From Our Dark Side Winner, Sandi Gisbert, Shares Her 3 Tips for attending the Frontières Film Market

Attending the Frontières Co-Production Market is the high point of the From Our Dark Side program. You get to pitch your project, meet cool filmmakers and industry professionals from all over the world, and if you’re lucky you’ll even catch some movies. If Frontières will be your first market, here are some tips on how to make the most the experience.

Createdbywomen

Sandi Gisbert Pitching “Opal” at the Created By Women Pitches at #Frontières2018

Before you go: Do your research. Review the program guide and rank your meetings. Everyone attending is listed and you can learn a lot about who they are, what they do and what kind of projects they’re interested in. If they list a website, check that out too. You’ll get something from every meeting, but you’ll get the most interest from companies that are well suited to your project.

Opal85x11

At the market: Pick a hotel close to the venue. The Market runs from 9am to 5pm and you know you’ll be going to the nightly cocktail parties! They are a must: tasty snacks, cold drinks and an opportunity to network in a more relaxed atmosphere. By the end of the evening, you’ll be exhausted so you don’t want to have to commute to a hotel. If you can’t afford the sponsor hotel, try Airbnb. I stayed with two other writers in a little condo a few blocks from the venue and it was a blast! It was like a writer’s sorority. It gave us time to debrief about that day’s meetings and prep for our next ones over cheap noodles at the pho place next door. If you do go Airbnb just make sure there’s AC. Montreal in July is HOT.

After the market: Follow up with everyone you met. Send them an email. Thank them for their time. Remind them of who you are and how cool your project is. But don’t fire off those emails the moment you get home; wait a few days. Everyone will need some time to decompress and catch up on their business affairs. Including you!

Sandi Gisbert

OPAL

Submissions for the 5th season of From Our Dark Side are open until October 31st, 2018. Click here for more information on the program, for application guidelines, and to check out the project one sheets of the past winners. To stay up to date on all things Dark Side follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Advertisements

From Our Dark Side Winner, Nicole Steeves, Shares Her Experience at the 2018 Frontières Market

Being chosen as one of the six women to pitch at the Directed by Women Networking and Pitch Session at the Frontières Co-Production Market at Fantasia was an invaluable opportunity.

Createdbywomen2

Nicole Steeves Pitching “A Method” At the Created By Women Pitch Sessions at

I didn’t quite know what to expect as it was my first film market, and I was blown away by the professionalism and experience of the industry experts with which we met with. I was given great advice and had considerable interest in my project, A Method. I’m looking forward to the feedback I’ll be getting once I send the finished script.

Unknown-1

From Left to Right Maude Michaud, Nicole Steeves, Alison Hepburn, Carleen Kyle, Sandi Gisbert, & Jessica Tremblay

As a woman in the Film and Television industry, I have noticed that often we are put in a “training loop” however this experience felt different. I felt that I was treated as a professional artist with a project that had merit and potential to become a produced piece.

Being part of the From Our Dark Side has been nothing short of inspiring. I got to meet and work alongside some incredibly talented women and share the exciting experience with them. I’ve made new friends and professional contacts. I am excited to move forward with my project and all the better to do so because of the experience.

Nicole Steeves                                                                                                              Writer/Director

A Method

Submissions for the 5th season of From Our Dark Side are open until October 31st, 2018. Click here for more information on the program, for application guidelines, and to check out the project one sheets of the past winners. To stay up to date on all things Dark Side follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Beauty & EQ: WIFTV Members with Films at VQFF 2018 Part Two

The 30th Vancouver Queer Film Festival is officially underway and one of our WIFTV blog writers, Hanna B, recently took a moment to catch up with five WIFTV members with films screening at the festival. 

Beauty, directed by Christina Willings, is a short documentary exploring the lives of five gender-creative kids through their understanding of themselves, the changes they are going through, their thoughts about how others perceived them, their daily challenges, and their hopes and dreams.

