Acting, directing, producing, writing – today's up-and-coming film and TV makers do it all

When first-time feature filmmaker Jasmin Mozaffari won a well-deserved directing trophy for Firecrackers at this year’s Canadian Screen Awards, she closed her acceptance speech with a prediction: “I think I’m one of the few women to win this award. I don’t think I’ll be the last. Just watch.”

Just what we’re watching for is hard to peg. That Mozaffari stood out as a director while her film remained unrepresented in the best motion picture category was eyebrow-raising. Only French-Canadian productions were nominated in the latter.

If this year’s awards are a litmus test for the Canadian screen industry, I would conclude that we’re a bit confused.

The industry is in upheaval. There is less space for Canadian content on cinema screens (Firecrackers is currently occupying two in Toronto), but some bandwidth is opening up on Netflix and other streaming services. Deepa Mehta was given a lifetime achievement award at the CSAs, but her generation of filmmakers who made their names in the 90s and 00s seem to be receding into the background with fewer films released years apart. Meanwhile, new voices are emerging from unexpected places and the industry is scrambling to keep up.

They’re coming from everywhere. Filmmakers are crowdfunding their way to festivals. Actors are writing their own projects. The first beneficiaries of Telefilm’s new Talent To Watch program – 50 projects by first-time directors – should start hitting festivals late this year or early next.

As Canadian film shifts in a big way to expand the pool of voices that get to tell stories, we’ve rounded up actors, filmmakers and producers who are already forging ahead. We’re hoping to see their films and TV projects at big festivals like TIFF and on the CSAs nominees list next year – and on more screens in between.

And we’ll be toasting these new voices on National Canadian Film Day on April 17. Join us for a free screening of Jeff Barnaby’s Rhymes For Young Ghouls at Cineplex Cinemas Yonge-Dundas at 7 pm followed by a Q&A with star Devery Jacobs. And for more National Canadian Film Day events, visit canadianfilmday.caRS


Queer Indigenous actor/filmmaker fights for real representation

Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs plays a salty killer werewolf in the Netflix supernatural series The Order and recently made her debut as the cynical two-spirited hitchhiker Sam Black Crow on Prime Video’s American Gods.

“For some reason, I play all these badass characters,” says Jacobs. “I blame Jeff Barnaby.”

She’s referring to the filmmaker who made us take notice by giving Jacobs her first leading role as the tough, cannabis-dealing Aila in 2013’s Rhymes For Young Ghouls.

Shot in Kahnawà:ke Mohawk Territory – the Quebec reserve Jacobs grew up on – Barnaby’s period film grappled with residential school trauma through a magic realist crime drama, where tragic zombies haunt and monstrous settlers lurk. Aila was at its centre, rolling up blunts, cooking up heists and fielding the hard knocks before taking a bat to a white man’s head.