By Alexander Huls, deputy editor, YFile
The York U Motion Media Studio (YUMMS), supported by Cinespace Studios, continues to see growth as it offers courses, workshops, talks and critical hands-on experiential education for those in the York University community looking to become the next generation of content creators across creative industries.
Originally gifted to York’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design (AMPD) and York University in 2016 by the Mirkopoulos Family, the York U Motion Media Studio was branded and relaunched in its current iteration post-pandemic in February 2021. Located within Cinespace’s expansive content production complex in Toronto, YUMMS’ interdisciplinary studio space features a student lounge, two studios, a standing set, a green screen stage and state-of-the-art equipment provided by MBS Equipment Co. Its offerings are geared towards providing opportunities to receive hands-on experience with industry tools.
Students enrolled in AMPD courses have access to the space, and various courses – including production design, cinematography, virtual production, motion capture, creative producing and film production – integrate the space into the curriculum.
“We’re really on the ground with experiential education,” says Ingrid Veninger, director of YUMMS and associate professor in the Department of Cinema & Media Arts.
Beyond developing hands-on familiarity and mastering of filmmaking equipment, YUMMS intends to help students build up a resume of experiential accomplishments that will assist them with their future content creation careers. “The first thing they’re going to be asking you when you sit across an interview table will be, ‘What is your experience? What have you done? What sets have you worked on?’ ” says Veninger.
YUMMS empowers them with answers. It also aims to assist students navigating the industry by connecting them with creative professionals through the facility.
One way is through being located within the Cinespace complex – a hub of international filmmaking activity. “Our students and folks in the greater York U community can just open the door and look down the hall and see the world of productions swirling,” says Veninger. “They’re just one step away from the creative industries they want to be a part of.”
Another way is through workshops, masterclasses and programming like the YUMMS Industry Talks Series, a monthly career development and networking event, hosted in partnership with Cinespace’s CineCares program and OYA Black Arts Coalition, creating further opportunities to learn and form industry relationships. “We’re trying to help facilitate that extra step to foster meaningful connections, so that AMPD students can gain greater access, insight and opportunity to engage with our ever-growing on-screen industries.”
Veninger stresses that YUMMS isn’t solely meant for undergraduate students, however. “It’s a teaching, learning and research space for undergrad and graduate students, alumni and faculty researchers to utilize this invaluable resource for courses, labs, workshops, master classes and production,” she says. “The space is multifaceted. Media arts research faculty are building a three-panel installation on-site, graduate students are shooting thesis projects, AMPD alumni are returning to workshop feature film screenplays with actors, award-winning cinema and media arts instructors are launching new interdisciplinary courses like Shooting the Set, and more. We are continually receptive to new initiatives, which help us maximize the opportunity of this gift, originally from the Mirkopoulos family and now with TPG Real Estate Partners.”
Still relatively new, the use and awareness of the studio’s multiple offerings requires outreach through a variety of channels. In addition to social media, building excitement happens with students. “I’m sometimes surprised when I go into first- and second-year classes. And I’ll ask if they know about the Motion Media Studio and there will be crickets,” she says. “But as soon as I mention we are located at Cinespace, where award-winning features and shows have been produced – like ‘The Handmaid’s Tale,’ ‘The Umbrella Academy,’ Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water – their eyes light up.”
Awareness of YUMMS is changing quickly. As the University heads into the winter term, YUMMS currently has 13 student film productions booked back-to-back. “The space has never been more active. Our calendar is packed, which is a great problem to have,” says Veninger.
An ongoing $3.12-million investment of support, from 2022 by the Cinespace Film Studios, will continue to allow YUMMS to pursue its goals and build up momentum, not just to benefit those who use the studio but the industry as well.
“Our students are the next generation of original content creators. They’re the forward-thinking innovators,” says Veninger. “The industry wants to discover new talent? Well, here you go. Let us introduce you to the next wave of bold, new, fresh, original visionaries ready to ignite our creative industries across Canada and around the world.”
For more information about the York University Motion Media Studio, visit yorkumotionmediastudio.ca.