Beauty1

The film not only tells incredible stories of understanding and acceptance, it is also a timely piece that reflects on current issues as we watch the kids talk about dealing with bullies or discussing relationships and gender with their parents. A notion the director was also personally familiar with, “I’ve always kind of felt gender was a bad experiment – the way it can lock us into being caricatures of ourselves,” explained Willings. She then added that having children at the center of the film to relay this message was crucial, “Listening to a child really has the power to make irrelevant concerns fall away, leaving only what’s important behind – their survival, their happiness, their thriving. Love.”

The film features animated details and surreal sequences that bring something magic, almost like a modern fairy tale, where a child gets to be what they want to be – their true self. Through ups and downs, with beautiful and heart-wrenching moments that illustrate how far we’ve come to have kids be able to freely express themselves and be accepted for who they are. Yet, the world is far from perfect and more changes need to happen, as some discussions in the film surrounding “bathroom issues” and parents not wanting their children “playing with gay kids” will remind us. But this is the right time, a time when these changes can happen, and as Willings stressed, “We now have this window of opportunity as things have allowed it and changes in society.”

Regarding the animation, Willings mentioned she was quite thrilled about the creative freedom she had. “Thanks to the National Film Board of Canada’s involvement in the project, I didn’t have to produce it or finance it. I had the luxury of writing and directing only, which was amazing.” While she had the idea of including the drawings from early on, she explained, “I had never worked with animation, so figuring out how to create a parallel ‘narrative’ track was a new avenue from me.” Moreover, she confirmed that the ideas and imagery, from mermaids to astronauts, all came from the children, who either drew them or gave instructions. “I really drew on collaboration with the children for the animation. I had them send me images, and chat with me about [what] they were really into … I also love the idea that the children somehow had to break through to another dimension, where they could create a reality of their choosing and bring it back with them, to change the way things are, and their own experience, here on earth with the rest of us.”

Another striking thing about “Beauty” is how well-spoken all the kids involved are, even the younger ones. Seeing kids managing to pinpoint and articulate their feelings with simple yet meaningful phrases, such as “I have a girl body, but a boy brain,” or “I think there’s more than one gender” (a sentiment that will be echoed through Orene Askew in ‘EQ’ discussed below) or that they wanted to be “reborn as a boy”, is not so common and the director indicated that what these children have gone through has forced them to mature and find words to describe/define themselves. Willings noted, “I began to meet kids who had such a deep knowing about themselves – that something about who they were told they should be just wasn’t right – and they knew it with such clarity, so early, I knew I had to amplify their beautiful voices.”

“Beauty” was shot in 10 days over a period of roughly 2 years as Willings had to gain the trust of each subject to ensure their best unfiltered unpolluted representation. She had to make sure that they were comfortable being who they are and feel safe, but as they were all kids it proved to be a challenge that she willingly took on. “Working with kids, although delightful, was also a challenge, but a good one. I had to be really present and willing to adjust on a dime, kids don’t stand around waiting for you to make your mind up – and when they’ve had enough, they let you know!”

Beauty2

“Beauty” Director Christina Willings

As Willings reiterated, the idea of “feeling safe” was fundamental for the kids and parents alike. Although the first half of the film surprisingly does not really feature the parents, she included them later on to highlight the importance of showing that “the kids were loved and safe” in their environment. They probably would have not become who they are, so comfortably or openly, if it wasn’t for these amazing parents who decided to trust her with their family-stories. She described this process: “I pulled the threads of a few connections I already had and made some more – I reached out to people within the gender creative community and began to work to establish trust … and they put me through quite the extended family smell test! I loved it actually! I loved all of it – I was thrilled to have deep conversations about trust and exposure with all of the parents. It’s an indispensable part of earning the right to tell anyone’s story in my view – particularly children’s stories, and most especially trans children’s stories.”

As challenging as a project like “Beauty” can be, Christina Willings succeeded in delivering a very touching and informative piece displaying her knowledge and expertise. She has worked in various companies (as a legal editor, doing poetry on the side, working in a health food store, in women’s shelters and Rape Crisis centres) but has been in the film & TV industry for more than 20 years, She has done it “the long way!” learning through experience, starting as a locations PA “like everyone else,” working in nearly every department before settling in set decoration and becoming a senior Union member (Art Direction). She, also started her company with a colleague in 2011 as she realized she “wanted to be closer to the creative process” and went on to write, produce, direct multiple acclaimed films, broadcast documentaries and also factual TV programs for Discovery, History, Slice, HGTV, Discovery ID, Global and OWN.

