From Our Dark Side Winner, Elle Wild, Shares Her Experience at the 2017 Frontières Market

 

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Elle Wild – Strange Things Done

 

What an exceptional experience FRONTIÈRES is for new filmmakers! First and foremost, it was great to catch up with my fellow Dark Siders and see their projects flourishing. Initially, when we found out that we were winners in Women in Film’s “From Our Dark Side” genre writing contest, we knew we’d be attending FRONTIÈRES, but we weren’t expecting the opportunity to pitch there. Later, the Dark Side gals were invited to pitch as part of Fantasia – and a new focus on women filmmakers – in front of a panel of industry experts. I confess that I wasn’t sure how this would go when I packed up my shiny new promo materials (thanks designer Sara Bailey and WIFTV!) and copies of my novel, Strange Things Done, and boarded a plane for Montreal. Strange_Poster_FInal

When we arrived, however, we received such a warm welcome that I immediately felt very much at ease. Also, we had a full day to observe other pitches and relax before our own presentations, so that by the time it was my turn to take the mic, I felt well-prepared.  I think it’s fair to say that we were all a bit trepidatious about what the panel’s comments might be, but I found them to be supportive and insightful. I also thought it was helpful that, when you were booked in a 20-minute meeting with producers, many of them

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Elle Wild and Mariel Scammell, 2017 F.O.D.S. Winners

had already heard the pitch, so you could get down to details. Finally, I loved that FRONTIÈRES offered writers their own table (conveniently close to caffeine) in a collective meeting room, so that instead of scurrying from place to place to pitch your project, all you had to do was show up. I think this helped to emphasize that writers are not beggars at the filmmaking feast, but are an important guest at the table, and I appreciated the gesture. 

 

 

Did I mention that our schedules were absolutely packed with producer meetings? Plus, Montreal! Quelle ville spectaculaire!

Thank you Women in Film, Dark Side sponsors, and FRONTIERS!

-Elle Wild, Filmmaker/NovelistIMG_0739

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Heather Hatch on What She Learned at #Banff2017

We caught up with Heather Hatch, the 2017 Banff World Media Festival Mentorship recipient. This mentorship awarded Heather a pass to attend the Banff World Media Festival, June 11- 14, 2017 at the Fairmont Banff Springs. Prior to the festival, she had a chance to consult with her mentor, Cynde Harmon, Producer and CEO for “Really Real Films Inc.” (Stranger In The House, If I Had Wings), as well as meet with members of the WIFTV team both before and at the festival. Here is what Heather had to say.

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2017 Benff Mentorship Recipient, Heather Hatch

How was the Festival? What was the biggest highlight for you?

The first meeting I attended with my team, I did not say a word, I just smiled and nodded, but the BBC can be overwhelming for a first meeting. So, at first the festival was very intimidating but attending the parties and meeting people in the industry at these event made it easier. The biggest highlight was meeting people who have sat on committees for some of the grants I have gotten and getting good news in a pitch meeting.

 

What did you learn throughout your Banff World Media Festival Experience?

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From left to right: Tami Gabay, Cynde Harmon, Karen Wong, Heather Hatch, Pamela Jones

You have to put yourself out there, and working as a team makes it easier. Even if your pitches are not what somebody is looking for, asking them what they are interested in can help you choose projects you want to invest in creatively. Write down on the business cards, something about the person and your conversation so that you can remember them, and make possible connections after the festival. If you have meetings, look them up so you know what they look like, and can talk about some of their projects to break the ice. When booking a meeting, pick a location or it can get hairy trying to find them. Attending the workshops is full of information and can help you meet people.

 

Did the mentorship benefit you? What did you learn from your mentor and how did she help you?

The mentorship with Cynde Harmon, was unbelievable, she was a bubbling well of information, from how to organize my computer files, pitching advice, getting business cards, how to navigate the Banff media website, and how to keep track of and schedule meetings. Mentorship is so important in this industry, you can learn so much form a veteran of the trade, its knowledge that you can not gain through education alone. My Banff experience would not have been as successful without her guidance.

