Before she became a programmer for the Toronto International Film Festival and the Miami Film Festival, and the founding editor of cléo, a journal of film and feminism, Kiva Reardon completed a Master's degree at the Cinema Studies Institute in 2012.
We asked Kiva to tell us more about her experience as an M.A. student in Cinema Studies and how it has helped her since.
What prompted you to pursue an M.A. in Cinema Studies?
After graduating from McGill with a B.A. in Cultural Studies, I came back to Toronto and began to write about film while also working at a public relations firm. Increasingly, I felt that writing about film was what I wanted to pursue, and I wanted to bridge my shift in "careers" by getting a firmer grounding in film.
How would you describe your M.A. experience at the Cinema Studies Institute?
My M.A. experience at CSI was a really intense but fruitful year! Going in, I knew I didn't want to do a Ph.D., but I wanted to deepen my film knowledge and, having worked for two years after graduating from McGill, I really wanted to get back into the classroom. The programme had enough flexibility that it allowed me to explore new fields in cinema that I hadn't before, especially working with Prof. James Cahill and being able to do an internship, working on a film by John Greyson.
The best part, however, was being a T.A. It was such an amazing experience to work with the same group of students each week, observe their progress and, frankly, learn alongside them, too!
How did your M.A. education prepare you for your career in the film industry?
Ultimately, the biggest thing was that I met the co-editors of cléo journal in Prof. Corinn Columpar's class on the Body in Film. While the original editorial board members have moved on, cléo wouldn't be here without those connections!
I've also found that I gained a lot from my time as a T.A. Lesson prep and teaching weekly sessions got me more comfortable speaking in front of groups. Now, working as a programmer with TIFF and Miami Film Festival, an important part of the job is presenting films onstage, leading Q&As, and chairing panels. TAing certainly helped hone those skills.
What advice would you give to undergraduate students who are thinking of pursuing film study?
I think each person's career or academic path is really unique, and it's in those twists and turns that you find where you want to go and what interests you. Try not to focus on some linear path--it probably doesn't exist anyway!--and try to remain open to taking opportunities as they come. (I know, it's easier said than done!)
Finally, your favourite movies?
I love the films of Agnès Varda and Claire Denis. Both were instrumental in getting me into thinking and writing about film on a deeper level. But, I also love films like Les Silences du Palais (1994, Dir: Moufida Tlatli) and Jurassic Park (1993, Dir: Steven Spielberg). I try to ascribe to the Susan Sontag model of breaking down the ideas of high and low culture and above all: never like anything ironically! To me, that's just an easy way to distance yourself from thinking about taste, which is deeply political.