“A Day in the Life” with Montreal-based Film Producer Jelena Popovic

Jelena Popovic is a fearless force of nature. Wearing her heart on her sleeve, she is never shy to call out nonsense. She expects the better of the world, her colleagues, her friends, and herself. I’ve known her for 10 years now and was instantly drawn in by her passion, intellect, and fearlessness. She came to Canada in the 1990s when her family was forced to flee Sarajevo during the Balkan War. I cannot imagine what the experience of living in a war zone was, let alone having to toss your entire life away, your home and foundations. Yet, Jelena thrived in Canada (first Ottawa then Montreal). She immediately set out to digest the diverse terrains of her new home and along the way, learned her third language, French. She carved out a career in film as an editor and director before landing her dream job as a producer in the English program animation studio at the National Film Board of Canada. There she has helped produce some globally acclaimed works. What I particularly like about her work there is that she knows the NFB history and understands its essence. As a producer, she’s no mere bean counter, she’s an active partner in the creative process. Her goal is to take a good project and make it the best it can be.

-Written by Chris Robinson, artistic director of the Ottawa International Animation Festival

Jelena Popovic
My dad taught me to roller-skate at the age of 5 in Sarajevo (Bosnia, then part of former Yugoslavia), the city where I was born. No one could imagine back then that such a picturesque Winter Olympics city at the crossroad of cultures would suffer immensely in the 1990s war caused by the break-up of Yugoslavia. My immediate family immigrated to Canada in 1994, and I instantly fell in love with Montreal’s crossroads of cultures. I’ve been living here since 1995 and even today, rollerblades remain my preferred summer transportation means – city construction permitting, of course.
Jelena Popovic
I am first and foremost a mom. My now 17-year-old ‘baby’ is about to graduate from one of the greatest public schools in Montreal: FACE. Here is a snapshot of the FACE symphonic orchestra concert on May 5, 2023, in which my son plays the tuba. What an accomplishment for all these beautiful youth!
Production of an animated film at the NFB involves, among other things, in-situ recording of the Foley in our new building at the Place-des-Arts. Here, Karla Baumgardner, one of the best Foley artists we have, is performing different types of footsteps – wood, dirt, cement surfaces – for the soon-to-be-released animated masterpiece Miserable Miracle by Ryo Orikasa.
Unlike live-action films, animated films are mostly made from scratch – from design to movement to soundscape. And recording the voices gives them that final breath of life. Hedgehog’s Home, a fuzzy tale about importance of home directed by Concordia alumna Eva Cvijanovic, garnered over 35 prizes across the world. The English version was embodied by the prolific screen and stage actor Kenneth Welsh, while the French version features the phenomenal performance of France Castel. All versions can be viewed on the NFB website.
The ultimate stage of making a film starts when we enter the sound and music mixing studio. Here is one of our mixing virtuosi JP Vialard and the team of Meneath working in the Atmos-equipped NFB Balmoral studio. This award-winning film directed by Terril Calder is available on www.nfb.ca.
Our gentle furry Siberian hypoallergenic friend Marlon was born in St-Lazare 2 years ago and is now happily living in Verdun.
Jelena Popovic
Sometimes after abundant summer rains, spectacular double rainbows arch over South-West Montreal. A lot of beauty to take in sitting on my balcony – after making sure I am not seeing double.
Jelena Popovic
A few weeks ago, The Orchid and The Bee won a Canadian Screen Award, and the director Frances Adair McKenzie and I proudly accepted the prize. If you have missed this immersive stop-motion ode to life while it was exhibited at Montreal’s Biosphere, you can catch it on NFB Oculus and YouTube VR channels.


Which ’hood are you in?

I live in Verdun since August 2020. And I am totally in love with it. The proximity of the river is precious because paddleboarding and swimming are my favourite 5à7 activities! It feels like Montreal’s Mediterranean – seagulls, water shimmering in the sun, beaches, and
smiling faces everywhere.

What do you do?

I am one of the producers at the NFB English Program Animation and Interactive Studio. I help creators make their films from ideation to completion. The National Film Board of Canada is unique in the world, as a public producer and distributor of animated and documentary works which could not necessarily be done in the private sector led by return on investment. This allows for experimentation and innovation and pushes the boundaries of art in public service – the main NFB mission.

What are you currently working on?

Several animated films are currently in my slate in the production phase. What The Hell, an apocalyptic antiromance by Valerie Barnhart, and Something Over There, by Arash Akhgari, will be completed early next year, while Paradajz by Matea Radic, and Bread Will Walk by Alex Boya are set to be released in early 2025. Two other projects are in the development stage – To Our Future Ancestors by Bogdan Anifrani and Ian Keteku, and Project Shiatsung, by Brigitte Archambault and Eva Cvijanovic.

Where can we find your work?

Two films I worked on as a co-producer are starting their festival circuit: Boat People and Miserable Miracle. Boat People had its North-American premiere at Les Sommets du cinéma d’animation in Montreal, screening along with other NFB films: HARVEY by
Janice Nadeau, LA FILLE AU BÉRET ROUGE by Janet Perlman, ZEB’S SPIDER by Alicia Eisen and Sophie Jarvis, the Oscar-nominated THE FLYING SAILOR by Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis, and TWO APPLES by Bahram Javahery. You can watch NFB’s vast collection of animated films for free on NFB.ca



About Demian Vernieri 426 Articles
Demian is an Argentinian retired musician, avid gamer and editor for the Montréal Guardian, Toronto Guardian, Calgary Guardian and Vancouver Guardian websites.