Daniel Bear was 13-years-old when he started taking classes at MTYP. Fast forward almost ten years, and the now-22-year-old has interned on a professional film set, was featured on CBC’s Unreserved, and named one of the New Indigenous Voices of 2018 by the National Screen Institute.

For Daniel, MTYP was not just a place that provided industry connections and professional training, it was also “a place to be open and vulnerable… it became a home.” At 13, Daniel was an athlete who had an interest in acting, but hadn’t found the right place to introduce him to the world of theatre. One day, his mom told him about a program called Native Youth Theatre (NYT). Daniel said after one class he thought “Hey, this is exactly what I was looking for!” A class at NYT resulted in joining MTYP’s film class, enrolling in the After School Leaders program (ASL), and auditioning for (and performing in) the Musical Theatre Company. “That’s where things really started to pick up,” he says. “The classes opened up so many avenues.”

At MTYP, Daniel fell in love with screenwriting, theatre production work, and filmmaking. “I always knew I wanted to be a storyteller, but I thought I would just do that through acting,” he says. “I never knew about these things, nor would I have had the opportunity, if it wasn’t for MTYP.”

During his senior year of high school Daniel, alongside two other ASL students, worked with instructor Madison Thomas on a documentary piece for CBC titled Fourth Period Burnout. In Fourth Period Burnout, Daniel and the other subjects discussed the high expectations and pressures they felt as students. Daniel said it was MTYP that allowed him and others to be open to discussing their thoughts and feelings. “Our experience at MTYP helped us become vulnerable,” he says.

Madison, who Daniel met through MTYP’s ASL course, suggested Daniel apply for a film training program for Indigenous creators run by the National Screen Institute. Daniel was accepted. “It was a full-intensive course on how the film industry works,” he says. At the end of the program, he pitched a film to CBC, helped produce another student’s film, and was given a work placement on a professional set. This led him to production company Eagle Vision, where he worked on season two of Burden of Truth – a show that isn’t unfamiliar to MTYP alumni.

Daniel (left) in the Musical Theatre Company's 2017 production of Footloose.
Daniel (left) in the Musical Theatre Company's 2017 production of Footloose.

Looking back on his time at MTYP, Daniel says there are many moments of joy that have stayed with him. He recalls spending time with his ASL classmates not just in class, but outside – as friends. Taking pictures around The Forks, coming up with ideas, joking around: these are friendships that still exist to this day. He also remembers being really nervous for his performance of Footloose, the 2017 Musical Theatre Company production. “I was just nervous about being open,” he says, “but something clicked… it was a mixture of the students, my friends, the teachers, the staff that allowed me to be myself on stage and open up. It was a moment of bliss just acting, having fun doing it, and being totally immersed. Not caring what other people might think – just really enjoying the art itself. I never would have gotten that if it wasn’t for MTYP.”

Daniel has advice for young folks who, like him, were “nervous, not open, and didn’t have a whole lot of friends.” He says to take a leap of faith. “Do something you wouldn’t normally think of doing… MTYP was that for me. I told people I didn’t want to put myself out there, but once I took that leap I was happier for it. I’m still happy today. I have a lot of friends that I met from day one that I still hang out with. Take the leap of faith. It pays off.”