Season 3, Episode 1: Following Your Creative Passions with Cameron Maitland

January 10, 2024

Stephanie Werner 0:09
Welcome to FCAT After School, a podcast from SFU's Faculty of Communication, Art, and Technology. In each episode, we join student hosts in conversation with alumni as they explore career journeys since graduation, and gather advice for the next generation.

Stephanie Werner 0:26
In this episode, host Emma Jean - a fifth-year student in the school of communication -  sits down with FCAT film school graduate Cameron Maitland. Cameron is a film and content specialist at Hollywood Suite, a Canadian media company that screens and promotes films through cable, streaming, and social media. There, Cam is the face of their online presence, curating and creating content about films and infectiously advocating for what makes them so great. Recorded remotely from his Toronto office, Cam provided insight into the desire to make art, the need to make money, and collaboration and community as the backbone of the filmmaking world.

Emma Jean 1:18
How do you marry your career and your passions? Is it possible? If it is possible, does making money off your passions strip you of your, well, passion? These are thoughts that come up in nearly every conversation that I have with other students, anxiously staring down their graduation date.. Thank goodness there are people who can speak to this from experience. This week’s guest is one of those people who may have found a way to have both.

Emma Jean 1:43
How are you feeling today?

Cameron Maitland 1:45
Ah fine, you know, Monday. [laughs] Same old, same old. Yeah, just like a lot of catching up. We're also like starting a shoot tomorrow. So a lot going on. One of our TV shows is just a doc series talking heads sort of lying. But we're kicking it off as always, who knows if something will go wrong.

Emma Jean 2:06
Cameron Maitland is an SFU graduate with a bachelor’s of fine arts in film, and now works as the resident Film and Content Specialist for the media company Hollywood Suite. If you have cable, or if your parents have cable, you may have seen their channels dedicated to showcasing film from across the 20th century.

Emma Jean 2:25
Yeah, whenever I visit home and see my parents, and they have cable – I always enjoying putting on Hollywood Suite and seeing what’s on. It’s like, “Oh, Moonstruck is on! Let’s sit down and watch that!” It’s the best.

Cameron Maitland 2:32
Yeah, yeah. [laughs]

CLIP: Moonstruck

            Rose 2:34
           Do you love him Loretta?

            Loretta 2:35
           Ma, I love him awful.

           Rose 2:36
           Aw god, that’s too bad. 

Emma Jean 2:38
Hollywood Suite make a ton of film-related content across social media, television, and yeah – even podcasts. So you could say that Cam makes a living out of all things film.

Cameron Maitland 2:47
I do think that there's a lot of my job that does, like read as dream job ish. Being paid to do movie stuff at all, I feel very lucky. I know a lot of extremely talented people that just don't have an outlet that pays them. A lot of people I know who are the most passionate about movies, do it for free. They, you know, they're blogging, they're writing, they're just watching stuff, cause they care so much about it. So I do feel very lucky in that regard.

Emma Jean 3:14
Today, we’ll be talking to Cam about his career and what helped him get there along the way.  You’ll hear about the benefits of connecting with your program cohorts, the team ethic that he developed during film school that stuck with him throughout his life, and the advice he would give to students looking to enter the creative industries today.

Emma Jean 3:34
Fade in - an Albertan classroom, late-1990s. A young man sits in a desk, tapping a pencil against it. He is deciding what he wants his future to be.

Cameron Maitland 3:43
I went to fine art school, and they had a pretty good film course. And I just kind of enjoyed that and did a lot of it in high school. I had kind of like varied background in theater and classical music as well. And neither of those really seemed like something I wanted to go on and continue doing. But film also kind of combines a lot of those elements so just seemed like a good way to go.


Cameron Maitland 4:06
I grew up in Edmonton. [pause] At the time, there was not a lot of film programs in Alberta that were that well regarded. Part of it was my grades. A lot of places required a lot of math and science, which I wasn't very good at. SFU required more of a like submission of creative intent to get in.

