Coffee & Conversation with Filmmaker MIDI ONODERA

Coffee & Conversation is a NEW interview series with tenants at Artscape Youngplace. Our first interview is with Midi Onodera. Midi is an award-winning filmmaker who has been directing, producing, and writing films for over thirty years. Her work spans from short to feature-length films and videos, and is exhibited internationally. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to interview Midi in her studio, and get the inside scoop on her latest projects.

1. How did you become a filmmaker?

I’ve always been interested in film from a very early age. When I was young, a lot of old movies ran on TV, so I would stay up after my family and watch them, endlessly. I started making films in high school and have continued since then.


2. Why are you here on a Monday morning?

I really love coming to the studio. It’s away from my house and I find the routine comforting. My whole philosophy is: Even if you’re coming in and not consciously thinking of something, by being in a more creative space, you’re going to come up with something; either accidently or incidentally. In a way, the studio gives you permission to be in that creative headspace. 


3. What are you currently working on?

A miniature screen project. I’ve been trying to figure out different ways to create kind of a modern-day daguerreotype.

Midi leads me to her work table to show her latest project

Daguerreotypes were an early form of photography. The image was printed on a silvered copper plate that was vulnerable to light so they were usually housed in ornate folding cases.

She shows me an old daguerreotype she found in an antique shop 


Image: Miniature Screen Project (Left) and Daguerreotype (Right)

They were designed as keepsakes. The idea for my project came from thinking about daguerreotypes and our modern phones, and how we’ve been treating our devices more like precious objects as opposed to an utilitarian device. I am embedding video screens in these box constructions, the videos inside will speak of personal stories, secrets or, echoing the idea of the daguerreotype. I am gathering these different stories from personal journal entries or online confessions.

People today can create their own personal journals online, and can choose to keep them private or public. It’s an interesting notion about privacy and what gets consumed publicly, because these journal entries are usually very private, therapeutic, possibly. And yet, we put them online – so what does that mean? These little videos are like a peak into someone else’s private life.

Also, every year I do an online video project. This year’s project is called ‘Lonely Videos.’  I find YouTube videos that have less than 10 views, create mashups and re-post them online. I try to comment on the person’s YouTube channel and say, “Hey I’m trying to find friends for your video.”


4. Any advice for aspiring artists?

I think that you either have to decide whether you are in it for the short haul or the long haul. It takes a lot of patience, determination, discipline, and commitment to be a full-time artist and in it for the long haul. The financial return isn’t enough to sustain an artistic practice, especially in Canada. You must find another way to earn a living, and balance that with your artistic drive, family, and friends. I think of being an artist as having two occupations; you’re an artist and you’re something else. 


5. What’s your hidden talent? Or just any random fact about yourself?

I really love to cook. I think the process of cooking is a creative process. It’s another creative outlet that you can share with others.


6. Fondest memory here?

When the tenants decided to do “The Art of Darkness” for Halloween. Shani Parsons, from Critical Distance Centre for Curators , was the head coordinator and was so committed to the project and did so much work.  Eve Egoyan (Canadian pianist and piano teacher), had a haunted house in her studio. I was the Mystic Oracle. It was so well attended; there were so many kids and it was an incredible event for the community and building. 

For more information about Midi, visit her website

About the Interviewer

Elaina Pawelka is the Communications & Promotional Assistant at Artscape Youngplace this summer. She is completing her final year at Ryerson University studying the Creative Industries. Elaina started this series to learn more about the artistically diverse tenants working in the building, and offer inspiration to those interested in creativity or anyone looking for an insightful read.