The Transformative Power of Mentorship in Filmmaking

profile image for Abiola AgbayewaAbiola AgbayewaPrograms Outreach Manager, National Screen Institute
NSI Blog Post

This year, the National Screen Institute and TELUS STORYHIVE mark a decade of collaboration, a journey that began in 2014 with a shared mission to nurture and elevate emerging filmmakers through the STORYHIVE Editions program. 

In this unique partnership, the National Screen Institute has enriched the STORYHIVE experience by matching TELUS funded project leads with expert industry mentors who guide them one-on-one throughout their production journey.

During the past decade, over 200 mentors have worked with more than 600 project leads!

“STORYHIVE and the National Screen Institute both want to support storytellers who have experienced barriers and to make sure that the stories that are told on our screens are reflective of their lived experience,” says National Screen Institute CEO Joy Loewen. 

With tailored mentorship, project leads gain valuable insights, refine their craft and navigate the complexities of production with greater confidence and clarity. 

The art of mentor matching is a balance of skill, intuition and understanding. Drawing from a vast network of industry professionals, the National Screen Institute’s program managers carefully match project leads with mentors best suited to their production needs and subject matter. 

"Seven years ago, the National Screen Institute reached out to ask if I would be interested in mentoring two emerging Indigenous filmmakers who were creating films for a past Edition," said longtime STORYHIVE mentor Barbara Todd Hager. "It has been extremely rewarding to work with so many talented filmmakers as they put their heart and soul into creating their projects. The meaningful relationships that happen when STORYHIVE, the National Screen Institute, the creators and the mentors join to support our home-grown talent, is both rewarding and remarkable. I'm so honoured to be part of the STORYHIVE team."

In the case of focused Editions such as the Black Creators Edition or Indigenous Storyteller Edition, consideration is given to engaging mentors from a filmmaker’s local community. Whether it’s matching a budding director with an experienced producer or pairing a talented screenwriter with a seasoned storyteller, the National Screen Institute believes in the importance of mentoring to create a meaningful and customized experience for project leads and mentors alike.

The impact of these mentorships is evident in the success stories that have emerged.

During the 2021 Black Creators Edition, the National Screen Institute matched project lead Adebayo Chris Katiiti with mentor Maya Annik Bedward on Unpacking Black Trans Legacy, helping to bring forward stories of celebration from this often-underrepresented community while unpacking the structural barriers they face. 

In the same Edition, aspiring filmmaker Kamika Bianca Guerra-Walker tackled themes of mental health and compassion in her first film The Black Mustard Seeds, mentored by multi-media journalist and Producer Angelyn Francis. Kamika has since been part of large-scale productions like HBO’s The Last of Us, among others. 

During STORYHIVE’s Indigenous Storyteller Edition, Shaelyn Johnston, an Anishinaabe and Irish-Canadian writer, made her animation debut with The Healing Dance, which narrates the journey of a young girl preparing for her first pow wow. This project was mentored by renowned filmmaker, Dr. Jules Koostachin.

The film won best short film at the 2021 Weengushk International Film Festival, and Shaelyn has gone on to pursue an MFA at the University of British Columbia’s School of Creative Writing. 

Through mentorship, emerging filmmakers not only gain technical skills and industry knowledge but also develop greater confidence and the resilience needed to navigate the fluctuations of a creative career. 

“I had the privilege of working for the National Screen Institute when the TELUS STORYHIVE mentorship program was first set up. I was blown away by the variety of stories and the quality of finished films that came out of the program the first year and each year since,” said retired National Screen Institute staff member turned STORYHIVE mentor Elise Swerhone.

“TELUS’ commitment to working in the community and the National Screen Institute’s experience in providing great training and mentorship have created hundreds of wonderful films from all over Alberta and British Columbia, representing a huge variety of voices. Congratulations TELUS and the National Screen Institute for making [STORYHIVE] so successful.”

Many STORYHIVE mentors are alumni of the National Screen Institute training programs and / or past Editions and eager to pay forward their experience to emerging talent. 

"Having started my journey in the industry as a [project lead] in STORYHIVE. I'm deeply grateful to be on the other side now, mentoring emerging indie short documentary filmmakers,” said 2019 alumni and Editions mentor, Mariah Braun. “This program propelled me forward, offering invaluable access to seasoned filmmakers and resources that helped me enhance my filmmaking skills. Now, being able to contribute to this program as a mentor feels like a full-circle moment. It's incredibly fulfilling to offer support and guidance to current mentees as they navigate various stages of production. Being part of their journey is immensely rewarding.” 

So rewarding, in fact, that many mentors have repeatedly shown up to work with project leads across multiple Editions. The list of mentors who have dedicated themselves to this program is long and distinguished. With remarkable care year after year, the following mentors have provided support for five or more Editions.

  • Ava Karvonen

  • Barbara Hager

  • Cari Green

  • Cheryl Binning

  • Corey Lee

  • Doreen Manuel

  • Elise Swerhone

  • Eva Colmers

  • Jason Margolis

  • Jill Sharpe

  • Josh Epstein

  • Jules Koostachin

  • Julia Ivanova

  • Linda Coffey

  • Mariah Braun

  • Marie-France Guerrette

  • Rob Hardy

  • Rosvita Dransfeld

  • Sandi Somers

  • Selwyn Jacob

  • Steve Kwassen

  • Wendy Hyman

The late Wendy Hyman was a beloved mentor who guided more projects than any other before her untimely passing in December 2023. Wendy’s passionate spirit and genuine heart-felt desire to support and uplift storytellers is dearly missed by all of us.

STORYHIVE mentors play a critical role in helping amplify new voices and paving the way for a more inclusive, diverse and vibrant creative landscape. Here's to another decade of collaboration, innovation and mentorship!

Posted onMar 20, 2024
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