Floyd Kane (LLB'96)

By Jane Doucet in Schulich School of Law News

In September, award-winning Canadian filmmaker Floyd Kane (LLB’96) spoke with students in the Schulich School of Law’s Indigenous Blacks & Mi’kmaq Initiative about alternative career paths with a law degree. Kane was in Halifax to attend the world premiere of Undone, the first feature film he had written and produced, at the 2015 Atlantic Film Festival.

Inspired by the race riots at Nova Scotia’s Cole Harbour High School in 1989, when Kane was a student there, Undone (since retitled Across the Line) won the film festival’s Best Atlantic feature, has been sold to CBC-TV for broadcast, and will see a theatrical release early next year. The film was co-produced by Michael Donovan (LLB’77) and Mark Gosine (LLB’98) of Halifax’s DHX Media.

Kane’s career path has taken a few turns in the 19 years since he earned his law degree. When he graduated from high school he knew he wanted to be a lawyer, but his Plan B was to become an English professor and to write fiction, which he had been doing since junior high. “That’s when I fell in love with writing, creating stories and characters, and expressing myself through words,” he says.

Kane was accepted to law school the second time he applied, as well as to the education program at Saint Mary’s University, from which he earned a BA in English in 1993. “I really wanted to write, but I grew up poor in East Preston, so I chose law for financial stability,” he says. “I figured worst-case scenario, I’d become an entertainment lawyer – and that’s what happened.”

From lawyer to entrepreneur

The law school’s IB&M Initiative works to ensure that Mi’kmaw and African Nova Scotian students, and other Aboriginal and Black students, are represented at the Schulich School of Law – they join the regular first class, write the same exams, complete the same work, and earn the same JD degree as do all other students at the Schulich School of Law.

But as one of eight IB&M students in his cohort, Kane says there were myths around the education that he and his fellow IB&M classmates were receiving compared to the non-IB&M students. “There were a lot of misconceptions that IB&M students were getting a second-tier education,” he says, “but it was the same law school training.”

Kane, who articled with the Toronto office of Blake, Cassels and Graydon and was called to the bar in Ontario, couldn’t shake the bug to write. Unemployed and one EI cheque away from not being able to pay the rent, he was offered a job working in politics. Little did he know that his job as a researcher for a local political party would set him on the path to his dream.

Several months after meeting the co-founder of Halifax-based Salter Street Films, Michael Donovan, to discuss Nova Scotia Film Tax Credits, Kane was offered a job as in-house legal counsel, a position he held from 1999 to 2003. “It was a great experience,” he says. “You’re touching on so many different types of law – labour, corporate, intellectual, contracts, tax, immigration. I loved the variety.” On the sidelines, however, he continued with his creative writing.

Kane stayed with Salter Street after it was sold to Alliance Atlantis in 2003 until the operations were shut down. He went on to join Donovan and Charles Bishop, the president of Salter Street Films, as their vice-president of creative and business affairs at their new venture, The Halifax Film Company (now DHX Media), until he launched his own film company, Freddie Films Inc. That was in 2010, two years after he and his wife, Kelly Grover, had moved back to her hometown of Toronto.

Current projects & wise counsel

In addition to Across the Line, Kane is producing two new features: Jean of the Joneses and the prequel to the acclaimed Nalo Hopkinson novel, Brown Girl in the Ring. “It’s challenging to find time to work on my own writing,” he admits.

To current and future law students, Kane has this advice: “Everything is a learning experience, whether you do law or the arts – all education has value. You have to be open to opportunities and explore different options. Sometimes you have to create your own opportunities. There’s more than one route to achieve your goal, but you have to really want it.”

Kane’s creative career path is firmly rooted in his legal education. “Law is a great foundation, especially if you want to be a businessperson,” he says. “I loved law school, even though it was hard work. Some of my classmates are still good friends. It was a fantastic experience, and I’m very nostalgic about it.”