Catching Up With Filmmaker & 2017 WIFTV Banff World Media Festival Mentorship Recipient, Heather Hatch

Heather Hatch, 2017 recipient of the Banff World Media Festival Mentorship, is devoted to collaboration and self-reflexivity in her work. With positive media representation of Indigenous women and girls as her focus, Hatch uses her talents in writing and filmmaking to put Indigenous community, language, and values at the forefront of the moving-image screen. Her recent project The Girl Who Talks to the Moon (created in partnership with Rebecca Campbell at Catapult Pictures and Frederick Kroetsch), which was picked up by CBC for a pilot episode, highlights the value of connection to Indigenous culture at a young age—the show revolves around a girl from the Haida Nation, Harmony, and her quest to build a kite for Nanaay (Grandmother) Moon. The pilot beautifully combines stop-motion animation with live-action and engages young audiences in Haida traditions of creativity and language. This success is just the beginning for Hatch; she plans to continue her work as filmmaker concerned with Indigenous voice and collaboration.

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Behind the Scenes Shot of Harmony from “The Girl Who Talks to the Moon.” Photo by Dwayne Martineau.

I spoke with Hatch over the phone one weekday afternoon, just after she had left a meeting regarding her latest endeavour—a documentary about the controversial Site C Dam. I was interested to know more about her process and her goals for this latest work. We talked about these and several other topics, with Hatch’s enthusiasm for collaborative filmmaking and cultural representation shining through with each response.

Sarah Bakke: How did you first find a passion for film?

Heather Hatch: I’d say it was a mixture of things. My friends had been in the industry for a long time, and I often ended up helping them with their projects. In university, I took some film [studies] courses and really liked to write and research, so it all kind of happened naturally.

SB: Yes, you mention a love of writing in your artist bio. You also mention that seeing your writing onscreen is a really inspiring process. Can you elaborate on that experience?

HH: I guess, when I’m trying to think of ways to illustrate a point or a feeling, I try to write what I see in my head. Being able to communicate that through film really got me interested in exploring [the medium] more seriously.

SB: How else has your experience at Banff influenced your career as you’ve moved forward?

HH: I think meeting so many industry experts made it easier to attend future meetings and having to pitch fast makes it easy to define what the thread of your project is. If you can’t see it clearly [as you’re pitching it], perhaps you need to work more on the story. The mentorship from Cynde Harmon was really great, too.

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

SB: You mentioned a collaborator in Fort St. John. Can you describe the project that’s in the works currently?

HH: Yeah, I’m currently working on a feature-length documentary called Della and Goliath. It focuses on the Site C Dam that’s being built on treaty land, and on an elder named Della Owens, whose life is deeply affected by this dam. I’m focused on how First Nations’ connection to the land is integral to their identity, and on the [continually perpetuated] destruction story and legacy of Canadian cultural genocide. I also want to say, this project was funded through the 2017 Telefilm Talent Fund.

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SB: You’ve stated that your focus as a filmmaker is to create positive media representations of Indigenous women and girls—have you encountered any challenges or unexpected obstacles in completing that work?

HH: The biggest challenge is constantly educating yourself about the issues, and listening to the community you’re looking to serve [through] telling their stories. For example, I took some Indigenous studies on the history of Canada and its treaties while working on this film, to understand the importance of what’s happening to Treaty 8, and with Site C and in the Fort St. John area. It’s just a constant learning curve.

SB: What are your go-to strategies for overcoming those challenges?

HH: Well, being humble. I think because I work in documentary a lot, [it’s important to] be humble, respect my subject and the information I’m given, to listen, learn, research, and collaborate.

SB: Is there a specific filmmaker, writer, or film movement that has influenced your work?

HH: Yes—the documentary Finding Dawn by Christine Welsh. When I saw this film, I realized how powerful documentary filmmaking could be, and how much important information it could give, and in such a personal way.

SB: What is the most impactful piece of advice that you can give to aspiring filmmakers?

HH: Work with experienced filmmakers as you’re starting out, so you can learn from their experience. Even just having the help [as you’re] learning how to write grants. It helps you develop your own projects. And I would say that collaboration is really important—film is very collaborative in itself, but working with other people can really clarify your ideas. Also, taking classes at your local film co-op creates a supportive environment.

Finally, if there’s an idea or an image that has caught your attention, it’s probably something you are passionate about, and you should focus on it.

Follow the development of Heather’s latest documentary project, Della and Goliath, at #DellaFilm.  

