1st Assistant Art Director Kim Sison On “Paying It Forward” In The Art Department

DGC Ontario 1st Assistant Art Director Kim Sison is a Toronto-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator. She specializes in designing prop and set graphics for film and television and has brought her artistic talents to such productions as The Expanse, Shadowhunters, Awake, Impulse, and the upcoming Beacon 23.

We spoke to Kim about her extensive involvement with various Art Department initiatives here at DGC Ontario, including reshaping the Art Department training program and Apprentice Program and sitting on DGC Ontario’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

What drew you to a film and television career in the Art Department?

I went to film school and have that background, but I truly think that my love for fandom culture drew me into the Art Department. I was a very nerdy kid that loved watching behind-the-scenes featurettes and collecting “Making of” art books. I even taught myself Photoshop and Illustrator so I could make fan art, props and cosplay replicas. Through a nerdy film fandom event, I met a couple of industry professionals who ultimately showed me that I could actually have a viable career in the Art Department as a Graphic Designer.

You’re very involved with “paying it forward” when it comes to various Art Department initiatives here at DGC Ontario. Along with Art Director (and Art Dept Caucus Rep!) Khanh Quach, you recently helped reformat the Art Department Fundamentals training program and joined the Apprentice Program interview panel. How did you get involved with these initiatives, and what do you hope for the future of the Art Department?

Khanh and I have had many conversations about the Guild Apprentice Program (GAP) and all the things we wished we knew when we were trainees. We shared many of the same ideas for improving the program, so he brought me on board to help implement them. We want to set new trainees up for success by creating a course that goes through the art department workflow from pre-production to wrap, and explains exactly how they would play a part in that process. I still remember how daunting it was to be new to the union film world with no training or time to adjust, so I want to help ease some of that anxiety for future Art Department trainees. 

You’re one of the Art Caucus Representatives on DGC Ontario’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee.  Tell us what it means to you to be involved in this committee and why you feel it’s essential to be on the ground level when it comes to issues of diversity in film and television?

It has been refreshing and inspiring to be part of a committee mostly comprised of BIPOC/LGBTQ2S+ folks after years of working in production offices with very little diversity. I have learned so much from their wisdom and experiences. I believe it is important to have these diversity initiatives led by those with marginalized voices rather than having others speak for us. I still struggle to find my own voice due to years of internalized conditioning based on my identity, and I don’t want future filmmakers to ever feel like they can’t speak up for themselves. 

You and Khanh also recently led an Introduction to the Art Department workshop for members of the ArtWorksTO program (part of the xoTO Screen Industry Pathways Initiative, which invites creative youth who face barriers to education and employment to pursue film industry-related careers). Tell us about this session and why you became involved in the initiative.

We had such a great time meeting some talented young artists and bringing the ‘Art Department Fundamentals’ training to ArtworksTO! It is such a wonderful program that allows marginalized young creatives to explore a viable career in the arts. I wish we had more programs like this when I was starting out! It would have meant a lot to have mentors that looked like me and shared my experience. Having that kind of representation is so validating, and I really hope that Khanh and I were able to provide some inspiration for them. 

Imagine it’s 2031. What does your career look like?

I love my job, and I hope that in 10 years I will still be working on some really awesome and unique productions! I also hope to continue working with more outreach programs for marginalized young artists. It would be incredible to see more diversity in our industry, both on-screen and behind the scenes. 

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