Women in Film and Television members may remember former WIFTV President Rachelle Chartrand for her New Year’s letter where she put forth a challenge calling for more courage:
“If you are a female filmmaker, no matter what, tell a story this year. Make it inspiring or provocative or both. Tell it as a film. Tell it as a TV series. Tell it as a web series. I don’t care. Just tell it. No excuses.
If you are a man, tell a story with inspiring or provocative female characters! Tell it for your daughter. Tell it for your sister. Tell it for your grandmother. I don’t care. Just tell it. No excuses.”
What sounds as a determined shout-out by a confident industry professional did not come by chance. In fact, Rachelle’s confidence grew while volunteering for Women in Film over a number of years.
It all started when Rachelle, returning to the Vancouver film industry after a longer period of absence, followed a call for volunteers for the Vancouver International Women in Film Festival (VIWIFF), an annual event held by our organization around March 8th, International Women’s Day.
Roslyn Muir, festival artistic director at the time, was looking for volunteers. It was December 2009 and Rachelle was lonely and needed to get out so she went to the volunteer meeting. Promptly, Roslyn – who knew her from a short film they both worked on – put her in charge of organizing the pitching meetings and community partner booths. Rachelle was unprepared, but gave 100 percent, with unexpected results.
“Women in Film, in no small way, changed my life and saved my life,” says Rachelle passionately, thinking back of those first months, in which she reconnected with the industry while organizing the panels.
The pitching sessions were successful and Roslyn suggested she should run for the board. Rachelle ran successfully, and in 2010 became Education Committee Chair, responsible for organizing the workshops. Representing Women in Film, she was able to also provide an opportunity for herself, by organizing workshops she was interested in, she says.
“Volunteering doesn’t always have to be this selfless thing. It should be rewarding and it should be meaningful for you. Because that gave me the extra energy.”
In 2011, Rachelle became Vice-President, expecting this would be the second and last term as board member. But another pivotal moment happened when President Mary Bissell had to step back for work reasons in October 2012 and Rachelle became the new president, a function she held until June 2014.
“At that point in my life, I had enough confidence and enough belief in vision. The vision was brewing in me to say I can do this,” says Rachelle, who felt supported by the amazing women on the team. “Most people run for president because they are confident in that. It happened to me differently. That’s where I gained my confidence,” she says.
“My goal was to raise the profile in the community to be beyond a women’s organization. Whenever I went to industry events representing Women in Film, it was on the top of my mind to raise the profile and challenge misconceptions anyone might have about women in film. And I believe I was very successful with that.
“Women in Film reminded me how we are all connected, and that it’s really just about the story and getting our stories out there and discovering our unique voices and that all stories need to be heard. Not ‘deserve’ to be heard, they need to be heard.”
Even though she has three screenplays on the go and a part-time career as a physics teacher, Rachelle managed to pen a book about that pivotal year in which she became president of WIFTV. Chrysalis: A Dark and Delicious Diary of Emergence journals her struggles with past demons such as alcohol and bulimia, the sadness about two divorces and how she healed herself and her relationship with men. The book has recently been published and has attracted hundreds of reactions on social media.
But it also deals with the tremendous effort (and joy) of writing and marketing your first screenplays. Rachelle’s first screenplay, FLOW, won an Award of Excellence in Screenwriting at the 2011 Canada International Film Festival, was accepted into the Good To Go Program at the 2012 Female Eye Film Festival and was a semi-finalist for the 2014 Praxis/Whistler Film Festival Screenwriters Lab. It has been optioned by Amber Ripley of Goodbye Productions (Sitting on the Edge of Marlene) and is in development with a schedule to shoot summer 2015.
Her second screenplay, Making of a Faith Healer, was invited to participate in both the Script Development and Good to Go Programs at the 2013 Female Eye Film Festival where it won Best Reserve Screenplay. Rachelle’s short script, Happiless, was a finalist for the 2011 MPPIA Short Film Award and is now being developed into a feature.
You can find more on Rachelle Chartrand and Chrysalis on her website: http://www.rachellechartrand.com.
By Katja De Bock
Katja De Bock is a Vancouver Women in Film & Television member currently contributing articles to the Women in Film blog, Reel West Magazine, Canadian Cinematographer and Kerrisdale Playbook. She also occasionally posts articles about things she loves on Westsidebeat.
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