In 2018, Finch Media, a Vancouver PR firm, created the “Finch Media Creates Grant” in order to support emerging artists and increase diversity in the Canadian arts.
This year, public relations agency Finch Media, is pleased to support filmmaker Amar Wala’s inaugural Scarborough Pictures Episodic Directing Program. Created to increase the opportunities available for Black, Indigenous, and people of colour (BIPOC) filmmakers to direct episodic television, the program gives two filmmakers the chance to shadow directors on the acclaimed CBC documentary series In the Making, from White Pine Pictures.
This year, talented artists and filmmakers Isa Benn and Sherien Barsoum have been selected as the inaugural program participants. Both Isa and Sherien have been awarded the opportunity to get paid, on-the-job experience with accomplished Canadian directors. Each filmmaker will follow either Chelsea McMullan or Amar Wala for four weeks, from pre to post production, gaining valuable experience in episodic doc-television. Isa and Sherien were selected by a jury panel that included executives from the CBC and show-runner of In the Making, Michelle Mama.
A recent On-Screen Report by the organization Women in View found a massive under-representation of women of colour and Indigenous Women in Canadian TV between 2012-2017. In 2017, less than two per cent of TV contracts went to BIPOC female artists, underscoring the need for programs like these. This is why Finch Media is incredibly proud to support this initiative.
Barsoum is a filmmaker and story consultant, whose first feature Colour Me explored black identity narratives. Barsoum also directed and produced Ride for Promise and Player Zero, winning the HotDocs Short Film Pitch and Best Canadian Documentary at NorthWest Fest. She produced Babe, I Hate to Go, which played top festivals internationally and was nominated for a Canadian Screen Award. Barsoum was the story consultant on the Oscar-shortlisted Frame 394, and co-produced House of Z, the first feature film bought and distributed by Condé Nast, now on Netflix. Barsoum is the former Director of Programming for the Reelworld Film Festival and serves as a board member of the Documentary Organization of Canada’s Ontario Chapter.
Barsoum will shadow director Amar Wala. Of the program, Barsoum said, “The creators of this program understand well the challenges that exist for independent filmmakers, and the barriers that make it doubly difficult for BIPOC directors, in creating a sustainable arts practice. This program will significantly impact my ability to cross some of those barriers, as I will be exposed to episodic documentary production, and introduced to the often inaccessible gatekeepers who make them, all within a nurturing and supportive environment.”
Benn is an award-winning filmmaker, screenwriter, playwright, multimedia creator and artist. Benn uses her synesthesia, Asperger’s and ideasthesia to uniquely explore the human experience. Her experiences as a Queer, Jewish African and Caribbean Canadian motivate her exploration of racism, homophobia, decolonization, colourism and ableism. Benn will shadow director Chelsea McMullan.
“Breaking into television has been a challenge. I tend to walk into rooms as the only black woman or woman of colour, and spend the majority of my time trying to prove my voice is worth hearing,” said Benn. “Working consistently, having the chance to practice my craft constantly, and the opportunity to show my work and receive compensation for my efforts is a blessing. I like to think that working in episodic will finally give me the legitimacy that people tend to overlook. I’m grateful for the opportunity because opportunities can be very rare on this side of Otherness.”