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This article was published 21/12/2020 (306 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A year ago, Robyn Ralke was working three jobs and felt trapped in a retail industry for which she lacked passion. Some weeks, she calculated, she had only 10 hours of free time — less than 90 minutes a day to herself.
"I was essentially working to live instead of living to work," Ralke, 36, said. "I wasn’t living my life to its fullest potential."
This is why, after being laid off in July due to the pandemic, Ralke decided to enrol in the Performing Arts Production and Industry program at Seven Oaks School Division, which began last year.
Like its name implies, the program trains students in performing arts production and industry and pairs them with professionals to gain real-world experience. It was developed by Garden City Collegiate teacher Derek Kun, who previously created a similar program at Kelvin High School.
"I just think these industries are booming so much; they need young people," Kun said. "And it’s also important that young people realize the importance of pursuing your passions."
Growing up, Ralke was surrounded by music; her parents enrolled her in piano lessons at the age of six and she completed a Royal Conservatory program through Tauber Music School.
"As the years progressed, my passions went from music to audio engineering to photography and now special effects makeup," Ralke said, adding that she recently completed online courses at Stan Winston School of Character Arts.
Every student in the year-long program is matched with a local company with whom they complete an internship, which are now conducted virtually due to the pandemic.
Ralke has been learning about special effects from Michael Sanders, the creative director of Electric Monk Media, a Winnipeg-based film production company. And has also been working alongside special effects artist Chris Hadley.
"So, I’m doing things like creating custom bloods, and I’m going to be potentially creating custom wounds for some projects that (Michael) has coming up, as well," she said. "It’s been a phenomenal experience, it’s really allowed me to actually think outside the box."
Students are learning a theoretical component, as well, outside of their internships. The program has formed a partnership with organizations like Film Training Manitoba, Winnipeg Film Group and Mid-Ocean School of Media Arts to provide additional hands-on education.
"We get in recording studios, we film short films, they write their own scripts, they build a film, from the beginning through pre-production, production, post-production," Kun said, listing only a few examples of the kind of training students participate in.
Though the program is run out of Garden City Collegiate, it’s not exclusive to high school students. This year’s cohort demographic ranges between Grade 12 and age 36.
What Rebecca Gibson believes makes this program special is the opportunity it provides to students to "explore who they are and what they want to do with their career."
"The Manitoba film industry is a very important part of our economy. And as it grows exponentially over the years, even during COVID, we find that we’re always looking for people to join. And there is a position for everyone in this industry," said Gibson, who is a partner and the head of development at Eagle Vision, another company that has partnered with the Performing Arts Production and Industry program.
"So, connecting with the community and giving people the opportunity to take a crack at it and see if it’s for them — it’s something that’s really important to all of us."
The Times community journalist
Sydney Hildebrandt was the community journalist for The Times until September 2021, when she joined our sister paper, the Brandon Sun.