Reelworld's 2019 Visionary award recipient

Hamlin Grange

Each year Reelworld honours one remarkable individual whose lifetime of work, passion and determination has made a significant contribution to Canadian film, television and media. Their dedication has opened doors for diverse artists and forever changed the Canadian entertainment landscape.​ Past recipients include: Andrew Cordozo (2002), Graham Greene (2006), Cameron Bailey (2007), Patricia and Moses Mawa (2011), Ana Serrano (2014), Raja Khanna (2015), Jesse Wente (2017).

On October 20th at Reelworld's Closing Night Gala, we are pleased to honour Hamlin Grange with the 2019 Visionary Award.


Hamlin has made incredible achievements as a media broadcaster, and as an advocate for artists of colour in the entertainment industry. He has pioneered numerous initiatives including co-founding Innoversity, a not-for-profit organization working to increase the participation and representation of cultural minority, Aboriginal and disabled Canadians in the media industry and public sector.

Expect the unexpected, every day. 

~ Hamlin Grange


Q: How did you find your passion?

Hamlin: A person can be passionate about many things during a lifetime. I have been passionate about: being a student leader in high school, representing Canada on the national track team, being a husband and father, being a journalist or being a community activist. Sometimes passion finds you. Starting Innoversity with my wife, Cynthia Reyes, came about because we were unhappy with what felt like the closed club of Canada’s mainstream film, TV, magazines, and other media. Our passion developed when we decided to do something about it. Ultimately, you have to figure out: What do I really want to achieve? And then you have to decide: Will I do the work to achieve it? Many people love something, want something, but will they do the work to achieve it? Passion requires not just an intense desire for something; you should feel compelled to do the work to get it.

Q: What were the tools you used to achieve success?

Hamlin: I tend to be really good at seeing the big picture but I’m also intuitive about people. In addition, focus, tenacity and a willingness to roll up my sleeves and do the work to get what I wanted, have been a great benefit for me. Self-awareness has also been helpful to me. Punctuality and being present are also important tools for me. I try to respect other people’s time: I always show up and am almost never late for appointments. Having a strong dose of humility has helped me to recognize what I don’t know, and I am always willing to learn and to seek help.

Q: What gets you up every morning - what drives you?

Hamlin: A keen sense of social justice, fairness and a desire to help people less fortunate than myself. We are stewards of the world – I take that mission very seriously. And because we are stewards, we have a responsibility to take care of the world and the people in it. Not to coddle, but to be generous to others. Ultimately, I want to leave this place in better shape than I found it. Professionally, I want to gain a deeper understanding of why people are unkind to others; what makes some people treat others badly. And I want to help people find their own answers to that question, and, I hope to help them listen, understand and empathize with others. Empathy is not a sign of weakness but a great strength.

Q: Name a challenge you have had in your life and how you overcame it?

Hamlin: Leaving the CBC. This was a huge challenge – to walk away at the top of my career as a journalist. I had been a television news anchor and interviewer with my own show, as well as a senior journalist and producer. It would have been so much easier to just settle in that groove, with a steady job, income, and a good pension. But the time had come to be a leader, to lead and manage others, and the CBC was – again - going through a time of upheaval. I took a leave of absence for a year and became a national director with the YMCA, in charge of a team, a multi-million-dollar budget and a national programme that helped at-risk youth find careers.  That experience reinforced my leadership skills and ultimately gave me the courage to leave the CBC, but it was a tough decision. Over a weekend, I went back and forth. It was a huge risk. The irony is, I believe I have had more impact on the media landscape by leaving it than I would have if I had stayed. Leaving the CBC and starting Innoversity, Cynthia and I not only pressured and encouraged media organizations to change, we helped show them how. Our slogan back then to both the media gatekeepers and the people who wanted to walk in through those gates was: “No whining, No excuses”. And today a lot of people credit their career breakthroughs and improved media content to Innoversity. I am unapologetically proud of what we and a team of mostly volunteers were able to accomplish.

Q: How do you stay positive when things aren't working out the way you'd like?

Hamlin: I always figure things are going to work out. I always say: “Give me enough runway and I will land the plane.” I just have to keep at it; not give up and not give in. My co-cyclists know I’m always going to make it to the top of the hill, no matter how steep. I believe in myself. Just tell me what I need to do; I’ll find out how to do it. The first thing I ask myself is: “What do I need to know?” There’s also an element of “I’ll show you!”   Just tell me I can’t do something and watch me. I’ll show you.

Q: What advice would you give to emerging talent?

Hamlin: Far be it for me to advise anyone because each person is unique with different lived experiences. But since you ask, here is what I’d say: A goal begins with a dream; so, dream big and dream often. People, with the best of intentions, will tell you to settle for less, why bother. There will be setbacks, but it’s how you respond to these disappointments that’s important. Author Angela Duckworth reminds us that being the smartest is not a very good indicator of how successful you will be. But having a passion for what you do, learning from each failure and sticking to your long-term goals is the road to success.

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