Toronto-Based Creatives Set Up Free Development Program for Pan-Asian Photographers and Filmmakers

‘Ideas From I’ is a free program for pan-Asian youth photographers and filmmakers in the GTA with little to no formal training.

‘Ideas From I’ is a free program for pan-Asian youth photographers and filmmakers in the GTA with little to no formal training.

If we learned anything from the recent Kim’s Convenience drama, it’s that representation off-screen is just as important (if not more important!) than representation on-screen.

Following the show’s abrupt cancellation, two of its stars, Simu Liu and Jean Yoon, expressed how the lack of Korean writers in the writer’s room made for inauthentic storytelling.

“The lack of Asian female, especially Korean writers in the writers room of Kims made my life VERY DIFFICULT & the experience of working on the show painful,” Yoon tweeted, adding season five scripts were “OVERTLY RACIST, and so extremely culturally inaccurate that the cast came together and expressed concerns collectively.”

And indeed, when it comes to telling Asian stories, the only way it can be done authentically, accurately and thoughtfully is by hiring diverse storytellers, directors, photographers and producers to involved behind the scenes. However, for many photographers and filmmakers of colour, there are financial, institutional and cultural barriers that come with trying to break into the industry.

Toronto-based photographer Pamela Lau and director Jimmy Vi know these struggles firsthand, which is why they’ve created ‘Ideas From I‘, a free virtual concept development program for pan-Asian photographers and filmmakers aged 18-29 across the GTA with no formal training in their discipline. The program, which is funded by ArtReach Toronto, will take place over six sessions (2-3 hours each) during three consecutive weekends in August 2021.

“As self-taught, self-employed freelancers working in commercial arts, we were compelled to establish an environment to provide the guidance and leadership that we were sorely missing in our formative years,” said Lau and Vi. “It took us years to build up the aptitude to be where we are today. In the beginning we had little support or mentors to help demystify the process in film and photography. We recognize that having validation and support is just as crucial as industry know-how in those early stages.”

They continued, “The youth in our community already have great ideas; we want to give them that extra push in expressing themselves. We want to create a shift in the industry. One that empowers Asian youth who may have faced financial, institutional, and cultural barriers to take command of their own narratives.”

‘Ideas From I’ will accept 5-8 participants split into two streams: photography and filmmaking, and will also provide mentorship and learning opportunities for emerging artists to safely express themselves. Applications are currently open and can be found on Applications close July 19, 2021 at 8pm ET.

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