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'Mr. Jane and Finch' editor Sonia Godding Togobo (photo credit - Wade Hudson)

Sonia Godding Togobo is a film and television editor to know. Her rise in the industry is nothing short of prolific. After 20 years, she has acquired an assortment of credits including editing television programs for the Oprah Winfrey Network, Channel 4, The Discovery Channel, HGTV and the BBC.


This is a collaborative industry but unfortunately a lot of times the editor is not acknowledged. We know that Sonia is a great storyteller to work with and without a doubt we want the world to know that her foresight, technical savvy, and responsiveness as an editor greatly contributed to the success of Mr. Jane and Finch.


If you ask Sonia, she also credits the success of Mr. Jane and Finch to both director Ngardy Conteh George and producer Alison Duke’s willingness to collaborate in a way that was mutually respectful with no space for egos when it came time to make decisions.


“You gotta make sure you have the right ingredients. You put your icing on the cake and that’s what makes the segment or the documentary or trailer what it is” says Godding.

Sonia and her editing team, Lu Asfaha (left) and Nathan Allen (right) at the Toronto Black Film Festival world premiere screening of 'Mr. Jane and Finch' (photo credit - Roy Virtue)


By the time the Mr.Jane and Finch team decided to make a film about Winston LaRose, he had amassed over 5000 hours of footage. Alongside Godding, Conteh and Duke understood that these archives were tied to LaRose’s identity as an advocate and community leader and crucial to Black history in Canada. It was clear that Winston’s community work was a big part of the story and filmmaking was a big part of his community work.


Throughout the editing process Godding, and Conteh focused on telling the story of Winston as a documentarian and archivist but slowly graduated to the more urgent story: an 80-year-old man running for office in the municipal elections.


“The election was coming up in October, it was a historical election. Once the team handed in the first cut it was very clear that the broadcaster was leaning into that arc as well says Godding.“That meant turning the film around.”


And that they did.


Godding and the team swung into full gear and worked towards focusing on their new narrative.


Award-winning Composer Orin Isaacs, Sonia and director Ngardy meet to discuss the music composition for 'Mr. Jane and Finch'

In hindsight, Godding reflects that it makes sense for the team to have chosen that route. They still wanted to use the valuable archival footage Winston had amassed over the years but they just didn’t know how.


The creative team’s eureka moment came one Sunday afternoon when Conteh declared that the archives represented the why of Mr.Jane and Finch, they represented Winston’s philosophy: pan-africanism – and it was why he was running for councillor. “She came in and she cracked the code,” says Godding.

Producer/Writer Alison Duke, Director/Writer/Producer Ngardy Conteh George with editor Sonia celebrating picture lock at Oya Media Group's production office.

For Godding, the art of documentary storytelling is as much about surrender as it is about editing.


“There are going to be weeks where you are like what the hell is this film about?” she says. Conteh and Duke trusted Godding and gave her the time she needed to absorb and ruminate on all the footage.  “The more you can stay in that pocket the more magic that is created.”

Godding believes that during the editing process, the editor has to surrender their preconceptions to the actual story. The more willing you are to go through that process and accept it, the better the film ends up she says. “The story has its own life,” and it’s something we should all respect.


Godding has also edited Shella Record: A Reggae Mystery, a feature documentary which premiered at the 2019 Hot Docs Canadian International film festival and received Top Ten Audience honours.

Sonia on stage with director Chris Flanagan for the world premiere of 'Shella Record - A Reggae Mystery'


Sonia has an assortment of creative projects ahead of her: editing drama, directing more and getting into show running. When asked what she’s looking forward to she responds with a nervous chuckle: “Anxiety!”


Sonia is also a filmmaker in her own right. Check out her website: www.sgoddingtogobo.com





Winston LaRose with participants of Black Youth! Pathway 2 Industry. Photo by Yvano Wickham-Edwards

The documentary Mr. Jane and Finch has pocketed many accolades since it’s release – a national broadcast debut, positive reviews, a sold-out crowd at the Toronto Black Film Festival premiere, a Golden Sheaf nomination from the Yorkton Film Festival – but it’s most prized possession takes the form of mentorship.

