Before I begin, know that I write this from my own point of view; it is not endorsed by my board of education or my professional association. This is my own opinion as an educator. I do, however, have a vested interest in the topic, being a teacher, being the wife to a talented, nationally recognized picture editor, and the mother to a boy who will soon enter the school system. We live and work in Saskatchewan and, before the proposed cut, had no inclination to leave here. This is my home. I do not want to leave it so that my family can continue to work in the
fields that pay our bills, but our livelihood here is threatened. This video is a compelling argument about the children of the Saskatchewan film industry, children of families affected by the proposed cuts.
Imagine the career landscape in Saskatchewan a year from now if the Saskatchewan Party decides they should go ahead with scrapping the tax credit. Many film and television industry leaders have discussed more clearly and succinctly than I can what will happen: the film industry in Saskatchewan will go away. Why should this matter to teachers? We are not in the business of making movie stars. Our government is not in the business of financing dreams. We are, however, in the business of educating our children. Sir Ken Robinson, an important thinker in the field of education, stated it best in his book, The Element, when he said that every student is best served by finding their passion, their own learning mode. To me, that means that we need to meet students where they are and we need to do what it takes to get kids fired up about learning.
For many students, the spark is that of freedom to create; write stories, stage plays, make movies, create mini-documentaries about what they have learned. Ever done a heritage fair? How many of your students showed up in costume? How many of them took a few extra steps and visited the places they were researching to take pictures and shoot video? Not all of them, of course, but in the time I have done heritage fair, I would guess approximately 10%. Those students who take an extra creative step often inspire the students who did not to do better the next time. I have seen students who, after spending a month researching and writing, are inspired for next year’s project. They want to learn and they want to create and share.
We teach children to follow their passions, that they can be anything under the sun that they want to be, that they can ask questions, find answers, and share their knowledge.
How limiting is it for our students to dream big, but know that there is no future at home in the film, television, and new media sector? Our government sees the value in students making films to celebrate the legislative building’s 100th birthday, but they do not see the value in making a career out of film making. Many of Saskatchewan’s film industry jobs are for documentarians (want to make a living asking questions, finding answers, and sharing your knowledge?), crafts people, cooks, etc. There are myriad and unlimited ways to express creativity and to contribute to the economic engine at the same time. I once had a student ask: “Mme, is there a job where I can do social studies for a living? That is my favourite subject.” Yes! There are many! One of them is making documentaries! But now my government is telling me that it’s just not economically viable to tell stories from here. I won’t try to discuss the economics of film making here; there are many informed people in the industry who have done a better job than I can, Nova Herman-Alberts is one of them.
You might note that a couple of children in the video state that they want to be actors, directors, movie stars. They also state that they are considering a career in dentistry or palaeontology! These are careers in hard science that I believe the government of Saskatchewan would encourage our youth to pursue. We need geologists to keep the oil and gas and potash industries producing, no? Children inherently follow their interests without preconceived notions that art, science and economics do not belong together.
Science and art need not be disparate ideas! Many talented scientists are also talented artists. Art and science work together to make a whole person like baking soda and vinegar work together to make a cake. When the cake is done the ingredients are unrecognizable as individual ingredients. That does not mean that, therefore, one of the ingredients could be removed and we would get the same results. My students have painted science (solar system investigation), they have filmed social studies (mini-documentaries about student exchange programs).
What will happen when the tax credit cuts go ahead and our talented artists, actors, seamstresses, camera operators and others follow the money to our neighbouring provinces? Who will mentor our students? How will students share their ideas? How will we inspire them to ask questions, find answers an share knowledge?
Many of the talented people who make a living in the film and television industry also contribute significantly to the education scene. Judith Silverthorne, a prominent Saskatchewan writer of children’s fiction who also makes documentary films often makes an appearance in schools to talk with children about the writing process. Peter Krowler, a well-known actor, who has appeared on widely recognized shows like X-Files works with us though the CREATE program. While I cannot speak to what these two individuals might do following the cuts, I wonder what happens to our children’s exposure to real-world applications of what they learn at school when talented resource people leave our province.
Education and film and television are complementary, teaching children that what they learn at school is greater than the four walls that contain them. If you agree that our students benefit from a local film industry please take a moment to investigate the petition. Since the budget vote takes place on Thursday, I encourage you to phone Brad Wall’s office and share your thoughts. Write a letter and fax it in. These are our children, these are our students.