Emma Jean 4:31
Studying film at SFU meant learning every aspect of film production, but also working to find his niche within it.

Cameron Maitland 4:37
It was a lot of training, like literal training on various forms. We were still shooting on film. We were still recording sound on tape, a lot of the program because it was kind of focused on experimental film. There was a lot of that. I think what I was really interested in at the time was writing. I wasn't as focused on directing at the time, because it was a bit late, it just kind of seemed like that's what everyone said. So writing was really my focus. But at the start of my degree, it definitely was learning all this different technology, learning kind of theories, lighting, all of that stuff. It just felt like there was kind of a lot to take on before you understood the greater world of filmmaking.

Emma Jean 5:18
With the high-level of collaboration, on-the-fly learning, and genuine vulnerability needed to progress through the program, it seems natural that the students within it would bond. Cam was no exception.

Cameron Maitland 5:29
I definitely think the thing that you are like secretly learning the whole time in film school is just working with other people. Film is, by necessity, a collaborative medium. As you learn, you're also just learning to be on set to be with other people. I am still friends with a lot of these people. And it has actually as our careers develop and change. It makes a big difference to like, you know, know somebody who's out winning awards or whatever, or somebody who is very good at X or Y you know, and now you know people know me and I work at a TV channel and like If I can help you with grants, I can help you with whatever. There is something there.

Emma Jean 6:04
Soon, Cam was fresh out of SFU with a shiny new bachelor of fine arts degree in film, ready to take on the cinema world. Unfortunately, his timing was, through no fault of his own, a bit off.

Cameron Maitland 6:16
I graduated in 2007. So we were kind of on the cusp of the horrible economic downturn of 2008, which really did kind of rattle the BC industry.

Emma Jean 6:27
Without access to the film jobs that he dreamed of, Cam went looking for any job that would let him write.

Cameron Maitland 6:33
I think for the most part, just about everybody kind of looked aside from film, because we just needed to pay rent. So one of the big things, in Burnaby, near SFU, a job you could always get was working for Electronic Arts. I ended up doing a few things in the video game industry. And then eventually, I kind of started getting these jobs where I could write, essentially, digital copywriting. So something like Yelp, for instance, they paid me to just like I would walk around a neighborhood take a photo of every business right down there like ours. That was like the basis for what Yelp was, and it paid pretty well. And I ended up doing various things like that, working a lot on early social media.

Emma Jean 7:18
As time went on and the B.C. film industry remained seemingly unviable, Cam began to set his sights elsewhere.

Cameron Maitland 7:25
I kept looking for film stuff, the writing stuff, the opportunities weren't there. And Toronto seemed the better place for that I especially wanted to work in pre production and writing. And just knowing that there was production offices, there was so much more in Toronto. And eventually, you know, I cracked in with various internships. My first big thing was working on a TV show that I don't think airs anymore, but it was called Out There with Melissa DiMarco, it was like a celebrity interview show. I did research again, it was really relying on my knowledge of movies. And from there, you know, yeah, just lots of different jobs as you can think that also skipped like so many jobs, but it was a lot of, you know, you just got to make ends meet, you got to network with all these other filmmakers and and try to get stuff done.

Emma Jean 8:11
Those quote “so many jobs” Cam just skimmed over? Those included a number of gigs in marketing – a field he knew nothing about. So just like back in film school, this meant learning by doing and making it up as he went along.

Cameron Maitland 8:23
Honestly you're developing a set of skills as you go that you don't realize you have. I think a lot of people don't get that. That they, you just have secretly been hoarding all this kind of knowledge and stuff. Like when I talk about, I have this background in theater and improv and like, that's 90% of experiential marketing. And yeah, you can just kind of hold on to that for the rest of your life and then suddenly emerges when you need it.

Emma Jean 8:48
Could you tell me more about your experience with – what was it? – theatre and improv?