Willings is now working at TELUS, commissioning and producing original stream of content, but she revealed that she still has a plan for another important and profound project in the vein of “Beauty”: “I’m fully occupied with other peoples’ projects at the moment! However, when I look down the road, after this experience with “Beauty”, using a more drama/doc hybrid style of shooting, I know I’d love to explore that more.”

“Beauty” screens at The Coast is Genderqueer on Friday 17 August 2018 at 5:00 pm
At SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts.


EQ”, directed by Anika Syskakis, a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker specializing in social justice and inclusivity, follows local DJ Orene Askew aka DJ O Show.

EQ1

The short documentary observes and explores the interesting life and career of the Indigenous-African-Canadian/American multi-hyphenate (DJ, entertainer, entrepreneur, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Nation council member, and music instructor) as she talks about her work, her identity, her sexuality, and her understanding of the world. As Syskakis explained “This film originally started as a documentary focused on female and gender non-identifying DJs in Vancouver. Orene Askew, better known as DJ O SHOW was one of the subjects of the film. After spending time with her, I realized that her story needed to be told individually.” As the camera follows Askew in her daily activities and through the various interviews, viewers get a sense of the person she is, learn about her path to finding herself and her passion for empowering people like her or encouraging the youth in her community.

While delving into the duality or multitude of her person, her ethnicity, her self-identification as a two-spirit person, the film also addresses questions and issues around representations or lack of diverse representation in the media; especially when it comes to First Nations peoples.

EQ” not only presents us with a portrait of a complex individual but it also manages to put things in perspective with its self-conscious or self-reflexive style, which might be why Syskakis was the right director. She remarked, “Film is such a vehicle for empathy and understanding – it allows the viewer to be part of something, be it a movement or worldview, outside their everyday experience.”

EQ2

“EQ” director Anika Syskakis

Being first an Anthropology graduate, Syskakis mentioned that she has “Always been so intrigued by humans and their stories, from our own local communities to worldwide.” She then studied Documentary Film Production as she understood that it was a great way to blend her two passions. “I yearned for a deeper worldwide cultural understanding to build upon my worldly experience … filmmaking would allow me to support the sharing of stories, while promoting human connectedness, with such potential of reach,” Syskakis added.

Now, a seasoned filmmaker described as “Committed to shining light on topics that spark empathy through diverse stories,” Syskakis has work featured on platforms including CBC ARTS, Out in Schools and various festivals before making “EQ” – that she said was not so easy to make: “I made this film with a VERY small budget. This meant that the filming, sound, lighting, and editing were all executed solo. This definitely proved to be a challenge, but it also taught me so much about all sides of the filmmaking process.” – is ready to tackle a new empowering story. “My current project is a documentary film named “Dancing Through”. It is the story of powwow dancer and metis jigger, Madelaine McCallum, and her journey through cancer of the breast.”

“EQ” screen at The Coast is Queer on Friday, August 17 at the York Theatre at 9:00pm.

Hannâ B works in the industry and writes about Films & TV Shows on her blog What2watch2night.com.

Button Out! & Pass The Salt: WIFTV Members with Films at VQFF 2018 Part One

The 30th Vancouver Queer Film Festival is officially underway and one of our WIFTV blog writers, Hanna B, recently took a moment to catch up with five WIFTV members with films screening at the festival. 

Button Out! is a video art project about the power of buttons by Kathleen Mullen, and while this short short-film seems like a fun-to-watch spot in between longer heavier piece, do not be fooled!

Still from Button Out!

Still from Button Out!

The tiny pins and buttons shown above all carry their own stories. While some buttons are a call to action, others are a humorous token. By simply filming them successively on the same jacket, the viewer is invited to imagine whether they were worn in a celebratory manner at marches, or casually sported to let others know who you are and what causes you support, or maybe, they were fearlessly displayed as an act of defiance and bravery during a darker time.

In Button Out, Kathleen Mullen tells a new story about the history of the simple yet effective art of using buttons to make a statement. She explains, “buttons change as our times and issues do, and more than ever we have to be vigilant about fighting for our history and our present-day rights. This is a rallying cry.”

