It’s the end of May 2005, and I have just moved to Toronto with my then girlfriend. We had no plan, no jobs, no anything(something I do not recommend people do!) just a pull out bed at my sister’s house in Keswick and a gut feeling to change our pace from our routine in Montreal to the discovery of something new in T.O. It was a sunny day as we walked all over downtown with resumes in our hands, wondering and hoping for new possibilities. I found myself wandering to the big Chapters store on John and then looking across the street, and seeing the big letters shining in the sunlight.
“Wow I can’t believe there’s an NFB office right downtown!” I remember saying to Mara. I walked right in through the lobby and to the person at the front desk, and handed them my resume.
When I was told that the Mediatheque was a center for education and film – my heart leapt. I had just finished working in the education field; feeling burned out and yet fired up by my love of teaching and what that connection could do for a child. As well, I was armed with my then 6 year old Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Film Studies. Was there a place that could bring together my love of education and film?
It turned out that there was.
About a month later, I was sitting in the PATH (the underground city maze of shops and life in Toronto) at one of its food courts, eating a BLT and decked out in a nice shirt and tie. I had just left my job selling GO-KART passes in and around Hamilton (don’t ask how I ended up doing that) and was waiting to hear back from Mara about an update of some sort. My phone rang and it was the NFB calling, asking me for an interview. I think I choked on the piece of sandwich in my mouth briefly. Of course I agreed. I called Mara right away, excited and sweaty, hoping to God that this would come through. A spark was lit in me; I wanted this job even before interviewing for it.
I am writing this nearly seven years later, on April 4, 2012 – the day where I and my fellow team members have been told that the Mediatheque will be no longer. And while I am not shedding any tears (for now cause I know that will come sometime), my heart is broken at the loss of what this means for the Canadian public as well as what will be the next chapter moving on in my life.
To have been able to speak directly with teachers from across the province and being able to provide their students with a hands-on filmmaking experience is something that I treasure. To be able to engage a love of film and animation for a student as young as five and as old as infinity in some “minimal” way – well, mission accomplished.
The NFB Mediatheque has allowed me to wear its flag and visit Vancouver, Regina, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Montreal (home), Ottawa (twice), Moncton (twice), Charlottetown, Halifax (twice) and St. Johns (twice) and even presented a program for students at the Kennedy Center for the Arts in Washington – no other organization could have done this for me.
And on top of this, never can I fully explain to people the life friends that I have made through this organization. We who work here know that such a kind, helpful, supportive work environment doesn’t exist in all spaces. We were lucky. I will tell my children that such a place existed.
I rejoiced at Oscar wins and nominations, and basked with pride in its signage and the NFB’s revered history. It means something to believe in the work that you do.
I will remember random memories…
Of going with Lindsay to the Sudbury Film Festival and subsequently getting “swimmer’s ear” from the hotel swimming pool, and incessantly reminding her of this through our entire trip.
I will remember working with Amery and connecting to students in the Malvern district learning that they couldn’t come downtown to our office for our workshops, but was thankful to be able to go to them and let inspiration take over.
I will remember driving with Krissy, Connor and Jackie for the Historica conference at Queens University and despite the shenanigans that did ensue (and there were a few), the experience of outreaching to youth from across the country was wonderful.
I will remember travelling by train with Claudia to the Kingston Canadian Film Festival and being excited to be representatives of the NFB and searching around for a computer adaptor…and finding one thanks to Erik’s parents.
Of being handed the Team Leader golden reigns from Laurie (the master) and being so nervous about this responsibility, and then sharing this with Derritt and sharing so many laughs…
And boy was there laughter…
I will remember Connor’s funny videos that got created with any new life experience one of us was going through.
I will remember Shira bringing four willing participants for the summer of 2007 and watching a film come to life right before my eyes – and then seeing that film teach others and raise awareness around Down’s Syndrome– no words can describe that.
I will remember seeing my colleagues – my friends – each taking turns holding my daughter two days after she was born…
And there are countless more…
The world is one big revolving door – we come in and we leave. It’s been a blessing to have not gone through one this long, but I suppose there will always be a time where you will have to go in once more.
I have never worked longer in one company than my work here. Every morning, I never took for granted where I worked, who I was working for, and what brought me there. Never forgot it – every single morning.
When I saw Mara at lunchtime today, my severance package in my hand, she had been crying. (It surprised me because out of the both of us, we both know who will cry at the drop of a hat). When I asked why she was crying she said “Because you love your work and your job so much. You had your dream for seven years – and I’m sad that this is done for you.”
So a new chapter in some other shape or form will be beginning. It’s the year of the dragon and therefore shifts were inevitable as I know dragon years are meant to do. I sit here, writing these words down saddened, pissed off and heartbroken that the powers that be could think so lightly of what the strength of public art can do for so many.
But I also sit here, no longer that boy from seven years ago, but as a man. And I am sitting here as I did that day in the food court – wondering what will be coming next; because something will, and it will light another spark.