Careers in the Film Industy

Movie Industry Moxie
From CSI and Entourage to Mike Myers’ yet-to-be-released mega hit, Jana Tomcko is making her mark on the film industry.
by Nicola Six

Her business card says she’s a production agent, but ask Jana Tomcko and you might get a different story. “I’m a hustler,” she says.

If her resumé is any indication, she’s not exaggerating. Jana’s journey from high school in Thunder Bay to the film industry in Toronto is so wrought with twists and turns it might as well be coming to a theatre near you.
Looking back, she never expected to be working on some of North America’s biggest productions. “I didn’t think that far ahead. I was really bad in high school—I didn’t do well in the system,” says the 30-year-old. “I wasn’t your role model student by any means, but I did go to university. I went to Lakehead in Thunder Bay for Environmental Sciences. Completely unrelated, I know.”
So how does a degree in environmental science get you a career in the movie industry? The short answer is, it doesn’t.  “It was actually a really weird sequence of events. When I moved to Toronto seven years ago, I didn’t know anyone. I just picked up from Thunder Bay and left,” says Jana. “I drove here by myself, and I’d never even driven on the highway before.
“I met someone who worked in films, so I spent a couple weeks working on film sets with him, just kind of hanging out. From there I ended up volunteering on film sets. I just kind of walked on set and told them I was an assistant director, because I’d spent two weeks watching and paying attention to what people were doing on set.”
A slew of impressed superiors and one long-lost-cousin-with-union-connections later, Jana found herself a career in assistant directing. Or so she thought. When an opportunity to wed her academic and professional experience came knocking, she answered the door with open arms.
“There’s a ton of filming that goes on within Toronto’s parks. My job was to set a price for filming in environmentally sensitive areas,” says Jana. “So I ended up setting up the protocols for that. They hadn’t really dealt with it before and they weren’t charging productions enough.
“That turned into putting together brochures and photoshoots to promote City of Toronto lands to production companies. And from there I got a job at an ad agency doing media buying. So all those combinations of different jobs directly fit in to what I’m doing right now.”
Which begs the question: what exactly does a production agent do? “Basically what I do now is put product placements in film,” Jana explains. “Anytime there’s a brand name in a film, someone has a hand in putting it in there—working with producers, directors and transport departments to get everything there. I also co-ordinate any type of cross-promotional stuff that might happen.”
Contrary to what many people believe, product placements in film aren’t always the result of corporations looking to squeeze their brands into popular works of art. More often than not, says Jana, productions come to her seeking corporate sponsors to increase their budgets. “Generally, big companies will respond to me a lot quicker than they’ll respond to a production, because productions are usually looking for money and it becomes hard to get a hold of people.”
Working in film sounds glamourous, but Jana’s quick to put things in perspective. “Honestly, my job is basically just shooting the s#!% with people. When I pick up the phone, half the time you wouldn’t be able to tell if I’m talking to my best friend or if I’m talking to a client. It takes a certain personality to be able to read people, and what I do is all about building relationships.”