Kathleen, who has contributed to film and art festivals for 20 + years (including Toronto International Film Festival, Hot Docs, Inside Out Toronto, Planet in Focus, and VQFF), first got the idea of making this short when she saw the collection of over 1500 buttons at the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives. She said, “I felt there was a lot of potential to play with the visual appeal of the buttons and their defiant, provocative, and courageous messages.” Furthermore, she was inspired by her “own love of buttons” which she wore them over the years at marches, protests, pride events. “Buttons speak to me in a profound way as they encompass so many experiences that I have had in the queer community since I came out in 1985.”

Kathleen Mullen, Director of Button Out!

(Fun Fact: Kathleen actually own one of the pins shown in the movie! She revealed: “I have the pronoun button that is the last button in the film.”)

As straightforward as it seems, the film did not come without a challenge as the director stated, “I was living in Vancouver and I had to travel to Toronto to shoot the film in the archives so I had to make a lot of logistical arrangements. But really it was organizing all the buttons, and trying to pin them on the red leather jacket without them falling off!”

‘Button Out!’ will be playing at VQFF next week but Kathleen plans to put the film online after “so that people can see this amazing collection.” She also has few things on her plate that we can look forward to, as she concluded “I have a couple of short films to finish and one I have to re-edit. I am working on getting a bit of funding to finish them. And then I am trying to write a feature. At the moment I have returned for a seasonal contract as Festival Programming Director of Twist: Seattle Queer Film Festival.”

Button Out! screens on Sunday, August 12 at International Village at 4:30pm just before Sarah Fodey’s The Fruit Machine


 

Directed, written, and produced by WIFTV members Panta Mosleh & Hayley Gray, Pass The Salt is a lively comedy about two women of different faiths, Jewish and Muslim, trying to find a way to reveal their love—and announce their wedding plan—to their traditional families, all gathered together at a luncheon. Between jokes, arguments, culture clash, and a Pictionary-like game, this animated gathering turns from confrontational to peaceful and friendly as the film tells a story of “love and acceptance.”

PasstheSalt1.png

The short uses the familiar soap-like appeal, found in many comedies about lovers from different backgrounds, to its advantage in order to convey its message. As Panta attested, “I always try to wrap an important message with a sweet flavour of comedy. It always makes it easier to swallow the facts that way.” As to the style of the film, she then added, “The feel of the film was influenced by big middle-eastern family dinners that I have been through. The closest thing I could compare it to would be My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the middle eastern version.” Hayley later explained that to give a genuine quality to the piece they “Brought in actors from the Muslim and Jewish communities and worked with community organizations that were able to help us better frame our discussion.”

Pass the Salt2

Left to Right, Hayley Gray & Panta Mosleh

Hayley, who started as an actor then made her way behind the scenes in production roles, reinforced this idea of authenticity as she shared how Panta was a huge inspiration, drawing from her own life experiences as a source of insight for Pass The Salt. Panta, who has also been in the industry since a very young age, first as an actress on Iranian TV, then working in Japan, and now an established member of the industry here in Canada, revealed, “As a bisexual woman of color myself coming from a family that has one side with a super religious Islamic beliefs and the other side with a more modern non religious conservative side. I knew that a situation would and could arise that I might possibly pick a female as a life partner.” And, as the project began to form in her head, she asserted in her director’s statement, “I thought to myself how would the encounter with both families go and how would I hope for it to turn out, so I explored that idea.” From there she went on to work on the script and processed it for about a year before approaching Hayley to co-direct the film with her.

Although Pass The Salt was not without any challenges when asked about difficulties the directors replied, “This film definitely did have setbacks, we worked on many grants and pitches, none of which moved forward which meant finding the people, the locations, gear, and actors with only ourselves for support.” Hayley and Panta are now, “Working on reimagining Pass the Salt into a series and are excited to see where that leads!”

Pass the Salt screens with EQ at The Coast is Queer on Friday, August 17 at the York Theatre at 9:00pm. 

Hanna B. works in the industry and writes about Films & TV Shows on her blog What2watch2night.com.