“Cheerleaders in Nearly Every Corner”: Tito’s Story

By Katie Chalmers-Brooks

Photo by: Nardella Photography

Photo by: Nardella Photography

Growing up, Tito Daodu could have easily gotten stuck in a rut by focusing on what she didn’t have: much money or a sense of safety in the rough Winnipeg neighbourhood she called home. Getting dressed in the morning meant being mindful not to wear gang colours.  She had to make sure she walked back quickly to her apartment after school. She was well versed in her classmates’ personal connections to the stories on the six o’clock news—‘the guy arrested for a stabbing was so-and-so’s cousin.’ “All of those things felt close to home,” says Daodu.

So too did everything the 28-year-old doctor feels helped her to succeed. Daodu likens herself to a lottery winner—lucky because she had cheerleaders in nearly every corner. “I had a lot of people in my life who said I could achieve whatever I wanted.” She didn’t see getting into trouble as an option; her Nigerian-born mother made sure of that. Her mom’s voice would override those of her school chums, many of whom saw a trip to Juvenile Detention as a rite of passage. Daodu had bigger plans. And she had mentor Ken Opaleke at West Broadway Youth Outreach to help her on her path. She was in Grade 3 when Opaleke called out to her and her sister, Dupe, from across the street, inviting them to join the neighbourhood’s after-school club. Daodu did and has never really left. “I have had the pleasure of seeing her grow from a shy, energetic, nine year- old participant in the program to a now caring, selfless young woman who a great number of inner-city children have come to emulate and rely on, not only for academic and physical guidance but on a personal level as well,” says Opaleke.

Daodu went from mentee to mentor and launched a homework club at the centre, forming meaningful connections to kids as she helped them through mundane school assignments. Daodu says she would be hard on the kids when they didn’t “try to achieve”, just as Opaleke was hard on her. Daodu went to St. Mary’s Academy on bursaries, steadily inching her way toward university. When she earned her degree in medicine from the University of Manitoba in 2013, more than a dozen West Broadway kids showed up at convocation, rooting for “doctor number 2.” (Daodu is the second West Broadway ‘graduate’ to become a physician.) “Quite a few of them have said, ‘I want to be doctor number 5 or I’m going to be doctor number 7,” says Daodu. “When I go back I try to instill in them that this is totally achievable. I look at those kids and I think ‘I was exactly that kid.’” She is now doing her residency in general surgery in Calgary while chipping away at a master’s in international surgical care.

To Daodu, it makes perfect sense to seek out a problem and then try to be part of the solution. As a med student, she made a cold call to a researcher featured in a documentary about the shockingly high number of pneumonia deaths among children in Nigeria, her native country. “It was staggering to me that 200,000 children under age five die of pneumonia every year. In Canada, it would be unheard of for a child to die of pneumonia without any other complications,” she says. Daodu asked the researcher if she could come to Nigeria and help; he obliged. The hospital featured in the film happened to be the one where Daodu was born. She was just four when her mom left the country, which was then under a dictatorship, with her and her sister. (They lived in Jamaica and England before settling for good in Winnipeg, where Daodu’s uncle could be their sponsor. Her father joined them years later.)

The state of care at the Nigerian hospital shocked Daodu. In the first week, she witnessed the deaths of six children from conditions that could have easily been treated in North America: pneumonia, tetanus and malaria. “I had no idea what widespread, systematic poverty looked like on the ground,” she says. Minimum wage there is a paltry 100 dollars a month yet patients are required to buy their own medical supplies. Daodu dipped into her own wallet to stock up on syringes, gloves and needles. If a child needed a transfusion it was up to the parents to coax family and friends to donate blood. If there was a power outage, test results were simply unavailable.  Doctors there have the knowledge, Daodu explains, but no resources. She was there to investigate oxygen treatments for kids with pneumonia, specifically machines that convert ambient air into oxygen, a less expensive alternative to oxygen tanks. It took her a month and a half to get a backup generator in the room so they would work in a power outage, a routine occurrence.  Her frustration grew when she realized a separate, private ward within the same hospital was well-stocked for patients who could afford it.