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Heather Hatch (centre) with her mentor Cynde Harmon (left) and WIFTV Treasurer Karen Wong (right)

Do you have any new projects on the Horizon? Or further development of current projects because of this experience?I was lucky enough to get the Telefilm micro grant this year to make a feature length documentary, the story of an Elder who wants to fight for her land that will be flooded by the Site C Dam in British Columbia which you can follow at #DellaFilm. The show that Women in Film and Television sent me to Banff for was a successful pitch meeting that turned into development, which was unbelievable. This show involves indigenous language and storytelling for children, and was created with alliance between myself and my team which you can check out at catapult pictures and open sky pictures.

Meet Story Editor and #FromOurDarkSide Consultant Nikki Saltz

By Peggy Thompson – Project Consultant

Nikki Saltz is a screenwriter and script consultant based in Toronto. She is the founder of the script consulting agency, House of Stories, and is an alumnus of the prestigious Writers’ Lab at the Canadian Film Centre. Nikki has worked in Script Development for Darius Films, Amaze Film + Television, Whizbang Films, and New York’s Goldcrest Films, as well as with countless producers and writers. When she’s not story editing, Nikki produces horror films written and directed by women with her company, Ikki Pictures. Their film “The Tease” played at the Calgary Horror Con and the Chicago Horror Film Fest last year, and the company has just completed post on a new film. Nikki was the creator of the digital series, Slutty Book Club, produced by Smokebomb Entertainment. Her writing has appeared in Chatelaine Magazine, on the CBC and in the Toronto Star.

This year Nikki is consulting with From Our Dark Side winners Melanie Jones and Mariel Scammell on their respective projects: Switchback and The Lot.

You love horror – why is it an important genre for women?
Horror is undersold as a genre for feminists. It’s a genre where filmmakers often feel like outsiders, and as a result, they tend to be less afraid to be critical, and more willing to tell stories that are critical of society and the status quo. The genre lends itself to disruption, which I love. When you add feminism into that already delicious mix, the results are very exciting to me.

Do you have any favourite horror tropes?
It’s less of a trope and more of a sub-genre, but I’m particularly interested in rape-revenge films. It’s obviously very dark subject matter, but I’m fascinated by how these narratives are depicted in horror, especially because most of the time, they’re written by men and exploited for thrills and scares and titillation. I always have my eye on women who are taking control of narratives that reflect our own experiences… but I’m also a sucker for classics like I Spit On Your Grave, Ms. 45, and The Last House on the Left (which still holds its own as one of the most disturbing films I’ve ever seen!).

Why are you involved as a story consultant with From Our Dark Side?
I think it’s extremely sad that there’s still this perception that horror is a boy’s genre, and sadder still that we even have to have female horror filmmakers instead of just horror filmmakers who happen to be women. When we make films at Ikki Pictures (my production company), we crew at least 75% female, and it always makes me laugh to see the men on our crews turning away and being grossed out by our gore effects, whereas the women don’t even blink an eye at blood and guts. Another reason I’m involved is because every year, I wait to see what films get programmed at Midnight Madness (at TIFF) and every year, I’m sorely disappointed to find maybe one woman director in the program. I’ve asked the festival why this is, and their response was that there simply aren’t lots of women submitting horror films. I don’t know if that’s entirely true, but if it is, I want to be involved in anything that will change that.

Who are some women working in horror who inspire you?
I’m really inspired by Jovanka Vuckovic, who just put out the female horror anthology XX. Beyond being a talented filmmaker, she’s extremely generous and supportive of other women filmmakers, too. The Soska Twins are another favourite(s) of mine. Then there’s Marina De Van (In My Skin) and Claire Denis (Trouble Every Day). I’m also really pumped to see what Julia Ducournau, who made Raw, does next.

And anything else you’d like to add.
Just that I’m so glad From Our Dark Side exists, and I can’t wait to see the films that come out of this incubator!

