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January Spotlight | Amazing Alumni, Student & Faculty Accomplishments

At Toronto Film School, we never cease to be amazed by the accomplishments of our awesome alumni, students and faculty, who are out pursuing their dreams in the creative industries – be it landing their dream jobs, winning awards, celebrating their latest project’s Netflix release, or having their films selected to screen at prestigious film festivals!

Here are some of the recent standout highlights from Toronto Film School’s talented community of creatives:

Anthony Armstrong

Video Game Grad Anthony Armstrong Lands ‘Dream Job’ at Ubisoft Toronto

Class of 2018 Video Game Design & Development grad Anthony Armstrong recently landed his dream job at Ubisoft Toronto.

Armstrong, who graduated with his Bachelor of Business Administration degree from TFS affiliate, Yorkville University, in 2023, is now working as a UI Integrator for Ubisoft, a video game publishing giant that owns over 45 development studios and employs over 20,000 people.

“Working at Ubisoft has been a dream of mine since I was a teen and one of the driving factors in enrolling at TFS for me. So, to be here today is truly a dream come true, as well as validating what I always tell the students I talk to: ‘You get out of the course what you put in. Go the extra mile, stay late, learn outside of class, find your passion, and never stop fighting to achieve your dreams,’” he said.

“This role has been life changing for me, even more than just an amazing job. From day one of the interview process, the team at Ubisoft showed their passion, while being more supportive, open, and caring than any employer I’ve ever worked for, including the army.”

As Ubisoft’s newest UI Integrator, Armstrong is putting to use some of the skills he learned in class – noting that his new role entails many of the duties he took on during his capstone project at TFS, including working as a bridge between the art team and programming team and bringing UI assets to life with Ubisoft’s logic-based visual scripting engine, Snowdrop.

While the project his new team is currently working on is still “very hush-hush”, Armstrong assured that it’s “a really exciting, unannounced title in one of the studio’s core franchises.”

Now that he’s achieved his own dream, Armstrong is keen to share the lessons he’s learned along the way with Video Game Design & Development students who wish to follow in his footsteps.

“The best advice I can give is not to doubt yourself and your abilities. Showcase your work, build games while you search, keep your portfolio up to date with a section highlighting your personality, and most of all, network with people in the industry,” he advised.

“And when I say network, I don’t mean message every hiring manager and recruiter on LinkedIn. Do your best to create a real, professional relationships with a select few recruiters from studios you know you want to work at. Get out to TFS networking events, too – you can meet some surprising industry connections you would never expect.”

Dhruv Goes

Film Production Student Celebrates Release of Jigarthanda DoubleX on Netflix

Sixth term Film Production student Dhruv Goel recently celebrated the release of his latest project, Jigarthanda DoubleX, on Netflix.

Set in the 1970s, the Indian action-comedy was directed by Karthik Subbaraj and revolves around a filmmaker and a gangster collaborating to make a Western film.

Karthik Subbaraj

“Being part of a project like Jigarthanda DoubleX, which is set to reach a massive Netflix audience, is truly surreal. It’s a unique feeling for me that the work we all put into each frame and every lighting setup will be enjoyed by viewers worldwide,” he said, noting that the film celebrated its theatrical release on Nov. 10, followed by its Netflix debut on Dec. 8.

“The thought that people from different corners of the globe will experience the film on such a prominent platform adds an extra layer of pride for me to the entire filmmaking process.”

Goel worked as an intern with the film’s camera department under cinematographer S. Tirru, one of Bollywood leading directors of photography. His main duties, he said, was to check focus on the monitors and help the gaffers out with lighting.

“Being part of Jigarthanda DoubleX was a dream. Toronto Film School taught me the skills I needed, and it felt great to use them in real life,” he said.

“With DP Tirru, my focus on the monitor involved not just observation, but also a technical evaluation of shot compositions. Collaborating with the gaffers, I applied my TFS-learned skills to optimize lighting conditions, contributing to the film’s visual narrative.”

Tommy Mayberry

Director of TFS’s Centre for Teaching Excellence and Innovation Wins Lavender Rhetorics Awards

Tommy Mayberry, the Director of Toronto Film School’s Centre for Teaching Excellence and Innovation, was recently announced as a 2024 winner of the Lavender Rhetorics Award for Excellence in Queer Scholarship.

Presented annually by the Conference on College Composition and Communication, the award honours four works (one book, one book chapter or article, one dissertation and one non-traditional scholarly work) that “best make queer interventions into the study of composition and rhetoric.”

“It is beyond an absolute honour to have my work recognized as being Excellent in Queer Scholarship, especially from CCCCs, which is the biggest professional organization in the world dedicated to writing research, theory, and teaching, and even more so to be recognized and celebrated from my peers who are my leaders and scholarly teachers in this work and field,” said Mayberry, who will be presenting at the CCCC 2024 Convention in Spokane, Washington in April, speaking on and chairing the panel Critically Racing Anti-Racist Rhetorics in Abundantly White(ly) Classrooms.

Mayberry was recognized with the Lavender Rhetorics Award for their book chapter,Teaching Can Be a Real Drag (Show); Or, Move over, Sage! That Stage Is Mine’, which was published in December 2022 in the collection Visual Pedagogies: Concepts, Cases and Practices.

The research in this award-winning chapter explores visual pedagogies through a sincere and earnest look at Mayberry’s life as an academic drag queen, one that is congruent of academic and drag cultures, of traditional teaching and dragged-up pedagogies.

“I’ve been doing drag academically – as this chapter actually outlines and explores – since my early grad school days, and this pedagogical intervention of mine has been something I’ve been researching, reflecting on, and developing since I started teaching in post-secondary education,” they said.

