From a media release:
CBC, BIPOC TV & Film and the Canadian Film Centre (CFC) today announced the participants for the second year of the CBC-BIPOC TV & FILM SHOWRUNNER CATALYST, an accelerator program that supports the career advancement of senior writers who identify as Indigenous, Black or People of Colour through hands-on and personally tailored on-set experience. Designed through an anti-racist and equity-focused lens, the Catalyst provides participants with additional tools and support systems necessary to reach a showrunner level in the Canadian film and television industry, including a dedicated showrunner-mentor throughout the process. The six participants for the second year of the program, which is now underway, are Vance Banzo, Nelu Handa, Amanda Joy, JP Larocque, Robina Lord-Stafford, and Shannon Masters.
“BIPOC TV & Film is thrilled to partner again with CBC and CFC to elevate these talented and experienced writers,” said Kadon Douglas, Executive Director, BIPOC TV & Film. “Amanda, JP, Nelu, Robina, Shannon, and Vance have broken barriers, paid their dues, and contributed to some of the most memorable and exciting moments in contemporary Canadian TV. Their unique perspectives and narratives illuminate a diversity of experiences that are rarely seen on screen but resonate with audiences in Canada and across the globe. With the support of the Showrunner Catalyst and our industry partners, these creative leaders are ready to take up their well-deserved space in the Pantheon of great Canadian storytellers.”
“The past year of collaboration has further demonstrated the importance and impact of elevating senior-level Black, Indigenous and racialized creative talent and setting up these future leaders for success. We are honoured to once again work with BIPOC TV & Film and the CFC on this unique partnership,” said Trish Williams, Executive Director, Scripted Content, CBC. “Building on our learnings from the first year of the program, we look forward to supporting this year’s talented participants in their continued development, with the shared goal of nurturing and advancing more creative leaders who reflect the changing face of Canada.”
“We’re thrilled to be back for year two of this groundbreaking program with our partners BIPOC TV & Film and CBC, and to be supporting these six talented creators in their journey to becoming leading showrunners in our industry,” added maxine bailey, executive director, CFC. “This unique program brings us one step closer to a more just and equitable Canadian film and TV landscape, where equity, access and authentic representation are the standard, not the exception.”
The 2023 participants are as follows:
Vance Banzo (he/him) is a Saulteaux/Cree comedian, actor, and writer born and raised in Edmonton. Currently residing in Toronto, Banzo is a proud member of award-winning sketch comedy troupe and former CBC series, TallBoyz. In addition to writing and starring in the series, he was also a contributing director in the third season, which won four Canadian Screen Awards. As a comedian, he has performed on many stages across the country, including Just For Laughs Toronto and the Gchi Dewin Indigenous Storytelling Festival.
“My ultimate goal is to create an environment for indigenous people to learn and mentor, while ensuring they have the tools and skills needed to succeed at a professional level in this industry.” – Vance Banzo
Nelu Handa (she/her) has written for multiple seasons of award-winning comedy series, including JANN, The Odd Squad, The Beaverton, TallBoyz, and A Little Late With Lilly Singh. Most recently, she’s written for both seasons of Run the Burbs and served as Co-Executive Producer on season two. In 2021, she earned a Best Writing Canadian Screen Award for her work on Baroness von Sketch Show and a Peabody Award for her contribution to the groundbreaking first season of Sort Of. As an actor, she’s been featured in many series, including all of the previously named shows, Star Trek: Discovery, and Workin’ Moms, where she played recurring character Jade. And finally, it’s pronounced ‘knee-loo’, like the body part and a British toilet.
“I love being a writer – breaking a season of stories, writing scripts, punching up, and contributing my point of view into the DNA of a show. I thrive on bringing my full self to the table, and having the chance to voice my opinion on matters of representation and advocacy.” – Nelu Handa
Amanda Joy (she/her) is an Asian-Canadian screenwriter and performer based in Toronto, best known for co-creating the City/OMNI original series, Second Jen. Joy was nominated for Writers Guild of Canada Awards for the Second Jen scripts “Like a Girl” and “Couch Surfing,” and won a WGC Award in 2022 for her work on Amelia Parker. She was also nominated for a Canadian Screen Award for best comedy series for Second Jen Season 2. Her additional credits include Son of a Critch Season 2 (CBC/Lionsgate), Second Jen (City/OMNI), Take Note (NBC/Peacock), TallBoyz (CBC), Overlord and the Underwoods (CBC/Nickelodeon UK), Amelia Parker (BYU-TV), and The Parker Andersons (BYU-TV). She also has several projects currently in network development.
