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August Spotlight | Amazing Alumni Accomplishments

 

At Toronto Film School, we never cease to be amazed by the accomplishments of our awesome alumni who are out pursuing their dreams in the creative industries – be it assistant directing movies premiering at TIFF, art directing Netflix sci-fi films, or acting in Apple TV+ miniseries.

 

Here are some of August’s standout highlights from Toronto Film School’s talented community of graduates:

 

Film Production alumnus Jessica Smith

 

Film Production alumnus Jessica Smith has racked up more than 33 (and counting) assistant directing credits since graduating from Toronto Film School in 2017 – including one film making its premiere at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival next month.

 

Directed by Mercedes Bryce Morgan, Fixation is a feature thriller that tells the story of a young woman who undergoes psychiatric evaluation before her sentencing in an unusual murder trial. But as the tests become more personal and frightening, the woman begins to question the true motives of her doctors.

 

Smith described working on the Sudbury set of Fixation as a 3rd AD back in October 2020 as one of her favourite experiences yet.

 

“It was a great experience, as I was able to work with an amazing 1st AD and director from Los Angeles,” she said of the film, half of which was shot at an abandoned hospital.

 

“There were a lot of moving parts to that film, and I was able to further my experience with safety on set when using squibs, weapons, and stunts.”

 

Smith credits the connections she made during her time at TFS with helping her land the job on Fixation, which was 2nd AD’ed by fellow grad Camille Lortie.

 

“Almost every production I work on, I run into crew members who attended TFS at one point,” she said. “Network connections are something I learned are of the utmost importance in this industry, and somehow TFS alumni always find each other on productions, which is kinda neat.”

 

Over the past couple years, Smith has also worked as a 3rd and 4th AD on several Lionsgate/BuzzFeed movies, including My Fake Boyfriend, Dear David, and 1Up; as a 2nd AD on the the Lionsgate/Cr8tiv DNA film Escape the Field; and as the 1st AD on Wickensburg, starring Denise Richards and Steve Byers, and One In A Million with Champlain Media East. She’s now working as the 1st AD on a yet-to-be-announced new feature film that’s in currently in pre-production and slated to begin filming in September.

 

 

2022 Acting for Film, TV & the Theatre grad Steve Diouf stars in Larry

 

2022 Acting for Film, TV & the Theatre grad Steve Diouf recently appeared as a series regular on the CBC French language drama, Larry.

 

Produced by Avenue Productions and released this summer, Larry follows the story of a disgraced former undercover cop, whose wife is left disabled after the couple get caught in a shootout between two rival street gangs. Diouf plays Anthony Coulibaly, a member of one of the gangs.

 

“One of my biggest takeaways from acting on this show is that being an actor in the film industry requires a lot of passion and dedication,” Diouf said of the experience.

 

“I worked 12-hour days at times and had to keep my energy up throughout. It was my passion for the craft of acting that kept me engaged and positive throughout.”

 

Diouf credits his time at Toronto Film School for setting him up for success in the industry.

 

“My (TFS) teachers offered me the knowledge and tools that have helped me gain confidence when acting,” he said. “From acting warm-ups, to diction exercises, to conducting a script analysis, the practical skills that I acquired at TFS are easily applicable and greatly beneficial to my time on set.”

 

Diouf is also currently pursuing his Bachelor of Creative Arts degree at TFS’s affiliate, Yorkville University, while also filming his next project – a lead role in a French language series for Crave titled Après Le Déluge, which is set to be released in December 2022.

 

 

Evan Annisette on Apple TV’s Five Days at Memorial

 

Evan Annisette, who graduated from TFS’s Acting for Film, TV & the Theatre program in 2017, recently landed an acting gig on Apple TV’s Five Days at Memorial, starring Vera Farmiga.

 

The miniseries follows the doctors and nurses and the intensive care unit of a New Orleans hospital as they struggle to treat patients in the wake Hurricane Katrina, which left the facility without power for five days.

 

Annisette plays a Highwater National Guardsman, whose mission is to transport patients from Memorial Hospital to a safe medical facility in Texas.

 

“Working on Five Days at Memorial was by far my most exciting set experience yet,” said Annisette, whose other recent credits include The Expanse, Odd Squad: Mobile Unit and The Kings of Napa. “The sheer magnitude of that whole operation was really impressive to see and incredible to be a part of.”

 

Another highlight of working on the set of Five Days at Memorial, he said, was the opportunity to work alongside Farmiga – an experience he characterized as “an absolute treat.”

 

“Not only is she a very captivating actor to watch, she is also a truly lovely human being. Watching Vera work was perhaps my biggest takeaway from that experience. Throughout the very long and extremely hot August day on set, she maintained poise and treated everyone on set with such respect. A real pro,” he said.

 

“Working on Five Days at Memorial was like a masterclass on set etiquette and operations. It takes a lot of really devoted and disciplined people to keep a machine like that working properly.

 

Annisette also recently landed a gig on Netflix’s Locke & Key playing a library security guard.

 

 

 

Class of 2018 Film Production alumnus Edette Wehmeyer recently worked as an Art Director on the set of the Netflix film, Office Invasion.

 

The sci-fi comedy marked Wehmeyer’s second project working with Motion Story – an independent film and television studio based in Rosebank, South Africa.

 

“Trying to break into the local industry, I started working for them as an intern on their series, Dead Places, but was quickly promoted to set decorator and then hired as Art Director for Office Invasion,” Wehmeyer said of the project, which was filmed in the first half of 2021 during Covid restrictions. “In the doom and gloom of the pandemic, we thought a light-hearted South African sci-fi comedy would be well received.”

 

Wehmeyer said her biggest takeaway from working on Office Invasion was the importance of contributing beyond the strict responsibilities of your title – especially when working on independent productions.

 

“Everyone helped out wherever they were needed, and this great team accomplished much more through collaboration and teamwork than larger production teams,” she said, describing the on-set atmosphere as a light and upbeat one.

 

“During a production, your personal life needs to take a back seat and Office Invasion was a good example of this. Working in the art department is a lot of physical work, and adding night shoots, multiple locations and the normal stresses of a shoot  – you need to be very passionate and a little crazy to see it through to a successful wrap.”

 

Since wrapping Office Invasion, Wehmeyer’s journey with Motion Story has continued, and she recently wrapped on a new, as-yet unannounced new series.

 

Faculty News:

 

Michael Paszt and Michaelangelo Masangkay, The Fight Machine.

 

Toronto Film School instructors Michael Paszt and Michaelangelo Masangkay recently saw their film, The Fight Machine, take home the Gold Audience Award for Best Canadian Feature at Montreal’s Fantasia Festival.

 

Distributed by the pair’s company, Raven Banner Entertainment, The Fight Machine was executive produced by Paszt and associate produced by Masangkay, who also worked as an on-set drone operator on the project.

 

The film follows two young men from different backgrounds, who find their destinies linked when they meet up in the world of illegal bare-knuckle fighting.

 

It is hailed by Austin Chronicle critic Richard Whittaker as a “gut-punch of a movie, not about the catharsis of a knock-out blow, but the slow grind of a solid beating.”