Nathalie Younglai graduated from Humber’s Television Writing and Producing program in 2006 and has since worked on numerous television shows and recently directed her own short film, Super Zee. She also founded a grassroots organization for Black, Indigenous and People of Color in the television and film industries. Nathalie told us a bit more about her career and some of the exciting projects she's working on.
What are you currently working on and what does that mean on a daily basis?
I’m in writing room as a Story Editor for a new CBC drama series. Every day, a small group of writers spend the day talking about the season arc, character arcs, storylines, plotlines, character motivations. We talk a lot about the state of world, on a social level, and how to bring that into the show. And mostly, we plan out our Ritual lunches and make each other laugh.
When I’m not in the writing room, I'm running BIPOC TV & Film, a grassroots organization for Black, Indigenous and People of Colour in the industry. We’re doing a big push to get more BIPOC creatives working as writers, directors, editors – to get the industry more inclusive of diversity, correcting the path of the past. We organize Q&As with guest speakers, mixers, and are building a database of BIPOC creatives. In the past 5 months, we’ve been running a free Kid’s TV Writing Bootcamp for BIPOC writers, along with Humber alum, Jay Vaidya, and John May, a frequent guest instructor at Humber.
I’m also working with co-producers Farah Merani (another Humber instructor), Gillian Muller and Jay Vaidya to get our short superhero film, Super Zee, made into a web series.
Any other projects/shows you’ve worked on since graduation that you’re particularly proud of or that were particularly fun or fulfilling?
They’ve been so many! My first gig out of Humber, ‘Til Debt Do Us Part, was formative. It was on that show that I got my first shot at becoming a Director, thanks to Jennifer Horvath, a producer who believed in me. And we were helping people turn their lives around, so that was particularly fulfilling. Writing for Magic School Bus: Rides Again and 16 Hudson meant a lot to me, since both shows feature kids of colour and incorporate that into their stories. The most fulfilling part of working on every show I’ve been on has been collaborating with creative people. Nothing beats the high of the collaborative process.
I’m really proud of Super Zee, a short film about a superhero who fights everyday microaggressions and features a lead that we rarely see on screen – a bigger queer Black woman who crushes on an Asian woman. We shot it at Humber and consciously crewed up with an all-POC crew, 80% of whom were Women of Colour below the line (Director of Photography, 1st Assistant Camera, 2nd Assistant Camera, Electric, Grip were all Women of Colour). That was a big moment for all of us, assembling on set and seeing ourselves reflected back. It’s so rare to get that in the industry. It took my breath away.
I’m also really proud of the community-building I’m doing via BIPOC TV & Film. The industry doesn’t always reflect the 51% population of People of Colour that exists in Toronto and it’s empowering to be creating a space where change can happen.
What’s inspiring you right now?
Ava DuVernay, Lena Waithe, The Chi, Issa Rae, doing community activism to change the industry to be more representative of marginalized voices.
How did your time at Humber prepare you for what you’re doing now?
It was such an intense time of juggling multiple projects, demands, personalities, long hours and expectations, mine included. That skillset is something that has stayed with me.
What advice would you give to somebody wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Be kind to others, be gracious and respectful to every one, from producer to Personal Assistant, but also speak up if you see someone being mistreated. There’s a lot of ego and power dynamics in the industry and that needs to change. Amplify the voices of those traditionally shut out and support each other through it all.
Nathalie Younglai surrounded by her all-POC crew (from L to R: AbuBaker Al Bach, Hair & Makeup Assistant from Regent Park Film Festival; Natasha Patten, Hair & Makeup; partially hidden by Nathalie is Angelica Lisk-Hann, Fight Choreographer; Jenny Lee, Script Supervisor; Tim Lue, Sound Supervisor; Saba Akthar, Camera PA). Photo Credit: Leilah Dhoré