The experience reinforced Daodu’s desire to help improve health-care systems in developing countries. She wants to work on international surgical education projects in impoverished regions to ensure first responders are properly trained in basic, life-saving procedures like inserting chest tubes. The World Health Organization identified surgical care among the globe’s top five pressing healthcare needs. The reality is: simple surgeries are getting missed and the consequences can be personally devastating. A patient with something as minor as a hernia—left surgically untreated—might go decades unable to work and be shunned by his community, Daodu notes. She also wants to offer her surgical skills in disaster zones. This fall, she is headed to Haiti, a country still shattered by 2010’s 7.0 magnitude earthquake. “As a surgeon, you really have an ability to make an impact,” she says. Daodu knows it takes leadership to act on these kinds of opportunities. She defines a good leader as someone who is “willing to take in and adapt to the changes that are presented along the way, without giving up.” It’s a philosophy that’s guided her throughout her life and, she’s happy to say, some of the kids from her old neighbourhood too. While studying in University Centre one day, Daodu bumped into a former participant of her West Broadway homework buddies group. Daodu had lost touch with the girl when she stopped coming to the centre as a teen so was thrilled to see she made it to university. The student had faced, and clearly overcome, a lot of the same challenges Daodu did. “It was pretty exciting to see that she had continued on and was doing well,” Daodu says. “It was awesome.”

This story, reprinted with permission of the University of Manitoba, originally appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of On ManitobaTito Daodu, a 2013 University of Manitoba grad (MD; BSc[Med]), was honored recently as one of the university’s Outstanding Young Alumni.

 

From Faber Drive to Abbey Road: Andrew Stricko’s Story

By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador

Widely known across Canada by his last name and for being Hello Operator and Faber Drive’s drummer, Andrew Stricko has returned to music with a new band, Kids in Despair (K.I.D). Fresh off the “I Still Live with My Mom Tour” in the United Kingdom, Stricko has discovered he has fans world-wide! He also found out what it was like to walk across one of the most famous roads in music history!

“Aside from music,” says Andrew, “I have a retail job that I do between shows/tours when I have some time off from the band life. It's not 'glamorous' or whatever, but it keeps things interesting and a roof over my head!” he laughs. “To be honest, I don't spend as much time practicing drums or thinking about them that I should. Obviously I love drumming and everything about it, but now that I'm in my late 20s, responsibilities and free time are a thing. I try to do as much music as I can between 'taking care of business'!”

Sometimes Andrew’s retail and music worlds collide as K.ID’s music is often played on the radio while he is working. He loves both jobs, especially when people sing along, whether it’s at a concert or along with the radio: “I love meeting new people. I've become a lot more outgoing since I started touring in my late teens, so that's the number one thing I like about touring or working a day job, whatever it may be.”

 

In terms of his musical influences, Andrew credits his parents for taking him to “concerts, choir rehearsals” and “anything musical” from an early age. According to Stricko, both of his parents are also very talented: “My father was a professional keyboardist/synth player, and he can shred the accordion really well! My mom is amazing at piano and can sing in ways I wish I could!”

Like many other young people before him, Andrew was also inspired by The Beatles: “I knew that I wanted to be a 'professional' musician pretty much my entire life. I remember the first time I saw a Beatles cover band at the ‘Festival of Lights’ in my hometown of Peterborough.... I wanted to be on stage. It's funny and crazy to think that over 20 years later I headlined the closing night of that festival with Faber Drive.” Crazier still, Andrew has now travelled with his new band to Abbey Road and its recording studio namesake, which have become some of his most memorable moments as a fan and a musician, but that’s not all:

 

“I feel I've had an unrealistic number of memorable moments when it comes to me and music,” says Stricko, “but if I had to pick, I'd say the first time I saw Sum 41 play in 2003 at ‘Ottawa Bluesfest’. The most memorable moment to date touring is tough, but I'll share this one: I just started playing with this new band named K.I.D. and we just got home from a UK tour.... The first night of the tour we opened for Bleachers (including members of Fun.) at Dingwalls in London (look it up!). The venue has an insane history and playing with Bleachers was destined to be amazing. The show was packed and there were kids in the crowd singing our songs as we were playing them! Never in my life did I really think I'd be across the world and people would know who my band was, it's insane!”

Andrew has achieved a lot in a short amount of time. Around the age of 19, he met the members of British Columbia’s award-winning band, Faber Drive, and he soon became their drummer: “I was playing with this band from Toronto, Hello Operator. We ended up on Faber's ‘Seven Second Tour’, became pals and the rest is as they say history.”