VIWIFF 2017 Festival Highlight: A Revolution in Four Seasons

By Emily Bignell
Tunisia/USA

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This inspirational film traces the struggle for democracy, activism, and self-sacrifice for the sake of revolution.

For those who don’t know,  The Arab Spring was a revolutionary wave of both violent and nonviolent protests, riots, coups and civil wars beginning with the Tunisian revolution. A major slogan of the demonstrators in the Arab world is “the people want to bring down the regime”. Many demonstrations were met with violent retaliations from authorities, as well as from pro-government militias and counter-demonstrators. These attacks were answered back with violence from protesters in some cases, continuing the vicious cycle of conflict.

A Revolution in Four Seasons follows two women with opposing political views as they fight for different versions of an ideal political future in Tunisia. Over the course of Tunisia’s critical post-revolution years, Emna Ben Jemaa, works towards a country governed by free speech and dreams of dismantling corruption of the former regime. In contrast, Jawhara Ettis of the Islamist party Ennahda works towards a Tunisia guided by traditional Islamic principles.

On a public level, both women must navigate how women are treated in their society. Through the journey, they must make difficult choices to balance their public, political roles with marriage and motherhood. As for anyone involved in the political world,  the threat of extremists means that all they are working towards is teetering on the brink of break down and all they’ve worked for could be lost. This timely and insightful documentary traces their paths from public figures in the Arab Spring to opponents in its wake, and the common obstacles they face as outspoken women.

Post Tunisian involvement many large-scale conflicts resulted including the Syrian Civil War. There was an ongoing power struggle after the Tunisian Revolution/Arab Spring. While leadership changed and regimes were dismantled, power then was offered up to another potentially corrupt leader across the Arab world essentially coming down to a contentious battle between the consolidation of power by religious elites, and the growing support for democracy in many Muslim-majority states. As of July 2016, only the uprising in Tunisia resulted in a transition to constitutional democratic governance.

Director Jessie Deeter from California, is a Berkeley Masters graduate in journalism specializing in the Middle East and Africa. After grad Deeter produced stories for Frontline and Al Jazeera, and then moved on to become a Fulbright scholar in Oman, Morocco and Tunisia where she began A Revolution in Four Seasons.

VIWIFF 2017 Festival Highlight: A Trip Along Exodus

By Emily Bignell
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The multimedia, political memoir A Trip Along Exodus takes a heartfelt and intimate dive into the last 70 years of Palestinian politics. Looking at the hope for peace, love, heartbreak and loss, Director Hind Shoufani tackles one of the most difficult topics of this generation from a personal, poetic approach, all through the lens of her father’s life. Her father, Dr. Elias Shoufani, was the leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and an academic leftist. Born in Ma’liya in the Galilee and educated at the Hebrew University as well as Princeton, the multilingual and erudite Dr. Shoufani was also the Arab world’s leading analyst of Israeli affairs for more than a generation.

The Israel-Palestine conflict is the unresolved struggle between Israelis and Palestinians that began in the mid-20th century. It is one of the modern world’s longest standing, irreversible, conflicts in history. The war is wide-ranging but one of the persisting issues at the core is between the Jewish yishuv and the Arab population under British rule. The Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip has been powering on for 50 years despite scattered intervention, peacekeeping missions, and cease-fires.

In many ways, the film is a conversation between father and daughter – an open-ended discussion about what peace looks like in the Arab world. Though Hind takes a more feminist approach to her journey to peace for the Arab world, her father held very similar value at the core and was extremely progressive for the time. The result is a touching though complicated take on intergenerational discourse and peace in complicated times.

Director Hind Shoufani from Lebanon, lives between Dubai and Beirut, in the Middle East. She is a poet, director and producer. Born from Palestinian activist parents, her father having graduated from Princeton became the leader of the PLO, Shoufani received her masters of filmmaking and directing at NYU from Tisch school for the Arts. Her main focuses are on freedom of Arab people and transnational feminism.

VIWIFF 2017 Festival Highlight: Anishoara

By Emily Bignell

Moldova/Germany
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Anishoara is a fairy tale-like love story, coming of age hybrid, set against the changing of the seasons in breathtaking Moldova.

Minimal dialogue and simple landscapes stand in stunning contrast to the character’s busy relationships. Anishoara, is a 15-year-old girl from a small village. Outwardly, her life is calm, and of a dreamy aesthetic concealing the archaic feelings within. Alone with her old grandfather and her little brother, we follow Anishoara through the seasons as she falls in love with different parts of the earth. The melon harvest, the sea, and, eventually, a man.     

A must-see for foreign film fanatics, travel bugs, and anyone who is feeling nostalgic for summer days and young love.

Director Ana Felicia Scutelnicu from Moldova, graduated from German Film and TV Academy and went on to live in Benin, West Africa, before returning to Moldova to pursue her career in film and directing further.

 

VIWIFF 2017 Festival Highlights: “Shorts Programme 2: Relationships Under Pressure”

By Emily Bignell

shorts 2 Stalingrado 6With the world being what it is, it can be hard to remain compassionate.

Sometimes, the society we live in, the beliefs we have, or the stress we are facing amount to conflict – with strangers, friends, and the unknown. They put our relationships, in every sense of the word, under pressure.

The films from Shorts Block 2: Relationships Under Pressure reminds us of all the different ways that stress, prejudice and contrasting beliefs can create unintended consequences.

  • Aftermath (Germany) looks at the fight for everyday survival, the natural course of action and reaction and eventually takes a violent turn. A friendship evolves from this difficult and unusual circumstance but only lasts a moment before an unwavering grudge interferes.
  • Stalingrado (Spain) explores an Oedipal relationship, and the role it plays in the son’s relationship with another woman. A jealous mother becomes aggravated at her son and lover’s other woman.
  • The Patriot (UK) illustrates the simmering racial tensions within a young girl’s rural English community. The story follows a rollercoaster of tolerance and playfulness taking a quick 360 to tension and violence on the basis of class and race.
  • The Things We Do They Don’t Understand (USA) is a cinematically simple, heartfelt film that follows a girl who wakes up after a one-night stand, and finds herself alone with the man’s mother. The mother only speaks Spanish, and with the language barrier the two women have an emotional breakfast together, finding a way to communicate with each other, both verbally and emotionally.
  • Here Nor There (BC) begins with a mysterious meeting in an underground parking lot. A funeral for a woman who has been missing for years and a private investigator who discovered her body bring light to infidelity, intimacy, trauma mystery and the unique ways that people deal with loss and love. Nothing is as it seems in the face of personal tragedy.
  • On the Beach (Germany) is about the holidays at the sea in Northern Germany. A woman is bored and invents a game where she pretends to be blind, and her partner plays along. The game leads to a deep hole of lies and reveals the emptiness of their relationship.

If dark and sad isn’t your style, check out Shorts Block 5: The Lighter Side of Change, for films by local comedians as they tackle comedy in unique and endearing ways. If your doom-and-gloom quotient hasn’t yet been met, or if you’re looking for a new reflection point on conflict, this shorts programme is for you.

VIWIFF 2017 Festival Highlights: Breath

By Emily Bignell
Iran

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Director Narges Abyar from Tehran is an author, screenwriter and film director with over 30 pieces published ranging from children’s stories to novels and political pieces – and it all comes together in Breath.

Abyar’s background is well-served by the cinematography of Breath, which captures the beauty of both peace and chaos as it follows the daily routine of an imaginative young girl.

Bahar’s story eloquently incorporates the beauty of literature and how she uses it to explore and interpret her life amidst the tumult of revolution and war in Iran.

Using animation and still pictures, Breath gives us a front row seat to the imagination and dreams of a child living the realities conflict.

By embracing her reality through self-directed studies and reading, Bahar escapes the day-to-day life in Iran, taking her existence from tolerable to near-enjoyable.