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Film program = irrelevant?

It’s more than just watching movies

Article: Destiny Kaus – A&C Writer

I started out believing that film students at the University of Regina must be insane to study a seemingly irrelevant subject. But, I ended up realizing that though these students may appear strange and out of touch with reality, they are extremely creative people who may just have some hope in this world.

Brenden Wishlow, a U of R film student, absolutely loves film. Though he began his university career studying business, a normal area of study, he soon realized that he needed to channel his creative energy and put it towards something he actually cared about.

“I was in business for two years and I didn’t like it. I ended up dropping out. And I said I would not come back to school until I could do something I liked. And, one day I decided to do film because it’s something that’s always sparked my interest.”

Cheers to Wishlow, who chose not to follow his parents’ expectations, but elected to pursue his passion. These film students must have some guts.

Specifically, Wishlow is interested in the pre-production of films: the writing and creating of a film. Wishlow has faced and accepted the harsh reality that his life probably got harder when he chose film over business. He states that “It’ll be almost impossible to get a job in the province.” But, this doesn’t stop him. After he graduates, he plans to move to Toronto to make some magic.

“I don’t know where this is going to take me, so I’m just going to go to Toronto and hope for the best.”

Wishlow’s big dream is to write a successful, critically acclaimed film or TV series. How will he get there? Well, he understands that Hollywood won’t just come knocking at his door. He knows that to make his dreams come true, he will need to put in a lot of hard work.

“I’m going to write as much as I can in my spare time. I don’t want to ever stop writing … and my initial thoughts are to write a web series and see where it takes me.”

The road to getting a satisfying writing job in film is not all lollipops and rainbows.

In Wishlow’s words, “[He’s] pretty sure writing and being successful is half luck and persistence.”

With a little luck on his side, and a dedicated attitude, I firmly believe that Wishlow will go far in the film world. Heck, he stuck it out in film school for four years already. One thing that befuddled me, though, was why Wishlow didn’t join the UR Guarantee program on campus. If he had, he could’ve been guaranteed a job in film right?

As it turns out, the University of Regina did not have the UR Guarantee program available when Wishlow came to school. And, when it came about, he had already exceeded the credit hours acceptable to the program. Looking back, even if the University of Regina had offered UR Guarantee when Wishlow first entered school, he doesn’t know if he would have taken the opportunity.

“I don’t think it would be relevant to the film program first of all. I don’t think they could guarantee you a job in the film industry … what kind of job would they guarantee you? Like if it’s being someone’s bitch or holding a boom mic for eight hours a day, I don’t want that.”

Wishlow makes a valid point.

Naomi Deren, the manager of UR Guarantee, mentions that UR Guarantee welcomes all undergraduate University of Regina students with 30 credit hours or less, regardless of their program.

Deren says, “We are confident that we do provide students the support they need to be successful in their career search, and this includes film students. We have not had any film students graduate from the URG program at this time.”

Interesting. Very interesting. But in the end, it doesn’t really matter what degree a student achieves, it matters that that student has sincerely enjoyed his or her four years of schooling and is passionate about pursuing his or her interests. Wishlow says it best:

“I’m a firm believer in doing what makes you happy and not doing something for money or because your family tells you it’s right.”

Taylor Groff, another one of the few film students on campus, echoes this statement. She too, believes in pursuing her passion.

“I’m doing something that I love. I’m doing something I’ve always had a passion for. Earning a million dollars isn’t always the biggest goal.”

Groff got her start in the film world when she was a wee tyke. According to Groff, she was “always shoving cameras in people’s faces, driving them bonkers, and chasing people around the house with a video camera.” Shocking how this little terror ended up in film.

Groff seeks to become a producer for a television show. In her perfect world, she would love to have this dream job in her hometown of Saskatoon. But, like Wishlow, Groff too recognizes reality.

“Who knows, I could get a film degree and I could end up working in something totally unrelated to film. Which isn’t necessarily what I want to do, but it could happen.”

Groff chose to get a business diploma alongside her film degree. If all else fails, she can always get a job in business.

If she chooses to forgo the easier route towards business, Groff might just make it to Hollywood. Unfortunately for her, there are no Oscars for producers. Even more unfortunately, Groff’s favourite actor is Leonardo Dicaprio. Nevertheless, her heart will go on in the filmmaking industry.

Mark Wihak, an Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Film at the University of Regina, helped guide these pencil-wielding, Leonardo Dicaprio-loving students in their quest towards film degrees. He has seen many alumni succeed in areas of film in Saskatchewan, across Canada, and internationally.

“They work in film, television, advertising, communication, new media, arts administration, and education. Some of our alumni are independent filmmakers whose films have screened across Canada and around the world.”

Many other alumni have snagged jobs as administrators, photographers, or curators at film festivals, such as the Toronto International Film Festival. Quite impressive.

When it comes to sniping a job in film after graduation, Wihak says, “The economy is not a fixed state; it’s in constant evolution and change, and what a university can best do to prepare people to adapt to constant change is to hone their critical thinking skills, and their ability to consider and communicate complex ideas.”

The film program does just that. It encourages brilliant minds and aspiring filmmakers to further develop their craft, explore different aspects of film (producing, directing, cinematography, animation, editing, screenwriting, and sound mixing), and find a career that they enjoy.

“We spend a lot of our life at work and you really want to be working towards having a career that is going to be fulfilling in ways beyond just the salary,” says Wihak.

At first, Wihak thought of pursuing anthropology or journalism. But, once he found out the University of Regina offered film, he jumped right in.

“I couldn’t believe it; it had never occurred to me that people in Saskatchewan made films. I went to film school here before there was a film industry in Saskatchewan. I pursued something I was interested in at university, which I think is always a good idea.”

Since attaining his film degree, Wihak has created many of his own films that have screened around the world, and he has shot films in Saskatchewan, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, New York, London, Mexico and Paris.

Though reality may attempt to suck the life out of film students, they have the guts to persevere and the courage to grasp at any strand of hope that comes their way. For this, I give them much due credit.

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