Home Film Black Women led production company OYA Media Group is taking charge of their narratives and giving Black youth a chance

Black Women led production company OYA Media Group is taking charge of their narratives and giving Black youth a chance

by Wayne Ayers
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The OYA Media Group, headed by ALISON DUKE and NGARDY CONTEH GEORGE is committed to the ongoing support, education and promotion of young Black filmmakers.  The OYA EMERGING FILMMAKERS PROGRAM (formally known as Black Youth! Pathway to Industry) is a three-year initiative that provides twenty post-secondary graduated Black youth per year, networking, mentoring, essential skills training alongside industry pros and creative partnerships with Tiff Education, Regent Parks Film Festival Live it to Learn it, NABET 700_M Unifor, VTape, Charles Street Video, LIFT and Trinity Square Video. OYA makes a point of employing emerging Black youth in their original productions such as ‘Mr. Jane and Finch’ and encourages producers to hire Black youth in projects they direct such as ‘Cool Black North’.  This mandate is in place to change the widespread anti-Black racism in the industry and unconscious belief that quality is compromised when you make diversity a choice. This year Canadian Screen Award Winning Director Alicia K. Harris will be the Program’s Filmmaker in Residence. Alicia will be working with Year 3 Participants to create an original Digital Web series produced within the program.

OYA’s program provides opportunities for youth to direct exciting original content with industry professionals. Last year the Fabienne Colas Foundation in collaboration with the Toronto Black Film Festival teamed up with the OYA EMERGING FILMMAKERS PROGRAM to provide production support, training and mentorship to six youths to direct a series of short documentary. The doc program called ‘Being Black in Toronto’ aims to change old narratives and expand beyond one-dimensional portrayals of the Black community.  The project, entirely written and directed by the youth and screened at the foundation’s film festivals in Toronto, Halifax and Montreal and festivals throughout North America. The series will premiere on CBC’s Absolutely Canada in late August, or early September.  The films are:

YYZ – directed by Omolola Ajao (Lola Rachel)

The Onyx Butterfly directed by Yasmin Evering-Kerr

Blacksun directed by Adrian Wallace

Tallawah Abroad directed by Sharine Taylor

#Black directed by Yvano Wickham-Edwards (Yvano Antonio

Joseph, Margaret and I directed by Valerie Amponsah

Participants also produced ‘Confessions’ a short fiction film about consent that was directed by Kristen Lambie and produced by Malachi Ellis and Wanda Muna Youssouf as a group project. A sneak peak of the film was shown during our year two graduation along with four cash awards of $500 donated by local artist, Sarde.

The award winners were:  David Peddle, Crew member of the Year for working on every single production, Sonya Mwanda, Editor of the Year for her work on ‘Confessions’, Yasmin Director of the Year for her beautifully crafted short film, ‘The Onyx Butterfly’ and Producer of the year, ‘Malachi Ellis’ for his work on Confessions.  Television director, Dawn Wilkinson (How to Get Away with Murder, Empire, Locke and Key) was presented with the inaugural OYA Inspired Award for being such an inspiration to the next generation of filmmakers. And presented with a photographic piece from artist Anique Jordan.

Some of the quotes from the youth:

Fonna (Year 1): “Since 2018 to 2020 there has been exponential growth through OYA Media Group and through the Pathways to Industry program because they trusted me and they trusted my skills and they gave me an opportunity that I never would have had”

Yvano (Year 1): “We got a lot of on set experience in the program. They would always have these job boards in front of the old office. First thing you’d see when you walk in was this big board and they had jobs within their company, jobs in the industry and then internship opportunities. All these lists. From there, we got two opportunities to work on Mr. Jane & Finch and Cool Black North. That was your way in as a production assistant.”

Yasmin (Year 2): They have all these great workshops that these filmmakers and creatives are able to work in. As well as giving a lot of opportunities outside just workshops. For me, I was able to work on a Netflix set. I was also able to work on a Tim Hortons commercial. 

Akash (Year 2): “We watch music videos all the time but having an actual director like Director X come in and able to see the process from start to finish. He showed us breakdowns and how’d he’d pitch music videos to artists and the labels. It was really informative to see the entire process from start to finish.”

The participants go through a rigorous selection process every year. OYA will introduce their twenty-one cohorts for year 3 next month as well as a slate of new partnerships including xoTO, Insight Productions, the juggernaut TV production company which produces the Juno Awards, The Amazing Race Canada and Big Brother Canada to name a few. OYA is also teamed up with commercial production companies as well as with WIFT-T for a new paid internship initiative.

They have been inundated with opportunities for the youth in there program who are graduates of post-secondary film, television and Digital media programs who are looking for a way into the industry after they graduation. We are so thrilled that people are stepping up but in order to make a difference these partnerships need to be sustainable.

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