“Be rigorous. Offer to volunteer on a project whose work inspires you.” – Danielle Sturk

21 for 2021 – Reel Careers Profile Series: Danielle Sturk

A recipient of multiple arts awards from national, provincial and municipal arts councils with a BA in Film/Theatre from the University of Winnipeg, Danielle Sturk is a bilingual filmmaker, creating in drama, documentary and experimental forms, as well as live performance to television specials. She is currently in development with Radio Canada for a drama series she is penning and will be directing, inspired by her latest film, “EL TORO”, the award-winning hybrid documentary “EL TORO” that “blow(s) up documentary conventions in ways both whimsically weird and seriously avant-garde” (Alison Gillmor, 4 stars, Winnipeg Free Press). She is also directing multiple episodes for the detective series EDGAR for Crave and Bell Super-écran.

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

After a first career in dance, I went back to finish my university degree in my 30’s while making babies and working on contract as artistic director for various live to broadcast performances for local production companies. As I finished my BA in Film at the University of Winnipeg in 2004, the francophone community in Manitoba reached out to me to direct a documentary on learning disabilities around literacy. That was my first foray into the screen world and it was wonderful! I had a lot of freedom to make the film that I wanted to make. I love the breadth of being able to delve fully into my own work and also work with others in a larger industry context.  I think this ability is unique and allows me room to grow.

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

I am a writer/director. I work in both the francophone and anglophone industries. I’ve mostly produced my own auteur-documentaries and short films, ideas that excite me; they’ve all gone on to film festivals. I’ve had incredible support from the arts councils for all my work which seems to find a place on broadcast television, which is strange and wonderful thing. I have also been hired to direct multiple documentaries for other producers, a children’s series and recently dramatic television series for Crave/Bell Superécran. I am in development with Radio Canada writing my own 6-part, one-hour dramatic series en français, inspired by my hybrid-documentary “El Toro” which won a few awards. I’ll be directing the series when it goes into production. I am a creative that enjoys collaboration and artistic risk. Life’s short. I’m going to continue to only work on stories that engage me in some meaningful way. And I’m aware what a privilege that is.

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

Be more audacious. Be louder. Take even more risks.

How did taking FTM training affect your career?

Taking a course here or there with FTM when needed for specific elements in my career has been very helpful. A targeted approach to learning piece-meal has been accessible with my working schedule and provided the knowledge I’ve needed when I needed it.

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

Reach out to people around you that you instinctively feel can offer you support. Ask questions, go for a coffee, build a supportive network of peers one by one. Give back when you can. Also, do your own homework. Be rigorous. Offer to volunteer on a project for someone whose work inspires you.

One strategy I’ve espoused, is to say yes to anything I am offered where I can find a way to continue to develop skills or an artistic technique that I am currently interested in.

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

Films I find perfect: JoJo Rabbit (Taika Waitiki),  The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson), The Piano (Jane Campion), Rocks (Sarah Gavron), The End of the F***ing World (1st season only).

I’m particularly thankful to Cinematheque’s programming and the WFG and Gimme Some Truth Film Festival’s capacity to offer Masterclasses with a variety of film directors’ genres and styles.

Is there something about you or an interesting past experience that you’d like to share with your colleagues?

My first career was as a professional dancer and choreographer, touring to great places like Australia and India in the late 1980’s. I also owned and operated a successful Argentine Tango dance club, school and performing arts company in Montreal for 5 years in the 1990’s before returning to Manitoba and beginning a film career. I have the privilege of raising four incredible daughters who keep me grounded and make life amazing. I think I am physically stronger than I actually am.

Is there a film technician or filmmaker that you would really like to work with and why?

Catherine Lutes, the Director of photography for director Jasmin Mozaffari‘s indie drama “Firecrackers”, for her raw, instinctive, organic style in this film. Sarah Gavron, director of “Rocks” because of her humanist, collaborative approach to drama storytelling that makes it so very powerful.

Where do you see yourself in ten years from now?

In ten years, I’ll have finished my 6-part television series and it’ll be awesome; I’ll have written, directed and produced a dramatic feature I’ve been dreaming about for years and will have tried out a bunch of new filmic approaches to story-making, from highly elaborate aesthetic approaches like animation to extremely organic approaches espousing documentary values and methods. I’d love to have directed another woman’s work, midwifing their story from the page to the screen. I’ll also be doing whatever I can to assist women in our film community with their creative filmic visions, in whatever supporting role I can offer. The more films told  from a female perspective both on the page and from behind the camera, the more we will have a rich, diverse and equitable filmmaking canon. I’ll also have succeeded in building more capacity and opportunity for women crew members in all of the productions I’ll be involved in. I’ll only work with people who believe in my capacities and work actively to support my vision of a given project. Starting now : )