February 27, 2024

CSC Field of View: Inspiring Change through Mentorship

One of the CSC’s initiatives to address the issue of diversity below the line in the camera arts is the Field of View Mentorship Program that aims to make the cinematography profession more inclusive by fostering diversity behind the camera. It pairs DPs of varying levels with those with more experience to push through the celluloid ceiling that exists for women, BIPOC individuals and other underrepresented groups.

Now in its third year, the mentorship initiative has created more than 200 pairings, which last for one year, although many continue for longer. 62.5% of mentees from our 2023 cohort identify as BIPOC individuals and 43% identify as non-binary or women. Mentors are drawn from the CSC’s Full Members and Associate Members.

Associate member Iris Ng is the current co-chair of the Mentorship Committee. Ng is an Asian-Canadian cinematographer who has worked in the documentary, art, and scripted spaces for 15 years. Her most distinguished work turns a critical lens on social issues and personal stories focusing predominantly on marginalized communities. She has lensed many notable projects including Sarah Polley’s documentary, Stories We Tell, Danish/Greenlandic/Inuit co-production Twice Colonized, One Of Ours, Migrant Dreams, Netflix’s Shirkers, Making a Murderer, and Money Shot, as well as CBC’s Kim’s Convenience spin-off, Strays.

The mentorship committee facilitates all mentor pairings, considers the level of experience and skills sought and offered by both mentor and mentee, and who would make the right fit. Today, In the News speaks with Mentorship Committee Co-Chair Iris Ng about the history of the program and its impact on participants who have gone through it.

What drew you to the Mentorship Program in the first place?

There was a decisive moment during the racial reckoning of 2020 when many in our industry and beyond were opening up conversations with underrepresented members about their lived experiences. The CSC held such a forum as an exchange of experiences and formation of ideas on how to improve our industry.

I was particularly interested in how mentorship can address inequalities and signed up to join a group that was forming to create a program. For me, having an initiative run by an organization like the CSC addressed a personal need to see accountability and supervision be the basis of organized mentorship (this was informed by a potentially dangerous experience years ago that involved an abuse of power by a ‘mentor’ I was working with in the industry). The founding mentorship group consisted of six other very committed members— Nyssa Glück (co-chair), Catherine Lutes csc, Angel Navarro III, Norm Li, Sammy Inayeh, and Maya Bankovic csc – who became the mentorship committee and from there, we began collaborating on developing a program that was as fair and equitable as possible.

Why do you think mentorship is important, in general and especially for underrepresented communities?
Mentorship is important for being a very direct way of addressing one’s own gaps of experience. Having a meaningful one-on-one connection with a peer who has had success in a particular area and who can share their insight, demystify, demonstrate, or provide feedback, is a very powerful and personalized tool for addressing those gaps.

For underrepresented communities, the need for these connections is often more urgent due to the traditional lack of opportunities that has resulted in an imbalance of representation in the media space. But the barriers exist on a personal level as well. I have personally experienced the ways that a BIPOC and female-representing individual can internalize the barriers that are attributed to external and systemic biases. The equitable lens we apply includes LGBTQS+ and people with disabilities as well. People from traditionally marginalized communities may be working against preconceived notions of their abilities and be unaccustomed to taking up space in this field so enhancing the skillset and building confidence is important. Also, the already intimidating nature of the craft can feel more unwelcoming for those who didn’t see successful role models exemplify their own experience so connecting with those who share a common background can also be validating. They may also have been working at their craft for a while now and are not at a stage where schooling is an option, so an introduction to resources, or even finding commonalities in another’s journey can be very powerful.

Mentorship is not uni-directional but ideally, this experience is transformative for both mentor and mentee.

Can you tell me about the number of applicants and the number of people you’ve been able to pair up?
We’ve run 2 cohorts so far and have just finalized the pairings for the next round for 2024. In the first year, we had 77 mentor pairings, 65 the following year. For 2024, we are looking at 47 new pairings with 13 continuing their mentorships from last year given the difficult time we had with the strike.

The committee puts a lot of thought into pairing mentors and mentees. What are some of your considerations?

There are many considerations that form so-called good pairings from the committee’s perspective. The questionnaires we ask everyone to complete help us find the most points of commonality between mentor and mentee. We look at the ways in which the mentee self-identifies, both personally and in their cinematography practice, the types of experience they’re looking for (prep, post, shadowing, a particular skill, networking, etc.) and other relatable points such as their visual aesthetic, the genres they work in, their location, and even favourite films. We look at the mentor’s specialties and what they feel they’re best suited to offer and any other ways both may be able to relate personally. And the level of both participants in their career is also a big one. Based on feedback, we typically try to make pairings that are close in tenure for the most benefit unless either mentions otherwise, in which case we try to respect those wishes; Full member mentors with Associate mentees with 10 years or more of experience, Associates with 10+ years experience with Associates with -10 years, and Associates under 10 years with Affiliate, Companion or Student mentees. It’s important to note that the more detailed information we are given, the more points of connection we can find to facilitate a good pairing.

Who makes up the pairing committee?

CSC members who are from traditionally underrepresented groups, who have expressed the ability to commit their time and are focused on equity in our industry make up the committee. Currently, it is made up of Nyssa Glück (Co-Chair), Dan Abboud Associate Member, Laina Brown Associate Member, Catherine Lutes Full Member, and Mahmoud Sarouji Associate Member.

What are some of the general comments you hear from participants in the program?

The feedback on the program has generally been very positive. We hear of very fruitful pairings and connections that extend beyond the time of the program, but there are, of course, experiences that don’t meet expectations or don’t pan out to entail the full 10 sessions. The former often relates to the depth of information that is disclosed in the applications and the latter, to unfortunate circumstances such as pandemic restrictions and employment circumstances during the year. We do our best to avoid disappointment on both sides and avoid harmful situations but they do happen and we are continually trying to improve and gather as much feedback from participants as possible.

I would add that on-set shadowing is the most sought-after experience and is not always possible, and there are many other ways to engage meaningfully and ensure that the mentorship experience is a fruitful one.

If you could say one thing about the mentorship program to people, what would that be?
That it was formed to foster representation in our field which is still not proportional to our society at large. And that our efforts through mentorship should ultimately be to make the path smoother for others than it was for ourselves.