Adrienne Slover. (Photo: Daniel Ehrenworth)

Topics: Ethical Living, Oct/Nov 2022 | Interview

This middle school teacher’s non-profit gives young people a taste of the film world

Adrienne Slover teamed up with Canadian filmmaker Evan Goldberg to create Reel Start


Adrienne Slover has always been a champion for diverse storytelling. In 2016, the Toronto middle school teacher teamed up with Canadian filmmaker Evan Goldberg to create Reel Start, a non-profit that introduces young people from underrepresented communities to the world of film. Students from select schools in Toronto and Los Angeles can apply to participate in the program where, with the help of industry pros, they write and produce a five- minute short film on an important social issue.

Inspiration Evan Goldberg and I went to McGill University together. He went on to become a writer and producer in film, and I went on to become a teacher in a very multicultural community in Toronto. Eventually, we talked about how we could blend our two backgrounds. There are so many careers available in film, but young people may not know these careers exist.

But really, I knew nothing about film. This project started with a passion for students and diversity. When I was a child, my parents taught ESL (English as a second language) adults and then went on to teach ESL students in high school. We always volunteered and we always celebrated different cultures.

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Community We make Hollywood-quality films with no budget. Our cameras have been donated, and the crews are volunteers. We ask anyone and everyone to help us. In our first year, we did a short where Seth Rogen and Michael Peña are thrown in a dumpster. Imagine how the kids felt, getting to interact and work with these A-List actors. The support from the industry has been incredible.

Lessons It is not easy to make a film. There are hundreds of people involved behind the scenes, and that’s something that we’ve introduced to our students — what goes into it after you film, which is a whole other part of the process. And that’s the point of Reel Start: if you live in a city where there’s a thriving film industry, there are thousands of jobs that you can get — and you don’t always need a post-secondary education. Of course, I’m an educator, so I encourage students to continue their educations, but it’s not always realistic, it’s not always accessible and it’s not always for everyone. But there are still some amazing jobs out there for you.

Impact There have been students who had a lack of confidence or had insecurities, but then they found their niche. We once had a fifth grade student who was so hesitant to participate in the program, but when we did a camera workshop, he was hooked. I’d look over and he would be working with the camera operator — headset on, eyes behind the monitor. I like to think that maybe he found his love for cameras.

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Representation When you look at Canada, it’s so diverse. Yes, we might have different religions and different cultures, but we have so much in common. Unfortunately, the world is out of control. There’s so much hate. The only hope, to me, is compassion, understanding, tolerance and love. That needs to be reflected in how we educate as teachers, and also in the education tools that we’re using. Students need to feel included and see themselves represented.

The film industry has such a huge platform. Movies can reach millions. I think a lot of the problems we face are due to ignore and not necessarily ill intention, so the more we can educate, the more we can share stories and the more that people can learn new things. There are so many ways to tell positive stories. It’s a way to open up the conversation again.


This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity. It first appeared in Broadview’s October/November 2022 issue with the title “Adrienne Slover.”

Jasmine Mahoro is a writer living in Toronto.

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