenous projects, we always take no more than 49% of the copyrights, or the fees or all that kind of stuff. So we generally partner with indigenous production companies. And that principle is baked into our option agreements. So even in my option agreements on certain indigenous projects, the first usually your first clause is conditions precedent, or, you know, just the original chain of title and all that kind of stuff. But for us, I've introduced, you know, language in my agreements that basically says that, at no point throughout this production, signed letter of the law, basically, in this agreement, will the project have less than 51% indigenous ownership, basically, and so that that chain of title when you go back and you go to production, you go back to that first option agreement? It's going to say that throughout the course of the port, Actually, throughout the course of development, distribution, and the release of the film, it's baked in there that at no point will anyone who's not indigenous be able to hold and control projects in such a way. So going to law school, granted, it was a week long workshop just for entertainment law alone, especially in music and film and TV. But that learning helped me build that in. So then, finally, when I do go to my lawyer, and I say, Hey, listen, this is my option agreement, I'm about to sign this, does this look good to you, you know, I'm only bothering them for maybe half an hour, maybe an hour. I'm not, you know, paying eight hours of, you know, legal fees, and all that kind of stuff for them to deliberately negotiate on that kind of stuff. So all that cost savings that we incur, because we didn't have to do that, then go back into paths that are meaningful for us. So you know, especially because we do a lot of expenditures in queer, trans and bipoc communities. If we have more money that's available to us to invest into those communities, it suddenly becomes a win win for everybody. That's really


powerful. And I think it's powerful in terms of the business case of filmmaking, in addition to the power of the stories that your films are making, so I'm really glad I asked that question. You know, I'm curious, you know, with your vast experience, where do you see the future of filmmaking heading, especially when it comes to representing queer, trans and bipoc voices?


This has been really interesting. I mean, there's definitely been quite a movement, a lot of different funds and programs and opportunities both in Canada and America, and I think as well in Europe as well, but specifically in in the realm of queer cinema, and I think as well in other other places, but at least some courses, what I've been seeing actually has been an increased competition. So Queen tut, which we're exceptionally proud of as a film has not necessarily got into every queer festival that we submitted to. And that's not often the case. Often, queer festivals are lacking in content. And so we'll take not from not saying whatever they will get, but we'll be more open especially, we've been, you know, we've had queer films with festivals for I think, over six years now. So I've done the circuit many times. I have long standing relationships with a lot of queer festival programmers. So you know, it's we have a personal relationship and personal repertoire. But even still, to get that rejection letter from a queer festival and say, sorry, there's just been too much good queer content out there that we can't program, your film actually puts a smile on my face. It says, Okay, well, I need to work harder and produce a better film next time. But also it says, wow, there's such there's been such more of an open process of producing queer cinema in the world that I don't necessarily need to be there to champion it completely. There's people there all over the world who are doing that. So that's really exciting and enlightening and gives me an opportunity to say Okay, so where are the spaces where it's where we're missing stuff, where are we missing? You know, where's the underrepresentation. So that's been really exciting to see, in all honesty, so I'm hoping to see that continue. And I'm hoping to see that continue as well in South Asian cinema, in African cinema. So we're quite invested in a lot of global south filmmaking right now. We are not completely dabbling into Latin American or South American cinema just yet. got our hands full quite a bit with some projects in the African continent, South Asian subcontinent. So we're focusing on that right now. And I would say the other thing that we're seeing is this renaissance of Bacchus Isom, which is quite unique. So last year, there was a film called Joy land, which was directed by Sam Sadiq and produced by a friend of mine, a poor return, which ended up getting shortlisted for the Oscars, you know, after winning the unset and regard Jury Prize. So it had a fantastic life as the film went from can't tiff to Sundance. And then, you know, and while we're not so we don't actually know everyone completely, we're quite fret. We're good friends with some of our other colleagues in Pakistani cinema. So we have obviously in flames, which is a Pakistani film, but there's also the film queen of my dreams by Fazia Mirza, which premiered at TIFF to raving reviews is in competition at BFI London, and we'll you know, go on to be I think a Fanta. I saw the tip. It was fantastic. And so I really, honestly see this renaissance of Pakistani cinema where, you know, prior to joy land, it was really few and far between the films getting made. And primarily the reason that I think is because of the Diaspora, the connection between the South Asian diaspora in North America and in Europe, now getting more and more involved in Telugu Pakistani stories and telling, you know, more unique, dynamic Indian stories. You know, we just saw the biggest grossing Indian film of all time. Basically, we're like the fastest grossing Indian film of all time, this film Jawan, which is obviously Big Star Trek, Shahrukh Khan. But that is really cool, Phil. I mean, it's very mainstream. It's in the south, they call it mass like mass mass audience next Nashville. But that is a film that is CO production between North and South, which is actually not common at all. So you know, Shahrukh Khan is producing it with his wife, Gauri Khan, He's starring in it. It's shot and, you know, it's shot in Hindi, but translated into Tamil and Telugu. But it's a South Indian director, South Indian composer, you know, South Indian crew. So that collaboration is really exciting. So I'm looking forward to seeing more of that I'm really keen to see more CO productions between, you know, Pan African countries, you know, cool to see a Nigerian, South African CO production more and, you know, other kinds of CO productions that make, you know, usually we think about CO productions, I think, in the European context, we think, oh, like Luxembourg, with Belgium, and France and Germany, like the, you know, great example is triangle of sadness, which was like British and Swedish. And also, but I think now we're starting to see a bit more CO productions between countries in the Global South, which is really exciting. So I'm keen to see more of that.


