V.T. Nayani has wrapped her first feature film. THIS PLACE, in partnership with Telefilm Canada’s Talent to Watch program, is a drama that the director, writer, and producer co-wrote with Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs and Golshan Abdmoulaie. “After a decade of directing and working towards this moment, it felt surreal to say ‘that’s a wrap’,” she says. “We’re now in post-production and I can’t wait to share our film baby with the whole world!”
It’s a major career highlight, and a milestone moment that was hard earned. Beyond her list of film & tv credits, Nayani’s an alumni of CBCs Workshop for Diverse Creators, HotDocs’ Doc Accelerator Program, and Reelworld Film Festival’s Emerging 20 Program, as well as a recipient of the UN Women Yvonne M. Hebert Award for filmmakers and photographers. Her list of accomplishments is awe-worthy, which is why RBC honoured her in last month’s Women in Film Series at TIFF.
But what impresses us most is her heartfelt honesty and straight-up critique of the Canadian film and television industry.
What is making you feel hopeful about the future of the film industry?
Seeing Black, Indigenous, and other women of colour, as well as gender-diverse folks from our communities, telling their stories through cinema and taking the lead on our projects, without apologies or compromise. We are not just in front of the camera, but behind it as well, and in the decision-making rooms. We know the industry needs us more than we need them, and we move forward rooted in that fact, understanding that no one can stop us from doing what we’ve BEEN doing. I am so excited for all of us and grateful to be witness to this time, which would not be possible without the paths that our elder and ancestors have paved, for us to reach here and now.
When you’ve felt discouraged in the past, what is it that motivates you to keep going?
To know that I am not alone. I always try to remember this truth. I am also always reminded of this fact by those who love me and surround me tightly. This industry, this work, it can be lonely and isolating. Especially for creatives working within the business of cinema and television. But every time I am on the verge of giving up, letting it all go, and bowing out, those who love me most bring me back home to myself and remind me of who I am. I am ever-grateful to and for the people I love, and who love me back so fiercely. I am because they are.
What three pieces of advice do you want to give to your younger self (or someone currently trying to build their career in film)?
1. Find your community. One that you trust, that you love and respect deeply. One where you champion each other, where you support and lift each other up. Where you believe in the abundance of all your dreams and the possibility to see those to fruition. Love holds, love uplifts, love nurtures, love sustains. I am grateful for and in awe of love, above all.
2. Trust your gut. About people. About projects. About your purpose. About the possibilities you can’t always see, but know deeply are there waiting for you, just beyond the bend. Learn to hone your intuition, strengthen it, trust it, and believe it. You know what’s right for you. Hear people out, listen with care and openness, but don’t let anyone convince you of what’s not right for you. Only you should hold power within you. No one should hold it over you – ever.
3. Believe in your vision. And be open to that vision shapeshifting, with new learning and blossoming. When you know why you’re doing what you are doing, and what your purpose is in that process, you cannot fail in the long-game. You can be questioned, challenged, and doubted, but that abundance of inherent knowing within you, however quiet it is sometimes, will always prevail when you believe in your vision.
What have you watched recently that has really inspired your creativity?
BLACK BODIES, directed by Kelly Fyffe-Marshall. SINKING SHIP, directed by Sasha Leigh Henry. SING ME A LULLABY, directed by Tiffany Hsiung. BEANS, directed by Tracey Deer. INCONVENIENT INDIAN, directed by Michelle Latimer. ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI…, directed by Regina King. THE HALF OF IT, directed by Alice Wu. INSECURE, created by Issa Rae. QUEEN SUGAR, created by Ava DuVernay. Basically, all cinematic work by Black, Indigenous, and other women of colour. The magic we are making on screen, the legacies we are building on, the worlds we are creating – I’m here for all of it, all-ways. We have been here, we are here to stay, and we are not going anywhere. Stay tuned and keep watching. And that’s that on that!
What does it mean to you to be part of the RBC Women In Film series? How did you feel when you first received the news?
I am in awe and honoured. Honestly. It’s a moment I never imagined happening. To have access to this kind of platform, to tell a piece of my story, and to share the screen with all Black, Indigenous, and women of colour directors – more of this! It’s also an affirmation that all the work I have done over the past decade has not been in vain, that people see and hear and believe in me. I am humbled by life’s passing graces, over and over again. I hold them close to my heart and let them feed my spirit in my pursuit forward on this path.