Producer/director/writer Ngardy Conteh George and producer/writer Alison Duke always saw the project commissioned by CBCDocs POV as a perfect vehicle to hire Black youth pursuing careers in film and television to shadow key crew members.


They looked to Black Youth! Pathway to Industry (BY2PI), a three-year initiative that supports post-secondary graduated black youth, living in the GTA, who are looking for work in this sector. The program provides access to networking, mentorships and essential skills training. In all, five youth from the program were hired to work on the film from production to delivery.


Conteh George thought the experience the youth would receive working on a television documentary would be invaluable but it was also important for these up and coming talents to interact with a community elder as a subject matter. Mr. Winston LaRose affectionately known as Mr. Jane and Finch, had accumulated over 6000 hours of footage spanning over 60 years while documenting the Diaspora.


Winston LaRose with BYP2I participant Nathan Allan. Photo by Yvano Wickham-Edwards

“There is a rich sense of Black history that should be passed on to Black creatives. You don’t get opportunities to work with Black archives in most creative spaces and I wanted the youth to have access to that, to experience that,” Conteh George quips. As the storyline shifted and changed to Mr. LaRose running for public office, they also got a chance to witness our local political processes and how gentrification is changing the face of Toronto. The importance of civic engagement and voting were key takeaways for everyone.


One of these young creatives joining the team is Nathan Allen.


Nathan Allen on the set of Kim's Convenience

Allen’s road to Mr. Jane and Finch began in Live It To Learn It (LILI). LILI is a program partner of BYP2I that provides short internships on prominent Canadian television series. The program, now in its fourth year is housed in the Regent Park Film Festival. Allen earned a spot on the post-production team of the multi award-winning Canadian Screen Award show Kim’s Convenience and worked alongside seasoned television editor Aren Hansen. When asked about this experience, Nathan notes how Aren went above and beyond to support him. “I really just asked to shadow but he called me for extra days and he still keeps in touch. It was almost like a casual mentorship. It was very helpful.”



Nathan Allen at Oya Media Group offices working on the Winston LaRose archives

After Kim’s Convenience, Allen started working as a post-production assistant on Mr. Jane and Finch and was quickly promoted to 2nd Assistant Editor . In addition, to supporting the editorial workflow, Nathan was responsible for organizing Mr. LaRose's vast archives. Before you knew it, Nathan was editing the digital shorts including 90 seconds of Black Canadian History used to promote the larger film. Nathan often talks about how the opportunity to work on a high profile national broadcast project wasn’t only about practical experience, it was about being more connected, “Before I was doing videography I would be in isolation," he says, "I didn’t have much of a chance to be social and be in a collaborative environment.” Allen now works as an in-house packaging editor with Oya Media Group.


Black Youth! Pathways to Industry (BY2PI):

BY2PI is the only program in Toronto that caters to Black youth seeking employment in the television and film industry.



BYP2I participants Khara Martin and La Toya Grimes-Jackman in a camera workshop.



The beginnings of BYP2I started with Alison Duke, the co-founder of Oya Media Group, who wanted to address the high unemployment rate among black youth living in the GTA. “Toronto has a two billion dollar a year film industry. Wouldn’t it be great if we could help alleviate the income disparity of Black youth with a program that prepares these youth for jobs in the film industry?” says Duke. “This industry has been good to me as a career, and I didn’t go to film school initially, I don’t see why there isn't a program that can support those who have.”


Black youths face more obstacles finding consistent work in creative industries than any other group because they lack mentorship and networking opportunities. They simply don’t have the same access to employment as others. According to the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, Black youth across the province are unemployed at nearly two times the provincial rate.


The first year of the program focused on building employable skills and experience in digital media, film and television through partnerships with Nabet 700 Unifor, Regent Park Film Festival, Live it to Learn It, Mattru Media, Hungry Eyes, VTAPE, TIFF, Women in Film and Television - Toronto, and Pie in the Sky Studios and many mentors and supporters.




BY2PI participants and filmmaker Sharon Lewis

Alongside Allen, a variety of youth have been able to find employment and internship opportunities because of the partnerships mentioned above. Only 8% of the youth had any employment at the start of BY2PI. By the end of the year, over 96% of the youth had at least one employment opportunity and 81% percent found industry roles. With the second year focusing on production and more industry partners joining forces, they are hoping for even more success.