The 2018 WIFTV Banff World Media Festival Mentorship is now accepting applications here.  Read Heather’s guest blog about her time at the Banff World Media Festival here

 

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Mariel Scammell on Frontières, Fantasia, & From Our Dark Side

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Mariel Scammell

Participating in the 2017 Frontières Co-Production Market at Fantasia this year was both an honour and an incredible opportunity. The five-day market was a whirlwind of industry panels, pitch sessions, networking cocktails, and meetings. As an emerging writer, director, and producer, I gained invaluable insight and experience into the production, financing, and distribution of feature-length genre films.

The highlight for me was participating in the first year of the Directed by Women Networking and Pitch Session. This session provided a challenging and supportive environment to present my first feature project, The Lot, a supernatural thriller developed through WIFTV’s From Our Dark Side Incubator Program. I received expert feedback on the project from industry professionals and connected with an impressive slate of producers, distributors and sales agent in a series of one-on-one meetings. At this event, I also had the opportunity to watch six other fantastic projects presented by incredible and inspiring women. As an advocate for women in genre film, participating in this event was truly inspiring.

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Mariel Scammell’s “The Lot” table for Pitching at Frontières

At Fantasia, I also had the great honour to present Undress Me, a short body-horror film I recently produced with director Amelia Moses at the Born of Woman shorts program. This screening, which featured nine female-directed genre shorts, was an amazing compliment to the Directed By Women Pitch Session.

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Amelia Moss (left) with Mariel Scammell celebrating the screening of their film “Undress Me” at the Born of Woman shorts program at Fantasia

These back to back experiences were wonderful, and express the growing commitment to broadening horizons for women creators in genre film. I was honoured to be a part of of this year’s events, and the experience I gained and the connections I made during Frontières will be invaluable as I move forward with The Lot.

 

Follow me:

www.marielscammell.com/

Twitter : @truesweetheart_

Instagram: marielscammell

If you would like to find out more information on the From Our Dark Side Genre Concept Competition, click here!

 

 

Day By Day at the Whistler Film Festival with WIFTV Whistler Film Festival Film Market Preparation Mentorship Recipient, Shannon Walsh

Shannon Walsh is not only the recipient of the 2017 WIFTV Whistler Film Festival Film Market Preparation Mentorship but she was also one of eight directors chosen for the Women in the Director’s Chair (WIDC) script development and directing mentorship program, Story & Leadership. Both opportunities were in collaboration with Whistler Film Festival and included participation at the festival.

Here is what Shannon had to say…

I had no idea what to expect at the Whistler Film Festival – I’d heard it might be something of a Sundance Lab of the north, and that felt like a good description. Nestled in the snow and the beauty of the mountains, it was an absolute treat to pitch my script and meet a ton of new people along the way.

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Shannon Walsh with her mentor Robyn Wiener (left)

My WIFTV mentor, Robyn Wiener, and I sat down in Vancouver a few weeks before the festival and had a great lunch getting to know each other. With all that is happening in the industry right now around women, sharing stories of some of the uglier parts of the film industry, it was so good to connect and feel the importance of female mentorship. Mentorship offers support without an agenda, meant to lift us up so all of us can be better together. That kind of community-building spirit is so important to me and it was such a key component of being part of this mentorship opportunity.

After meeting up, I sent Robyn the materials for my film “Unidentified Minor”. It was really great that Robyn took the time to read the script I sent her and give me detailed feedback. I was really pleased with her enthusiasm, and it made the project feel that much more doable. She had lots of comments and insights to share around the story and the potential she saw in the project.

Day one at the Whistler Film Festival got off to a great start. The morning was filled with a WIDC roundtable and one-on-one meetings with Mehernaz Lentin from CBC, which was exciting and inspiring. After that, we met with all the other Talent Labs from the festival and had the rather nerve-wracking opportunity to pitch our work to the room! After lunch with CBC and the WIDC cohort, I returned to the Conference Centre to meet up with Robyn as soon as she arrived at registration. The centre was abuzz, and we took the opportunity to grab some photos, and to catch up.

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Shannon Walsh (middle) with Pamela Jones (left) and Carolyn Combs (right)

After bags were dropped and sorted, I met up with Robyn in the evening and we had dinner, where I shared with her what I’d been doing the last few weeks as part of the WIDC “Story and Leadership” lab. We met up with a few other women in the industry there, before heading to the evening festivities at the Grill & Vine at the Westin. Robyn introduced me to a range of people at the party, and I quickly found my way through some new, and some familiar, faces. Already we were off to a good start, as the chilled out and open vibe at Whistler made it easy to mingle and meet people.

