Toronto Film School Celebrates Class of 2021 with Virtual Graduation Celebration

“Be bold! Don’t hold back! Make opportunities happen for yourself!”


Those were just a few of the motivational messages imparted on the nearly 500 graduates who took part in Toronto Film School’s 2021 virtual convocation ceremony, which was recently live-streamed to an audience of more than 500 people from all around the world.



“This year, we are celebrating your achievements virtually. We are rolling with the punches, staying safe, and hoping that opportunities to gather together are not long off,” Toronto Film School’s Emmy-winning President Andrew Barnsley told graduates in his opening remarks.


“Important matters remain, though. You have graduated, and my colleagues and I are excited to greet you and celebrate your achievements with you…You have graduated, and you are now equipped to build your careers in your chosen fields. And we are all very proud of you.”


In total, Toronto Film School’s 2021 virtual graduation saw 475 graduates mark their convocation from Toronto Film School’s array of on-campus and online programs, including: Acting for Film, TV & the TheatreFashion DesignFilm ProductionGraphic Design & Interactive MediaMarketing for Fashion & EntertainmentVideo Game Design & AnimationVideo Game Design & DevelopmentVideo ProductionWriting for Film & Television; and Interior Decorating (offered through Yorkville University).


Over the course of the 90-minute celebration, Toronto Film School recognized the hard work and dedication demonstrated by each and every member of its Class of 2021 in many ways – perhaps most notably with a special surprise keynote address from Canadian Screen Award-nominated actor, writer, director and producer Allan Hawco.



Known for his work on Republic of Doyle – the hit CBC series on which he not only served as star, but also as creator, writer, and executive producer – Hawco is also recognized for his acting roles on series such as Amazon Prime’s Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, Netflix’s Frontier, and CBC’s The Book of Negroes.


During his address, Hawco hearkened back to a time when he, too, was starting in the television industry – and the dedication and drive it took to get him to the enviable position he enjoys today.


“Long before I created and produced, wrote and starred in Republic of Doyle or Caught or any of the big things I was lucky to be a part of, I was just another hoping-to-be-working, struggling actor auditioning as much as I could, booking whatever I was able, taking part-time Joe jobs to pay my rent,” he said.


“I can tell you, I was pretty ambitious. And I still am. I’ve always known what I deeply, truly wanted…It wasn’t to be famous or to be wealthy or whatever. No, what I wanted more than anything was to have control over my own story.”


To get himself into the driver’s seat of his career, Hawco said he partnered up with some friends to found The Company Theatre in 2004 at age 24. For the independent company’s ambitious first show, Tom Murphy’s A Whistle in the Dark, he and his fellow founders raised nearly $250,000 in a single year.


“In the end, it was received with enormous commercial and critical acclaim. It was a hit, and so was I. It was the role of a lifetime for me, and that experience changed me forever. I showed myself and whomever else that I could play whatever role I wanted,” he recalled.


“But the big lesson I took away from that experience was that, unless you’re willing to put yourself out there, and actually go after what you want, you’ll never, ever know what could have been possible.”



That was precisely the approach Jessica Angelevski – this year’s Davisville Campus valedictorian – took when it came to tackling her 12 months of study in the Graphic Design & Interactive Media program.


“Ever since orientation day at TFS, I knew I would take whatever it took to become valedictorian. I knew I wanted to put as much as I could into my time here and excel to my highest potential,” she recalled during her valedictory address to her fellow graduates.


“After all, I figured the work you put in shows in the work you put out, and my goal was to ensure my portfolio was strong enough to present to employers by the end of the year.”


Just a month after wrapping her studies at TFS, Angelevski did just that when she landed a full-time job as an in-house graphic designer at a medium-sized industrial company.


“It was such an exciting moment that I literally screamed once getting off the call after my last interview…It felt so nice that things came full circle from starting the program with the goal of being prepared for a job right out of school – and then having it happen.”



For Aiman Abdo Al-Shargabi, this year’s Toronto Film School Online valedictorian, filmmaking emerged as a passion at a time he needed it most. Living in civil war-torn Yemen and battling a deep depression at the time, he credits stories with keeping him alive.


“My only pleasure was fiction: I read novels and watched films and wrote short stories,” he recalled during his address from Cairo, Egypt, noting that it wasn’t long before he began attempting to bring his stories to life on film.


“The first time I was filming, and I saw my imagined story fleshing out before my very eyes…at this moment, I felt connected to the world again. I knew from my deep heart that this was the thing I wanted to spend my life doing.”