BYP2I participants splicing film at TIFF's Film Reference Library


Other BY2PI participants who worked on Mr.Jane and Finch:

Yvano Wickham-Edwards worked as a set photographer and production assistant for Mr. Jane and Finch. Wickham-Edwards has continued to work with the Oya Media Group team and other projects all while growing his photography freelance business and working toward gaining enough hours to gain eligibility for IATSE 667 Union.


River Jordan-Allick was a production assistant on Mr.Jane and Finch. BYP2I has provided Allick with mentorship opportunities with the Toronto Media Arts centre, granting her access to free events and co-working space and accessible web design mentorship for her magazine Self Care. She has also been able to get Vtape (a partner of Pathways) to distribute her first short doc.


From left to right: BY2PI mentee River Allick-Jordan with director Ngardy Conteh George on the set of Mr.Jane and Finch. Photo by Yvano Wickham-Edwards

Wade Hudson is a full-time photographer with a focus on editorial and beauty. He had the opportunity to photograph Winston LaRose for the official Mr. Jane and Finch poster. He hopes to learn more about directing and cinematography for commercial and tv work.


BYP2I participant Wade Hudson photographing Mr. Winston LaRose

Through BY2PI, Aaron Newby is using his artistic skills as a rapper, web series producer and graphic designer to become a well-rounded multimedia artist. He created graphics for the Mr. Jane and Finch archives and designed the BYP2I logo and is often hired by Oya Media Group for design work.


Marcus Armstrong worked as a production assistant on Mr. Jane and Finch and has had multiple on-set job opportunities on various projects such as lighting to camera assisting Cool Black North.




From left to right: Khara Martin, Evelyn Appiah and Isaac Mbikay at Pie in the Sky Studios

Other BY2PI participants:

KhaRa Martin is an actress who entered the BYP2I Program with a goal of pursuing screenwriting. Through the program, she landed an opportunity to work in a writer's room for a television comedy series (being produced by a program partner). She is now a member of the Women in Film and Television- Toronto (WIFT) where she hopes to expand her network and future career opportunities.


Fonna Seidu has formal training in Production Management and Production Coordination. Her goal when entering the BY2PI network was to create industry connections to widen her network; gaining potential customers, employers, and future projects. She is now a member WIFT and recently produced a short film.


Isaac Lemi entered the BYP2I Program with aspirations of pursuing a career as a Director. With not enough hours to enter the Directors Guild of Canada - Lemi used job opportunities through the program to become an NABET UNIFOR 700 apprentice. He is now in the union.


When she entered BYP2I, Evelyn Appiah was pursuing a career as a screenwriter for television. Through the program she participated in workshop and networking activities that would lead to more experience. Now she is employed with a major Canadian mass media and broadcasting company .


Winston LaRose with BYP2I participants.

The Special Mentorship of Winston LaRose:

The spirit of mentorship practiced by the Mr. Jane and Finch team can also be credited to Mr. Jane and Finch himself. Winston LaRose's social advocacy in the Jane and Finch community has deep roots. In 1994, he joined the Jane and Finch Concerned Citizens Organization (JFCCO) and raised money for youth from Toronto and Jamaica to take a trip to Ghana, creating a remarkable experience for youth who have moved on to great professions. This story is now part of the 90 Seconds of Black Canadian History shorts.


Participants in BY2PI have received mentorship in various streams such as editing with Lu Asfaha, composing with Orin Isaacs, graphic design with Ramon Charles, and recording audio in the field with Tricia Harris.


It's all smiles for the BY2PI 2019 graduating class at TIFF’s Learning Studios.

BY2PI graduation:

On Thursday April 4th, BY2PI held the graduation of Year 1 participants at TIFF where

participants, Yvano Wickham-Edwards, KhaRa Martin, and Aaron Newby showcased their experimental docs using archival footage from Mr. LaRose's Archive.


Olympic Island by Aaron Newby captures the annual tradition of Toronto's annual Caribana picnic before it was moved off of Olympic Island. Newby says it's a flashback to the rich culture of Caribana. “Today, it doesn’t have the same authenticity and it’s overpacked. The real tradition is distorted now and Toronto has created its own context for what the celebration. It feels far removed from the joyous celebration that it was.”


