Storytelling for change: a filmmaking contest for Canadian youth

The UBC School of Public Policy and Global Affairs is inviting Canadian youth to produce their own short film this summer for submission to the Storytelling for Change campaign. There’s no cost to enter, big prizes to be won, and invaluable connections to make with mentors from around the world.

The contest asks young filmmakers to create a story that embraces diversity and belonging, in times of crisis or peace. The message could be one that stands against injustice and racism, or one that shares wisdom and growth that came from a personal journey.

There is no need for fancy video equipment to enter Storytelling for Change. | Photo courtesy of UBC Migration

Prizes will include filmmaking equipment such as a camera, microphone, lights, tripod, and software licenses, or time with an established filmmaker, up to a total value of $1,000 ($500 for first prize, $300 for second prize, and $200 for third prize). The deadline for submissions is Aug. 1.

The Storytelling for Change campaign is coordinated and funded by the Community-UBC Refugee & Migration Working Group, a collective of UBC staff and students and staff from settlement organizations in Metro Vancouver interested in amplifying youth voices to broaden narratives of diversity, immigration, and settlement in Canada.

All you need is a cell phone

Any Canadian who identifies as a youth, outside of Quebec, is eligible to enter. Video submissions must be brief – between 30 seconds and three minutes – so that they are “not so long it becomes boring,” say

Lama Alkarad, one of the mentors in the Other Storytelling for Change campaign. | Photo courtesy of UBC Migration

s project coordinator Rama Hamid. “Enough time for exactly what you want to tell the audience.”


No fancy video equipment is needed to enter Storytelling for Change. Videos can be made with a smartphone, computer webcam, tablet, animation tool, or any programs online. An equipment fund is available for anyone lacking access to the equipment they need to make their film.

The criteria for awarding prizes include whether the submission reflects one or more of the campaign topics, creativity and clarity, and attention to detail in storytelling, production, direction, and editing. According to Hamid, the judges’ assessment will put more weight on the choices the director has made, and on the way their stories are told, rather than on production value.

Although he did not have much experience making commercial productions until he moved here from Kenya in 2017, Hamid brought a deep understanding of storytelling to Canada. “The way to make something interesting, you got to do it from the heart,” he explains. “Tell a story about how you feel. Don’t sugar coat it. Be honest about it and if you’re being truthful, then for the many people who are going through what you are going through – it’s very easy to connect with the audience and capture their attention.”

Connecting with experienced mentors

A range of established professionals with backgrounds in filmmaking, media, storytelling, and community engagement are leading virtual mentorship sessions for participants. The webinars offer guidance on all aspects of the filmmaking process, including instruction on storytelling, production, directing and editing, and a Q&A session.

Rama Hamid, coordinator of the Other Storytelling for Change campaign. | Photo courtesy of UBC Migration

Lama Alrakad is one of the four mentors volunteering for the project. Alrakad grew up in Syria and moved to Russia at the age of 19 to study arts and culture in St. Petersburg. Six years later she returned home to begin her career in Syria where she found work in theatre and television, shortly before the outbreak of civil war.

Filmmakers – no matter how young – can benefit by reflecting on the intentions behind their work, says Alrakad. “They should be asking themselves, ‘what is the purpose of my movie? What am I going to put in it? Who is my audience?’”

Other Storytelling for Change mentors include digital marketing expert Suparna Gupta, movie and content producer Adetola Tamunokubie, and media anthropologist Lara Şarlak.

To enter the contest, connect with a mentor, or learn more, please visit:

For more information on the Community-UBC Refugee & Migration Working Group, visit: