As one of the very few Black executives in the Canadian film and television industry, Jamaican-born Joan Jenkinson is quite aware of her unique position.
And she has worked assiduously to help women and minorities advance their careers in the industry, earning a reputation for taking innovative approaches to the production and spearheading of new campaigns.
The Vision TV executive producer and director of Independent Productions was last Sunday presented with the Tony Stoltz Memorial ReelWorld Visionary award for working behind the scenes to facilitate the success of others in the entertainment industry.
Stoltz was a businessman and ReelWorld Film Festival board member who died in 2002.
“Joan is well aware of how to empower people and she’s someone who is a mentor to women in the business and in the industry, giving them a voice to say who they are and where they want to go,” said Stoltz’s widow, Lynne, who presented the award.
Jenkinson joined Vision TV, which airs multi-faith and multi-cultural programming, in May 2001 after serving for five years as executive director of Women in Film TV-Toronto.
“I just feel incredibly lucky to be completely immersed in the creative process and to be able to work with creative people,” said Jenkinson, a founding member of Hot Docs, North America’s largest documentary festival. “It’s a joy to see their passion come alive.”
In addition to being a groundbreaking producer, Jenkinson has done a lot to open doors for other filmmakers. Seven years ago, she co-created and produced the Cultural Diversity drama competition for Vision TV that awarded three independent producers with funds for a 60-minute pilot.
One of the winning projects, Da Kink In My Hair, was subsequently picked up by Global TV and aired for two seasons before being cancelled.
Jenkinson also produced the award-winning one-hour debate/discussion series, Valerie Pringle’s Test of Faith and co-produced the Gemini award-winning musical documentary, Carry Me Home: the Story and Music of the Nathaniel Dett Chorale.
Trailblazer awards were presented to Toronto-based producer, writer and director Vincent Galvez, filmmaker Lalita Krishna, Whitefish Lake First Nations poet and filmmaker Darlene Naponse, Boutique Records Label Arts & Crafts co-founder and president Jeffrey Remedios, Gemini-award winning actor Mpho Koaho and public relations executive Kevin Pennant who has had a close relationship with the festival for many years.
“I was born in that office,” said Pennant, who still does some PR work for the festival. “I remember going to the office really early on Sunday mornings and working with Tonya (ReelWorld founder, Tonya Lee Williams). We were working on the idea for two years before it started. I am blown away that it’s now 10 years since the festival began. A lot of careers have been created, good relationships have been formed and good films have emerged from there.”
A total of 22 features, eight shorts and 25 music videos were screened during the five-day festival that ended last Sunday night.
“Good in the Hood”, directed by Halifax-born music director, Cazhhmere, won the Best Canadian-made music video.
“The video inspires youth to always reach for the top which is something that I have been doing since I interned with Much Music almost nine years ago,” said Cazhhmere, who has spent most of her life in Toronto after moving from Nova Scotia at a very young age. “The people I met along the way and the opportunities I gained during that journey have been turned into this career I now have.”
Cazhhmere said she has always been musically inclined.
“I am an 80s baby so I grew up watching music videos,” she added.
Williams founded the ReelWorld Film Festival to showcase Canada’s diversity and provide a platform for visible minorities to display their artistic talent and in the process motivate audiences through film.
“We have achieved our goal,” said Williams. “The festival has allowed filmmakers to go beyond their boundaries and create the stories they really want to tell. At the end of the day, that’s what gets me excited…The festival is about the filmmakers and what they want it to be.”
Williams singled out Richie Mehta and Alison Duke as two filmmakers who grew out of the festival.
“I love when Richie tells the story of coming to ReelWorld in 2002 and sitting at the back of the theatre as a complete unknown with a dream to become a director,” she said. “Coming from the South Asian community, he could not easily come forward and tell his parents of his goal. He however met people at the festival and was inspired.”
Mehta’s first feature film, Amal, was released two years ago.
Duke’s first film, Raisin’ Kane, screened at the ReelWorld festival and won the National Film Board Outstanding Documentary award in 2004.
“No other festival would take her film until she came to us and we accepted it,” Williams said. “It was a huge success and it kick-started her career.”