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November Spotlight | Amazing Alumni, Faculty & Staff Accomplishments

At Toronto Film School, we never cease to be amazed by the accomplishments of our awesome alumni, faculty, staff and students who are out pursuing their dreams in the creative industries – be it celebrating their latest premieres on festival red carpets, securing grants for their latest projects, or winning awards for their work!

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

Sebastian Montiel and Jose Parables

Sebastian Montiel & Jose Perabeles Release Trailer for Simplicity of Chaos

Class of 2018 Film Production grads Sebastian Montiel and Jose Perabeles recently released the trailer to their “labor of love,” Simplicity of Chaos – a “visual portrait” of contemporary abstract artist, Carlos Delgado.

“Our project has taken us on an incredible journey, including a trip to Colombia, where I am currently based, exploring ways to attract potential producers, co-productions, production companies, sponsors, funds, and any support that can help us continue developing our visual portrait,” Montiel said.

“This film is not only a labor of love, but also a testament to the skills and knowledge we gained during our time at TFS. It encapsulates the spirit of creativity and dedication that our alma mater instilled in us.”

Carlos Delgado

Simplicity of Chaos explores the profound relationship between art and humanity through Delgado’s unique journey, highlighting how his Indigenous Colombian heritage and self-taught artistic path in Canada have shaped a distinctive, globally recognized style.

“The film celebrates the transformative power of art in Delgado’s life and its ability to bridge cultural boundaries,” Montiel said, noting that it also offers an intimate look the artist’s evolution, exhibitions and live performances, providing insight into his creative process and emotional connection with his audience.

“Ultimately, the film showcases the universal and timeless impact of art on both the artist and society, offering an introspective perspective on the artist’s journey.”

Montiel and Perabeles’ goal, they said, is to submit Simplicity of Chaos to film festivals, including the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and Hot Docs, amongst others, in order to “share this inspiring artist’s story with a global audience.”

Watch the trailer for Simplicity of Chaos here:

Emilija Davidovic & Alfio Foti Awarded Canada Council for the Arts Grant

Class of 2015 Film Production grads Emilija Davidovic and Alfio Foti were recently awarded a Canada Council for the Arts grant for their short documentary, SUGO!

Directed by Foti and produced by Davidovic, SUGO! tells the story of Italian immigration to Canada through the lens of Italian immigrants in Toronto continuing their tradition of making tomato sauce using local ingredients.

“What this project aims to unfold is the connection between the tradition of preparing, jarring, and consuming tomato sauce, and the role that food plays in perpetuating Italian culture in Canada,” explained Foti.

“Much like tomatoes being jarred at the end of the summer, Italian culture outside of Italy has been preserved through the dedicated continuation of food rituals and customs.”

Shot partially in Italy this past September, Foti said the idea for SUGO! began with an initial plan to simply capture a “home video” of sorts of his grandparents and immediate family working together to make tomato sauce – a tradition that has existed in his family for many generations.

From there, the idea only grew, ultimately culminating in a week-long shoot in Italy with an “amazing” crew consisting of cinematographer Matthew Di Girolamo, sound recordist Charles Tilden, and Davidovic, whom Foti said,“can adapt to anything and who made this project flourish while abroad.”

Despite the growth in scope of the project, Foti said that, in a way, he’s still working on SUGO! with the same intuitive expression and goal of showing his family and culture as they are, “but with the help of an expert team and larger than life characters I could have ever imagined.”

“This is an exploration of tradition, how it’s traveled through time, and how it’s kept alive by immigrant communities till this day,” he said, noting that the film’s Italian shoot took him and his crew from the small town of Lanciano, where his mother’s family is from, to Rocella, to Serra San Bruno, to Nicotera in Calabria – all accompanied by his parents Salvatore and Susie Foti, who acted as translators and fixers.

For Davidovic, a first-generation Canadian herself, the personal connection she felt to this project and its purpose has been evident from day one.

“As Alfio states in his narrative, the need to continue the tradition from the source culture truly is an instinct and it happens almost effortlessly,” she said.

“I was born and raised in Serbia, so Italy was very close to us – both geographically, as well as in terms of mentality and lifestyle. Being able to tell such an important and wonderful story, while being fully immersed in the culture and locals’ everyday lives, was genuinely a privilege.”

Currently in post-production, the making of SUGO! wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the Canada Council for the Arts grant, she said.

“We got the grant on the federal level, so from Canada Arts Council, but we also applied to the Toronto Arts Council, for a little boost. I work with these grants most often and, thanks to them, local artists can get their projects made while not sacrificing their creative integrity,” said Davidovic, who now teaches Production Management at TFS.

“The best part is that all these opportunities become available to our students once they graduate – and I know at least a few who benefited and furthered their careers through arts councils.”

Paul Graham

Paul Graham’s Pilot Named Final Draft Semi-Finalist

Online Writing for Film & TV grad Paul Graham was recently named a semi-finalist in Final Draft’s 2023 Big Break Screenwriting Contest – an annual, international screenwriting contest designed to help launch the careers of aspiring writers.

Graham, the University Librarian at TFS’s affiliate, Yorkville University, was recognized in the Half-Hour Pilot category for his pilot, Tales From Bear Trap Point.

Paul Graham as kid

Based on his real-life childhood growing up in Bear Trap Point, New Brunswick during the ’80s and ’90s, the show is about the dysfunctional-functional dynamics of family life in rural Atlantic Canada, and how family has the potential to embarrass you in a big way, but still be loving and supportive.

