Producer Anna Jane Edmonds studied Media and the Public Interest, focusing on genocide and the use of film during war. From there, she went on to work with Platinum Image Films and Black Fawn Films and eventually landed a job at Silver Pictures Entertainment in LA. When her visa was up, she ended up back in Toronto and joined Blackout Media.
Blackout Media is putting on a major collaborative event, Digital Prism, this upcoming Thursday. They’re inviting all seasoned and emerging storytellers (digital and otherwise) to come and share their stories.
We chatted with Edmonds this week.
SDTC: How’d you get interested in film?
AJE: When I was six years old, I travelled internationally with my mother. She rebuilt the healthcare system in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Balkans during those wars. I actually finished third grade in Bosnia. The war in the Balkans were a really horrific time; people couldn’t leave their homes, they weren’t able to visit family, and they were at risk of being killed.
When I was there, two years after the wars had ended, Titanic came out. There was a lineup down the street. I specifically remember this moment of lining up to see an American movie in a war-devastated city. There were all these families taking an evening away from the nightmare of post-conflict to go somewhere else and experience a different world and escape their reality.
I was never a cinephile growing up, but I believe film is one of the top mediums for change and for affecting people. I believe stories allow audiences to be transported, to have conversations, and to engage with what you’re watching. I think there’s something very profound about the medium, which I was why I shifted from performing to being a producer. I wanted to be able to helm the stories that get told.
What does the Toronto film scene need more of?
We are so fortunate to have access to all of these incredible granting programs. But what comes with that is that it’s hard to maintain your creativity when your film is becoming bureaucratic.
So what does Toronto need? I think we have all the tools to be a really successful industry. We just need to continue to support each other to keep us here. The natural instinct is to go to LA; I feel we would grow as an industry if we continued to dedicate our focus and creativity to Canada.
Have you experienced any pushback because you’re a young female producer in a male-dominated industry?
I’ve definitely experienced not being taken seriously because of either my age or being a woman. I surround myself with people that will support me, because I know that – at least for the foreseeable future – this is not going to go away.
I grew up in a house full of boys, so I have a bit of a tomboy edge to me. A lot of stuff just rolls off my back because I’m either used to it or I just don’t care. I just continue to be nice and not play into it. I don’t let it bug me.
Any advice to other young women getting started?
You’ve gotta be fearless.
What do you love the most?
The collaborative process of working with groups of people all standing together with the same goal – it is just such a high. Working with writers that are openly collaborative and seeing how worlds can be built – right up to the day before set when you’re standing with all the gear looking at what you’re about to create. Those are my favourite moments.
I’m the luckiest person in the world. I get to be a part of making magic and creating worlds that otherwise people don’t get to exist in; allowing people to have conversations they wouldn’t otherwise have. Being a producer is the best role. I get to be creative, I get to work with writers, I get to hire the crew, package a project, and see the world.
What will happen at Digital Prism?
We’re running out of ildsjel, which is a creative arts collective space in the Portlands. They have an open-concept warehouse. The entire space will be lit with LED lights and we are going to light it like a movie set. We’ve reached out to seven composers in the city who will be donating compositions they’ve done for film. That will play all night as ambient music.
We have a VR experience. We have a body painting art piece. Live improvised compositions. And Vince Moskowec, a production designer, is designing the entire event. We’re going to have installations of televisions that will be home to some short films and also house props from film.
The emphasis of all of this is indie film. The drive behind it is about inclusion, getting all types of digital storytellers together to experience what we all do individually but do it together. The whole event is giving all of us (who spend our days fighting for grants and pulling together crew members for very little money) the chance to remember why we do this.
It’s all about the story, everything starts with the story. The best films are borne out of innovation and collaboration. We wanted an event where people could come together – in a noncompetitive way – and share stories, watch some film, and exist around each other without preconceived expectations, without having to feel like it’s a structured networking event. This is for fun.
Digital Prism starts at 7 p.m. on Thursday June 29th. Get your tickets in advance right here.