Indigenous queer filmmaker Adam Garnet Jones posts tips for BIPOC creators on navigating a homogenous film industry

The Edmonton native leaves Telefilm for a Content Director role at APTN.

Screenshot of Garnet Jones’ film Fire Song, about a gay Anishnabe teenager struggling to support his family after his sister’s suicide. Source: Fire Song/Vimeo

In a lengthy post on his Facebook account, Indigenous director and screenwriter Adam Garnet Jones, whose breakout film Fire Song, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2015, wrote a heartfelt goodbye to his post at Telefilm that included creative and business lessons he learned along the way to be imparted to his BIPOC peers.

“Working at Telefilm was a life changing experience in so many ways. I am so grateful for the knowledge and care from my colleagues and the communitied of creators I worked with there,” said Garnet Jones in his April 1st post.

“Honestly, I was so naive when I arrived. I did a few things right in my career before I arrived, but it didn’t take long for me to understand why I hadn’t been more successful,” he added.

Fire Song trailer. Source Fire Song/Vimeo

The former Indigenous Initiatives Lead at Telefilm, Garnet Jones has been touted as a leading creative voice and a respected auteur of his generation, who focuses on his rich cultural Indigenous ancestry.

The post in some ways is a love letter full of tangible tips and advice that gave insight into how BIPOC creatives and filmmakers can successfully navigate the exclusive Canadian film and tv industries that is often “overrun by rich white kids” .

Below is an excerpt of his great advice that I value especially coming from someone who is looked up to in the industry.

1) Get comfortable with the idea that you are an entrepreneur and make a plan for how you can build your company.

“I did a few things right in my career before I arrived, but it didn’t take long for me to understand why I hadn’t been more successful.”

2) Know the burning heart at the core of your idea that is going to connect with audiences and build everything around that thing. Connecting with others through the stories we tell is the very hardest thing to do as artists, but it’s also the only thing that counts.

3) Build your lateral network. If you feel like you can’t get in the room with the “real” industry people that you want to see, don’t sweat it.

Screenshot of Garnet Jones’ film Fire Song. Source: Fire Song/Vimeo

4) When you are ready, build those relationships with more senior industry folks. Call the funders. Do your research and ask good questions. Tell them what you’ve got going on. Same for broadcasters, distributors, producers, etc.

5) Partner with other producers/companies but choose wisely. Early on, as you’re making the transition from short films and corporate videos and you want to get your first feature or your first show off the ground, you will face the fact that you don’t have enough of a track record on your own to pull in $$.

6) White Industry ppl: Equity and inclusion is you job just as much as anyone else’s, and maybe even more. Think about how you can actively support and encourage BIPOC people in the industry today.

Screenshot of Garnet Jones’ film Fire Song. Source: Fire Song/Vimeo

7) BIPOC folx: The industry needs us. You may be given opportunities that you never thought would come. Congratulations! It’s about damn time.

To read Garnet Jones’ full post, please click on the link below:\

To learn about other film festivals happening in Toronto, please visit my posts on Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival and Reel Asian Film Festival.

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