Ross Johnstone

June 1, 2021 10:01 am Published by

What’s your role at the NFB, and what are your responsibilities?

I am responsible for supporting the NFB’s education markets across Western Canada. I work to increase engagement with our films and resources in schools and post-secondary institutions, from Manitoba to BC, and including the territories to the North. I also license CAMPUS, the NFB’s education streaming portal, to ministries of education, school divisions and private institutions, so that teachers and students can enjoy the NFB’s full catalogue of films and education resources. I help to design marketing campaigns for institutional sales, expanding our reach to new audiences. I enjoy representing the NFB at key conferences and education events, where I am able to network with teachers and administrators, and develop partnerships with community groups and education organizations. I delight in helping them to discover new films from our collection, and I find it particularly rewarding when I can recommend a special, niche film to fit a specific course and help students to learn. I love to deliver workshops and professional development sessions to teachers, highlighting CAMPUS and promoting film as a powerful tool to inspire global citizenship. A fun part of my job is producing live events and webinars that are geared to students and that feature filmmakers, subject matter experts and youth change-makers, and which are anchored in the NFB’s rich film collection.

Did you choose the NFB, or did the NFB choose you?

A bit of both, in fact! Prior to joining the NFB, I worked as the Director of Education for the Vancouver Queer Film Festival, Western Canada’s largest LGBTQ2+ media arts organization. My role had many responsibilities, including the coordination of a youth video contest aimed at supporting safe and healthy schools, free from homophobia and bullying. When the time came to grow the annual contest into a national event, I invited the NFB to participate as a collaborator.

At that time, I was also a member of the BC Pride in Education Network and I was invited to consult on the study guide that was being developed for the NFB film My Prairie Home. Working on these initiatives simultaneously led me to a full-time role with the NFB as the Head of Education Content. Originally, I started working in Montreal, alongside the talented Education Team for nearly five years, before returning to Vancouver in 2019 to take on my current mandate.

Working at the NFB has been a longtime career goal for me. On that initial flight to start work in Montreal, I distinctly remember tuning in with pride to the NFB’s in-flight movie channel, and settling into my seat while watching The Mighty Jerome, by the distinguished Charles Officer. I knew that I was embarking on a positive new adventure!

What makes the NFB unique in your view?

For me, no other organization can match the scale at which the NFB is able to work with authentic voices to produce works that challenge status quo narratives in Canada and beyond. This is our biggest asset, in my mind. Chapeau to the artists who work with the NFB, and to the teams in our studios from coast-to-coast who produce quality films and interactive projects that truly have impact.

Can you share a surprising fact about your job with us?

You may be surprised to learn of the high demand for French-language content from teachers across Western Canada. In fact, second to our Indigenous offer, the NFB’s francophone films are the most sought-after resources by my clientele. Educators are eager for resources that support both francophone and immersion students, to meet the popularity of French-language education across the West. As a product of the French immersion system myself, I rejoice in this fact as I am proudly bilingual, in spite of my anglophone accent 😉

What is it about your job that makes you most proud?

The values expressed through our productions reflect my personal values, entirely. Throughout my career I’ve been a champion for social justice education, and I have strived to be an ally to marginalized and underrepresented communities, and those communities impacted by the legacy of colonialism. I am the most proud when I receive feedback from teachers who share about how our films are connecting and inspiring their students, often in incredibly impactful ways. I’ve learned a great deal from the filmmakers who work with the NFB, and I am very proud of the teachings that are inherent in our productions. I am honoured to play a role in bringing those stories into Canadian classrooms.

– Photo taken by Emily Cooper for the NFB.

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This post was written by Jimena Romero