“A Day in the Life” with Toronto Director, Writer and Producer Jamie Kastner

Jamie Kastner and I started working together when I was on mat leave after our son Dash was born, which unbelievably enough was almost 8 years ago! Over the course of the last 8 years working together, between raising 3 kids and producing 4 feature films together, I would say I’ve become somewhat of an expert on Jamie and his artistic process. Here are 3 things I’ve learned:

1. He’s a master procrastinator.

Jamie started his career in print journalism, as an editor at the UofT daily Paper, and then, at 19, as the music critic for the Toronto Sun. Not only does a tight deadline not faze him, but he can never quite get down to serious work before that deadline is looming. Case in point – his favourite place to write interview questions? In the car on the way to the shoot.

2. He is a brilliant strategist.

In another life, Jamie could have been a world-class litigator. As a documentary director, access to subjects is key, and I never cease to be impressed by Jamie’s ability to think 5 steps ahead when thinking about how to approach a story.

3. He has the biggest heart.

It takes heaps of skill and creativity to make films like Jamie does, but in equal measure, it requires clear ideals. Jamie has remarkable conviction about the political and social justice issues he believes in, which not only inform every aspect of how he approaches filmmaking but truly his day-to-day life.

Jamie Kastner
Jamie and our 16-year-old son Max, riding by Spadina Gardens (the oldest apartment building in Toronto, and the “castle” from CHARLOTTE’S CASTLE) the day before the premiere.
Jamie Kastner
Jamie and Charlotte Mickie (title character from CHARLOTTE’S CASTLE) in the green room waiting to appear on CBC Metro Morning.
Jamie Kastner, Charlotte Mickie and Jill Dempsey taping CBC Metro Morning.
A quiet moment on our back patio reviewing social media before the CHARLOTTE’S CASTLE premiere. Courtesy of Laura Baron Kastner
Grabbing a bite and a celebratory drink at Mezcalero Toronto before heading to the premiere at Hot Docs Cinema. Courtesy of Laura Baron Kastner
In front of Hot Docs Cinema, moments before the premiere. Courtesy of Max Kastner.
Q&A with Atom Egoyan, Charlotte Mickie and Jamie Kastner following the screening. Courtesy of Shawn Goldberg.
Jamie Kastner
On stage after the screening with some of the Spadina Gardens tenants. From left: producer Laura Baron Kastner, Charlotte Mickie, Bobbi Speck, Neil MacDonald, Rachel Romu, Jamie Kastner. Courtesy of Shawn Goldberg.
Jamie Kastner
Jamie Kastner and Atom Egoyan (who moderated the Q&A) at the Hot Docs Cinema following the screening. Courtesy of Shawn Goldberg.


Which ‘hood are you in?

We live about 5 minutes from Danforth and Main, sandwiched between Crescent Town and Woodbine Heights, in an old convenience store building that we converted into our home/ production office. Luckily, we moved in just before the pandemic hit. We love our neighborhood because of our friendly neighbours, and proximity to downtown while still being just around the corner from the amazing Taylor Creek Ravine park system.

What do you do?

I’m a director, writer and producer. For the last 20 years, I’ve worked primarily on documentaries, but now I’m turning to narrative work with a feature film in pre-production.

What are you currently working on?

Aside from working on the release of CHARLOTTE’S CASTLE, we have another feature documentary called NOBODY WANTS TO TALK ABOUT JACOB APPELBAUM, about a controversial story in the internet and intelligence communities, that we are planning to release in the coming months, and a third documentary in post-production, about the restitution of Nazi-looted art, that will be released next year.

The nature of independent filmmaking, though, is that we always need to keep multiple balls in the air. So, we have a slate of projects we are developing, including some documentaries, some series, and a few feature narrative film projects as well.

Where can we find your work?

My new feature documentary CHARLOTTE’S CASTLE, as well as my 2019 documentary THERE ARE NO FAKES (which is credited by police as prompting a recent investigation into the production of fake Norval Morrisseau paintings) are both streaming in Canada on tvo.org. My 2016 film THE SKYJACKER’S TALE is available on CBC Gem.


About Emilea Semancik 107 Articles
Emilea Semancik was born in North Vancouver. Emilea has always always wanted to freelance her own pieces and currently writes for the Vancouver Guardian. She is also a recipe author working towards publishing her own series of recipe books. You can find her recipes on Instagram. @ancestral.foods