“Hard work and being nice to people” is a simple mantra that has produced a bounty of success for U of T student Mariah Owen. At just 22 years old, Owen works as a producer, writer, and actor, all while completing her courses.

Owen remembers starting her career in film sets where she felt unsettled and undervalued; a common observation made by many women in film. Instead of subscribing to the hierarchical and sometimes repressive environment, she decided to carve out her own place in the film industry.

Owens founded her own production company in March 2016 year called GTE Productions Inc. GTE proudly centres on the “highlighting of humanity” and serves as an inclusive platform to work on what Owen describes as “higher risk” films with deep-rooted plots.

One of these “higher risk” films is the recently produced M.F.A., a “female-driven vigilante thriller” that addresses campus rape and a blurred depiction of justice. Expiry Date, another female-driven film, touches on the metaphorical ‘expiry date’ women face: a societal ticking time bomb that expects them to marry, advance in their careers, and have a child — all by the age of 30.

Stubborn is a word Owen uses to describe herself. “Knowing myself, knowing my work, and knowing what I’m capable of” is very important to her. She says, “I’m not the average 22 year old.” It’s this exact understanding of herself that’s allowed her to overcome what some might view as limitations.

She recalls developing momentum in her career by asking plenty of questions, attending industry panels, and networking with individuals who were willing to share knowledge. She stresses that “before I had any substantial credits, I did my research…I tried to get on set any day I [could] get.” This tenacious commitment to absorb experiences and knowledge contributed greatly towards her accomplishments.

Owen’s confidence is due in part to a plethora of female inspirations, including her mom, sports coaches, and television producer Shonda Rhimes, to name a few. Owen grew up as an athlete and credits her background in sports as having helped her cultivate a commitment to teamwork and developing a thick skin. She works to overcome rejection by assessing the situation and asking herself, “What are my options? Do I still really want that original goal? And if so, you’ve got to work harder, and if it’s a job, you reapply.”

Above all, Owen funnels her energy into embracing her vision and allowing it to take on various forms through the filming and editing processes. She remarks, “things change all the time, but is the message still there?” In this way, Owen stays focused while embarking on a “crazy, artistic path” that sometimes lacks stability.

In the coming months, Owen hopes to explore documentary-making, all while maintaining GTE’s vision to “highlight everyone in the world, not just one viewpoint.”