Gaining Valuable Workplace Experience on Holt Renfrew’s Commercial Set

"Scene One, Take Three, A camera – clap!"

Most people new to a film set typically get a kick out of having the opportunity to stand in a scene and slam the director’s slate shut, said actor and director Michael Seater.

Covenant House youth were no exception.

Michael – who is a member of our Next Generation Council, a group of young professionals committed to supporting the current and future work of Covenant House – recently invited two young queer-identifying youth who had expressed interest in his industry to take part in the filming of Holt Renfrew’s 2023 Pride campaign. The campaign content is being shown all Pride season-long in the luxury department store’s nationwide locations, on its social media and its website.

This unique experience gave youth rare access to a professional film set and valuable work experience they can put on their resumes before stepping out into the working world, he says.

"I think they expected this mentorship opportunity would be more of ‘I’ll hide in the corner and watch,’ kind of thing, which it often is in this business," Michael said. As shoot day began, he intentionally got the youth much more involved, ensuring they came away having learned some valuable skills and had a good first experience in the industry.
Michael also advocated for the youth to be paid for their time on set, which they were.

"I’m so glad we paid them because at some moments, when the talent was getting ready, we’d throw them in the set as stand-ins," he said. "It worked well because they got to be right in the centre of the action and learn from the camera team and others on set."

Michael also spent time with the youth before and after the shoot, answered questions and left them with solid career advice. He also recommended that they reach out to everyone on set through email so they can keep connected and considered for future potential entry-level roles.

He is thrilled to have had such strong support from Holt Renfrew, who reached out to him, as a queer director, to run the project and gave him free rein to carry out his artistic vision.

"It’s the right way for a corporation to engage in a Pride campaign," Michael said. When he suggested Covenant House as a great place for Holts to give back during Pride, they not only green lit the paid youth mentorship on set, but also provided generous financial support to youth programming at both Toronto and Vancouver Covenant House sites.

The youth, who didn’t know one another before arriving on set, forged a bond and have already started working together on ideas for a short film they could make together, Michael said. "They felt empowered by their experience."

"Holts and I are looking at ways to continue this and grow the idea," he said of this mentorship success.

"I’m so happy it worked out."