After more than five years on tour with both bands, Stricko began to feel “burnt out” and took a much needed break from the music industry, but drumming still remained a part of his life: “After I left Faber Drive, I had a couple jobs, but I was mostly teaching drum lessons in my hometown at the same store I took lessons from as a kid. It was very rewarding and nice to give back in a sense. I want nothing more than to help someone realize that they can do this too! Accomplishing your dreams IS possible and you shouldn't stop for anything or anyone.”

Along with teaching drums, Andrew “spent almost two years working random crappy jobs”. He recalls that he “definitely needed to reset” himself and find the “passion” and “fire” he had for music once again in order to continue accomplishing his own dreams. Stricko “snapped out of the funk” he was in when his friend, Miles Holmwood of the band, Stereos introduced him to Kids in Despair: “[He] was raving about them telling me how I should play their drummer in their music video etc. I got in touch with the band and we hit it off. I auditioned for them along with my friend Adam [Dugas], who played bass in The Envy and our lucky stars aligned! I've never been happier to be playing music than I am now.”

When asked about his advice for others, Andrew Stricko responded with the following: “If I could offer any advice to anyone who wants to do what I do, what another band does or whatever the thing, BE YOURSELF! Work hard, put in the hours, learn your instrument well, write lots of songs because practice makes perfect. Take it seriously, but have fun! I never thought when I was watching the tribute version of Ringo Starr that twenty-something years later, I'd be walking across Abbey Road myself on a day off during a tour. Crazier things have happened! Believe in yourself!”

To see more pictures from Andrew’s experience in the UK, you can follow him on Instagram.

For more information on K.I.D. please visit www.kidsindespair.com.

Big Screen Brothers

By Janis Wallace

Hollywood has plenty of examples of successful brothers – Joel and Ethan Coen, Beau and Jeff Bridges, heck, there’s even four Baldwin brothers. Now, Western can add two of its own to that list – Wayne and Scott Lemmer.

“When we were kids, there was no indication we would both end up in film,” Scott said. “Working in the entertainment industry was always sort of a fantasy with no tangible path of getting there. It was certainly nothing I thought would happen to us so quickly.”

However, that is exactly where they landed.

Today, Scott, BA’01 (Visual Arts), is an animator who has worked for Dreamworks, Disney and Pixar. He counts among his credits a shelf full of parent must-haves including Rio, Mr. Peabody & Sherman, Turbo, The Croods and Ice Age: Dawn of Dinosaurs.

Wayne, BMusA’02, is a sound editor and re- recording mixer. His credits include Oscar- winning films like The Grand Budapest Hotel and Black Swan, as well as blockbuster fare like Transformers, X-Men: First Class, Monsters vs. Aliens and Kick-Ass 2.

The Ilderton, Ont. brothers were raised by parents who supported their creativity, especially their mom, Dawn, an elementary school music teacher and gifted musician.

“They encouraged us to play music, draw, paint and build stuff out of whatever was around the house,” Scott said. “I also really enjoyed the magic of cartoons and animation, but I never imagined there were actual jobs creating that stuff.”

 “I think there was little doubt about what I wanted to study in university,” Wayne said. “Music was my biggest passion.”

At Western, Scott enrolled in Computer Science, but switched to Visual Arts in second year.

“I was in a pilot class for animation,” he said. “It was a basic introduction to technique and history and it was super interesting. I took a class in 3D software with a friend and enjoyed it. So, I focused on that during my last year.”

After Western, Scott studied at the Vancouver Film School. His first job took him to Dallas. A series of studios and films followed. He’s been with Dreamworks for more than two years, and lives five minutes from the studio with his wife and toddler twins.

The final year of university was transformative for Wayne, who, until then, thought he would be a performer.

“I took a course in composing digital music,” he said. “I was assigned to go out into the world and record non-musical elements, take them back to the studio and create a musical soundscape. I spent long nights struggling to make something cool and musical. But I loved every second – time just seemed to slip by effortlessly. I think after that I knew I was hooked on working in the studio.”

Wayne attended the Ontario Institute of Audio Recording Technology (OIART) and focused on sound for film. “It just grabbed me. It engulfed my life. It was an exciting new venue for me to create and perform art.”

As a sound editor, Wayne watches the rough cut of the film, making notes on the story and what will need to be recorded. Like his student assignment, he then goes out in the world and records sounds to manipulate in the studio. “Guns and cars are a good example of things that exist in the world,” he explained. “However, giant robots and T-Rex’s do not. That’s where you can really have fun creating something new and interesting.”

