“Now go forth and be awesome!”
That was the crux of the motivational messaging delivered to the nearly 700 graduates who took part in Toronto Film School’s first-ever virtual convocation ceremony, which was recently live-streamed to an audience of more an 1,000 people from all around the world.
“This is certainly different. Normally, I would be welcoming you to the Toronto Arts Centre and I’d be staring out at you and your family and friends packed into a 500-seat venue,” Dr. Rick Davey, President of Toronto Film School, explained to graduates in his opening remarks.
“Not this year. This year, I’m in the Rick Bennett Studio and you are anywhere you want to be. Yet, the important matters remain. You have graduated, and I and my colleagues are excited to greet you and to celebrate your achievements.”
Over the course of the 90-minute celebration that followed, Toronto Film School paid tribute to the hard work and dedication demonstrated by the members of its Class of 2019 and 2020 graduates. The full ceremony can be viewed here.
In total, 698 graduates marked their convocation from Toronto Film School’s array of on-campus and online programs, including: Acting for Film, TV & the Theatre; Fashion Design; Film Production; Graphic Design & Interactive Media; Marketing for Fashion & Entertainment; Video Game Design & Animation; Video Game Design & Development; Video Production; and Writing for Film & Television.
During his keynote address, Toronto Film School’s Executive Producer in Residence Andrew Barnsley lauded graduates for their “monumental” achievements in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic – drawing parallels between their academic successes and his professional ones.
“Like you, I had a tough year…But, like you, I had something monumental to celebrate in 2020: a television series that I poured my heart and soul into over the last seven years of my life made history,” he said, referencing Schitt’s Creek’s unprecedented Emmy run.
“I had a 2020 moment when I needed it most, just like you are having your moment right now.”
And just as he did when celebrating his Emmy wins, Barnsley urged Toronto Film School graduates to take time out to reflect on everything and everyone who helped contribute to their success – from the family and friends who helped shape their worldviews, to the risks they took to pursue their passions, to the classrooms where they laid their educational foundations upon which their future careers will be built.
“I thought about my life from every angle possible to fully grasp what my Emmy achievement meant, and I encourage you all to do the same with your graduation,” Barnsley urged.
“When you leave…here today, think about what you’ve done here at Toronto Film School. Think about where you’re going. Think about your people and why you’re on this path. Think about what gets you out of bed in the morning. Think about your dream. Think about the risks you’ve already taken to get here and what you’ve learned from them,” he added.
“Now is a time for reflection, and believe me, when you go through the process of truly taking inventory, you are going to inspire yourselves and recognize that you’re only getting started…You’ve all built yourselves a solid foundation that’s going to open doors and create opportunities for you for the rest of your life. But you’re just getting started. Dream big, stay focused, and be accountable to you.”
Upon reflecting back on her time at Toronto Film School, Davisville Campus valedictorian Alanna Moness characterized the last 18 months as a “truly transformative time.”
“I can’t help but compare myself to the person I was just a mere two years ago. In addition to earning the diploma I worked very hard for, I am proud to say that my studies at Toronto Film School gave me the confidence, direction and career path that cannot be taught anywhere else,” said the Marketing for Fashion & Entertainment grad who aspires to a career in merchandising or allocation with Aritzia.
“Both my personal and my intellectual growth are a true testament to Toronto Film School’s faculty and curriculum. And for that, I am forever grateful.”
“I cannot believe it is our graduation today, but it does not feel like it’s the end of an era. I feel like it is the beginning of a journey today – a fantastic journey where there’s never a dull moment…,” he said, lauding TFSO faculty for preparing him to launch his new career as a cinematographer, sound mixer and producer behind many different TV and web series, commercials, music videos and short films.
“The one thing I know for sure is that we begin our careers today and it is not just another ordinary job. It is an adventure, and that adventure began when we joined Toronto Film School.”
“My fellow graduates, today we celebrate a major achievement in our academic lives, as well as the sacrifice and hard work that went into it. It wasn’t easy, but we did it. Today we graduate…with a competitive portfolio and the training it takes to make it in our respective fields and create our own stories,” he said.
“Graduating from TFS is undeniably the happiest and proudest day of my life, and all I can do I smile and shake my head at how long it took me to get here. It’s true what I’m about to say: It doesn’t matter how much time it takes you to get your shit together, just as long as you do.”
2020 Program Valedictorians:
– Acting for Film, TV & the Theatre – Trenton Hawkins
– Fashion Design – Shannan MacKenzie-Hall
– Film Production – Siobhan Kiely
– Graphic Design & Interactive Media – Emilee Lemire
– Marketing for Fashion & Entertainment – Alanna Moness
– Online Graphic Design & Interactive Media – Zach Derbecker
– Online Video Game Animation – Nathaniel Rudichuk
– Online Video Production – Jury Rodionov
– Online Writing for Film & Television – Adam May
– Video Game Design & Animation – Priscille Beaulieu
– Video Game Design & Development – Sergio Chiraz
– Writing for Film & Television – Rodney Roy
2020 Program Awards:
– Best Video Game Developer | Jackie Ching Ting Lin
– Creativity in Business – Fashion Design | Shannan MacKenzie-Hall
– Creativity in Business – Marketing for Fashion & Entertainment | Margaret McConkey
– Excellence in Graphic Design | Wynand Vanluttikhuizen
– Best Actor | Joseph Dancey
– Distinguished Filmmaker | Maxim Baraliuc
– Best Screenwriter | Gabriel Bastidas & Rebecca Black
2020 President’s Awards (graduating student with highest cumulative average):
– Video Game Design & Animation | Anthony Rietze
– Fashion Design | Shannan MacKenzie-Hall
– Marketing for Fashion & Entertainment | Alanna Moness
– Graphic Design & Interactive Media | Emilee Lemire
– Acting for Film, TV & the Theatre | Heather Hedley
– Film Production | Siobhan Kiely
– Writing for Film & Television | Misty Lambert
– Video Production | Jury Rodionov
To close out the night, Davey took one last chance to congratulate Toronto Film School’s newly minted alumni and reflect on why graduations are his favourite celebrations.
“Your parents, partners, children are thinking about what you have achieved. They are looking forward to all the possibilities ahead. And that’s why graduations are such special events,” he said.
“They identify the people who matter to you and they evoke memories and possibilities for everyone involved. And that’s why graduations are my favourite celebrations – perhaps especially this year, when we yearn for something special.”