On Wednesday, November 14, UTM Creatives for a Change hosted their annual event, Careers in Creativity, at the Blind Duck Pub. Speakers from creative industries attended, along with passionate UTM students. The night was a learning experience, a networking opportunity, and an inspiration to be creative.

The panelists included Justin Wu, Julian Nieva, Domenic Lisi, Jacqueline Ashton, Muneet Dhaliwal, and Yazmin Butcher. The professionals had approximately 15-20 minutes to share their stories and leave a message with the crowd.

Justin Wu is a film director and photographer based in Los Angeles and Toronto. His work has been featured on TV and online, including MTV, Elle, Vogue, and Huffington Post. His work is stunningly artistic and left gasps and whispers in the audience as the screen projected an image of a ballerina floating on a black backdrop. Wu has over 51,000 followers on Instagram, and I imagine he gained a handful more from the students at the event.

Julian Nieva is a producer specializing in film and design at Kid. Studio and Common Good. Tv. He has produced music videos for popular artists, including The Weeknd, Future, Big Sean, 6lack, and French Montana. He’s also produced commercials for big brands, including Nike and Converse. Nieva stirred the audience when he revealed that he graduated from UTM and used to play basketball at the RAWC. He emphasized the importance of connections and relationships, since those are what helped him achieve some of his successes. At the end of the night, Nieva returned on stage to share an unreleased music video that showcased how he was able to bring his passion for basketball into his producing career.

Domenic Lisi is an art director at Cruel Inc. in Toronto. He has worked with clients such as Jägermeister, Red Bull, Mott’s Clamato, Mascot Brewery, and The Supreme Cannabis Company. His presentation mimicked that of a stand-up comedian, as laughter spread across the room due to his natural sense of humour. Lisi’s talk reassured students that there is hope for creatives. His story showed how artists often have to take on bottom-feeder jobs and endure struggle for a long time before they are successful, but that it is definitely possible to get there.

Jacqueline Ashton is a model, influencer, and photographer based in Toronto. She focuses on capturing a diverse range of female subjects, displaying a sense of intimacy, femininity, and confidence. Ashton has worked with Aldo Shoes, Easy Period, VICE, CBC Life, Tokyo Smoke, and more. Her presentation slides featured Rihanna references, which makes sense since Rihanna is a strong female idol who often inspires through feminism and fashion.

Muneet Dhaliwal is the co-founder of Miami Ad School Toronto, which is a portfolio school catered to helping students pursue creative careers. Her presentation was educational, inspiring, and moving. She showed a video made for Sick Kids that left goosebumps on my skin and discussed the power of advertising. There was one particular line that stuck with me: “Pick a social issue. Create a digital solution.” Dhaliwal encouraged students to find something they cared about and use their creative skills and knowledge of the online world to create something that could make a difference in the world.

Yazmin Butcher is a graphic designer, illustrator, creative director and co-founder of GXXRLS Creative Agency. She has been featured in The New York Times as well as other publications and has spent a couple of years working as a full-time freelancer. Butcher shared some of the lessons she has learned from her experiences, such as never wanting to work in a studio that isn’t run by herself, and also admitted to the fears of starting a full-time job after being used to freelance for a while.

The night was a success, and students had the opportunity to network with the speakers while munching on free refreshments. As Nieva said, “Just be chill.” He encouraged students not to act as “fans” if they get to work with their favourite artist but instead, show them what you can bring to the conversation. Dhaliwal also left an important message—creative passions don’t have to be just hobbies, they can turn into successful careers.