Yvano Wickham-Edwards's short doc #Black compares the emotional outcry of protestors in Toronto today versus 20 years ago. “Technology has expanded but people haven’t,” says Wickham-Edwards.


KhaRa Martin’s film, They will not have it, juxtaposes footage of young people today reacting to archival audio of riots in the past. For KhaRa that past is not that far away. “Our uncles, aunts and our grandmothers, that are still alive today that can talk about things that happened to them.” It’s about using the images to evoke emotion.




BY2PI APPLICATIONS ARE NOW OPEN UNTIL MAY 31, 2019:

Year 2 of the program runs from June 2019 to February 2020. This year the focus is on production. To be selected participants must be 18-26, living in the GTA, a graduate from a post-secondary film, television or media arts program. If you or anyone you know meet the program requirements and/or would have an interest please feel free to share this opportunity.


Apply Here!


You can keep up with the Mr.Jane and Finch team on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.


To find out more about Black Youth! Pathway2Industry go to www.byp2i.com follow them on Instagram.




How two black women filmmakers are building an empire, one story at a time.


Pictured left to right: Ngardy Conteh George and Alison Duke strike a power pose for Oya Media Group’s first professional photo shoot in their new office. Photo by Patrick Nichols

When Alison Duke and Ngardy Conteh George started their production company, Oya Media Group Inc. (OMG), in June 2018, the decision was made out of convenience. But, today, their quaint open-concept office, posted directly across the historic Wrigley building in the heart of Leslieville, is home to a dynamic team of accomplished women filmmakers and serves as an incubator for emerging black creatives.


When Duke and George worked together on the set of Dudley Speaks for Me in 2016, a short documentary in a series about black Canadian leaders, the chemistry was instant. It’s what Duke describes as a “synergy” between the two filmmakers, personified by their passion for documentary film, complimentary temperament, and intersecting values: mentorship, authenticity, and progress. Both felt the need to create opportunities for the next generation of filmmakers and give a platform to people from vulnerable communities to tell their own stories all while maintaining a competitive edge.


Alongside a strong work ethic, business savvy, and practiced storytelling, their values contributed to a steady creative and business rapport, forcing them to question why they hadn’t merged companies yet.


With several decades of experience working as freelance directors, producers, and editors on commercial and big-budget films, Duke and George understand the lonely experience of trying to connect and work with both black and non-black women filmmakers in the professional film industry.


Director Ngardy Conteh George on the set of OMG’s first production: Mr.Jane and Finch. Photo by Yvano Antonio

Although great strides have been made to help women gain access to employment in the TV and film industry, the number of women compared to men is significantly lower. A research review on The status of women in the Canadian Arts and Cultural Industry by The Ontario Arts Council found of the 30 Ontario-based feature films funded by Telefilm Canada in 2013-14, women held only 12% of the directing roles, 15% of screenwriter roles, and 7% of cinematography positions. And when the statistics are narrowed down to race, the numbers simply don’t exist.


But the scarcity of black filmmakers working in professional film settings is what Duke and George are slowly trying to dismantle at OMG.


Since 2016, Duke and George have managed to strike partnerships with Black Youth Pathway to Industry – an industry-led initiative that is geared towards providing mentorship and employment opportunities for youth in the media industry – while hiring both women and LGBTQ creatives. When asked about their opinion on Regina King’s promise to employ a crew of at least 50 percent women in her film productions, Duke tells me it’s something Oya does every day. “ We have to do this. To survive in this industry, you have to work with people you can rely on, who understand and support your vision.”


And this philosophy has taken them far; OMG's first documentary, Mr. Jane and Finch, had its world television premiere on CBCDocsPOV – February 22nd at 9 pm. It will be the first time OMG’s work will be shown to the public, says Duke, “That for me represents hard work, building great relationships in the industry and a lot of years of experience.”


The response OMG has gotten from peers and community members is a reminder that the company is filling in a much-needed space and should continue to push the envelope on topics of social justice and equality in the African Diaspora, says George. “It’s about excellence, collaboration, and lifting each other up.”

Follow Oya media group on twitter, instagram, facebook and visit www.oyamediagroup.com for more information.


#mrjaneandfinch #CBCDocsPOV #omg #blackfilmmakers #documentary


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