ART DIRECTOR KHANH QUACH ON MOVING THE INDUSTRY IN A MORE POSITIVE DIRECTION

DGC Ontario Art Director Khanh Quach has been involved with many initiatives over the years to create inclusivity in the industry. Khanh shares his journey with Wider Lens: his path to film production, his efforts to move the industry in a more positive direction, and what he’s most proud of about his time on the DGC Ontario Executive Board. 

 Tell us about your journey to your career in the Art Department.

I went to the School of Performance at Toronto Metropolitan University (previously known as Ryerson Theatre School), specializing in Set Design for Theatre. Partway through my program, I wanted to further explore my interest in film. I enrolled in film production and design courses at the G. Raymond Chang School and knew that I had found the right path for me. After finishing school, I started volunteering, taking small gigs on indie films, music videos and commercials to gain real-world experience and make professional connections. Starting out on set was crucial to understanding how a unit moves and operates, as well as the workflow and politics of film. The knowledge I gained in this period still informs my decisions when I design a set.

You recently wrapped up your time as the DGC Ontario Art Department Caucus Rep on the Executive Board. How would you describe your experience representing such a dynamic and growing caucus over the last few years?

Serving on the Board was one of the highlights of my career. I felt very fortunate to be working with such dedicated Board members during a period of such growth and change for our industry. The experience also gave me insights and an understanding of how hard the DGC staff work – especially during the two years of COVID.

What was it about your experience in this industry that called you to serve the organization as you have?

For a long time, diversity and inclusion have felt like afterthoughts in our industry. I would often find myself to be the only BIPOC person in an Art Department, and while it is improving, diversity in film is still an issue today. In addition to that, the industry culture has been one of overworking and toxic, outdated managerial practices that often include bullying and intimidation. I wanted a seat at the table to voice these concerns and move the culture in a more positive direction.

What are you most proud of from your time on the Executive Board?

The three things that I am most proud of were the Art Department Negotiations Working Group, Diversity/Inclusion within the Art Department, and a complete revamp of the Art Department Training Program. Art Directors Lisa Cowen, Kelly Diamond and I created a group of very dedicated Art Dept Members who helped compose a detailed survey that targeted large issues we have been dealing with. The survey results gave us insights that helped us draft clear and concise proposals for the 2022  negotiations. I also have David Seymour to thank for his tireless work when he was still with us as DGC Ontario’s Director of Member Services. He spearheaded the diversity/inclusion initiatives and helped us partner with ArtWorksTO to bring in more diverse candidates for our GAP intakes. Revamping the Art Department courses was also a huge undertaking. DGC Ontario Professional Development and Training Manager Cristy Becker, 1st Assistant Art Director Kim Sison and I worked hard to build a cohesive structure and foundation for these courses, and they’re still growing!

What is the best part of your job?

It changes depending on the job, but I have to say for Titans – as cliche as it sounds – it was really about the amazing team I had. I went to work every day knowing that I was surrounded by people who are not only wonderful but also extremely talented and inspiring.

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

It’s always been my dream to open up a multidisciplinary design firm that does not only film but also theatre, concerts, events, and interiors globally.

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