10 to Watch: Screen sector needs more momentum in push for equity and inclusion

VIDEO: Rob Michaels, Jennifer Irons, JJ Neepin, Martha Hagos and Tamar Bird discuss industry progress in equity and inclusivity, and issues around on-set health and safety.

While emerging filmmakers have seen advances in equity in Canada’s screen sector, they say more momentum is needed to build opportunities for diverse creatives and producers.

Part two of our 10 to Watch video series features Rob Michaels, Jennifer Irons, JJ Neepin, Martha Hagos and Tamar Bird as they discuss the domestic industry’s progress in becoming more equitable and inclusive, on-set health and safety and their advice to other emerging filmmakers. See part one of the video series here.

More on Playback‘s 10 to Watch:

Rob Michaels is an Arab-Canadian writer who has written for Canadian series Children Ruin Everything, Roast Battle Canada, The Parker Andersons and Amelia Parker, and the mobile game of the FXX series Archer. He has come up through the Second City, and his sketch comedy channel Wishful Genies has been featured on platforms such as Funny Or Die, 9GAG, CBC Comedy, BlogTO, and Al Jazeera.

Jennifer Irons is an award-winning writer-turned-talent agent and founder of META Talent Agency, the first Black-owned film and TV literary talent agency in Canada, with a mission to help increase access and opportunities for Canadian Black, Indigenous and people of colour writers and directors, by discovering, nurturing, promoting, and advancing the careers of creators from those communities for long-term success in the entertainment industry.

JJ Neepin is an Indigenous writer and DGC director based in Winnipeg. She is a member of the Fox Lake Cree Nation, born and raised in the nickel-mining town of Thompson, Mba. Neepin has written, directed and produced several short films with her company JJNeepinFilms alongside her sister and producing partner Justina Neepin. Their films have screened at several film festivals around the world including New Zealand’s MaoriLand, Toronto’s imagineNATIVE, Hot Docs and at the Big Sky Documentary Festival in Montana.

Martha Hagos oversees the day-to-day operations of the Black Academy and B.L.A.C.K. Canada, with a focus on building out and executing the strategic vision as well as managing the financial performance of the organization. Previously, Hagos was the Black Academy’s director of operations and has led the annual B.L.A.C.K. Ball in Toronto and Los Angeles since its inception. Prior to joining B.L.A.C.K. Canada full-time, Hagos co-ordinated a wide range of member events at Soho House Toronto.

Tamar Bird is an award-winning producer from Ajax, Ont., beginning her career as an actor in community theatre and local television. After creating her first short film The Night Session in 2014 she made the leap to producing, working with partner Kelly Fyffe-Marshall to produce short films such as Haven, Black Bodies and Omi. Bird is now in post-production on their first feature film When Morning Comes.

Details regarding nominations for the 2022 edition of 10 to Watch will be announced in the coming weeks.