Like so many filmmaking professionals, Miriam Temesghen’s path to the film industry wasn’t straightforward. She studied microbiology at the University of Manitoba in hopes of going into the medical field, but after a few years, she realized she had to pursue her true calling: film.
Now, she’s been working in the film industry for three years, mostly on union productions as a member of the Directors Guild of Canada (DGC). On many productions, Miriam works as an assistant production coordinator as well as assisting casting.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born and raised in Winnipeg after my family immigrated from Eritrea in east Africa. My path to the film industry was a bit unconventional.
I went to school to study microbiology at the University of Manitoba in hopes of going into the medical field, but after a few years, I realized the sciences weren’t exactly for me — I always knew in the back of my mind that I wanted to work in film.
Now I’ve been in the film industry for three years, mostly working on union productions and being a member of the Directors Guild of Canada (DGC). On many productions, I’ve worked as an assistant production coordinator as well as also assisting casting.
How and when did you start out in the media production industry?
In 2018, I was just trying to find my way into the industry and I happened to get hired as assistant production coordinator on the musical film Stand!
Which area of the film industry do you work in now and why?
I’m currently working as an assistant production coordinator and production assistant. Because it was my first job in film, I have quite a bit of experience as an assistant production coordinator — plus I enjoy it.
I also work as a production assistant and I’m hoping this experience will help me learn about all the different roles and how they contribute to making a great project.
If you could give your past self some advice, what would it be?
Always listen to your heart. I knew I wanted to work in the entertainment business since I was a child, but being raised in a community of immigrants, I was always the only way to be successful was to become a doctor, lawyer, or engineer — not a dancer, choreographer, or producer. So I took the path that everyone else told me I should take instead of following my own heart.
What advice would you give to someone starting off in the film production industry?
Research what productions are going on in your city. If you want to be part of union production, check the union websites like DGC or the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) 856.
Look for training opportunities. My first was with FTM and I was able to learn what goes on when working on set and in the production office.
If you have friends in the film world, you can always ask them if they can recommend you for work on a production, especially during the high season of July and August.
Why is learning and training important?
Working in a film office or on set is very fast-paced and if you don’t have the knowledge, it creates issues that can have a domino effect on the production. That’s why you always have to be up to date and keep learning. It helps you and your team successfully produce a project.
Where do you see yourself ten years from now?
I hope to direct and produce films and TV shows from a first-generation Canadian perspective. My ultimate dream would be to create my own production studio with a production office building that companies from Canada and America could rent. It would help grow the industry in Manitoba and help people in my community get jobs.
What are some of the films, TV series, or even books that have inspired you?
The way Higher Learning captivated me was really inspiring. It showcased the struggles that come with being a university student that I really related to. Honey is a favourite because of my love for dance. My favourite romcoms are Love & Basketball, Poetic Justice, Love Jones, Brown Sugar, and Just Wright.
TV Shows like A Different World also showcase the difficulties of being a university student with the added struggles of being a Black person in America. I also love the way Girlfriends showed how women who have different backgrounds, personalities, and interests can still be best friends. The personal relationships on that show actually reminded me of myself and my friends.
But the show I would consider my favourite of all time is The Cosby Show.
Who’s someone in the film industry you would like to work with and why?
A director I would want to shadow is Ava DuVernay. I love her work and, like me, she didn’t start off in the film industry. Plus, she’s brought diversity and inclusion to her film sets in a way I hope to do one day.
I would also love to shadow Debbie Allen as she was able to make A Different World successful by using her own life experience of going to a historically Black college and university (HBCU).
For producing, I would want to work with Devon Franklin because I love his work. I was sad to hear that I missed out on participating in his Winnipeg shoot because he was here before I got into the industry, so I hope he comes back!
I would also love to work with Will Packer as he’s made lots of my favourite Black films. Then of course Tyler Perry — if just to learn how he was able to build his own production company and his studio.
My dream list of actors would be Phylicia Rashad, Sanaa Lathan, Queen Latifah, Regina Hall, Gabrielle Union, Taya Diggs, Nia Long, Angela Bassett, and Meagan Good just to name a few!