Cameron Maitland 8:51
Yeah, yeah, that was just a thing I loved in high school. We did Canadian Improv Games, we had an improv team, we won a few awards. It's the basic stuff you can do anywhere. I honestly really promote it with people I know. I think that improv is a big part of business and a big part of comp confidence, like a lot of anxiety. If you get better at improv, you'll still be anxious, but you have strategies to deal with it.  You don't need to be able to be great at comedy, to use these various skills. And I do just think it, I don't know, there's something there that I find comes up in all of my work.

Emma Jean 9:29
Cam was soon able to “yes-and” his way into more and more marketing opportunities for brands like Nintendo. He created branded vid eo content, and used his improv skills in what’s called “experiential marketing” – which saw him standing on streetcorners, asking passersby to play a game or try out a new product.

Cameron Maitland 9:44
You learn what you learn in film and communications that is about like what people buy and don't buy and what have you.

Emma Jean 9:52
It was at this time that the SFU co-hort that Cam had formed connections with all those years ago came in handy professionally, getting connected to positions through the friends and colleagues he met through his film program.

Emma Jean 10:01
We all keep in touch and – and help each other out when we can. And when there are opportunities, because again, it's people that we enjoy working with a lot of the time.

Emma Jean 10:13
When we come back, we’ll see the film and marketing worlds collide as Cameron Maitland joins Hollywood Suite.

Emma Jean 10:34
Welcome back to the After School podcast. Before the break, we followed this episode’s protagonist Cameron Maitland on his journey through film school, an economic recession, and improv-based marketing.

Emma Jean 10:45
All of these things led to Cam’s current role at Hollywood Suite, although the path to get there wasn’t as straightforward as you might expect.

Cameron Maitland 10:50
So I'll try to speed through it because it's like, unless you're exactly me in my exact circumstances, you cannot get a job this way. They were at the time doing a screening series that were like a quote along series. A comedian had dropped out on them, and the marketing person was like you're, you know, movies really well. You're funny, do this. From there, there was a project where they needed a lot of copywriting. And they needed a lot of Instagram, I had done an Instagram project about Canadian film. And thiis was just for fun on my own. And they showed that to the president and he liked it. So I came and kind of did a similar thing for national Canadian film day for them. And then I did a summers worth of work for them. At the same time it’s like worth saying I was working one of my old jobs, which was like an ad servicing job. It was just kind of struggling to make ends meet. And then I just kind of started looping contracts pretty regularly with Hollywood suite, a couple years into that I was offered a full time job. Definitely my background in social media marketing was a large part of my role to begin with. And I also did a lot of data entry, just trying to find ways I could help out the company, I think, was just starting to grow more when I started. And I became sort of an example of how you could bring in more money as well as you know, expand what can be done.

Emma Jean 12:12
Cam’s role entails a mix of marketing, producing, writing shows, programming, content creation, some PR, branding, writing grants. It’s quite the combination.

Cameron Maitland 12:21
It's an interesting role, because it's a bit mixed. So my job really started off just being the face of the channel, I did stuff for award shows, I started off doing kind of like live casts for the Independent Spirit Awards, then I moved on to writing a lot for them again, they just had a need for a lot of content. And I started doing social media marketing for them. They had not really maximize their use of social media. So we started doing a lot more on Instagram on Twitter. And yeah, now it's moved on to tick tock as well.

TikTok Clip: Cameron Maitland Hollwood Suite 12:57
This month, I want to celebrate one of the most fun friendships in action film history, and that’s the friendship of Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao in Wheels on Meals…

Cameron Maitland 13:09
And on top of that, just through my work at Hollywood Suite, I now also do a lot of programming and working with the programming team. I also work with the original productions team. Every TV channel in Canada gets a purse of money that they have to use on Canadian productions. And also we have the ability to access grants for films. So I review a lot of scripts and work with directors and stuff from a producer angle just trying to get more movies made.

Emma Jean 13:41
Like back at film school, he seems to do a bit of everything to make the operation run smoothly. What is that like?

