Growth and Entrepreneurship: A Profile of Michelle Walker

FTM’s 20th Anniversary: 20 For the 20th – Careers Profile Series

“The most substantial change in the film industry is the growth, which has afforded productions the ability to recruit and hire more crewmembers.”

Michelle Walker has an extensive background in the financial services industry and over a decade ago, Michelle transitioned full-time into the Manitoba Film Industry. In 2009, Michelle partnered with Denys Curle to launch Les Filles Cuisine, a company that caters for both for the film industry and non-film industry events. She currently serves as the Treasurer of IATSE 856.

When and how did you start in the media production industry?
I had just left a 20-year career in financial planning and was trying to decide what industries would be a fit for my skills.  IATSE 856’s Dispatch was calling for my husband Corey Walker, who works in the Transport department, so I spoke with IATSE 856 about what types of positions in the industry were available for a new person. This would have been in 2005, and not long after this conversation I got a call to do some daily work within craft service.  Sometime later, the film called Population 436 needed a department Key so I took the job. I continued to get calls for First Aid/Craft Services (FACS) as it was a busy film season.

What area of the film industry do you work in now and why?
I am in the catering department within the film industry. In 2009 I was 1st assistant FACS for Denys Curle. Denys is a Red Seal Chef and after the first week, I asked her why she wasn’t catering. She told me she didn’t really know where and how to start. I have a business background so with her excellent skills with food and my ability to start a business, Les Filles Cuisine was created. The TV series Todd and The Book of Pure Evil was the first production we catered in 2010. In 2013, we purchased an existing catering company in St. Vital and we’ve grown our business to also do catering outside of film industry.

What has been a substantial change in the industry?
The most substantial change in the film industry is the growth, which has afforded productions the ability to recruit and hire more crewmembers. I am the Treasurer of IATSE 856 and have seen a lot of changes over the years just in growth, training and sustainability of the industry. There is no doubt that the continuation of the Manitoba Tax Credit is such a great boost to our industry.

How did taking FTM training affect your career?
My first training was taking FTM’s Set Orientation course, which is required for membership in most of the film industry’s labour unions. When I took Set Orientation it was a full day class, which I found very beneficial in learning best practices on film sets, and what are the professional expectations and standards for working crewmembers. I have also been a mentor for FACS and received an FTM mentorship with Juliette Hagopian who is an experienced Production Manager and Producer. I found FTM to be very helpful with my development within the industry. Also being on the board of IATSE 856, I interact with FTM and find the continued training courses very helpful to both new and veteran crew.

Is there something about you or an interesting past experience?
I worked in the Financial Industry for 20 years and was a Certified Financial Planner for 8 years, with TD Bank, Investors Group and Assiniboine Financial Group.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Hopefully retired and surrounded by grandchildren!