University of Toronto

Innis Alumni & Friends

Elysse Leonard

Class of 2010 – CSI

Elysse Leonard received an Honours Bachelor of Science with a double major in Psychology and Cinema Studies from the University of Toronto (UofT) in 2010. She graduated from the Cinema Studies Master’s program at UofT in 2011, completing a Major Research Paper on representations of “natural” death and dying in postwar cinema. As a student, Elysse was the recipient of several awards including the Norman Jewison Fellowship in Film Studies (2010) and a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Master’s Scholarship. She continues to explore the intersection between film and healthcare in her professional life. Since 2011, Elysse has served as the Humanities Lead for Cinema Medica, a monthly film series sponsored by the Health, Arts, and Humanities Program. She also coordinates a program for the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) called Reel Comfort.

Could you tell us a bit about Reel Comfort and your role?

Launched in 2007, Reel Comfort works to de-stigmatize mental illness by providing film screenings and discussions, special guest visits, and hands-on film workshops to patients in the Acute Care Psychiatric Wards at Toronto General Hospital and St. Michael’s Hospital. The program provides a creative outlet to patients who currently have very few therapeutic and recreational activities available to them.

As Coordinator of Reel Comfort, I work with local filmmakers and professionals to organize and run ongoing programming that provides patients with the opportunity for artistic self-expression (and fun!).

I consult with hospital staff to select films that are appropriate for the patients, and I moderate post-screening discussions between patients, caregivers, and guest filmmakers. Recent guests include Ingrid Veninger (ModraThe Animal Project), Jason Lapeyre (Cold BloodedI Declare War), and Dylan Reibling (ModelSilent Garden).

Monthly film-craft workshops cover a variety of filmmaking and film culture topics including special effects make up, filmmaker interview techniques, stop-motion animation, and screenwriting. In one of my favourite workshops, patients learned about creative voiceover and the neo-benshi movement before redubbing scenes from The Wizard of Oz. We have even done “sweding” workshops inspired by the film Be Kind Rewind (2008).

It has been a truly rewarding experience. I am thankful for the opportunity to apply my Cinema Studies degree and my passion for film to the field of healthcare, and I look forward to continuing my work in this field.

To read more about Reel Comfort, click here

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