Cinema as a different career path
By Jerrison Oracion, Senior Columnist
For Schein to present the Vancouver International Film Festival, he had to convince investors as well as Telefilm Canada (whose headquarters were based in Montreal at the time) to fund it.
When exploring which industry you’d like to work in, there are a variety of jobs to choose from and it depends on your interests. As the slogan of Douglas College states, “Do what you love and be good at it.” In the beginning, you may have been given advice on seeking a specific career, but later you may discover another career option that would require you to start from scratch.
That was something that Leonard Schein experienced which led to him having success in the Lower Mainland as the founder of the Vancouver International Film Festival and Landmark Cinemas (which has a location near the New West campus). He tells his story as part of the DougTalks series presented by the Douglas College Alumni Association that happened on May 6 through Zoom. The talk was moderated by theatre instructor Thrasso Petras, and it was very interesting.
In his early years, Schein went to a university in California and Saskatchewan to pursue a career in psychology. While he lived in California, he went to a local movie theatre nearby the campus where they showed foreign films and documentaries. This is how Schein got interested in cinema because it expanded our knowledge about other cultures and the major problems that occur around the globe. Also, he reflected on how racism evolved since the 1960s and how racism is being discussed more today.
When he came to the Lower Mainland, the owner of the former Ridge Theatre asked him to take over the movie theatre and negotiated with Famous Players to have full ownership of it to allow Schein to screen films from around the world and documentaries that everyone in the area can watch. He would open more art house cinemas in the area including the Fifth Avenue Cinema, the Park Theatre, and later Landmark Cinemas which would end up being purchased by Cineplex. For Schein to present the Vancouver International Film Festival, he had to convince investors as well as Telefilm Canada (whose headquarters were based in Montreal at the time) to fund it.
The success of the festival led to more funding and it would become the second largest film festival in the country after the Toronto International Film Festival. He also talked about his charity work and hiring women in his theatres which gave them more opportunities and helped them have successful careers in the future. He does not regret his decision to pursue a career in cinema as it paid off.
I originally thought of pursuing a career in legal studies. When I found out that I was great in history and enjoyed learning about cinema and journalism, it made me interested in pursuing a career in journalism instead, which works for me.
Near the end of the talk, there was a Q and A and I asked him how exploring different careers is an efficient way of finding a job and if he thinks that movie theatres will make a comeback after the pandemic. Schein answered the second question by telling me that they will come back because the hobby of seeing a film in a movie theatre has a strong community, and everyone talks about it before and after the film in a restaurant which is something that you are not able to do at home.
We even talked about wanting to eat popcorn in the VIFF Film Centre again. You may not be happy with your first career, but if you are confident and have the skills for a different career, it can lead to something better and impactful.