Manitoba Reel Careers Profile Series: Sydney Sabiston

Sydney Sabiston is a Manitoba based actress and filmmaker. In addition to gaining experience on set as an Assistant Director, she has also been cast in many projects such as, Time Cut, All Fun and Games, and Acting Good.

While she pursues her passion for acting, Sydney works with Farpoint Films, an award-winning production company, as their casting director for non-union series.

When and how did you start in the media production industry? 

I’ve wanted to work in the film industry ever since I can remember. I entered into my first film festival at the age of 7 (Freeze Frame Film Festival) and continued to make my own short films using Windows Movie Maker & Final Cut well into my adolescent years.

My dad and I would spend hours watching movies together and I specifically remember watching the movie Signs by M.Night Shyamalan when he turned to me and said “Sydney, you’re going to be a director one day.” My dad really is the reason why I’ve always pushed to have a career in film.

Throughout my school years, I was constantly writing scripts and filming/editing them with my friends. I luckily attended a high school with an excellent media program that really helped me develop my skills further and supported my passion.

I continued my education at The University of Winnipeg where I realized I also had a passion for acting. I had some amazing professors that even helped me get my first union movie audition and helped me get on set as a trainee assistant director.

I booked my first union acting role in 2017 on Channel Zero: Butcher’s Block, where I then became a full ACTRA member. My first official gig working as crew was the following year, when I was a Trainee Assistant Director for the movie, “STAND!” From there, I worked on a few Hallmark movies as a 3rd Assistant Director all while continuing to audition for roles and booking when I could!

What area of the film industry do you work in now and why?

I enjoyed my time as an Assistant Director but knew I wanted to shift my focus and take acting more seriously. I really struggled with deciding what my next step was in the film industry and what I wanted to make of my film career. I was at a cross roads and wasn’t sure what the right move to make was when my best friend, Nathalie Massaroni, introduced me to Farpoint Films.

Working with Farpoint Films has really changed my life and I’m really proud to say that I’ve been working with them for almost four years now. I started as a Production Coordinator but eventually became their casting director for non-union projects. Farpoint is such an amazing and supportive team and I feel incredibly lucky that I get to work with them every day. Plus, not everyone gets to say that they work at the same company as their best friend of over 13 years!

Whats been a substantial change in the industry since you started?

I’m seeing more and more women working in film in all departments every day and that really inspires me. I was extremely lucky when I started working on set as it just started getting busy in the Manitoba film industry, and it’s only getting busier! I’m excited to see how the industry here grows over the next few years and what opportunities that will bring to our film community.

If you could give your past self advice, what would it be?

Don’t be too hard on yourself with little mistakes or timelines. For every small mistake I’ve made, I’ve learned so much. And I really value those learning moments. They’ve made me who I am today and brought me an exciting life. I’ve learned not to overthink the choices I make and to appreciate the now. Obviously I’m not perfect and I can still get in my head, but I can usually bring myself out of those negative spirals.

What advice would you give to someone starting off in the media production industry?

Network. Really put yourself out there and make it known that you’re ready and eager for work. Take every opportunity you can, because you don’t know what may come of it! And be kind. Make sure to value everyone’s hard work.

Collaboration is also incredibly important. Make short films with your friends, write scripts with them. Build your reels! Rehearse lines with them every week. I can’t even begin to explain how incredibly helpful my friends have been in helping me learn and grow as an actor and filmmaker.

Oh! And make sure you re-read your call time on your call sheet over and over again.

Why is learning and training important?

This industry is always adapting and changing. It’s important to keep learning and training to stay relevant and up-to-date with the current industry standards. Furthermore, training is an investment in yourself. Especially in Manitoba where we have so many opportunities and resources to do so.

I’ve taken many workshops through FTM and ACTRA Manitoba and I’ve always taken so much from them. I really value the training I’ve had and will continue to do over my life.

What are some of the films, TV series or even books that have inspired you? How about anything new youve been into?

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a huge horror movie fan. Always have been, always will be. I’ve always wanted to be a scream queen like the legendary Jamie-Lee Curtis or the current fave, Samara Weaving. I’d love to eventually play as the classic “Final Girl”, like Neve Campbell in the Scream movies.

The Scream movies have always been my favourite. I know it’s a bit weird to say a slasher movie is a comfort movie, but the Scream movies have always really inspired me to work on horror movies (whether that’s acting in them or producing them).

I always really enjoy anything produced by Blumhouse and I recently watched Nathan Fielder’s “The Rehearsal” and really loved it. He has a very.. unique mind. And he created a show like no other. I 100% recommend it.

I always welcome horror movie recommendations so I encourage anyone to reach out to me with their favourites!

Is there something about you or an interesting past experience that youd like to share?

Following the previous answer, I’ve been fortunate enough to act in quite a few horror films now. I’m really looking forward to their release and can’t wait to see what my family, friends and colleagues think of the films! I really hope to keep working on horror movies in the future. I’ve been told by many people on set that my scream is pretty bone chilling.

I’m also producing my first short film, and of course it’s a horror. I’m acting in it as well, alongside Cory Wojcik. It’s being directed by John Barnard, who I’ve been lucky enough to work closely with over the last few years. I’m really excited for it’s release and for everyone to see it!

Who is someone within the film industry you would like to work with and why?

It’s a dream of mine to act in a project produced by Blumhouse, as I love all of their horror content. I would love the opportunity to act alongside Lupita Nyong’o, Sandra Oh, Emma Stone, Michelle Yeoh & Keke Palmer if I ever had the opportunity. I can’t list all the actors I’m inspired by or this will be a novel long!

Realistically, I’d like to continue to work alongside my friends here in Winnipeg as we all continue to grow and come into new and exciting opportunities. I’d love to one day see a colleague of mine accept an Oscar, and I know I have people in my corner who feel the same way for me.

Where do you see yourself ten years from now? 

I don’t tend to let myself think that far ahead. I usually take it year by year in an ever changing industry like this one! But in my dreams, I’d be making most of my income as an actor and I’d also be working as a producer on my own feature. I’ll have paid off my parents mortgage and I’d be enjoying my life traveling with my friends, family and partner.

No matter what happens, I’ll be loved by those around me, and I know my career will always be in the film industry. With that being certain, I know I’ll live a long and full life. It really is extraordinary that I get to think back to my young 7 year old self and realize that I did it. I’m living my dream. Thanks Dad!

FTM is a non-for-profit charity and member of the Province of Manitoba’s sector council program (through the Department of Economic Development and Jobs). FTM conducts workforce development and training to build a highly skilled and adaptable film industry to support the activities of Manitoba production companies. FTM collaborates with members of the film and television industry to identify the training needs within the community.