Toronto has always been a land of opportunity for Canadian artists both big and small. It’s diversity offers filmmakers, musicians and other artists to find collaborative endeavours that allow their creativity to thrive. Toronto New Wave Collective is a relatively new endeavour in it’s second year, and aims to provide a space for emerging filmmakers to come together and connect in hopes of creating even more opportunities here in the city. I had the pleasure of speaking with one of TNW’s co-founders, Emmanuel Teji, who explains more about the TNW Collective, and how it all got started.
Q: For those that might be unfamiliar, can you tell more about Toronto New Wave and how it got started?
A: Toronto New Wave started from the co-founders of Labyrinth Media and I wanting to do our own independent work as film directors and producers, but wanting to have that work as part of a collective community where we could grow a brand together. We wanted to bring other filmmakers in the local area together. When we started Labyrinth, we were always about community – we had a flurry of people we always worked with on films and music videos and we continued to grow that community. Toronto New Wave was the culmination of all of that on a grander scale.
All we knew was that we wanted to have more of Toronto be a part of that community in a very underground way – for ourselves to show our films as well as for our friends in the community to have the same chance. At the time, we were also shooting a lot of music videos and were in general, very interested in getting more connected with the local music scene; we understood that they needed a space like this as well. We thought about the name for a long time, and decided that we wanted to capture the notion that this would be a movement like no other. It would be a new wave.
We opened our call for submissions to the whole community, and received a thousand submissions. This is when we realized that it wasn’t just about us. It was more important to give the other creators in our community a chance, so we didn’t even end up showcasing our own films. It ended up serving a much better purpose than we intended.
Q: Toronto New Wave showcases not only new film, but live music, music videos, and VR as well. What was the decision-making process behind choosing these specific mediums to reflect Toronto’s emerging artists?
A: We really want to bring the world of visuals and sound together, because we ourselves as filmmakers have seen these worlds come together in our creative process. It’s so great when you’re able to call up a musician and ask them to work on a score for your film and know that they’ll add a lot of themselves to it. It only seemed right to put film and music together for the community as well. Also, who doesn’t enjoy a good concert and a good film? Why not together. Giving filmmakers the chance to network with musicians in the same festival also allows them to make future collaborations.
Q: How does VR play into that a little bit as well?
A: The great thing about VR is that it’s a new medium. On top of hitting the “new” in new wave, everyone in the VR world is also an emerging artist, so it only made sense to include VR creations in our line-up. We have also been producing our own VR content in the last year through Labyrinth Media (most recently, a short titled “Youthopia) and see the potential that the film world has for it. Our focus particularly with VR for the future would be VR storytelling and VR music videos – the things that connect local artists. The Toronto VR scene is a small one (mind you, growing). But there is a lot of potential, and the way to tap into that is to get film and music associating strongly with new media. When those VR creators are there at TNW along with our VR sponsors, filmmakers and musicians can start making connections to those communities. Next thing you know, one of our filmmakers is making a narrative VR film because they saw something that inspired them at the festival and realized how accessible the medium really is. We think that you can take both film and music to the next dimension with VR. Literally.
Q: TNW is in it’s second year, what has changed/improved from your opening year?
A: Our first year at TNW was really organic. If I could describe it as an audience member I’d say it was an underground, indie event where you could just hang out with local artists and enjoy their work over drinks, while actually getting to know them. The beer was cheap, the lighting was relaxed, and the crowd was new. This year, we want to try very hard to keep that atmosphere: so we have Collective Arts Brewery, a nice gem of a venue, and we plan on making our lighting comfortable again. This year, we want to take our organization to the next level, while still sticking to our roots.
In 2018, we’re providing over $35,000 worth of awards in-kind for our artists and filmmakers, working with great community partners/sponsors, and in general just building up our audience and mission from the ground up again so that we can provide much bigger opportunities in the following years. This year is really just the beginning again.
Q: What sorts of skills or attributes should an emerging filmmaker aim to gain as they further themselves in their career?
A: I would say there’s one simple way. It’s not actually the filmmaking or the craft itself; anyone can and WILL learn that. All of the artists I’ve ever met have developed those skills over time: you know, you spend more time on film sets, you do more productions, and you go out and shoot the camera yourself – this is the bare bones minimum. But the number one thing, I think, is being able to sell yourself as an artist. And when I say ‘sell’, I don’t mean market yourself through social media (although that’s important too). I’m referring to the one-on-one communication that you have to have with actual people You need that. And you don’t just need that with anyone, you need that with everyone. I think the ability for filmmakers to work themselves around a room and really get to know other people while letting them know who you are is the most powerful way to propel your career forward as a filmmaker.
Q: What are your thoughts on how the dramatic advancement of technology within the past two decades has changed the landscape for artists trying to get their work noticed?
A: It’s both a blessing and a curse. Having so many ways to put yourself out there allows for everybody to put themselves out there. You’ve got people that might not even be that serious about their art, and they’re able to put their songs and films out there – and that’s great, they should be able to do that – no judgement in the act itself. This is just one of the reasons why the market is so saturated now. If you want to move beyond that and stand out in the crowd, so to speak, you’re going to have to be much more creative due to the amount of work that’s out there that you’ll be compared to. The competition itself is very strong in that regard, and it’s pushing creativity forward in a great way. Artists are now realizing that they have to think outside the box for ideas and that they really have to make something impactful for the audience to watch their work over all of the other content out there. That’s why I think these new platforms like Instagram are a great place to put your films – you now have access to the audience that is the world. On top of that, the advancements in technology like VR are also a great way for people to stand out in their creative work. I can tell you right now that the same project done in traditional film would have a whole other universe of opportunities if it was done in VR. The fact of the matter is that it’s new and not many people are doing it. I think if any artist is trying to get their work noticed, they should go to the less-known depths of the art world – they should give themselves the chance to stand out and be seen.
Toronto New Wave is happening this weekend at the Redwood Theatre. The night consists of ten short films along with lots of great live musicians and VR experiences enhancing the collaborative atmosphere of the festival. Advanced tickets are sold out! But you might be able to grab yourself some tickets to catch some live music at the doors which open at 4pm. Join us for a drink, courtesy of Collective Arts Brewery and mingle with Toronto’s best emerging filmmakers and artists!
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