Tommy Mayberry RuPaul Audition

‘Teaching Can Be a Real Drag (Show)’ reflects on personal stories and anecdotes from Mayberry’s classrooms, and even their audition tape for the fifth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race – bringing together a constellation of frameworks, theories, and ideas from transgender visuality, queer phenomenology, and visual performance as they position themself as a social justice leader with an anti-imperialist inclusive pedagogy and practice.

The award’s selection committee lauded Mayberry for their use of transmodalities, visual rhetorics and embodied knowledge of their own experience with drag “to offer new insights into visual rhetorical pedagogies and practices.”

“In an era where drag performance is increasingly commonplace, Mayberry’s scholarship reminds us of the pleasures of performance and the value of placing embodied, visual rhetorics meaningfully into our learning spaces,” the selection committee noted.

Mayberry will be announced as a recipient of the Lavender Rhetorics Award for Excellence in Queer Scholarship’s Book Chapter Award at the CCCC Awards Presentation on Friday, April 5, during the 2024 CCCC Annual Convention in Spokane, Washington.

Andrew DiPardo

Screenwriting Grad Andrew Di Pardo Releases Animated Short, The Angry Cook

Class of 2015 Writing for Film & Television grad Andrew Di Pardo recently released his newest film – an animated short called The Angry Cook: Deli Nightmares.

Conceived alongside Jon Pierce back in 2018, the pair drew from their experiences working in restaurants as inspiration for the film’s plot.

“It was loosely based on how a cook we knew would react when getting angry at last-second orders before closing,” he said.

“We took the anger idea one step further and into a very dark, twisted direction, as we made him kill the people he found responsible for his unhappiness in the job.”

Di Pardo was also able to enlist the help of two Disney animators, Matthew Quan-Yin (one of his childhood friends) and Kyron Miller, who both jumped at the chance to work on the project after reading its concept.

“It was a great experience making this film. It was in the making since 2019 and got delayed and even cancelled at one point, due to COVID,” said Di Pardo.

“But now, with the help of AI technology, I was able to take the concepts that were made by Matthew and Kyron and turn them into a small horror animation film. This is the most unique project I have ever made, and I am very satisfied with the results.”

The Angry Cook: Deli Nightmares is currently available on YouTube. Di Pardo plans to expand the film’s reach on the festival circuit in Canada and the U.S. later this year.

Jax Guillen

Film Production Grad Jax Guillen’s Short Film ‘Ivory Tulle’ Screens at 2023 CineFAM Film Festival

Class of 2022 Film Production grad Jax Guillen’s TFS thesis film, Ivory Tulle, recently screened at the CineFAM Annual Film Festival.

The annual festival, which took place in December at Toronto’s TIFF Bell Lightbox, is a three-day celebration of bold, original film stories by Canadian women and non-binary creators of colour.

Guillen said that, as an emerging filmmaker, seeing her story chosen to be screened alongside those of other underrepresented creators – especially women of color – at the festival was an incredibly fulfilling experience.

“It’s more than just a recognition; it’s a validation of the stories we breathe life into,” said Guillen, who’s now working as a Teaching Assistant in the Editing Department at TFS, while studying towards her Bachelor of Creative Arts degree at TFS affiliate, Yorkville University.

“I put a lot of heart into this project and this recognition makes me feel seen and understood. I hope that this opportunity inspires creators from underrepresented groups to continue creating meaningful, authentic stories that resonate with their communities, as well.”

Ivory Tulle, which features an all-Filipino cast, follows bride-to-be Teresa, as she struggles to prepare for her wedding day amid pressure from her family and friends to invite her estranged father to the ceremony.

Nominated for Best Picture at the 2023 TFS Festival of Films, the nine-minute film marks Guillen’s first contribution to increasing Filipino representation in film and has been screened at various international film festivals.

“TFS played a significant role in enabling me to achieve what I have with this film, and I am truly grateful for the support.”

Geo LaForme

Screenwriting Alum Geo LaForme’s Short Story to be Published in Horror Anthology

Class of 2022 Writing for Film & Television grad Geo LaForme recently had his short story, Digestion, selected for publication in the upcoming horror anthology, Demons and Death Drops.

Soon to be published by Little Ghosts Books – a queer-owned horror bookstore and publisher based in Toronto – Digestion follows the story of a trans male musician and the desperate struggle with vocal dysphoria that leads him to swallow a parasite in an attempt to gain a voice of his own.

“It’s a gruesome body horror that shows the desperation and visceral discomfort of what it is like to live in your own skin as a trans person and the lengths one will go to feel any comfort at all,” said LaForme, who’s currently studying towards his Bachelor of Creative Arts degree at TFS affiliate, Yorkville University.

As a first-time published author, LaForme said the experience of working with Little Ghosts to bring Digestion to life on the page an “astounding” one.

“I loved working with the publisher and seeing my work transform from idea to reality,” he said, noting that he found the call-out for story submissions for the Demons and Death Drops anthology by following Little Ghosts Books on social media.

“It was with the confidence I earned from TFS and my fellow writers that I went for it. I’m so proud of myself for making this first large step in my life as a writer and hope to see many more.”

You can follow LaForme and his “hijinks as a creative writer, trans and Indigenous advocate and overall frog loving crimes” at @the.best.goblin.boy

 

Cynthia Reason

Cynthia Reason (she/her) is a former newspaper journalist turned communications professional who currently works as Toronto Film School’s Manager of Communications. Prior to joining TFS, she spent 13 years working as a reporter for Torstar/Metroland Media Toronto, writing for publications including Toronto.com, the Etobicoke Guardian, and the Toronto Star, among others. Her byline has also appeared in the National Post. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Guelph and Post-Graduate Diploma in Journalism from Humber College.

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