Jayden Soroka (HS’02)

Jayden Soroka (HS’02)

Jayden Soroka (HS’02) has worked for more than a decade as a producer, director/assistant director, editor, and animator/motion graphics artist in everything from Hollywood feature films and national television commercials, to all forms of digital content. As a seasoned filmmaker, with a   passion for motion graphics and visual arts, and an insatiable appetite for storytelling, Jayden is living his dream.

“I have always been in love with video. The imagination runs wild because you can create everything from scratch through animation and motion graphics.” Using these tools, Jayden says, takes storytelling “to another level.”

After completing two years of film school at the University of Regina, Jayden began his career as a Training Assistant Director on television series and films in Saskatchewan, going on shoots and ensuring all aspects of the production ran smoothly. It was not long, though, before Jayden moved to the creative side of the business and began making documentaries.

In 2006, one of his documentaries was recognized with a highly regarded Golden Sheaf Award at the Yorkton Short Film and Video Festival, for “Best of Saskatchewan.” This success led him to start his own company, 306 Productions, a service-house that produces commercials and documentaries. After a few years, Jayden continued his development as a filmmaker, by opening Pixelbox Studio, a post-production house responsible for all forms of content creation and production for television and web.

An avid outdoorsman, in 2009 Jayden relocated to Whitehorse, Yukon, to work. He immediately fell in love with the land and the people. “The Yukon is a mecca for those things that Canada is best known for. I can walk out my door and in a minute beauty and solitude are accessible.” Since moving to the North, he has worked on a variety of projects, but the past year was his busiest professionally. His production company won a major bid to produce a series of summer and winter promotional commercials for Yukon Tourism. Pixelbox hired over seventy Yukoners to work as crew and cast for twelve television commercials.

“This was a huge, huge project for us. But it’s fun,” explains Jayden. It’s this mentality and his work ethic that have catapulted him to great success within his industry and his community, including the Whitehouse Chamber of Commerce awarding him the 2015 Young Entrepreneur of the Year award.

Jayden is very excited about a documentary he and his partner, Vivian Belik, are currently working on. The duo created a company called Flat Tire Films to produce a feature-length documentary about Mincome, a ground-breaking Canadian social experiment that took place in Dauphin, Manitoba, in the 1970’s. Over the course of three years, 4,000 residents who were near poverty received a guaranteed income from the federal and provincial government. The recipients were closely monitored, along with the impacts to both them and their community. It was the largest experiment of its kind in the world.

Jayden’s documentary project aims to recreate this experiment by following three Canadian families for a year to tell their stories and what it means to them to be given a reprieve from the stress of poverty. “I always wanted to tell stories for people who can’t tell their own story. I want to give people who don’t have a voice a platform, a place to speak from [so] that they’ll finally be heard – that’s what it’s about.”

Through working on this documentary Jayden says he has found a new purpose: to spend more time on long-term, meaningful projects and to reconnect to the land of lakes, rivers, and landscapes he lives in.

Last spring and summer he travelled across Canada to find subjects for the film, selecting individuals and families in Prince Edward Island, Nunavut, and Toronto, Ontario.

When Jayden first heard about this forty-year-old social experiment he was amazed at the many aspects of the story and at the possibilities for improving the quality of people’s lives by “just giving them a leg up.” Dauphin, Manitoba, was chosen for the original project because it had a high level of poverty.

Most of the families were just scraping by: some were holding two jobs, rarely seeing their families; others were unable to work due to mental and physical disabilities; many were single mothers juggling work and childcare. All were struggling to pay the bills and enjoy a basic quality of life. But receiving buffer money changed everything for them, says Jayden.

“It’s astounding how you give them a boost and they can put that energy into the right areas. They can focus on work, their children and family life, and not so much on paying rent and bills,” explains Jayden. “It’s not an easy go. The things we take for granted are these little pieces of joy that these people rarely get.”

The program was in place for three years, and Dauphin was transformed, says Jayden. Unfortunately, the program ended abruptly, and no analysis was done. But in 2011, Evelyn Forget, a professor of Health Sciences from the University of Manitoba, assessed the Dauphin Experience and made some quantitative observations. During the program, there was a decrease in hospital visits, a reduction in crime and domestic assaults, and a drop in rates of depression and anxiety. A conclusion was reached that bringing people out of poverty reduced the demands on social systems because “families could be families again,” says Jayden.

While there are many social systems in place to support Canadian citizens who are in transition or struggling financially, like employment insurance, pension and welfare, Jayden says people have to fight to get the money they need to survive. He calls the Dauphin program “Upstream Thinking,” because providing a basic income implies a trust in people to responsibly manage the extra money they are given.

The experiment in Dauphin showed that, while there is a learning curve and some abuse of funds, overall people know what to do with the money. He believes that adopting a program like this nationally would result in a drop in hospital and policing demands and would therefore reduce taxes.

To raise some of the funds needed to recreate and film the 1970’s social experiment, Jayden and Vivian held a living estate sale. The couple sold everything they didn’t regularly use, including vehicles, sleds, computers, and camping gear – a process they found “amazing” and “freeing,” says Jayden.

They plan to create a large online presence that will support their project. One aspect of this will be to work with crowd-funding sites to finance the remainder of the project. In addition, they hope to build an online community that will educate people and start a national conversation about the project. By sharing stories from their documentary subjects they hope to create more support and momentum for the documentary.

Jayden and Vivian are currently pursuing broadcasters and are finalizing details for filming. They anticipate it will take one year to complete the film.

To learn more about this ground-breaking documentary project, log onto www.flattirefilms.net.

Remembering Luther College (Appreciating Luther)

Jayden attended Luther because of the school’s reputation for offering a strong film program under the tutelage of Jay Willimot – and the school did not disappoint. “I felt like that gave me a really strong platform in film, to grow in my career,” he says. In fact, Jayden believes the Luther film program prepared him so well that he often struggled to feel challenged in his university courses.

He is hesitant to single out one particular Luther teacher as a favourite – “because I loved them all.” But he struggled with English class and cites Clint Uhrich as an engaging and challenging teacher who instilled in him bedrock writing and thinking skills that have helped him in his career.

Jayden didn’t offer a favourite memory from his time at Luther, but he says one of his greatest decisions in life was to go to Luther for Grade 12 because he felt that at Luther he was part of a community and a family. Some of his closest friends in life were the ones he made in that one special year at Luther.