The Hart House Film Board has been U of T’s foremost movie-making centre for five decades. We chat with two of its Technical Coordinators, both alumni, who say this office is key to both film and friend making in equal measure.

Calling all aspiring student filmmakers across the University of Toronto: You may not realize there’s an exceptional resource very close at hand at Hart House, and it’s celebrating 50 years of success. Introducing the Hart House Film Board, where membership is open to all.

How can it help? The Film Board loans equipment such as cameras and lighting, provides professional editing facilities and much more. It showcases screenings of members’ work and hosts the hugely popular University of Toronto Film Festival. Additionally, it runs movie-making contests throughout the year and facilitates group projects.

U of T alumni Kennedy Kao and Kaitlyn Simpson both graduated in 2022 – Kaitlyn with her master’s from the Faculty of Information and Kennedy with an undergrad English degree. They’ve been working at the Film Board as Technical Coordinators for two years, helping students create movie magic.

Kennedy Kao

Kennedy, now a professional filmmaker, discovered the Film Board in 2016. “My friend and I heard about it when I was studying at U of T and becoming very interested in filmmaking. Since then, I’ve made close to 20 short films. I work in the film industry now, and I think almost everything that I've done has been connected to the Film Board in some way – either the equipment or having someone from the community help me out. It has been a big part of my filmmaking journey.”


Kaitlyn Simpson

Kaitlyn, who works in public sector Communications, has been involved in Hart House for years. As a student, she was on the Hart House Student Literary and Library Committee. Later, she worked at the Art Museum at the University of Toronto (in Hart House). Today, she maintains a membership at the Hart House Fitness Centre where she swims.

After graduation, she spotted an Instagram post indicating that the Board was looking for curators when it reopened after the pandemic. Although she had no hands-on filmmaking experience, she nevertheless had a keen interest in learning and a genuine passion for film. She got the job, and later became a Co-Technical Coordinator with Kennedy.

“For me, it's more of a creative outlet outside of professional work. I find it personally rewarding. I've loved my time at the Board,” Kaitlyn says.

How did the Film Board help them, exactly?

“The Hart House Film Board really helped to kick start my career,” Kennedy emphasizes. “Early on, when you're looking to make films, you don't have much money, right? So, it helps to have a resource like this, to rent equipment. I made a short film called Danica's Mom that won the Pan Canadian Student Festival. That was all funded with the help of the Film Board grants. I also used the equipment and secured a lot of the crew via this community.”

Kennedy Kao (left) directing a short film

He notes the snowball effect after this first major acknowledgement: “After winning that award, I was able to make another short film that got into festivals and that helped me make another film … So, it’s like a stepping ladder. The Film Board has been a real godsend.”

Kaitlyn is currently working on a short documentary. “The Film Board is giving me all the resources, all the equipment – cameras, lighting, audio, editing facilities, etc. Without this, I wouldn't have been able to make the documentary.”

She adds, “The film workshops that Hart House offers have also given me skills and confidence to be able to shoot.”

Making Connections

Kaitlyn emphasizes the intangibles. “I've made a lot of friends and connections and, through that, I've worked on shoots for different people and helped Kennedy with his films.”

For her, it’s all about community. “I really love Hart House. It means a lot to me. It's a safe space to grow, whether it’s professional or physical growth. As an alumna, I still feel very much a part of the Hart House family and the Film Board,” she says.

Kennedy feels the same. “This community has given me a social life in many ways.” When he came on board as a Technical Coordinator with Kaitlyn, he sought to grow this feeling. “I wanted to help foster community … creating more events where people can get to know each other, mingle and help each other out with filmmaking.”

Monthly Meetups, on the last Thursday of the month, are key to providing people with the space to connect, he believes. “This also gives me a break from the professional filmmaking world and allows me to just have fun making films. I've helped out a lot of friends and it's been a blast.”

Welcomes Students from Beginners to Experienced Filmmakers

Kennedy says it’s a joy to see people come into the office asking questions, wondering how to make their first film. “In filmmaking you need collaborators. We always love helping out. I would also add you don't need to have any experience in filmmaking to get involved.”

Kaitlyn working on a film.

“It's okay if you're a complete beginner,” Kaitlyn interjects, “We're very welcoming!” For students considering joining, she promises they will get something out of it: New friends. “Whether it’s discussing films for a really long time, coming to our Monthly Meetups and meeting people, creating your own short film or helping others, you'll definitely make new connections.”

Kennedy also emphasizes how easy and cost effective it is for students to get a membership – $10 per semester; $20 for the year.  

Learn more about the Hart House Film Board.