My Student Loan film screening

The Gordon Best Theatre was filled to capacity on March 5 for a special screening of Mike Johnston’s documentary My Student Loan. The movie was brought to life that evening as many of the people featured in the film were in attendance. The audience included TCSA reps past, present and future, Canadian Studies scholars, and Peter Robinson College faithful. Founding President T.H.B. Symons graciously lent his presence to the event, although our current president was nowhere in sight.

My Student Loan has taken the country like a sale on coffee at Tim Horton’s. The film has repeatedly been aired on CBC, screened in universities and colleges across Canada, and featured in many film festivals including the Hot Docs documentary film festival in Toronto. My Student Loan provides a keen insight into student loans and debt. Johnston removes the cryptic veil that separates debt-ridden students from the perplexingly inept university administration, and in doing so he provides us with a ray of much needed hope.

The screening at the Best was preceded and followed by talks by Johnston and Canadian Studies Professor John Wadland. Johnston credits his success to “all that good Canadian Studies education.” When he first got the idea to make a documentary about his student loan he wasted no time in telling Wadland. When the Canadian studies prof asked Johnston whether there was anything he could do to help, Johnston promptly responded “Yah, can you loan me twenty bucks for tape?” This loan quickly became a grant, earning the professor a place in the credits.

Johnston recounts that he has encountered many film students who are perplexed by his decision to take Canadian Studies. If he was a filmmaker, why didn’t he take film studies?

His Canadian Studies education gave him something to make a film about, Johnston says. This was his first film and’ throughout the making of it he became more comfortable with his abilities as a film-maker, and learned a lot of the technical stuff along the way.

Johnston has set his sights beyond the banks of the Otonabee and is currently working on two major projects: a documentary and a television series.

He is currently working on a CBC documentary about dental care (which includes footage of him getting his tooth yanked out). He is also planning a television series on CTV–it’ll be a talk show–on a bus. The series will be called Lost in Canada and he will drive around Canada in a revamped bus. One half of the bus will be a studio and the other half will be a control room. Musical guests will play underneath a tarp along the side. He originally had this idea when he was living with poet Al Purdy in Sidney, British Columbia, before he had the idea to make a student loan documentary.

It seems that Mike Johnson is one of Canada’s “rising stars;” it’s only a matter of time before he becomes a household name. I asked Johnston whether his gathering fame was going to push him to sell out to the U.S. Will he become the next Celine?

“No,” Johnston replied emphatically.

“The show is called Lost in Canada not Lost in America. There’s only two or three highways in Canada, it’s very hard to get lost.”

My Student Loan is available to rent at Have You Seen… located on George St. under the clock.

I am a resident of Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada who has blogged here for 20 years. I like to share my thoughts and feelings on my own online space. From 1998 until 2017 I worked as a journalist and I hope to use this website as an archive for all of my stories.

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