“I want to create spaces where people from all walks of life can have their voices heard and their stories told.” – Amanda Joy
JP Larocque (they/them) is a television writer and producer with experience in comedy (CBC’s Sort Of, CTV’s JANN), procedural drama (CBC’s Coroner, Diggstown and SkyMed), youth (HBO Max’s Home Sweet Rome, YTV’s Popularity Papers) and genre programming (Netflix’s Another Life, Shudder’s Slasher). A proud member of the 2SLGBTQ+ and BIPOC communities, JP is committed to diversity and inclusion in all their work.
“I’m at a point in my career where my ability to understand every aspect of showrunning and obtain more meaningful on-set production experience is vital to my future success. Gaining both skills can make the difference between me remaining a support player on other people’s projects versus me having the opportunity to lead my own shows. And I want to have the freedom to do both — a freedom enjoyed by generations of writers before me.” – JP Larocque
Robina Lord-Stafford (she/her) is a Jamaican-Canadian mother, historian, feminist and award-winning screenwriter. She is the co-creator of a half-hour dramedy (based on a bestselling memoir) in development with a global streamer, a co-executive producer on a drama series in development with CBC, and a mentor for NYWIFT’s prestigious The Writers Lab (supported by Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman) and for BIPOC TV + Film’s Episodic Lab. She also has an original drama series in development with eOne, and is the co-creator and co-showrunner of a new drama in development that sheds light on a shameful piece of Canadian history.
In 2022, Lord-Stafford was a co-executive producer and writer on Macy Murdoch (CBC Gem), a co-producer and writer on Season 3 of Pretty Hard Cases (CBC), and a writer on Hudson & Rex (Rogers). Previously, she was a co-producer and writer on Season 2 of Moonshine (CBC), and a writer on Blood and Water (Rogers) and Frankie Drake Mysteries (CBC).
“I’m passionate about writing characters that I want to see, racialized people who’ve either been relegated to the margins, haven’t made it onto the page, or have been the standard stereotyped tropes. Daily, I’ll work diligently to achieve my writing and career goals, and once established in the industry, I’ll hold that still-elusive door wide open so my BIPOC sisters and brothers can also enter.” – Robina Lord-Stafford
Shannon Masters (she/her) is an award-winning film and television writer. Her feature film Empire of Dirt premiered at TIFF in 2013. That same year, Masters was nominated and won the Canadian Screen Award for Best Original Screenplay. She then made the transition from film to television as story editor on the fourth season of APTN’s half-hour comedy Mohawk Girls and has since gone on to write for CTV’s dark investigative drama Cardinal, Global Television’s hit series Private Eyes and multiple seasons of CBC’s drama series Burden of Truth and Coroner. Originally from Saskatchewan, Masters is Cree Métis and Ukrainian and is a member of the Métis Nation of Ontario.
“I believe showrunning requires patience and the ability to stick-handle a million different personalities and get them to work together harmoniously. It’s managing the doubts of others. More than simply having a creative vision, you’ve also got to be diplomatic while still having the ability to be the boss when you have to be, because let’s face it, if the show fails, that’s on you.” – Shannon Masters
The first part of the Catalyst, which began last month, consists of a series of substantive and hands-on masterclasses covering topics related to the role and responsibilities of a showrunner, including anti-oppressive leadership, people management, mental health, building relationships with network, studios, creative and crew, and all facets of bringing a show to life, from the writing room to prep, production, post and delivery. Participating speakers include Floyd Kane (creator, showrunner and executive producer of Diggstown), Morwyn Brebner (creator and executive producer of Coroner, Saving Hope and Rookie Blue), Noelle Carbone (co-executive producer and writer on Wynonna Earp, Coroner, Cardinal), and Jennifer Podemski (founder and CEO of Shine Network Inc.).
Through the context of a senior writing and producing role on a Canadian-produced series, the second part of the Catalyst will see each participant building upon their foundational skills in showrunning by working with an experienced showrunner and participating in all key elements of production: from prep meetings to running the floor, managing set, and taking a block of episodes through to post. Throughout the process, each participant will also be paired with an external showrunner, who will serve as a mentor. The program will be highly tailored for the needs of each writer and participating production, offering wellness and advocacy support through an anti-racism, anti-oppression lens. The second year of the program will run through the fall of 2023. This is the second year of an initial three-year commitment to the program made by CBC, BIPOC TV & Film and the CFC, with the opportunity to renew.
Catalyst participants are nominated by showrunners, producers, production companies or broadcasters, in consultation with BIPOC TV & Film and the CFC, based on their experience and readiness to further progress in their career. In order to qualify for participation, each potential candidate must be a Canadian Citizen or permanent resident of Canada (as recognized by CAVCO), and a Writers Guild of Canada member in good standing with a minimum of three episodes of “written by” credits on 30 or 60-minute prime time television or streaming platform productions in the last seven years, and at least one “co-producer” credit in the last three years, or equivalent experience. For more information on the qualification and nomination process, visit bipoctvandfilm.com/showrunner-catalyst.