 When he switches to re-recording mixer role, he finalizes the soundtrack. “I think it’s best explained as ‘performance art.’ That’s when the dialogue, music and effects all come together on the stage. This is where careful choices are made to enhance the film. You can really focus on the track and work with the director to bring his vision to life.”

As an animator, Scott tracks motion on screen.

“You want to replicate the performance that honours the actors. That is a tough thing,” he said. “It’s like ‘digital puppeteering.’ It’s similar to old 2D, frame-by-frame poses and refining the action. You see the character come to life. It’s surprisingly rewarding, this feeling of completion when you see what you’ve created.”

In the early years of his career, Scott said it was a bit of a novelty. “At first it was cool to see the names (of actors) but after a few times it’s more about the shot. You’re working on making it look good. The animation has to look good, be appealing and move well, and show the acting, meaning and intent of the shot.” For Wayne, the challenge/reward is in telling the story. “There is so much technology, detail and complexity in what we do. Sound is one of many crafts required to make a film. They all should have one goal, and that is to emotionally support the film and help tell its story. A film comes to life when you add sound."

This article appeared in the Spring 2015 edition of Western University’s Alumni Gazette.  Reprinted with permission. 

A Designated Lobster Buyer: Holly’s Cold (But Cool!) Story

"How cold?"
“Like three pair of pants, four sweaters and a winter jacket kind of cold,” said a smiling Holly Faulkner, who had just unloaded her first lobster boat of the day early Monday afternoon.    

One of a handful of designated lobster buyers here at Big Bras d’Or’s Factory Wharf, the 22-year-old has faced the elements head-on since lobster fishing season opened here in mid-May. 


Her job description includes hauling a few thousand pounds of lobster, six days a week. She has not missed a day of work.

About a year ago, after graduating from with a degree hospitality and tourism management from Cape Breton University Holly began a job many of us know little about.  Andrew Rankin shares more of her story here

 

Look What They Have Become: Jamara and Darryl’s Film Making Journey

As told by Jamara Forbes & Darryl Ayles to Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador

 Darryl Ayles is rarely seen without Jamara Forbes and his orange hat. Put all three together and you have Orange Hat Film Productions, an independent film company based out of London, Ontario. Recent grads of Fanshawe College’s Advanced Filmmaking Program, Jamara and Darryl are working on their biggest project yet: Look What You Have Become, a novel and a mini-series and they want you to be a part of it!

What is your job?

 Jamara: I currently work retail during the weekdays and on weekends I lead my second life as production manager, writer and director at Orange Hat Film Productions (OHFP). 

Darryl: I am basically just working on Orange Hat business as my full-time job. So I’ve been working behind the scenes day to day, keeping everything up to date. I’m also the Director of Photography and part-time Director for our upcoming project.

 What do you love about filmmaking?

Jamara: I think what I love most is the camaraderie that grows when working in small crews, independently. More recently, I have found the writing/producer role to be extremely satisfying. There is something so incredible about watching [the] characters you’ve developed literally come to life and tell your story.

Darryl: Honestly, I really think being there every step of the way, from when my idea is just a pipe dream to when I see it projected in front of a crowd, that’s the best part.

What path did you take to get where you are?

 Jamara: Fresh out of high school, I applied to Music Industry Arts at Fanshawe College to pursue my love of editing/mixing music. After being waitlisted, I figured film editing would be the next best thing. I could incorporate all that I wanted to with music only with a video track on top. I fell in love with film noir, theory and filming and never looked back.

Darryl:  Well, it all began back in grade 10, when I believed – as any child does – that they are destined to be the lead actor of every film ever. After discovering that I had no acting talent, I began to work behind the curtain. There, I received what I would like to call a college-level education in theatrical lighting and sound. After many years, and many friends, I decided to continue the path and apply for college. That’s when I chose Film Studies as a backup. Although my backup may not have been my first choice, it ended up being the right one. After only a few classes, I knew that I wanted to be behind the camera-- and on top of it all, that I wanted to be in charge. After completing Film Studies, I entered and completed Advanced Filmmaking, (AFM) which has been one of my biggest accomplishments to date. Finally, through a classmate, I started helping on an independent film based out of London called Theories and I was able to make a lot of connections. Not only with a lot of actors that ended up in the mini series, but with a couple producers, Mike Tyrrell and Dayna Pearce who have been a huge help as we move forward in production.

How did Orange Hat Film Productions start?

