Writing for TIFF, for some, is a journalistic milestone. For Nives Hajdin, this milestone is a reality. Hajdin currently works as TIFF’s editorial coordinator and admits that her career beginnings were humble. In fact, Hajdin, a UTM alumna of the class 2012, also worked at The Medium and served as the A&E editor from 2010-2012. What followed since her graduation from UTM and The Medium was a slew of stints in the art industry and journalism.
While at UTM, Hajdin studied art history and English. During her years as an undergraduate at UTM, Hajdin wrote for The Medium and had the opportunity to cover the TIFF as an accredited journalist. Commenting on this particular experience, Hajdin described it as amazing.
“It was very empowering to be 20-21 years old and be taken seriously by such a prominent presence in the film industry. I gained so much confidence from that,” Hajdin added.
In terms of her general experience of working at The Medium, Hajdin expressed gratitude for the opportunity of combining her artistic passion with journalism. She described her writing specialty at the campus newspaper as profiling gallery exhibitions. On the side, Hajdin also worked as a gallery attendant at UTM’s Blackwood Gallery. Eventually, Hajdin pursued graduate studies in criticism and curatorial practice at OCAD University.
“Working at The Medium has been one of the best experiences of my life. It didn’t just open doors for me down the road in my professional career, but it also gave me a sense of purpose and community in university early on,” Hajdin said.
When asked about how her education in the arts has influenced her career progression, Hajdin said that the arts field is a “tough field” to find work. But, her work experience in the field proved to be advantageous.
“On top of that, my interests converged into something very specific,” Hajdin stated, “That said, doing lots of internships while I was still in school was the best decision I could have made, because everyone just wants to see that you have real-world experience. Your first ‘career job’ is always the toughest to get because all you might have is a degree and that’s not always enough.”
Art history, for Hajdin, opened her sights to the subject of curatorial practice—something she later pursued in graduate school. While at graduate school, Hajdin met people who offered her future work and that, in turn, attracted the attention of Hajdin’s current employer at TIFF.
“It’s all intertwined,” she said.
Her career break came via Young Canada Works programme. Hajdin was 20, and had just left her first retail job at Chapters. She found a posting for a job as a publication coordinator at the Art Metropole for a book. The job responsibilities entailed bringing together texts and images from artists centering around the theme of commerce.
“The book’s editor, Luis Jacob, had been working on the project for nearly 10 years and needed help finishing it,” Hajdin explained.
A particular reason for why Hajdin thinks she got the role as the publication coordinator was due to her previous occupational role at the Blackwood Gallery.
Hajdin said, “I’m forever grateful because it made me realize how much I love working on publications and managing projects. This was also another reason why I think I had an edge for the TIFF job.”
After this career break was a series of short employments—internships with Sotheby’s, the Canadian Art Foundation, the Art Gallery of Mississauga, and Art in Transit. For these roles, Hajdin was exposed to catalogue essays, online reviews, and exhibition didactics. Upon receiving her graduate degree, Hajdin began writing curatorial texts and criticisms for the team projects in partnership with AGO First Thursdays, and interviewing artists for C Magazine. Now, working as the editorial coordinator at TIFF, Hajdin credits the connections she made while at OCAD University for the majority of her employment opportunities thus far.
“A lot of people think it’s impossible to get into big organizations like TIFF unless you know somebody on the inside, but that’s not always the case. I didn’t know anyone in the organization before I started. It certainly didn’t hurt that they saw I had previously volunteered at the Festival for two years, and no doubt my The Medium coverage was on file somewhere,” Hajdin said.
Her daily role at TIFF includes copyediting and fact-checking TIFF’s newsletters, press release, or film synopsis that is available to the public. A notable project that Hajdin favorably anticipates is the annual Festival Programme Book. During the book’s two-week production period, work for Hajdin gets hectic.
Hajdin explained, “[Our team] quite literally runs around the building asking programmers for their final approvals, circulate page proofs to various departments, and make corrections on the fly in order to meet that day’s print deadline. There is no two-week period in the year that is more insane or more fun.”
In terms of writing advice for budding journalists, Hajdin encourages writers to continue writing, even if the process is not paid for. However, Hajdin cautions young journalists away from writing pretentiously. For Hajdin, the best kind of writing is writing that feels natural.
“I think it’s really important to not succumb to the overwhelming pressure of ‘sounding smart’ in your writing. A lot of writing, art criticism in particular, is very hard to parse through to the point that you don’t even know what the argument or end point is,” Hajdin continued, “I’ve spent a lot of time in academia and within these circles. It’s common practice to reference critical theory in your writing, but I think you can be just as successful by writing like you speak. Throwing around lingo like ‘object-oriented ontology’ in writing is kind of terrifying to me. Just write how you feel.”