Who says the film industry doesn’t have heart?
Hart and Yale Massey, of Massey Bros. Films, are doing their best to help young actors and directors get their foot in the door of a competitive industry.
The pair have partnered with the Toronto Film School for the fifth season of The Film Student, a TV show that follows aspiring filmmakers as they make their first short film.
“It’s very difficult for Canadian filmmakers to get exposure, to get on TV, to get their movies out there,” said Hart Massey. “That’s why we created this show, to build a community and get people’s work out there as much as possible.”
Massey was 10 years old when he met Mordecai Richler and performed in one of his plays, but he is best known for his former show, Hart of the Annex. In it, Hart played a struggling actor trying to find gigs, a premise loosely based on his real life at the time.
“I was an actor and I found it hard to get work so I created my own TV series and basically I learned how to become a filmmaker by creating my own stuff,” said Massey. “If you’re going to act you better learn how to put up your own Youtube videos and put out your own stuff because that’s how you’re going to get noticed.”
The importance of self-promotion is just one of the lessons Massey teaches his students as head of the acting department at the Toronto Film School.
“The art is amazing,” he said. “The business can suck the life out of you because it’s so difficult.”
Despite the obstacles, Massey and his brother have been trying to pump life into the film scene here in Toronto. From 2006–2009 the brothers worked with youth in the Gabian Way neighbourhood, near Keele and Eglinton.
“We spent three years there teaching underprivileged youth how to make films,” Massey said. “We brought our own equipment, taught people that were from gangs how to tell their own stories.”
An unreleased documentary entitled G-Way was born from the project and one of the participants later went on to work with Massey Bros. Films and also with the Forest Hill-raised rapper, Drake.
Massey said they are hoping The Film Student can help launch the careers of more young filmmakers.
Rogers TV still airs the first four seasons of the show, which were filmed in partnership with George Brown College. The fifth season will premiere on Rogers TV in April but several online episodes can be viewed now at youtube.com/torontofilms1.
“The web series is about who’s going to get selected to the show,” Massey said. “The show itself features one student and shows what he’s doing.”
The show is about more than gaining exposure for himself, for the school or for his students, Massey said. He says it’s about raising the profile of the film industry and culture in Hollywood North.
“We hear stories from all over the world but we need to tell our stories here,” he said. “There’s definitely a handful of filmmakers that are nurturing the whole Toronto atmosphere and trying to expose Toronto for what it really is but we need more of it.”