Nathalie Younglai

Writer & Director

Nathalie Younglai was a freelance harpist and eked out a path to becoming Director on ‘Til Debt
Do Us Part (Life/MSNBC), Princess (Life/MCNBC) and Top Chef Canada (Food Network), Story
Editor on Tessa & Scott (W Network) and Story Producer on You Gotta Eat Here (Food
Network). She recently directed the short, Super Zee, about a queer Black superhero. Produced
with the assistance of the National Film Board of Canada - Filmmaker Assistance Program and
was selected for its World Premier in New York City at the 2019 Women’s International Film and
Arts Festival.


A recipient of the 2018 TSC Breakthrough Award by Ben Watkins, Nathalie has written for
children’s television (Magic School Bus: Rides Again, 16 Hudson, Dino Dana, Addison) and was
co-writer on the Korean-Canadian feature, STAND UP MAN (FIN Atlantic Film Festival).
Nathalie worked on BELLEVUE (CBC) and had a legal drama series in development with
eOne/Shaw.


A passionate advocate for diversity both in front and behind the camera, Nathalie founded
BIPOC TV & Film in 2012 and co-produced a tuition-free BIPOC Kid’s TV Writing Bootcamp for
30 writers, with Jay Vaidya and John May. Nathalie has mentored and spoken on panels for
Reel Asian Film Festival, Female Eye Film Festival, Toronto Black Film Festival, Breakthroughs
Film Festival and Women on Screen. She serves on the WGC Diversity Committee and is a
recipient of the 2017 ACTRA Diversity’s Sandi Ross Award.
Nathalie is a 2019 Canadian Screen Award nominee and a Daytime Emmy nominee for her
writing on Dino Dana (TVO/Amazon). Nathalie is currently developing a project with Simu Liu of
Kim’s Convenience and writes on Season 2 of CBC’s #1 new drama, Coroner.

READ OUR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH NATHALIE BELOW:

What motivates you?

I want to see stories on screen that reflect my reality. Black, Indigenous and People of Colour, more BIPOC who are queer and trans and disabled. Our stories have been silenced, ignored and devalued for so long, that we have been erased. It’s time for that to change.

How do you stay motivated in this industry?

I look to what American POC are able to cut through and make and get inspiration from reading interviews from people like Ava DuVernay, Lena Waithe, Nina Yang Bongiovi, and Daniel Dae Kim. I also get lots of motivation whenever we (BIPOC TV & Film) hosts events and I see a room full of BIPOC creatives in Toronto. I always get this burning feeling of “This is what the industry could look like!”

Advice to someone just starting out?

Surround yourself with people who will support you when you’re down, cheer for your successes and push you to keep going. Be cheerleaders for others. And most importantly, don’t give up. It really is a long-game of outlasting all the rejections and No’s.

Who impacted your career the most?

It’s hard to narrow it down to 1 person. It really takes a village to build a career as a BIPOC creative. These are all the people who have helped me along the arduous, multi-year journey.
My first steps in unscripted TV: Kelly Peckham, Jennifer Horvath, Gail Vaz-Oxlade.
My long and winding road into scripted: Adam Feigen, Mackenzie Lush & Rachel Fulford, John May & Suzanne Bolch, Christin Simms & JJ Johnson, Adam Barken, Aaron Martin, Morwyn Brebner, Adrienne Mitchell, Deanna Cadette, Toronto Screenwriting Conference, Ben Watkins, Jay Vaidya, Gillian Muller, Farah
Merani, Shonna Foster, Anthony Q. Farrell, Lexi Alexander, Jennifer Holness, Jeremy Boxen, Joe Bowden.

How did you build the team around you?

It’s trial and error. You need a mix of those who are doing better than you, so you have something to strive for. Those who will give you unconditional love, for those rough times of self-doubt and despair. Those who will hold you accountable for when you let yourself get distracted/detracted from your goals. Those who can help you and those you can help. You have to learn to let go of those who don’t align with how you want to be. And I believe you always have to stay in touch with how hard it is to break in by helping a few people who are coming up behind you.

 

Was it luck or strategy that helped you find success?

It’s a bit of both. Being lucky enough to catch a break, but also being ready enough to be able to step into the opportunity, more than prepared.

Did you ever give up hope that you'd not make it?

Yes, all the time. I have spent hours scouring Indeed and Monster and Kijiji for what other jobs I could do – bakery, hospitality, banking, driver’s test administrator? There are long periods of droughts. Months and years full of discouragement where it seems like everyone is making progress or getting hired except for you. What’s difficult is that it’s not an industry with a clear path of progress. A lot is about connections, relationships, doing the work so that you’re ready for when an opportunity hits.

What was your best experience in this business?

I’m really fortunate I’ve had many many best experiences in the business:

  • All the white allies that emerged after a white showrunner posted racist tweets and photos about Chinese elders eating at the airport.

  • Being nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award got me really emotional.

  • Getting my first script in animation from John May – validated me and started my career in scripted.

  • Getting my first script in drama from Morwyn Brebner and being in the Coroner writing room, which showed me it’s possible to bring your entire self to the job without feeling you have to hide or silence parts of who you are.

  • seeing and feeling how BIPOC TV & Film has grown and knowing how much we impact other BIPOC creatives’ lives

Was Reelworld instrumental in your career in anyway? How?

A short I directed premiered at Reelworld as part of the YEAA program a few years ago. I haven’t applied for any of the programs, though.

 

Is there a theme in the work you pick?

I’m not quite at the point in my career where I have the luxury to choose everything I work on, but I am drawn to stories about being an outsider, struggle and power dynamics. I always look for a way to put in my perspective on race & sexuality into it. And for my original work, there will always be a Trini-Chinese character!

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