After fleeing to Egypt, Al-Shargabi began his self-studies in filmmaking, oftentimes translating English textbooks word by word, sentence by sentence. Still, his thirst for more knowledge only grew stronger. In Toronto Film School’s Online Video Production program, he finally found the mentorship he had been craving.


“My professors were thousands of miles away, but closer to me than anyone else,” he said, noting that he now works as a writer and director for a production company in Cairo and hopes to own his own business within the next year.


“I know this is just the start – and there is much more to do in the future, but I don’t care…When you find your passion, when pleasure is in the struggle and in the pain, success may be waiting down the road.


“Goals are not everything – it’s the path that matters.”



That sentiment was echoed by Dundas Campus valedictorian Sunmin Oh, who quoted Henry Miller during her address to Toronto Film School’s Class of 2021.


“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.’ If this teaches us anything, we’re continuously moving forward as resilient beings who are here to celebrate our evolution as artists, and most importantly, as humans,” said Oh, an Acting for Film, TV & the Theatre graduate who immigrated to Vancouver from Seoul, South Korea at age five.


“My journey to, (at) and from TFS is only one voice and one story out of so many. However, I believe that is what makes TFS so diverse and so special. Toronto Film School is a mosaic of storytellers, all wanting to share and give the gift of stories. And I am humbled and honoured to have the opportunity to share mine.”



2021 Program Valedictorians: 

– Acting for Film, TV & the Theatre | Sunmin Oh

– Fashion Design | Marlon Mendoza

– Film Production | Jessica Pfamzelt

– Graphic Design & Interactive Media | Jessica Angelevski

– Interior Decorating | Meredith Arnold

– Marketing for Fashion & Entertainment | Andrew Mukama

– Online Designing for Fashion | Dominique Levesque

– Online Graphic Design & Interactive Media | Carolina Balderas

– Online Video Game Animation | Elena Schulz

– Online Video Production | Aiman Abdo Al-Shargabi

– Online Writing for Film & Television | Francesco Borrelli

– Video Game Design & Animation | Maria Gabriela Tapia Nieto

– Video Game Design & Development | Cameron Clark

– Writing for Film & Television | Melissa Zbozny


2021 TFS Program Awards: 

– Best Video Game Developer | Cameron Clark

– Best Video Game Animator | Maria Gabriela Tapia Nieto

– Creativity & Business (Fashion Design)| Marlon Mendoza

– Creativity in Business (Marketing for Fashion) | Andrew Mukama

– Excellence in Graphic Design | Anthony Pingitore

– Best Actor | Sunmin Oh

– Distinguished Filmmaker | Mario Freitas

– Best Screenwriter | Amber Matin


2021 TFSO Program Awards:

– Academic & Creative Achievement (Video Production) | Peter Collins

– Excellence in Graphic Design | Kathryn Beunder

– Best Video Game Animator | Elena Schulz

– Best Screenwriter | Andrew Hopps

– Creativity & Business (Designing for Fashion) | Dominique Levesque

– Creativity in Design (Interior Decorating) | Meredith Arnold


2021 TFS President’s Awards (graduating student with highest cumulative average): 

– Video Game Design & Animation | Maria Gabriela Tapia Nieto

– Video Game Design & Development | Joshua Smith

– Fashion Design | Monette Kuittinen-Dhaoui

– Marketing for Fashion & Entertainment | Kristen Tassiopoulos

– Graphic Design & Interactive Media | Batul Moiz

– Acting for Film, TV & the Theatre | Sunmin Oh

– Film Production | Jamie Norrie

– Writing for Film & Television | Stacey Jansen & Melissa Zbozny


2021 TFSO President’s Awards (graduating student with highest cumulative average):

 – Video Production Online | Jillian Scrimger

– Graphic Design & Interactive Media Online | Shane Hitchcock

– Video Game Animation Online | Kyle Charman

– Writing for Film & Television Online | Monica Tourond

– Designing for Fashion Online | Dominique Levesque

– Interior Decorating Online | Meredith Arnold



To close out the night, Barnsley took one last chance to congratulate Toronto Film School’s newly minted alumni and to encourage them to stay connected to the school and to each other.


“By virtue of your new status as graduates, you are all members of the Toronto Film School alumni community. As a TFS graduate, this means that you have access to an active community online for sharing resources, ideas, advice, career development strategies and job postings,” he said.


“You’ve graduated from a very special place. Toronto Film School is recognized as a prestigious school that delivers world-class graduates to the creative industries….Be proud of what you’ve already achieved and know that the Toronto Film School community will be watching with pride as you build your careers.”