Cameron Maitland 13:46
It's definitely complicated. I think it involves a lot more checking in with higher ups and things like that, especially now that it's become remote. It can be quite messy. But I also think it's quite related to film, like, as you know, especially independent film, you're stuck doing all this different stuff. I do like it, though. I like having different tasks and things like that. I will also say that it does, with the same feeling of chaos from me, like how I became to this career, there is such a chaotic feeling within the job, sometimes that you're like, Well, you know, if I was ever to not be working here, like I would have to, like, find a way to brand what I've done. It's so unique and built for me.

Emma Jean 14:35
This sort of creative leeway has meant that Cam has been able to develop a role with room for him to decide where he wants to focus his energy based on his own ideas and strengths.

Cameron Maitland 14:44
You know, I've worked here for like over five years. So I think that you, you just develop a level of trust, that gives you a certain creative freedom. So I do think that people will probably realize that in the world of work, there is a lot of flexibility, you can always pitch stuff, you won't necessarily be in a position where the people care or will help you with it. But I do think that everyone is usually pretty open to that kind of thing. Because if you're pitching things, if you're offering other kinds of work within your job, that suit your job, you're like a go getter, it's all positive. So I do think that if you have the energy and drive to be a little more creative within your role, it's usually appreciated. You just kind of have to make sure again, yeah, don't give your best ideas away unless you have control over them.

Emma Jean 15:31
Cam also shared some advice on how to help conserve your creative energy as an aspiring writer – so that there’s fuel left in the tank to keep going after your dreams.

Cameron Maitland 15:39
I do kind of believe in the philosophy of if somebody is listening to this, and is really passionate about writing, if you can get a job that you don't write, it really does help you have energy to write later. Like you can definitely use up all your reserves writing and I remember sitting through I can't remember the guys name, but it was a great screenwriting seminar in Vancouver and he wrote on at the time Stargate Atlantis, but he said that the only way he became a writer was to manage a Starbucks because he said you know you didn't really have to think you could kind of save all your energy and go home and write and I do I do feel that way sometimes of like yeah, these jobs when you just write all day all you want to do is not write.

Emma Jean 16:22
I know what he means… After writing a term paper, the last thing I want to do is write more, no matter how guilty I feel about neglecting my projects. Anyways!  I wondered what happened to Cam’s film-school dreams of selling screenplays and making projects with his friends. Was he still working on those?

Cameron Maitland 16:39
I do wish that I was able to do more creative stuff on my own. I do a lot of art and stuff just fo fun. I do still like to write and yeah, I would love to, you know, write something, I don't have a project right now. I feel like that I'm super driven on. Right now, I think I just like, continuing to experiment, here and there. I like to paint I like to, you know, sculpt and do little projects,I find that I get a lot of satisfaction from that sort of creativity. I do think that I want to just craft something a little more personal. I'm not sure that that's in the film realm. Like I say, it's a little it's a little tough to get that stuff off the ground. But yeah, I don't know. Just keep you gotta keep excited and engaged in creation and creativity, I think. And then hopefully, you know, hopefully, that idea does come to me.

Emma Jean 17:29
While in the film realm, it would have been an absolute waste of an opportunity to not ask Cam for film recommendations.

Cameron Maitland 17:34
I like thinking of this kind of stuff. This is a lot of what my job is really.

Emma Jean 17:38
So I decided to ask what he would recommend for people trying to find their way in the world after graduating.

Cameron Maitland 17:43
Okay, one I will say that I find is a total inspiration for me is Joanna Hogg. She didn't start in film until she was 40. Her first film, unrelated, I think is tremendous.

CLIP: Unrelated

            Oakley 17:59
           I just think men and women are always bound to be unfaithful. I really think that.

            Anna 18:05
           You're probably right. But that doesn’t mean to say that–

            Oakley 18:08
           So why get married?

Cameron Maitland 18:11
David Gordon Green's George Washington.

CLIP: Washington

            Buddy 18:13
What do you wan’t say nothing.

            Nasia 18:15
It’s too late, don’t say nothing.

            Buddy 18:19
Can I just kiss you one last time?

