Love of books opens a fascinating career path
Growing up in the suburbs of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Kamaj Silva was not unlike a lot of North American boys with an insatiable appetite for comic books and superheroes.
“My father used to read a lot of Asterix and Tintin books to me,” Silva recalls of the daily ritual that ingrained in him a love of reading that had been passed down from his beloved dad.
With three generations’ worth of books in the family home, Silva immersed himself in stories, supplemented by comic books. As an only child, books were his constant companions and he often thought that he would make a living from comics one day.
Silva eventually moved to England to study computer science at Staffordshire University. Upon graduation in 2007, Silva worked as a telecommunications sales account manager, and then as a marketing manager in Sri Lanka.
At the same time, Silva’s childhood interest in comics and cartoons continued to gnaw at him. He found a digital animation program at Centennial College that piqued his curiosity.
“My mother’s sister lives in Toronto, and it occurred to me that I could attend college in Canada and learn all about digital animation,” Silva remembers reasoning. He applied for the program and was readily accepted. The visa application process was relatively easy, and he soon found himself on a westbound jet.
To his surprise, Silva learned that digital animation wasn’t exactly what he wanted to do. While he had some drawing skills and understood the concepts – given his computer graphics knowledge – he found his interest waning almost right away.
“I realized I didn’t like the technical aspects of animation but wanted to learn more about the business end of things. I could draw, but I wanted to do more,” he recalls.
Silva discovered the Children’s Media graduate certificate program, an intensive one-year study of the global children’s entertainment industry – of which Toronto plays an enormous role as a production centre.
Centennial’s popular program, is the only postgraduate college program in North America where students learn to create a wide range of entertainment products – including film, TV, books, education products, games and interactive media – for the rapidly growing children's market.
The curriculum covers both the business and creative sides of the industry. The focus is on giving the next generation of creators usable skills to help them produce content that is suitable for children everywhere. The project-based curriculum is complemented by an eight-week field placement with some of Canada’s best-known children’s entertainment companies.
It was an exciting find for Silva, who was able to transfer into the program right away. It proved to be a “crash course” in all aspects of kids’ entertainment, including licensing and merchandising, broadcasting rights and a host of other business and legal issues. Silva was in his element.
“The second semester involved actual production experience in the studio, where we worked on shows that we had written and prepared for broadcast,” smiles Silva.
“The best thing is all the industry people who are teaching at Centennial. They know others in the field and they help students to network with potential employers. They helped me to get an internship in the industry.”
Early in his program, Silva joined Phase 4 Films, an independent studio and distribution company that deals in children’s entertainment on all platforms. The internship allowed him to learn in a real workplace, in addition to attending classes at Centennial.
“At Phase 4 I get exposed to marketing issues and acquisitions. I watch the new shows before anyone else, then write the notes that go to the acquisitions manager and the president of the company.”
Shows come to Phase 4 from all over the world and, for that reason, foreign films sometimes need to be changed in terms of language (requiring audio dubbing), as well as new cover art and appropriate promotional materials.
Because Phase 4 is a full-service distributor, Silva is learning the business side of a little-known entertainment industry, one that Canada dominates internationally.
“Canadians are very creative people. They chose to focus on children’s entertainment and now lead the world in quality productions,” he says, acknowledging strong government support of the industry.
Don’t think for a moment that Silva works solely as an administrator. Probe a little more and he’ll admit that beyond the job in entertainment licensing and marketing he hopes to receive when he graduates this year, Silva is also quietly working on his own proposals.
“I have my own show ideas I want to pitch for development,” he smiles. “The industry represents a creative outlet for me, too.”
For more information on Centennial College’s media programs, visit the Communications, Media and Design Post-Secondary Studies page.