So many kids grow up dreaming of becoming actors or filmmakers, but so few of them actually go on to do it. One such dreammaker is our latest Dream Job Diary subject, Aisha Evelyna.
Born to Canadian parents of Caribbean descent, Aisha grew up in Woodbridge, Ontario. She developed a passion for the arts from a young age, and graduated from York University with a Bachelor of Arts, specializing in Theatre. From school to the screen, Aisha’s acting resume is incredibly impressive. She made her TV debut on 12 Monkeys, Syfy’s adaptation of the critically acclaimed Brad Pitt film, and has also appeard on Murdoch Mysteries and Workin’ Moms.
From in front of the camera to in front AND behind, Aisha’s latest achievement is the short film Accidentals. Aisha wrote, coproduced and starred in the film, alongside Orphan Black’s Kevin Hanchard. Accidentals tells the story of an estranged father and daughter who reunite for a road trip, learning about each other and themselves along the way. Check out the trailer here:
Accidentals is taking the festival circuit by storm, with multiple screenings this summer, including Toronto’s Carribean Tales. But what’s most exciting is that Accidentals will be screened at the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival. Taking place from August 6-11, the festival has premiered work by the likes of Kathryn Bigelow and Spike Lee, so it’s no small feat for Aisha’s film to be included. Some might be surprised that such a young filmmaker has been earning accolades of this level. Some, but not me.
I had the pleasure of meeting Aisha at a panel I spoke at for the ACTRA (the actor’s union) conference here in Toronto. Between her charisma, her sense of humor and her passion for her art, I found myself immediately drawn to Aisha. Watching her organize the panels, network, work the room and talk about herself, her projects, and her craft, it was evident that this girl had the hustle, the drive, and the ambition to make it in this crazy business. Clearly, she’s well on her way, and she’s got a fan in me.
I sat down with Aisha to chat about her work, and how she made her dream job a reality.
What is your official title? Do you have one?
I guess my official title would be actor but now folks have also started to call me filmmaker due to the small successes that a short film I wrote and starred in has started to garner. Our film Accidentals which was directed by Natalie Novak and produced by Elizabeth Fraser of Dei Gratia Pictures makes it’s U.S. premiere at Black Star Film Festival In Philadelphia, and then goes on to screen at Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival the following week. It’s a father daughter drama where I star opposite Orphan Black’s Kevin Hanchard. We are proud to say the majority of key roles were filled by women which also includes the incredibly skilled and CSC nominated Director of Photography, Sarah Thomas Moffat.
Last year names like Ava DuVernay were honoured at Black Star and at Martha’s Vineyard this year Spike Lee is set to Screen and chat about BlaKKlansman, Tarana Burke (the founder of #MeeToo) will be speaking, Angie Stone will be performing, and Moonlight’s Barry Jenkins will be at a talk back with his film If Beale Street Could Talk which makes it’s world premiere at TIFF this year. After those screenings, we still have two more that we are unable to announce bringing our festival programming total to NINE! The thought that our little movie has so many screenings amongst such great company is very humbling, and so if people want to start calling me filmmaker – I guess they can! I’ll just have to suck it up and get over my imposter syndrome!
How did you get into your current line of work?
Hustle, hustle, hustle & grind, grind, grind.
Did you go to school/get training for your dream job?
Yes! I hold a bachelor of Arts with Specialized Honours in Theatre from York University. After getting my degree I have been training in Film quite heavily, and always really saw myself working in Film, but I was also just cast in the Canadian Premiere of Sarah DeLappe’s Pulitzer shortlisted play “The Wolves” which is produced by The Howland Company and goes up at the Streetcar Crowsnest Theatre this fall in Toronto- so I guess I do theatre now too! The play was also listed as one of the top 25 American plays of the last 25 years by the New York Times, so it goes without saying that this play is incredible and extremely relevant so, I’m pretty excited about it.
Is this a job you attained or did you create it for yourself?
In my opinion, in this day and age the job of an actor is a bit of both. To work in TV & Film and book nowadays, you have to be incredibly skilled and able to put quality work together within a small time frame as we live in the age of email and the self tape. But now with the technology to make your own work being so accessible, people like me can make a web series, or a short film like “Accidentals” and create future work opportunities for themselves. Making a short is the best career move I ever made because I now, my team and I have a product to make reference to as a calling card for the calibre of work we are capable of creating, without a writers room, or major network/production company behind us.
What was your first job ever?
Photolab technician/ Cashier at Shoppers Drugmart. Shout out to Drake.
What accomplishment/achievement are you most proud of?
I don’t think I have one yet- but that makes me happy. Mathew McConaughey gave a speech at the Oscars where he spoke about the fact that his hero is always himself 10 years ahead of where he is right now – and I kind of feel the same way about achievements. Yes I have a lot to be grateful for, and gratitude begets abundance, but I personally feel that my biggest accomplishment that I can be most proud of will always be 10 years away from where I am, and that moreover- I may never achieve it, but I am happy to surrender to the chase. (most days)
What advice do you have for someone who wants to find their dream job but hasn’t yet?
My advice is two things. 1) Stop looking. We all know the best things find us when we are not searching for them. Yesstill do the work, continue to show up and be present, but stop looking and it will find you. 2) We have five seconds to talk ourselves out of any idea that we have, and I think this is a good thing because it keeps a lot of us from making really bad decisions. BUT a lot of us don’t do that thing we want to do because we’re afraid to act. Generally I don’t think we give ourselves enough credit with regards to how smart and in tune our intuitive nature is. Having said that, when you get that idea or feeling and you know it’s right, don’t give yourself five seconds to list the reasons as to why it will never work. Lean into the uncertainty, be scared, and go do it anyway.