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Winnifred Jong

Director & Filmmaker

Winnifred Jong is an award winning Toronto-based filmmaker. Known for her cinematic style and authentic storytelling, Winnifred is adept at directing comedy, drama and action. She created and directed the comedic short form series, TOKENS, nominated for 8 Canadian Screen Awards (winning Best Direction 2020/2023, and Best Supporting Performance 2023) and was recognized with the 2020 ACTRA Sandi Ross Award.

Meet the Trailblazer

What drives you? 

I started as an avid reader - long before I heard of adaptations and always visualized the
book as I read. This continues to be a deeply moving journey of discovery for me. Sharing becomes a natural extension and this is what drives me to tell stories.

Who impacted your career the most? 

There have been so many people who’ve purposefully or unknowingly impacted my
career. But the person who helped me start the ball rolling was Carol Whiteman from the
Women In the Director’s Chair program. She really helped focus me on my journey. Now from a leadership point of view, I would say Warren P. Sonoda (and he doesn’t even know this), but he inadvertently shifted how I viewed my work and the responsibility of that

How did you build the team around you? 

I built the team with the connections that surround me. When I was starting, I needed help (favours) - so I started by asking and elevating people in roles above where they had
been working. They gave me a chance, so I give them a chance. You end up growing

What was your best experience in this business? 

Nothing is better than finding magic in a bottle with you collaborators - everyone of us bringing out the best in each other. So, equally with the 30 years experience, I’ve cried watching performances, I’ve celebrated actors getting their accolades, I’ve developed real friendships, I still find filmmaking to be thrilling.

Is there a theme in the work you do or choose? 

Looking at the body of work I’ve created and worked on, the theme of family, whether ancestral or found, and the complexity of those relationships is something I’m strongly attracted to exploring. I love to work in the arena of dreams, memory and regrets while
working through the shades of relationships within a family structure.

Was it luck or strategy that helped you find success?

I would say strategy, although I count myself lucky to have found myself in this position. Strategy you can control, it’s alive and shifting, you never stop strategizing your next

Did you ever give up hope that you’d make it? 

If I ever had a super power, it would be perseverance. I never gave up hope. There are so many hurdles, setbacks, dead ends and U-turns that can get you down. Your journey is never as fast as you want it, but savour it all. I love it because it really feels earned now.

What was your worst experience in this business?

Oh I’ve been in this business for almost 30 years, there are so many worst experiences to get over. Sexual harassment, bullying, gas lighting, rumours. My job is to be better than
that and to provide a better experience for everyone on my team. I’m learning every day.

Advice to someone just starting out? 

What project are you most proud of?

Watch movies and tv - there’s so much to learn and celebrate. Don’t come in with an attitude that you know - I’ve 30 years experience, and I am still
learning and growing as an artist.

A lot of people know me for TOKENS, so naturally I am so proud of what I’ve
accomplished with that project. Who it has brought together and how we’ve used TOKENS as a jumping off point. But I’ve poured so much into my short, Distant Cousins that I can’t wait to film the feature version. I can’t wait to get back to my cinematic roots.

Was Reelworld instrumental in your career? AND/OR Did Reelworld inspire you in any way?

Tell us about your next project. 

The community of Reelworld was instrumental to my growth as a leader, how I saw diversity and inclusions and taking up space. It was a guidepost.

As I’ve mentioned, I’m turning Distant Cousins into a feature film.

Give us a quote that will inspire emerging talent.

What are you most proud of in your career?

“If you’re not the one to believe in yourself, who else is going to?”

I created TOKENS to jumpstart my directing career, but I’m proud to say it accomplished
so much more for others. Winning Canadian Screen Awards didn’t hurt either!

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