THE BACK STORY
I’m sitting on a wonky hand-made stool in a remote Ethiopian hut, mud between my toes, brain still rattling to the tempo of the deeply-rutted road along which I’ve just traveled. My nose is plugged with boogers the colour of the dusty, rusty landscape, and my shoulder is raw from the chafing seatbelt. An attractive sight, I know. Unaware of the toll on my body, my mind is utterly fixated on finding the story and pulling me in.
Even on days like this, it doesn’t feel like “work.”
We live in a rich, raw era of documentary storytelling. Docs - once a high-brow art - now spill onto the streets. They’re profound, cheeky, rousing, eye-opening and entertaining. An impactful documentary can change policy, create a new connection, raise funds and create the social shifts we desperately need. I’ve seen this first-hand, through creating films that have generated more than $20 million for development work. That’s a lot of coin. And while its changes are mind-blowing they're not enough, for me. Seeing this potent impact pumps my storytelling addiction. There’s nothing more satisfying than devoting months to a project, then stepping back and watching it dare change.
I believe change is not buried within stats and facts (although they certainly hold value). It’s found by digging deep through all the noise to the grassroots, to individual lives, and drawing out the compelling tales hidden within. Here you see eye-to-eye another human’s triumphs or despairs. When we arrive at this most raw level, we can feel another. This is where impact happens.
As a filmmaker I’m privileged to engage with people the world over and it’s an honor to hear their most intimate stories, much like a counselor but without the pressure of giving wise advice.
I’ve listened to the people who live in a still-segregated town in Mississippi where black kids and white kids go to different schools, and churches do not mix; to residents of an isolated town in the Democratic Republic of Congo who macheted a field so our Cessna could land; to inmates learning patience through training wild mustangs; to a young couple struggling with genetic testing that may reveal the deadly Huntington’s gene. And from these conversations I have not only grown but brought shape to their stories and shared them with the world.
Early in my career, when music videos were my playground, I got my kicks from creating poetry for the eyes through ominous, vibrant or whimsical imagery. But after a few years, I craved more. I wanted to give quiet voices a podium. So I entered the doc world, and here I found a home.
The world hands us profound story material every day. Much of it either melts me or boils my blood. Then it numbs me. And then it fuels me. As a teller of tales, I can’t un-see. So instead, I use the loudest voice I know.
THE NUTS 'N' BOLTS
Award-winning filmmaker Tanya Maryniak directs and edits documentary films that inspire social change. With a degree in New Media from Ryerson, Tanya has worked in film and television since 2000, traveling to some of the planet’s remotest corners to satisfy her storytelling addiction.
Tanya’s work has screened at film festivals worldwide and aired on CBC, Bravo!, Discovery Channel, History Channel, Knowledge Network, W Network, CMT, Animal Planet, MuchMusic, OLN and Global TV.
Recently, Forgotten Huts, a film Tanya directed was nominated for 6 Leos, including Best Documentary and Best Direction in Documentary. The Prestige Film Awards honoured Tanya’s film Every Child with their Humanitarian Award and Gold Award for Best Directing. Tanya received two Leo nominations for her work with academy-award winner John Zaritsky on Do You Really Want To Know? and Wild Horse Redemption. And in 2016, her skills were key to winning the Leo’s Best Documentary Award for Network Entertainment’s Johnny Cash American Rebel.