“For years I’ve entertained friends and colleagues with all the stories of my whacky relatives. Did your father ever have mall security track you down just to help him pick out the right kind of ‘stretchy pants’ to fit his beer belly? Mine did,” Graham said.

“He also started every home repair project with a 6-pack of Moosehead beer and a chainsaw. And that’s just my father! Over the years I’ve always been at a loss to know what to do with all that great material, all of the surreal stories…until a friend recommended TFS’s writing program. It was a no brainer – all of this material had to go into TV and film.”

For the Tales From Bear Trap Point pilot episode, Graham said he chose to recreate an actual event from his family’s history – the day his father refused to accept that he’d missed out on a sale of a new dining set he wanted at the local mall.

“He made our family sit in the chairs in the middle of the store while he protested to the manager,” Graham laughed. “Spoiler alert: we left with a deal on the table and chairs, but not without a major standoff between my father and the part-time weekend manager.”

Graham and his dad, Charles, at his childhood home in Bear Trap Point

Graham said the quarterfinal recognition he received from Final Draft for his pilot episode speaks volumes to the quality of teaching at Toronto Film School.

“This is my first time submitting a professionally prepared script to the Final Draft writing contest, and on my first attempt I made the cut of thousands of entries,” he said.

“Besides just adding it to my resume, I think it really gives me the motivation to keep on finding ways to get my writing noticed. As the program reminds students, it’s a business as well as a creative process, so you must keep on submitting work, finding ways to grow your network, and keep looking for opportunities.”

Next up on the creative front for Graham is finding a way to merge his favourite genre of film – the road trip – with his ongoing ambition to bring his favourite childhood memories to the screen.

“I think I have a great story to write up. As a youth in the mid ’80s my family went on a massive road trip to Rhode Island to visit our US relatives. It involved two carloads of family members in massive 1970s style cars chugging down the I95 with no GPS and no maps,” he recalled.

“We got separated. We took wrong exits. We got lost (and found by the police). But we had fun. I’ll give it my best attempt to translate that whacky adventure into something worthy of more Tales from Bear Trap Point.”

Renee Cox

Renee Cox Celebrates Festival Success of Thesis Short, Pandora

Writing for Film & Television grad Renee Cox’s thesis short, Pandora, has been racking up accolades on the festival circuit this fall.

After making its world premiere at the Toronto Indie Horror Fest at Eyesore Cinema on Oct. 5, Pandora was screened again on Oct. 6 at the Great Canadian Horror Film Festival at the Royal Theatre.

The film has also brought home several awards nominations and wins – including the award for Best Thriller at the Athens International Monthly Film Festival, nominations for Best Director at the Red Fox International Film Festival, Best Mystery/Suspense/Thriller at the Couch Film Festival, and semi-final finishes at the Alternative Film Festival and Paris International Short Festival.

Great Canadian Horror Film Fest

“I had a simple goal with Pandora – to get the film into at least one film festival in October…so to have Pandora reach this level is a blessing,” said Cox, who is a Bachelor of Creative Arts student at Toronto Film School’s affiliate, Yorkville University.

“I hope audiences leave Pandora with a smile and that they can relate.”

Written and directed by Cox, the film gives a modern-day twist to the Greek myth of Pandora’s Box. It follows a young girl named Nae, who, after an argument with her mother, is sent to her grandmother’s house, where she discovers a hidden box. Despite being told not to, Nae opens the box, releasing evils that possess her grandmother. In order to save her, Nae must learn the meaning of hope.

“My first inspiration was Alfred Hitchcock movies – I love him – and the second was that I used to love Greek mythology when I was younger,” Cox explained.

“When I was assigned this thesis project, I thought I would try something new, something I never tried to write before: A thriller. I’ve mostly created music documentaries, so this was a completely different angle for me.”

Emma Hartley

Emma Hartley Named TalentEgg’s Career Coach of the Year

Toronto Film School’s Emma Hartley was recently recognized with not one, but two awards for her work as TFS and Yorkville University’s Career Services Alumni Liaison Specialist.

“I am thrilled to have been the recipient of two career education awards this summer,” she said. “This recognizes and celebrates not only my efforts, but that of the whole Career Services team at Yorkville and TFS, who work so hard to support our students with the greatest care.”

Back in June, Hartley took home TalentEgg’s Career Coach/Educator of the Year Award during the popular job site and online career resource’s National Recruitment Excellence Awards & Conference.

The award recognizes her efforts to provide YU and TFS’s grads with successful school-to-work transitions and, in doing so, making an exceptional contribution to youth employment in Canada. Hartley was selected for the honour by a panel of judges who evaluated her and her fellow nominees on:

  • How they help students and recent graduates prepare for their careers
  • The various methods they employ in order to share this information (blogs, articles, videos, in-person sessions, etc.)
  • The effectiveness and impact of their efforts

In August, Hartley was also recognized by the Career Professionals of Canada (CPC) with an Award of Excellence for Outstanding Social Media Strategist.

She was nominated, in part, for her work as the administrator of the Yorkville Alumni Facebook Group, an online community where YU grads are encouraged to share news, resources, inspiration, information and camaraderie with their fellow alumni.

The CPC also featured Hartley as a Member of the Week, lauding her as a “dedicated career educator who has provided invaluable support to numerous emerging professionals by fostering community, offering career guidance, and assisting with job searches.”

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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