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Lindork’s Lists: Q&A #6 with Brandy Yanchyk
Originally published to newsletter subscribers on June 13, 2021
The sixth person I’m profiling in my new paid newsletter subscriber Q&A series is:
Brandy Yanchyk, Journalist and Documentary Filmmaker
Getting to know Brandy Yanchyk:
Brandy Yanchyk is an award-winning journalist and documentary filmmaker based in Edmonton, Alberta. She has been a storyteller for over 18 years. Since 2009, Brandy has made fourteen documentaries and nine series for television as well as an app called “Becoming Alberta” which focuses on experiences new Canadians and immigrants can have when they come to Alberta.
“I love telling stories, being out in the field and exploring issues I am deeply connected or curious about.”
– Brandy Yanchyk
Brandy once interviewed me when I was a finalist for something called ‘The Best Job in the World’—a 2009 competition from Tourism Queensland (Australia) that was seeking a “caretaker” / blogger / content creator for the Great Barrier Reef’s Hamilton Island.
It was something like the first of its kind job / contest back then, and I was a Top 50 finalist out of 35,000 applicants from around the world. That’s how Brandy and I first met (and lol The Best Job in the World thing is a different story for another time).
Then I ended up working with Brandy’s husband Rory later in my career—which is when we became reconnected again (side note: Rory is a super talented graphic designer).
Brandy is a talented storyteller who creates engaging travel videos that you can find on CBC, PBS, TELUS Storyhive, and Amazon Prime Video.
Let’s Dive Into the Q&A with Brandy:
How and why did you get into filmmaking and storytelling?
I have always loved storytelling and doing creative work. I first studied to be an actor at Concordia University in Montreal, then after being an actor for five years I studied Radio and Television Arts at Ryerson University. I worked as a TV and Radio reporter and producer at the CBC in Toronto, London, England and in Edmonton. I also worked as a Broadcast Journalist producing daily news and making documentaries and doing reports for the BBC World Service and BBC World TV in London, England.
What do you love most about the work that you do?
I love meeting new people and gaining access to worlds I would never get a chance to visit unless I had this job. I love putting the stories together, pitching and selling my documentaries.
Can you share some of your favourite shows you’ve worked on and why you love them? Why should people watch them?
I created a travel series called Seeing Canada. It’s airing on Amazon Prime Video around the world and to 90% of PBS households in the USA. I loved being the producer, director and host of Seeing Canada because I was able to explore my home country of Canada go to remote and unique places like Nunavut, Sable Island in Nova Scotia and the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia.
Can you tell me about some of your more memorable experiences on the many adventures you’ve had as a filmmaker? Anything surprising? Shocking?
One time I was in a float plane in a remote community in the Northwest Territories and the float plane started to sink because there was a hole in the float. It was really scary but we stayed calm and we made it back to the dock by padding our way back with a canoe oar!
What does a “day in the life” or a “week in the life” or a “month in the life” of a documentary filmmaker look like? And how is it different during the pandemic versus before the pandemic?
When I am filming the days are very long days, like 12 to 18 hour work days, because we film all day and then I have to download all my footage in my hotel room, organize it in my editing software which is Premiere and then copy to another hard drive as a backup.
When I am home I work a 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. day where I am pitching new projects, organizing for upcoming film shoots, editing and doing social media updates for my documentary.
During the pandemic I am still working an 8 a.m .to 5 p.m. work day. I am concentrating more on sales and promotion of my documentaries for universities and schools to stream. I also am doing a lot more corporate films for universities or organizations that are in Edmonton or Alberta.
- I have been pleasantly surprised by how many corporate films I have made during the pandemic and all my clients have approached me.
Was it challenging to get to where you are in your career? Did you find it tougher to break into filmmaking as a woman?
I never really thought about being a woman in the industry because I didn’t feel any barriers to my success from it.
I did have some negative remarks made to me during the years or people thought my cameraman was the producer and person behind the films but I quickly corrected them. I just worked really hard and went to all the conferences where I pitched my shows.
No one ever said no to me because I was a woman. I think the biggest issue and I’m only realizing it now is that I never stopped making films or traveling and focused on having a family in my thirties. This put a lot of pressure on me in my forties to figure out if we were going to have children of our own or through adoption.
What advice would you give to other filmmakers or amateur filmmakers, writers, producers, storytellers, in regards to taking risks, following their passions, or building their own businesses?
I am a huge risk taker and it has paid off. I would say the most important thing you can do is focus on making documentaries or stories that you are fascinated by that you will want to still talk about and market in two to three years time. After the films are completed you still have to promote them and if you aren’t really into the topic, people can tell.
What can people expect to see from you in 2021 and beyond?
Right now I am finishing a documentary about Peter and Doris Kule who are philanthropists from Edmonton. They donated close to $20 million dollars to many universities including the University of Alberta and MacEwan University. They focused their giving on creating programs that would help promote Ukrainian Canadian culture in perpetuity.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I would say that living in Edmonton has given me lots of opportunities to take risks because it is not an expensive city to live in.
If I had moved to Toronto or Vancouver I’d be working so hard to pay my rent or mortgage I would not have been able to invest money in my documentaries which is what I did here in Edmonton.
Now I am reaping those investments because I am selling those films and getting royalties. I also was able to build a career for myself in Edmonton where I could focus only on making documentaries and travel shows that I cared about.
Edmonton is a hidden gem and I’m so happy I have chosen to live here. We recently bought a house in Woodcroft near the TELUS World of Science and we are loving connecting with our neighbours!
Wrapping up our Q&A:
What show would you recommend people watch on Netflix (or other streaming services) and why (lol not your own show)?
I really loved the short British series called River. It’s from 2015 and has Stellan Skarsgård and Nicola Walker in it. This series was one of the best bits of programming I have seen. I also absolutely loved Lupin and then Fleabag on Amazon Prime Video. All of these series had suspense, laughter and had me glued to the television. I couldn’t watch enough.
Is there a book or podcast you recently read (or doesn’t have to be recent) that you would recommend to others and why?
I really enjoyed the book “Braving the Wilderness” by Bene Brown. I read that as part of my book club and it touched me deeply. I recommend the book because it’s very hopeful but also touches on negative talk and imposter syndrome.
What is one of your favourite local restaurants or stores you’d recommend?
One of my favourite restaurants is Tasty Noodle on Calgary Trail, I love their Cantonese Chicken Chow Mein and their peanut and pork dumplings. Everything is delicious there!
What’s something about Alberta you love or recommend others check out?
One of my favourite places is Dinosaur Provincial Park which is near Brooks, Alberta and is not where the Royal Tyrrell Museum is. Lots of people get Dinosaur Provincial Park confused with Drumheller. It’s a different place!
Dinosaur Provincial Park offers wonderful dinosaur educational experiences, incredible camping and gorgeous scenery, and it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Thank you Brandy for sharing your insights and experience!
You can connect with Brandy:
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