Class of 2012 – CSI
Cinema Studies graduate, Peter Kuplowsky is an aspiring filmmaker, working to marry his passion of video gaming and new media with film at TIFF Nexus.
I didn’t arrive at my decision to enroll in the University of Toronto’s Cinema Studies program easily. For one, it had yet to become an Institute and adopt the acronym of television’s most popular crime-drama as its course code – that might have clinched it. But, more importantly, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to pursue an academic degree in lieu of pursuing a film production degree. I was determined to become a filmmaker and the production-oriented programs at Ryerson and York seemed so much more conducive to realizing that aspiration – I was ready to start making movies immediately! But when discussing my dilemma to an older friend who had recently completed NYU’s Film Graduate program, it was suggested that everything I would be taught in film school, I would learn through the sheer process of making a film, and that it would be harder to learn all the nuances, anecdotes and philosophies of cinema’s history and theory in the same stretch of time. The pitch was convincing, and so I made my decision and have remained confident I made the right one ever since.
During my undergraduate studies I had my bandwidth expanded. Not only were Cinema Studies courses introducing me to a wealth of inspiring films and filmmakers, I was also being exposed to critical, political and philosophical writings that recalibrated my worldview – not just how I watched movies, but how I perceived the world. And in tandem with those epiphanies, I also gained valuable experience and insight into other facets of the film industry I had not previously considered through my participation in the CINEMA STUDIES STUDENT UNION (CINSSU), where I was trained in the processes of film distribution and exhibition, while receiving the immeasurably rewarding opportunity to program and screen some of my favorite films on 35mm each and every Friday of the semester.
I quickly developed a great enthusiasm for film programming which extended around and beyond the campus. While working part-time at the Bloor Cinema I fell in with the organizers of an emerging genre film festival Toronto After Dark and after showing up punctually to a few meetings, soon found myself selecting their shorts program and within a few years their features program as well. And when a professor expressed interested in establishing a film series with the University’s Asian Institute, I immediately volunteered do spearhead a retrospective of cult Japanese filmmaker SABU, an endeavor that ended up being featured at the Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival. In time, I had established a reputation as a local zealous purveyor of eccentric cinema; a reputation that would later lead to film series collaborations with Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) in 2009, and Midnight Madness programmer Colin Geddes’Actionfest in 2011 & 2012.
Upon graduating, I continued my education with the Masters program at the newly mintedCinema Studies Institute, where I complimented my extra-curricular entrenchment in film festival culture with an obsessive fascination with new media and video gaming. A year after completing my Masters, both my festival experience and dedicated interest in studying video games through a decidedly cinematic lens benefited my resume greatly when I applied to the TIFF Bell Lightbox job posting of TIFF Nexus Assistant, a position with the organization’s inaugural new media and gaming initiative. I got the job in the summer of 2011 and have exuberantly been coordinating new media conferences and gaming jams at 350 King Street West ever since, considering myself very fortunate to have found work that straddles two of my passions.
As for my aspiration to make movies: I haven’t given it up. Thanks to Toronto After DarkI befriended an up-and-coming filmmaker, whose short films I had been programming year after year. When he moved from Winnipeg to Toronto, well into post-production on his debut feature, I came aboard as a co-producer to help him complete and sell the film. The lo-fi sci-fi comedy Manborg, directed by Steve Kostanski and co-produced by Peter Kuplowsky and Colin Geddes, has screened at over a dozen domestic and international film festivals and comes out on DVD in North America this April from Anchorbay Canadaand Dark Sky Films.