Toronto Film School alumnus Jigar Thakkar recently secured an Associate Directing gig at Canada’s national broadcaster – an impressive feat he accomplished while still in school.
The Film Production grad was offered the coveted position at the CBC in December 2021, a mere weeks before he finished his studies in the 18-month program, which he completed primarily online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s exciting to have landed my first job outside of school at CBC – a strong organization that is the pride of Canada. I’m very grateful to have this great opportunity,” said Thakkar, who came to Toronto from Mumbai, India in 2020 to study at Toronto Film School.
“For me, I wanted to get a very Canadian-rooted work experience…With the CBC – a company that does everything from sports to news, to literally so much – I’m able to get a really good sense of what Canadians watch. It’s the perfect place for me to be.”
Before coming to Canada in 2020, Thakkar had already laid himself a solid foundation in the media industry back home in India.
While earning both his Bachelor’s degree in Media Studies and Master’s degree in Business Management in Mumbai, Thakkar was simultaneously working at the Disney-owned Star India – one of India’s leading media conglomerates, which reaches upwards of 700 million viewers each month.
During his nearly eight-year tenure at Star India, Thakkar worked his way from an intern, all the way up to more senior roles, including those of associate producer and deputy editor on popular shows such as Dance +.
“I’ve been working in the world of media since the age of 16 in Bombay. Star India was my home for the longest time. I was a producer creating content for them, and I reached a certain level in the eight years I worked there,” Thakkar, now 27, explained.
“Then India started experiencing a shift in terms of content consumption – a ‘global appeal’ was a much stronger ask by the audiences.”
Given that changing media landscape, Thakkar began pondering what his next career move should be sometime around November 2019. He wanted the ability to gain a more global perspective to his work and decided he needed to make a big life decision to attain it.
“I thought if I wanted to achieve this global approach, relearning everything I knew about the creation of content from an outsider’s point of view would be crucial,” he recalled. “And that’s where the journey began.”
On a lark, he decided to apply to the Canadian government for permanent residency in December 2019, and by January 2020 he was surprised to receive word that his application had been successful.
Keen to investigate the booming film industry in Toronto, Thakkar decided to book his first vacation in five years to come to the city for an exploratory visit at the end of February 2020.
“It was a crucial life change for me, so I packed up a small suitcase and flew out – made it an adventure. I found I absolutely loved the people of Canada and decided this country could be my home,” he said, noting that a tour of Toronto Film School’s downtown campus was part of his visit.
Nearing the end of what was supposed to be his three-week vacation, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, stranding Thakkar here in Toronto. Not knowing what the future held for him, Thakkar, then 25, chose to make the best of the situation.
“I thought to myself, ‘Okay, maybe this is a sign from the world,’” Thakkar laughed, noting that he hasn’t been back home to India since.
“Thankfully, I had already spoken to TFS and filled out my application, and my bosses back home were supportive of me starting my studies, so I enrolled.”
While the pandemic limited Thakkar and his classmates’ access to some on-campus learning experiences, he said Toronto Film School nevertheless “delivered everything I wanted it to deliver” – namely strong industry recognition and a faculty base of industry-active professionals he could learn from.
Of the many mentors Thakkar gained from his time at Toronto Film School, he highlighted Factual Television instructor Charlie Smith, North Country Cinema founding member Alexander (Sandy) Carson and Film Production Program Director Jordan Walker as those he gained the most from – Smith for his strength and passion, Carson for his knowledge and insights, and Walker for his enthusiasm and guidance.
“Jordan was imperative to me getting the job at CBC, because he’s the one who became my reference. He took the time to push me, and to talk to the CBC hiring manager, so he was extremely crucial to my success,” Thakkar said.
Now two-and-a-half months into his new role as an Associate Director, Thakkar has so far enjoyed being one of a team of creative and technical talents who work on CBC’s in-house projects – including news programming such as The National and Canada Tonight, special events like the Olympics and the Juno Awards, and shows such as Dragon’s Den, just to name a few.
“Every day is an exciting new day at CBC, because there are so many in-house productions happening,” he said.
“It’s exciting to be back on a set after two years and it’s exciting to have my first Canadian job outside of school. At the end of the day, I’m very grateful to have this great opportunity.”