Are we rolling?: Meet director Kathleen Jayme, Phil Lind Multicultural Artist in Residence

15 years ago, Kathleen Jayme was accepted into the UBC Film Production Program. This February, she’ll be returning as an award-winning filmmaker and the 2022/2023 Phil Lind Multicultural Artist in Residence.

In some ways, Jayme was born into the film industry. “My grandfather was a filmmaker in the Philippines,” she said in an interview with The Ubyssey, “so I kind of grew up with him documenting my life.”

After growing up not seeing people like her on screen, being both behind and in front of the camera in her own films is Jayme’s way of inspiring other Filipino filmmakers to step forward.

“By taking up space, I hope that I’m allowing other people to feel comfortable and brave enough to do their own thing in whatever space they occupy.”

Jayme moved through high school with a camera in her hand. By the time she got to UBC, she already knew that she wanted to make movies. After coaching basketball in high school, she also learned that she loved to teach. Even now, Jayme travels to high schools and elementary schools to screen her films and tell students about her own filmmaking journey.

“I’ve always thought of possibly teaching at some point,” said Jayme. “When this opportunity presented itself, I jumped on it right away.”

Her main responsibility at UBC will be to support the students in the Rogers Multicultural Film Course, FIPR 469, which will focus on telling cultural and community stories through film. She’ll be providing students with feedback for their projects, sharing her own films and telling them about her story.

“When you’re in the film industry, there’s no set plan as to how to go about being a filmmaker,” she explained.

She’s excited to let these students pick her brain and to share her own filmmaking process. Jayme hopes that by sharing her own trajectory and experiences, she’ll be able to support students in their transition to the industry.

Jayme's most recent project is her first feature film, The Grizzlie Truth. The documentary, which is still being screened across BC, delves into what really happened to the Vancouver Grizzlies — a professional Canadian basketball team that was sold off in the early 2000s. After it was purchased, the team was relocated and renamed the Memphis Grizzlies.

As a Filipino-Canadian, basketball is an important part of Jayme’s culture. After growing up watching the Grizzlies, Jayme knew that one day she’d be telling their story.

“Even when I was at UBC, I was like if there’s one story I want to tell, I want to tell the story of the Vancouver Grizzlies,” Jayme shared.

So she did. In 2016, she resigned from her position at the National Film Board of Canada and tracked down her childhood hero: Bryant “Big Country” Reeves — 'forgotten legend' and former star of the Vancouver Grizzlies. Her breakthrough documentary, Big Country, gave viewers a glimpse of what it took to find him. Once released, she used the film as proof of concept for The Grizzlie Truth.

“One of my favourite parts of my latest film, The Grizzlie Truth, was highlighting my Filipino heritage and culture,” said Jayme.

Her current projects include a documentary about the 2011 Stanley Cup riot, another documentary about Canadian soccer player Christine Sinclair and a project with the National Film Board of Canada. She’s also working on an anthology series about the Philippine’s martial law period, working title: Kaba, a project she’ll be working on in collaboration with many other Filipino filmmakers across the world.

Being able to share and tell the stories she’s passionate about is what makes documentaries so dear to her. She’d love to work on more narrative films in the future but, in her own words, “my true joy comes from making documentaries.” She’s hoping to explore more environmental and sports-related documentaries in the future.

“I think a lot of things are changing in the film industry,” said Jayme. “It’s been really great to see so many more voices being welcomed.”

An earlier version of this article misstated that Jayme entered the UBC film program 17 years ago. She actually began at UBC 15 years ago. The Ubyssey regrets this error.