When Melissa Van Soelen, Tom Groom, and Jesse de Rocquigny graduated from The University of Winnipeg’s film studies program, they were already well-connected to the film industry.
“A lot of the friends I made in school, I continue to work with often. It’s a very tight-knit community,” said de Rocquigny. “Building that network has been crucial to where I am now in my career.”
Now a videographer with Tripwire Media Group, de Rocquigny says that one of the highlights of his studies was the UWPG Film Festival, where he received a cinematography award two years in a row, and made valuable industry connections that led to a successful grant application to make a short film.
The opportunities that have come my way thanks to connections with profs, peers, and colleagues have been invaluable.
Groom worked as sound editor on de Rocquigny’s film, which played at Gimli Film Festival, and Videodrunk Film Festival in Toronto.
While Groom is thankful for the technical skills he gained at UWinnipeg, he says it was the people that made his experience so successful.
“Despite all of the advanced film making techniques, software, and equipment I learned, I wouldn’t be anywhere close to where I am now, if it weren’t for the people I met at UWinnipeg,” he said.
Van Soelen is thankful for the opportunities and encouragement she received during her studies.
“It’s very important to connect with industry leaders, mentors and teachers, and it’s not as scary as it seems,” she said. “It just takes one email to ask for a meeting to learn from those you admire.”
This willingness to put herself out there led to work opportunities. During her studies, Van Soelen volunteered regularly with Merit Motion Pictures, doing research and community outreach for the film, Beyond the Spectrum.
“This paved the way for me in my own film making aspirations, to create content that could not only increase awareness around under-represented topics, but also provide a voice for people,” said Van Soelen.
When she was offered an eight-week contract working on a documentary film produced in the Yukon, her instructor allowed her to finish her final Film Making 1 class project in Whitehorse. When she returned to Winnipeg, she was offered simultaneous opportunities to work as production manager on season two of Discovery Channel’s Animal Planet documentary series Dr. Keri: Prairie Vet, and as a unit manager on TSN’s acclaimed documentary series, Engraved on a Nation – Omega Man: A Wrestling Love Story.
“This all happened while I was in the film studies program,” she said.
UWinnipeg student, Miranda Moroz, says the chance to make industry connections while a student has made a huge difference in her career. Though she is still a few months away from graduation, she has already built up an impressive resume as a writer, filmmaker, and director.
“The opportunities that have come my way thanks to connections with profs, peers, and colleagues have been invaluable,” said Moroz. “It’s given me a chance to try out many facets of the industry, to help navigate where I’d like to focus.”
Last fall, Moroz had the opportunity to work as executive director of the 2019 UWPG Film Festival, a role that paved the way for her current position as Gimli Film Festival’s communication and event planning manager, which she began in November 2019.
“Landing the position as executive director of the UWPG Film Festival was definitely an education and career highlight for me,” she said. “It allowed me to get involved with so many great organizations and make tons of connections with mentors, industry colleagues, and other students.”
Studies show that complementing post-secondary studies with hands-on work experience is a key way to set students up for career success. In a recent Horizon Manitoba report, released in January 2020, Manitoba’s universities and colleges, along with the Business Council of Manitoba, outline bold actions to make experiences like Van Soelen, Groom, de Rocuigny, and Moroz’s, a reality for more Manitoba students.
The report outlines the importance of maintaining close linkages between post-secondary and leading employers, and increasing work-integrated learning opportunities (such as co-op placements, internships, and practicums), providing students with valuable experience and connections to employers in their chosen field of study, while also giving employers access to new talent and innovative ideas.