December 13, 2023

‘The internship was proof the CSC believed in me’

“My dad’s love for blockbusters, especially Indiana Jones and James Bond, meant that my family watched a lot of Hollywood classics ever since I was young in Hong Kong,” says Melody Chan, one of 15 interns that took part in CSC’s Future is Calling Intern Initiative through 2022 and 2023.

The Future is Calling Intern Initiative, partly funded by the Province of Ontario, was a 12-week paid internship that involved four weeks at a rental house, four weeks on a production set and four weeks at a post production facility. Interns were provided with an orientation by the CSC and copy of the CSC Internship Manual to help them understand the expectations of the job. 

Chan found out about the program on Instagram. “I follow the CSC’s Instagram, so when I saw the post announcing the internship, I was ecstatic,” she told us.  “I had never come across an opportunity like it before in the industry, at least one in Toronto that would be open to migrants such as myself.”

Chan says her family would gather around their box TV on Sunday evenings to catch old reruns on one of the two free English-language channels or watch dubbed films from across the border in Mainland China. Her dad also loved to capture family’s everyday life on his camcorder, and, after finishing major exams in Grade 10, she was given an Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II.

“That’s when I fell in love with filmmaking as a collaborative, constant learning adventure to test out new possibilities, she says. “It’s an art form that’s truly a collective labour of love.”

The internship program provided Chan with a gateway into the film and television industry.

Colourist Yuri Cabrera says that when he was approached by the CSC to host an intern, his own experience made him say yes.

“I have been fortunate in my career in finding the right mentor at the right time. I think it’s fair to say that most people in the film industry will remember someone who gave them the extra push they needed at the most discouraging of times,” he says. “As a post-production facility, we interface with a diverse set of professionals in our industry. It can be a producer, director, cinematographer, editor, or an art director in the suite. I figured this was a great environment for someone just starting out to explore where they would like to eventually situate themselves.

Chan agrees with the importance of finding mentors.

“Having a good mentor is a game-changer,” she says. “I was initially worried that I was going to be judged for not only being female and BIPOC, but also because of my relative inexperience because I didn’t go to film school. But at all my placements, I was extremely lucky to have mentors who were so kind and willing to teach me from the ground up and answer my questions. Their support truly shaped my internship experience because it enabled me to make the most out of each placement.”

Melody Chan with Colourist Yuri Cabrera

Chan says the internship also help quell her parents fears about her going into film and television.

“I was discouraged by my parents from pursuing film because they didn’t see it as a viable career path,” she said, “but the internship was proof the CSC believed in me. It helped quell their worries and helped me overcome imposter syndrome.”

“While this was an internship, I found that I approached this more as a mentorship because that’s what I had wanted for myself when I interned,” says Cabrera. “I knew that the time was too short to be able to get too deep about the colour grading process itself, so I wanted to make sure that I was at least showing the reasoning behind the processes. Most days, this meant that the intern would sit beside me as I went through a colour grade, explained the operations as we developed the look for a show. In quiet times, I’d explain why we are treating the image a certain way; whether it’s a glossy car commercial look, or a more muted short film.”

“Yuri has been a great boss and mentor to me,” says Chan. “As a migrant to Canada like myself, Yuri had experienced the same challenges I am currently facing in the industry so it’s been very comforting to talk to someone who understands these nuances, and to absorb his knowledge and wisdom. I know that I have a long way to go and a lot of hurdles to overcome, but I am grateful to have Yuri as a mentor I can always reach out to for guidance and advice.

The Future is Calling Intern Initiative resulted in Kookaburra offering Chan a full-time job.

“It was clear early on that Melody had the toolset to be successful at Kookaburra,” says Cabrera. “She has a diligent work ethic and a great attention to detail. What she lacked for in experience she kept making up for in asking great questions. It was rewarding for me to see her grow so quickly during her internship, so it made sense to see that through and hire her to be a part of the team.”

“As someone who did not go to film school, the CSC internship meant the world to me, allowing me to gain so many fruitful experiences in the span of three months, and helping me find a community of filmmakers to learn from and collaborate with in Canada,” Chan sums up. “I hope the CSC can continue the program for future cohorts and provide the same support and encouragement they provided to me and to many other individuals from underrepresented communities.”