Cameron Maitland 18:22
I mean, a great just formal one is the silent version of Blackmail by Alfred Hitchcock. Blackmail is also fascinating because he made a sound version and a silent version. So you can if you're a real sicko, like me, you can watch both and decide what's what.

Cameron Maitland 18:44
The kind of innovator of mumblecore, Andrew Bujalski, him at peak mumblecore before he does some more mainstream aesthetics is the film Beeswax. It stars a pair of twin sisters who are non-actors – they are so good.

CLIP: Beeswax.

            Lauren 18:57
I missed it!

            Jenny 18:58
            Do you want me to go back?

            Lauren 19:00
            You’re hard to catch, dude!

            Amanda 19:02
            Are you two twins?

            Jenny 19:03

            Scott 19:04
            I’m not.

Cameron Maitland 19:04
I'm going to suggest one that's a little more fun, which is Don't Let The Riverbeast Get You, which is by Matt Farley.

CLIP: Don’t Let the Riverbeast Get You

            Narrator 19:11
            For years, he was trapped in his underwater lair. Hungering for freedom.

            Riverbeast 19:17

            Narrator 19:18
            Hungering for meat!

Emma Jean 19:20
Okay, put away your Letterboxd watchlist, or pause the episode until you’ve finished updating it with those flicks, because you’re going to want to listen to Cam’s next piece of advice.

Emma Jean 19:29
How can we stay motivated after graduation when work is feeling like a grind? Or when we’re still trying to find our place in the industry?

Cameron Maitland 19:36
What are you passionate about? What drives you to want to do this work? Because it can be something very specific.

Emma Jean 19:42
Cam gave a great example. Take a director of photography, or cinematographer. They’re called the DP on set, and are the person responsible for creating the look of a film.

Cameron Maitland 19:50
I know a lot of DPS are, it's like, they can work on a whole thing they don't like if they get to do one shot that matters to them that's trying something new, they get to try one new lens that will drive them through an entire show. And I think that that really matters, because that is the fuel the end. Luckily, I think you do come out of school with a lot of that fuel, you're just excited to try to like get things done. I would also say really focus on where you think your talent lies, even if it's something mundane My big thing I would say is just keep making stuff with your friends. Just constantly make stuff. That's the big difference, when I graduated to now is that, you know, we all have a little camera in our pocket now and we all can upload it to YouTube, you know. So I think it matters so much to me when I meet a filmmaker, and can just see that they just have a ton of stuff. And as silly as the like 48 Hour Film Festivals and things are, they're fun, just knock it out, have fun with your friends, develop your style. Film is really collaboration. So especially if you're heading towards graduation and stuff, like go to the contemporary arts, music concerts, meet the people who make the music, meet the people who are acting, it's a lot easier to get things done. Just use the energy you've got. It's obviously we live in a horrible, you know, the end of capitalism. But you got to support each other. It's a community.

Emma Jean 21:24
I think that says it all. The end. Fade out; roll end credits.

Stephanie Werner 21:48
Big thanks to Cameron Maitland for sharing this conversation on creativity, keeping your passion alive, and finding your place in the film industry. You can find his work over at Hollywood Suite. FCAT After School is produced by Emma Jean, Torien Cafferata, and Stephanie Werner, with help from Stu Popp and Tessa Perkins Deneault. We respectfully acknowledges the Musqueam  (mus-kwee-um), Squamish (squa-mish), Tsleil-Waututh (sail-wha-tooth), Katzie (kat-zee), Kwikwetlem (kwee-kwet-lum), Qayqayt (key-kite), Kwantlen (kwant-len), Semiahmoo (semi-ah-moo) and Tsawwassen (tsa-wah-sen) peoples, on whose unceded traditional territories our three campuses reside, and where many of the stories shared in our series take place.  If you enjoyed this episode, make sure to leave us a rating and subscribe to FCAT After School wherever you listen to podcasts. You can follow us on social media at FCAT at SFU. That's F C A T @ SFU across all platforms.  For feedback or guest suggestions, reach us by email at: F cat ENG @ All links in the show notes. See you next time.