Since Spring 2019, WIFT Toronto has been working toward building an inclusive and diverse membership with greater mentorship opportunities.The organization is now committed to ensuring that a minimum 50% of the mentees in its Connect Mentorship programme will be BIPOC women. Further, WIFT Toronto continues to build relationships with like-minded organizations that prioritize equity, inclusion, and diversity including: Black Women Film!, Breakthroughs Film Festival, Female Eye Film Festival, imagineNATIVE, Inside Out, Reelworld, Regent Park Film Festival, and Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival, among others.
WIFT Toronto’s new logo reflects the organization’s commitment to inclusion. The plus symbol signifies that all genders are welcome and represented and that the organization is rooted in all screen-based media – no longer just film and television. Lastly, the plus symbol reflects energy and forward movement.
We asked Karen Bruce, WIFT Toronto’s Executive Director, what WIFT Toronto offers in helping South Asian Canadians move forward with their careers. Karen said, “WIFT Toronto offers professional development, programming and networking opportunities that we have seen successfully improve the career of many individuals over the years. WIFT Toronto is about engaging, empowering, and educating those working in the screen-based media industry. We are committed to working hard to ensure the South Asian community sees the value WIFT Toronto can offer helping them reach their career goals.”
We also spoke to Sonia Dhillon, who led a 19 year career with Bell/Bell Media, and is a WIFT Toronto Board Member for four years. We ask her about how WIFT has helped her in her career: “WIFT helps members by Engaging, Empowering, and Educating through tools, community support, and networks that are relevant to members based on their tenure. WIFT has helped me personally in connecting with young leaders through WIFT Connect, the mentoring program, which has helped to educate me in what young leaders are struggling with and how to help, as well as, the immense value that can be created by that level of engagement. In addition to that, the programming for more senior members has connected me to peers where discussions can happen on how I can continue to evolve my leadership to really push the bar in my role and the industry.”
A WIFT Toronto member and the Founder of Who Gets It Done Productions, Raj Dhillon talks about why she would recommend South Asians join WIFT Toronto: “I would love to meet more South Asian men & women through WIFT as I think there's specifically a lot of room to tell more stories from the Punjabi point of view. I'd love to have more people to connect and collaborate with. I think the one thing I would add is that I think it’s interesting to explore the idea of identity as a first generation Canadian. I think the opportunity to explore the duality of the two cultures is interesting. There is a huge range of duality between our cultures that I think should be explored.”
Another WIFT Toronto member and a writer and comedian herself, Rabiya Mansoor, originally joined WIFT in March 2019 because of the WIFT Connect Mentorship Program. Rabiya has a collaborative web series project called Get Up, Aisha in development that features a Pakistani-Canadian lead and explores mental health and she did her first solo sketch show at the 2020 Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival. She talks about how WIFT Toronto has helped her move forward in her career: “I think a big part of moving forward is just talking to people, making connections, and understanding the industry. So while not everything is “I did X program, so I achieved Y”, it’s starting to plant the seeds and nurture the garden that is my career (I have butchered this metaphor, please forgive me). First off, the WIFT Connect mentorship did not disappoint. I got connected to an awesome mentor who was really open and willing to discuss the industry, building a career, and forging my own path. She also was kind enough to step in at the 11th hour as a producer on a project so I could secure some funding. I also got to sit in on a writers summit thanks to her! 10/10, would WIFT Connect again. I also really liked the Scripted Digital Series Incubator program – just getting a deeper understanding of the funding landscape for digital series alone was so helpful. And I’d be remiss to not mention the thing that only exists in the before times – Walk & Talk. Just a networking walk around a park meeting people and learning about them. I made a few friends through that (smiles).
ABOUT WIFT Toronto:
Women in Film and Television Toronto is a non-profit, inclusive, member-based organization dedicated to the development and advancement of women and those who identify as women, in the screen-based industry. WIFT Toronto engages, empowers, and educates its 900 members through professional development, mentoring, networking opportunities, and celebrations that underscore the successes of members and non-members alike. In the last three years alone, WIFT Toronto has generated more than 150 mentorships, bestowed 21 bursaries and 62 awards, and produced nearly 700 hours of programming including 65+ networking opportunities.