Five Questions for Onamie, Trebas Film Graduate and Film Maker

Trebas graduate discusses their creative process, the ethical responsibilities of filmmakers, and more.

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Onamie used to hate cinema. While enrolled at University of Toronto’s Cinema Studies Institute, they developed a deep understanding of the ways that films impact the psychology of viewers and society as a whole, sometimes in negative ways.

Many years after graduating from U of T, Onamie has completed their own movie while enrolled in our Film & Television Production and Post-Production program. This film explores the complex relationship between identity and community. Keep reading to find out more about Onamie’s movie, creative process, and why they went from hating to loving cinema.

Can you tell us a bit about your final project at Trebas?

In my short film, I was interested in exploring how you separate the individual from family, community, and culture while still holding those things close.

This is the main premise: The main character is at her cousin’s wedding reception and sees her crush. She spends the whole wedding pursuing her crush in secret but also putting out fires related to family matters. Her mom is there. Her cousin is there. Her aunt is there. She is trying to keep her sexuality a secret from her family while still pursuing it.

How do you define success when it comes to making a film?

Success for me, for this film, was not necessarily just having a finished product. It was more about ensuring that the entire crew enjoyed themselves and learned from the experience. Over the shoots, I believe I did those things.

There was a wide range of people with different experience levels working on this production. We had first timers on set and then people who have been working in the industry for a while. It went really well.

At the end of the day, a film is a group effort. I cannot make a film on my own. It was inspiring and empowering when people showed up to help me. I had about 45 people on set. To have that many people show up for a student film, to me, that gave me confidence. I was like, okay, I can do this.

What does your creative process involve?

I like taking inspiration from my family and my surroundings. I really like to observe people. I always say that people tell on themselves with their own words and how they carry themselves. This is where a lot of my ideas come from but getting them on paper is another matter.

I am a slow person when it comes to writing and putting ideas on paper. However, Trebas has helped me with that.

In the case of my final project, my script writing term was right before my shooting term, so I had limited time to write in class, probably a month and a half to knock out a script, but that time constraint helped me to rewrite, revise, and get it right. It helped me flex muscles that I didn’t know I had.

Who has influenced you?

All of my instructors have such intricate knowledge of film. They injected all of us with their passion. It’s hard not to be passionate about film when you’re in class with them and talking to them about your idea.

When we were filming my final project, one of my instructors, Buck Moore, came on set to check up on things, be a helping hand, and offer advice. That was awesome. He looked really impressed with what we were doing, and that was a big confidence booster for me.

Just the involvement of instructors from day one has been a big confidence booster. These people have been in the industry for a long time, and they are giving back to us younger folks.

You went from hating film to making your own. What happened?

When I went to University of Toronto, I did a double major in Caribbean Studies and Cinema Studies. We looked at the social implications of film. It was a lot of different ways of looking at film academically. The history of film and how it influenced society, but also the psychological experience of viewing film and how it influences viewers.

I started hating film when I was in that program because of how powerful it is. Sometimes we don’t even realize it. It has so much influence over everything.

However, when I became more cognizant of the way film has impacted me, I developed self-awareness that I didn’t have before. Because of that program, I am a more critical thinker. Eventually, this made me realize that I could love and create films, so long as I did it with ethical responsibility.

As a filmmaker, it is so important to think about the image you’re putting on the screen and how it impacts people. I was thinking about this a lot while producing my short film at Trebas.

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