—It is Black History Month, and every day this month, The Message will be sharing short profiles of Black professionals from across the industry: marketing, advertising, PR, media and production. Written by POCAM members, the profiles are a way to “fight invisibility,” an exercise in representation for an industry where representation must get better—
Award-winning filmmaker and content creator Ryan Singh was born in Guyana, and came to Canada at an early age. He went on to study communications (he focused on film and television production) at the University of Windsor, but his love for storytelling began in childhood.
Singh lived next to a cinema growing up in Guyana, and was mesmerized by the magic of the stories on the screen. He became a believer in their power to inspire, motivate and influence others. That magic continues to fuel him to this day.
Singh’s early work began with laying out his father’s newspaper on MS Word in the late ’90s. He registered his first company, Ryan Singh Enterprises, while producing theatre with his father in 2001. When he got his first video camera, he began to create branded content for clients including the Black Business and Professional Association, Environics, Toronto Police Services, Malton Neighbourhood Services, and many others.
Cut to today, he owns Ryan Singh Productions, and has worked with brands like Nestlé and Tangerine, and on films like Wedding Season (produced by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s Imagine Entertainment), The Breadwinner (executive produced by Angelina Jolie), and Luckiest Girl Alive with Mila Kunis. As an actor, he’s appeared in the Expanse, Designated Survivor, and Kim’s Convenience.
The highlight of Singh’s career? Appearing in the “Sick Kids Moms Vs Hard Days” spot with his entire family. It won a Silver at the 2022 Marketing Awards (where I first met Ryan). Working on the spot was a personal, cathartic journey for Singh, who had experienced the loss of his own child when he first got married.
Until recently, Singh enjoyed working as a crew member, but when he encountered systemic discrimination in a series of challenging experiences, he focused on becoming a producer and director so that he could be the change. The transition to producer has restored his optimism in the business. “As a new voice, I can represent stories not often seen and create an environment where diverse creatives can create focusing on stories and not themselves,” he explains.
Singh admires Sudz Sutherland, Clement Virgo, and Sharon Lewis. In advertising, he’s inspired by Alysha Young, Hubert Davis, and Samantha McAdams, and especially appreciates how they foster a sense of community on their sets. He gives organizations like POCAM a shoutout for their focus on people and purpose to create a more inclusive and representative community.
Currently, Singh is working on a feature-length documentary, Ray of Hope, a social justice story about Sri Lankan Tamils in Canada and their journey from adversity to triumph. It is a very moving story that demonstrates the resilience of the human spirit.
Gavin Barrett is CEO and chief creative officer of Barrett and Welsh, and a member of People of Colour in Advertising & Marketing’s steering committee.