Genre film has, for a long time, been a mode of storytelling perfect for communicating both the personal and the social. A horror film and a western can both be analyzed in terms of cultural milieu, or they can be seen as indicative of a filmmaker’s mood—or some combination of both. Thus, genre film is a valuable tool for understanding human experience, whether or not you enjoy gore, ghosts, or fantastic creatures. Each genre has its own complex set of images, character-types, styles, and techniques which, when used skillfully, pay clever homage to earlier films and push the boundaries of what film can say or do to an audience in the future. Genre films are an integral part of the larger cinematic conversation, whether they speak in the language of sci-fi, thriller, fantasy, western, or horror.
Thus, it is important to keep the door open to new and emerging genre filmmakers. In doing so, the creative conversation maintains its richness and its innovative streak. The From Our Dark Side Incubator Program is designed to prop open the door and let fresh ideas in. As a program meant especially for the development of women’s genre projects, it provides space for “the rebirth of genre” as a diverse medium. To quote the program’s webpage: “From Our Dark Side sees limitless possibilities in genre for women storytellers [and is] designed to provide [filmmakers] with a better understanding of the market, the fans, and the kinds of stories that will connect and kick some genre ass.”
Testifying to the success of the program is former participant Gada Jane, a filmmaker and new-media creator from Kitchener, Ontario, who took part in 2016. She found out about the program through a friend on Facebook, and was soon in Vancouver, BC amongst a group of talented and enthusiastic filmmakers and storytellers, all with a passion for genre. She then had the opportunity to network, collaborate, and build lasting professional and creative relationships, both during the 2016 Vancouver International Women in Film Festival and afterwards. Most notably, the program participants travelled to Montréal that year, where the Frontières Co-Production Market took place as part of the city’s Fantasia International Film Festival. While there, Jane and fellow From Our Dark Side participants further connected with professionals in the genre community. When asked about experience, Jane highlighted its value as a networking platform: “Going to Frontières was a big thing for me, because I’ve kept in touch with a lot of the people who I met that first year. Even now, I’m in [Tallinn, Estonia], and I’m supposed to meet someone who I met at Frontières, to talk about various projects, and we might actually do some work together soon. That [connection is] coming directly out of Frontières, and From Our Dark Side.”
Not only did the experience strengthen Jane’s professional connections, it changed the way she thought about networking as a process of collaboration. In her words, “people often think [they] should network because it’s good to network and I should find the person who can do this thing for me, but I feel like what networking actually enables you to do is find the people [who] are aligned with what you want to do [and] also help you understand how to shape what you want to do so it works with the industry… you have to find the points of intersection.” Jane says she uses these learned skills all the time, and in various fields of work. She works in new media research at the University of Waterloo’s Games Institute, and told me about how useful her knowledge of the film festival environment has been within the scope of her career. In fact, her department sent her to the Cannes Film Festival, two years in a row, in order to connect with new partners and extend her network. Her creative projects have directly benefitted from her From Our Dark Side experience as well; she was asked to take her latest project, a web series titled “La Boheme,” to an accelerator program in Estonia. Making connections, she says, “is a much more personal process… it’s about finding teams that I want to work with in the long term, and developing relationships.”
When asked to impart any advice to new From Our Dark Side program members, Jane had this to say: “It’s really valuable to use to program to figure out what you actually want to do. You get access to all these different people and conversations, [but] that becomes most useful when you can check it against what you actually care about, what you actually want to accomplish. I think we often get caught up focusing on one side or the other—[either] shutting out the outside, or absorbing it and adjusting until you lose track of why you started in the first place. I think if you can constantly be checking between the two, you’re going to find yourself in a much stronger position.”
-Written by Sarah Bakke
WIFTV presented From Our Dark Side genre concept contest, in partnership with Creative BC, Super Channel, Telefilm Canada and Telus. For more information on From Our Dark Side, click here.
Sarah Bakke interns at WIFTV, where she gets to write all kinds of film-related material––a cinephile’s dream! When she’s not scribbling film notes or watching movies, Sarah can be found at The Cinematheque as a weekend theatre manager.