Tamara Roshka is a second-generation Indo Canadian documentary director and cinematographer. She is a multi-disciplined artist and when not shooting, she paints and creates ceramic art. Over the years she has worked alongside her father, Ernie Nathaniel who is a director and editor. She has had the opportunity to be mentored Charles Konowol, CSC and by the late Barry Lank, CSC which has allowed her to expand her skills in cinematography. Using her Fine Arts background, Tamara takes great care in her artistic expression through the camera lens. Currently, Tamara advocates for gender equality on film sets and enjoys teaching younger generations interested in the industry.
When and how did you start in the media production industry?
If I count cable pulling, then I first started when I was like 5 years old. I grew up running around a production studio that my dad ran his business out of. I was always fascinated with set and wanted to play with the studio cameras. I was in some commercials and TV shows as a child but didn’t end up really liking acting in the long run. I got my first paid camera operating job when I was 14. I just had to shoot audience reactions and b-roll for a live concert, but I was so excited.
What area of the film industry do you work in now and why?
I work in the Camera Department as an assistant on union sets, and I do freelance documentary cinematography working with local production companies. I think it was a natural thing for me to go into – I would assist my dad or Barry Lank on shoots growing up. I eventually started being a second camera on various freelance jobs on my own. I really started figuring out what I liked to shoot and my own cinematic style over the years and learning from others.
I tried doing a desk job for a while, and while sitting in my office I kept counting down the days until my next freelance shoot day (that I was doing on the side). I finally came to the realization that I didn’t want to work in an office, I wanted to be out shooting with a camera.
I specifically am passionate about documentary filmmaking. Telling people’s stories and bringing awareness to important issues in our world is something I feel I need and want to do.
What has been a substantial change in the industry since you started?
I think working with other women over the past few years. In Manitoba we are severely lacking in women in the Camera Department, whether it be film or freelance. Attending FTM’s SWIFT last year was amazing because I was able to connect with other women in film. Growing up I was the only woman usually on set.
If you could give yourself advice today to yourself in the past, what would it be?
Stay focused and ignore people trying to bring you down. It’s going to be ok.
Looking back, I have had so many people say things like “you’re not actually a cinematographer”, “documentary doesn’t count”, “you shouldn’t be in the film industry”, “why not get a job that is more secure”? etc… I think as much as I tried to not let those comments get to me, they do build up over time, and it does get difficult to ignore the comments and move forward. I’m glad I have such a great support system and friends and colleagues that have encouraged me throughout the years.
What is advice you would give to someone starting off in the media production industry?
Probably the same thing, but also to find allies, to build a network, to have quality friends and family around you to support you. And to not sweat it. It’s a road, it’s going to be tough but it’s going to be fun too. Take courses! Learn from others, watch and observe, try to get on set and learn other rolls in the area you want to work in. Read, and go out of your way to learn more.
Why is learning and training important?
Taking courses and training is extremely important because when you take classes you are not only learning valuable skills and seeing how the instructors have been successful in the industry, but you are also meeting your peers and networking. It is extremely valuable to build your network because that is also how you get onto shows, meet friends and also build your own crew. The MB film industry is full of people that are passionate about the art of storytelling through film and it’s really great.
What are some of the films, TV series or even books that have inspired you? How about anything new you’ve been into?
I think seeing Lord of the Rings in theatres when I was younger was pretty inspiring to me. The sheer scale of that production and the artistry of the environments really made me more interested in storyboarding and concept creation… which in turn made me interested in Fine Arts. Going into Fine Arts in University really aided in bringing so much awareness about colour, light, and composition in my frames and scenes to create an emotion. I didn’t go to film school, but I did a ton of photography, and learned from watching other cinematographers, and studying paintings.
I really enjoyed House of the Dragon most recently – Clare Kilner’s episodes were my favourite, and the thought she put into some of the most impactful scenes was pretty wonderful.
I would say fantasy media has always been the most inspiring and interesting to me. I grew up playing video games, and I was always drawing and creating new worlds, and trying to show others how I see things or imagine things.
Is there something about you or an interesting past experience that you’d like to share with your colleagues?
I find having another creative medium, like painting or photography has really helped my shooting. During gigs, I constantly think about shooting “moving pictures”. Instead of one painted or photographed image, I’m making multiple frames of art per second. I find reminding myself of this helps me stay in my creative brain. Shooting days can get technical and rigid at times, so balancing that creativity and technical knowledge is important to me to maintain. I also find going back to painting (or still photography), between shoot jobs, helps me to stay creative and keep in touch with the fundamentals of composition and light. It also helps to experiment with various creative mediums – I highly recommend this to anyone!
Is there someone within the film industry you would like to work with and why?
Dan Laustsen, ASC, DFF one day – I really enjoy the way he colours and lights his scenes, he really knows how to emphasize the whimsical nature that is a Guillermo Del Toro film. I think he’s a great cinematographer, I’d love to just shadow him or work with him for sure. He also really likes sky photography and paintings so that is also cool.
Where do you see yourself in ten years from now?
In 10 years, I hope to have at the least a few documentary films completed in which I have Directed and/or DoP-ed. I plan on shooting and experimenting with my narrative shorts that I’ve been writing as well. So yes, really expanding more into the Directing side of productions and continuing progressing and working as a DoP. Maybe some awards would be nice too haha!