Jamara: OHFP started officially the day of last year’s Advanced Filmmaking “First Take Film Festival”…. we were no longer confined by project outlines and creative constraint from profs or peers. Our first OHFP short film was Conscious, which we filmed in three days on our own time. After AFM taught us the filmmaking formula and steps to follow, we’ve easily adapted this style to all our following projects.

What makes the two of you a great team?

Jamara: We make a great team because of the time we’ve spent learning the same material. We are able to communicate with fluidity about paperwork, production, and post-production. We speak the same language thanks to the three years we spent with wonderful Fanshawe College profs who drilled everything into our heads….

Darryl: We started dating one year before Orange Hat was established and our great communication and love for cinema just fit. Together, we tag team every process and trade off when the going gets tough.

 How did you come up with the Look What You Have Become mini-series and book?

Jamara: We graduated August 26, 2014, and the first version of our script was finished September 17th. We had a blast during the last semester of school filming four short films with friends. The loss of school really gave us a kick in the pants to keep the constant flow of filmmaking going strong. After Darryl wrote the outline we each took turns writing the screenplay and three seasons later, we’re still writing and developing. Adapting the screenplay into a novel started as my side-project, but soon [it] showed more potential than we anticipated. It turned out that film—being a visual language—translated effortlessly into novel format and the voice of Shadow Sellers, [the main character] is quite a strong one.

Darryl: ….I didn’t really feel the need or urge to film anything any time soon…. About three weeks [after graduation], the urge set in and I found myself coming up with crazy concepts for storytelling…. I had developed a backwards-style story and the basic concepts of how I wanted to write, film and release it. 

Why did you choose to shoot the mini-series in black and white?

Darryl: Well, it was not an easy decision by any means. I had a meeting with our producer, Mike Tyrrell a couple months before going to shoot and we talked about all the pros and cons of shooting it in black and white. Soon enough, the pros were heavily outweighing the cons, and by the end of the meeting, I was more than confident in solidifying my decision. Some of the main reasons we stuck with the choice were to save time and money, especially in post production. The camera we chose to use allows us [to create] small file sizes, making our episode turnaround time shrink dramatically. This would all not be possible working with the cinema standards of today….  Instead [we’ve] created a … project that will be perfect for viewing on anything from a mobile device to a home theatre. Above all else, I like to think, “What if we were doing this exact project ten or fifteen years ago before digital was acceptable?”… Without a big production company backing us, 35mm film (theatre standard) would not be an option, and to complete a demanding mini-series on a low budget, there would only really be one choice: 16mm, black and white [film]. I like to believe that our 16:9 1080p files are a perfect digital substitute for the size and feel of 16mm [black and white film].

 What are you most excited about with Look What You Have Become and where can we see the mini-series when it’s complete?

Jamara: I’m most excited about our plan to screen all seasons in succession at London’s Hyland Cinema Theatre. I think it’s a wonderful idea and when the time finally comes, I can’t wait to sit back and watch our story come to the big screen!

Darryl: I’m honestly just most excited to receive a response—not only from the novel, but episodically, every single week and be able to pinpoint where we succeeded and where we failed in a more specific way than ever before. One risk in particular is that we are shooting everything in black and white. I’m a little nervous about how it will look from time to time, but I have faith it will turn out in the end. In addition, I’m so excited to break away from short films and music videos, because taking on a project of this size is kind of like my final test to know that I can handle the responsibility of directing a full-length film in the near future.

Jamara: When we complete this project it will be released episodically online, either on YouTube or Vimeo. I mean, the dream for us right now is Netflix, but there’s nothing wrong with dreaming big!

 Darryl:  ...I think that it’s a matter of people seeing this material regardless if they’re paying or not. That’s why I think the YouTube approach is the smartest for our mini-series.

 Where is the mini-series being filmed and how can people get involved?

Jamara: The majority of filming will take place in London, Ontario with a few days for out of town shooting. Please, please, please get involved! Submit to us any artwork, music, graphic designs and we would be honored to feature your works in an episode or more! My main goal was to make this project a collaborative effort from all my friends, peers, associates, and neighbours. We want our story to speak to you in a familiar voice.

Darryl: If you are interested in being a camera assistant, PA, gaffer, stills photographer, or script supervisor, we could always use an extra helping hand on set. We have a great team right now but sometimes an extra hand is needed. Please email us at orangehatfilmproduction@gmail.com. We would love to get in touch.

 To learn more about Jamara & Darryl’s work have a look here and here