That's really neat. I think it's really inspiring that it's a global perspective, and how the story impacts all of us. And that's a really powerful kind of vision for the future of storytelling and cinema. You know, for those that are inspired by your mission and wanting to make a change in the industry?


What advice would you offer them? What resources should people be looking into? What communities should people be kind of like dialed into in order to be a part of the conversation and making change?


I think there's a combination of, you know, I think, what's what's changed recently has been, you know, our higher Hollywood trades deadline, Hollywood and a variety have started to work a lot more with global correspondents. So you know, deadline and variety have folks who are based in India, based in China, based in Africa, who will talk about those kinds of big successes or big stories. So ultimately, I think, you know, for me, the best way to access the formula, the first way I access that cinema was through TIFF, so going to a film festival, and just watching really great films and reading the credits and understanding who's behind this film. What are they like? And then, you know, after the q&a, shaking their hand, meeting them, there was this great filmmaker, I saw I met at Tech in 2021, Ritwik burry, who did a film called Dog Dog, which we're actually picking up for distribution in North America. And, you know, I just saw his film at TIFF, I loved it, I shook his hand, we exchanged Instagrams, and, you know, now we're connected, and we're chatting and discussing things on WhatsApp and all that kind of stuff. So that in person engagement is definitely key to it. I'm going to watch films while reading the credits. And then I think beyond that, it's, for me, it's reading the trades and looking for for those stories that aren't about Johnny Depp and whatever and all this stuff. It's like, what's that? What's that small little story about, you know, what's happening over in Marrakech or what's happening in, in Saudi Arabia, you know, big boom, right now in Saudi Arabia, Naga was a big hit at teff and a lot of, you know, investment that's happening in African and Middle Eastern said on my right now, so it and a lot of the information I get is, is two handed one is through the trades. And the other way is through in person interaction. So just meet people and see films at festivals, and I started to learn more about how things work. And even though you know, maybe I'm not involved in any Saudi cinema whatsoever, but you know, I'm still hearing about it a lot because it's, it's present and, and there's a lot of work that's happening there. So it's, it's interesting. Yeah,


that's amazing. Thank you so much for your time, and I know all of our listeners on production. Really appreciate the time. Thanks for being here.


Thanks, Cameron.

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