Two SFU film students aim to grow arts in Surrey

Two Simon Fraser University student-filmmakers are keen to help the City of Surrey grow its arts industry and hope a project they plan to launch next month – dubbed Creative Surrey – will help residents get involved.

Kashif Pasta, a student in the School of Communication and Shyam Valera, biology major, are high school friends who grew up in Surrey and started a film production company called Dunya Media. Their goal is to create video stories that “uplift viewers” with positive messages, promote media literacy and showcase Surrey.

The pair attended Surrey’s recent Creative Economy event to hear more about the economic benefits of a broader and more effervescent arts industry, and Surrey’s growing potential as an “edge city.” Both were encouraged by presentations from a panel that included SFU professors Catherine Murray and Rowland Lorimer.

“Surrey has a huge potential to be an arts hub, and as students and young people in the creative field we are asking questions like, ‘how can we work to sustain jobs in the arts, draw talent in and also retain what we have here?’,” says Pasta, who also attended the city’s first community summit in April.

Their goal with Creative Surrey is to provide a physical space to facilitate connections between business, artists, schools and government that would help raise awareness of the potential and resources available in Surrey, and turn that awareness into concrete action.

“The vision is still forming, but it will initially involve meet-ups and events to motivate and promote action in and around Surrey’s creative industries,” Pasta explains.

Over time they expect the meet-ups will be complemented by an online directory of artists, entrepreneurs and resources, member discounts for services like printing and equipment rentals, community outreach on behalf of the creative industries and more.

“Surrey is a great place to grow up and a great place to raise a family – we’d like to play a part in addressing the in-between stage where young, talented people would benefit from a strong focus on the arts,” adds Valera.

“We understand the business role in this: that for a real, vibrant arts and culture industry, economic sustainability – making art that generates enough revenue to make more art that generates more revenue, and so on – is key.”

Meanwhile the two already have video credits – including a series called SFU 2065 featured on YouTube – and a slate of ideas for videos underway. They are starting production of a five-part web series called Welcome to Surrey, a comedy about five students (from SFU) in their early twenties becoming adults in a world where culture, identity, life and love are constantly in flux. “It’s about coming of age in a city that’s not built for it. About being “from” one culture and born/raised in another. And it’s really, really funny,” Pasta insists.

A short film nearing completion called Zoya is a 10-12 minute comedy film about a teenage girl whose attempts to be cool fall flat – until she makes a fashion statement by wearing a hijab.

“We’re enthusiastic about what we do, and even more so about the potential in Surrey and the prospects of having a role in helping to further develop the industry here, right where we live,” Pasta adds.