Created in 2002, the Trailblazer Awards recognize outstanding achievements by racially diverse professionals in the Canadian entertainment industry. These 6 remarkable individuals inspire others and blaze a trail of excellence through their constant efforts to improve and diversify our vibrant film and television industry.

2020 TRAILBLAZER AWARDS

Iris Ng

Cinematographer

Iris Ng is a cinematographer whose most notable work turns a critical lens on social issues, justice, and filmmaking itself. Her background in visual art, photography, and music have enriched her work with
artists and filmmakers since 2008. Her body of work includes the Academy-shortlisted documentaries
Stories We Tell (Sarah Polley, 2012) and Shirkers (Sandi Tan, 2018), as well as award-winning films,
A Better Man (2017), This River (2016), Min Sook Lee’s Migrant Dreams (2016), Michelle Latimer’s Nuuca (2017), Phyllis Ellis’ Toxic Beauty (2019), and Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi’s Emmy Award-winning series Making A Murderer (2015 & 2018). She has also collaborated with filmmakers Fredrik Gertten, Vikram Jayanti, Richard Fung, Michelle Shephard and artists Chris Curreri, Oliver Husain, Luis Jacob, Annie MacDonnell, and Bambitchell. Iris also captures transitions for the series Kim’s Convenience and shot the Sundance 2020-premiered digital series Hey, Lady! (2020)

Check out our Exclusive Interview with the Trailblazer Below

Q: What Drives you?

Discovering what’s around the next corner and the search for ways to be better. New creative journeys, the challenges they present, and the unpredictable nature of the filmmaking process itself have always kept me going. I am inspired by the people I collaborate with and the people we meet along the way to continue this work.

Q: Is there a theme in the work you pick?

I recognise that most of the films I am drawn to working on give voice to people who experience some type of systemic inequity. That, or a filmmaker’s excavation into their personal history. I’m not limited to these themes but I think if anything, my choices are motivated by feeling that the subject can inspire me capture them with a sympathetic lens. I just look for an element I can invest myself in conceptually or emotionally.

Q: Was it luck or strategy that helped you find success?

Both have always played off of each other to bring me new opportunities. I believe lucky timing and timing brought me into the sight lines of Min Sook Lee and Lisa Valencia-Svensson who were looking for POC to work with and gave me my first opportunity. At the same time I’ve had to use some type of strategy to navigate the external biases of how people saw me. I realised early on that I had to compensate for that image and for what I lacked with extra skill and ability to allow people to take me seriously. I’ve adopted the route of always being honest about my capabilities as well as what I lack which means things have taken longer, but also means my career has unfolded in a way that I’m proud of.

Q: Who impacted your career the most?

Along with Min Sook Lee and Lisa Valencia-Svensson having given me an early boost they have also been great examples of how to maintain a critical outlook and how to focus energy on being racially inclusive in our work. Sarah Polley, Michelle Latimer, and Phyllis Ellis are also collaborators who exemplify these qualities and who have greatly affected my work over the years. Also, my Dad through his approach to architecture and my Mum for her critical mind and ability to take on new challenges. Through their strong sense of individualism they are both to blame for my carving out the unconventional career path I love!

Q: How did you build the team around you? 

This mostly happened by chance, trial and error over time, and refinement, and unfortunately the perfect balance of people is always fleeting. I’ve crossed paths with some great crew members locally and abroad who I’ve forged great connections with but due to ever changing shooting situations the people I get to physically surround myself with is always in flux. The great thing though, is that many of them have become friends and a really meaningful and lasting kind of life network has formed out of this.

Q: Did you ever give up hope that you’d not make it? 

I didn’t. But I’m really not sure what kept me motivated. Perhaps it was equally those who got behind me as well as those who didn’t think I could do it. ‘Making it’ is also something I can’t define..

Q: What was your worst experience in this business?

I looked to an authority figure one time way back for mentorship and slowly realised it was not a safe space and a more personal connection was expected in return. Nothing happened but this experience has made me very aware of the power disparities in the business when people like my past self are desperate to learn and I’m now hoping to change that through group initiatives and by being a good mentor myself.

Q: What was your best

experience in this business?

There are too many moments to name but the fact that I get to be on the continuous adventure that is filmmaking and to connect with people from diverse life situations by way of the camera is a perennial highlight.

Q: Advice to someone just starting out? 

Find your community and connect with them. Let them elevate you and elevate them. Know that skill and ability alone do not determinate of success but it’s a matter of finding those who value what you have to give and connecting with those people. Define who you are and what you have to offer by listening to others but know that your path is unique to you. Always look to improve and learn from every experience. Be water.

Q: How was Reelworld instrumental in your career? 

Find your community and connect with them. Let them elevate you and elevate them. Know that skill and ability alone do not determinate of success but it’s a matter of finding those who value what you have to give and connecting with those people. Define who you are and what you have to offer by listening to others but know that your path is unique to you. Always look to improve and learn from every experience. Be water.

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