Day two started with a very early breakfast and one-on-one meetings with Lauren Davis from Telefilm in the Maury Young Arts Centre. My next meeting was cancelled, so I slid over through the mix of rain and snow to the Conference Centre for the next few hours of meetings with the WIDC script editor and acting coach. Then straight from there to the Squamish Lil’Wat Cultural Centre for the Whistler Film Fest’s “Got Talent” Luncheon, which brought together groups from all the Talent Labs happening at the festival. This was an awesome lunch; there was so much talent in the beautiful space. Robyn introduced me to a number of people at the lunch, including some of the “Stars to Watch,” like Julia Sarah Stone, and I had the chance to have a great chat with her.

Robyn and I walked back to the Maury Young Arts Centre, chatting about the film and possible connections along the way. That evening we went to the Apres Networking event at the Grill & Vine, another great opportunity to pitch the film and meet new people. I attended films in the evening and supported some of the local talent to watch on the big screen!

Day three was an early morning once again, with scheduled meetings with WIDC mentors and the Harold Greenberg fund, as well as a group lunch. Between films, watching pitches, panels, and meetings, I caught some parties, and celebrated awards given out at the Apres Networking sessions. Another day filled with great new contacts and energy about pushing the project forward.

Shannon4Day four and the “Women on Top breakfast and Keynote” was a stunning way to round off the festival. Inspiring talks and again new contacts and discussions with some incredible women who are leaders in the field. I left feeling like I had renewed energy and connections. Back down on solid ground, I caught up with Robyn about the events of the last few days, and again attended panels and a number of films, soaking in all the inspiration I could.

Shannon3The final day on Sunday started with early breakfast and a few hours of industry immersion meetings with WIDC, before supporting some of my own students with work in the BC Short Student work segment, and listening to the stunning panel on Screenwriting hosted by Variety. Then films, films, films! Taking in as much as I could as the day sped by!

Each day held such a range of connections, inspiration, and networking, and it will take me some serious time to process it all. I’m thankful to Robyn and to the many women who have paved the way for folks like me to come up in this industry. It was a truly transformative experience and one that I believe has sparked just the beginning of my relationship with the film industry in Vancouver! Many thanks!

Shannon Walsh

Find out more about WIFTV mentorship opportunities here.

From Our Dark Side Winner, Melanie Jones Shares her Thoughts on Frontières 2017

My thoughts on Frontières …
 
Attending Frontières is one of the most rewarding experiences of my film career so far. When I applied for the From Our Dark Side Competition, I knew that we would be able to attend Frontières as guests to observe and learn. Shortly before we left for the event, myself and the other winners were told that we had been invited to actually pitch our projects, LIVE, to a panel of industry professionals and a room full of producers, distributors and financiers attending the market. We also received official placement in the market guide. Seeing the other live pitches was essentially a master class in pitching: Frontières is a competitive market – filmmakers from all over the world submit and only 20 projects are chosen to pitch to a live audience of industry professionals. This year for the first time, the festival directors added a “Directed By Women” section and we were the first group to participate. To have ourselves and our work highlighted this way was a huge honour and increased the value of the experience tremendously. It essentially transformed me from a guest to a VIP.
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Melanie Jones at Frontières

I love pitching, especially in person, so I was thrilled at the opportunity to pitch my upcoming feature project Switchback to a room full of professionals along with a panel of jurors. I was given immediate feedback and asked questions that allowed me to go into greater detail on my story and understand what resonated with people. I received excellent feedback and encouragement and then had 28 one-on-one meetings with industry people from around the world. Many expressed interest in reading my script, producing it or even funding it. Even those who could not “do business” with me (because they only fund European filmmakers for example) took the time to come by my table and tell me they were intrigued by my script and looked forward to seeing the film when finished. Several meetings allowed me to talk about other projects I have in development or about my previous feature film FSM. Among the most exciting meetings I took were with the head of Fox Searchlight, the lead programmer for the Tribeca Film Festival and several prestigious international distributors and agents whose films have been nominated for Oscars or premiered at TIFF or Cannes Film Festival.
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Melanie Jones’ Switcback table for Pitching at Frontières

A particular highlight for me was popping over to Fantasia Fest to see a short film program in which one of my fellow FODS winners had a film playing. In a weekend filled with possibility, it was inspiring to see something concrete that grounded what we were hoping and dreaming for in a tangible reality. A great reminder of why we are working so hard to pitch our films.
 
I also felt so warmly welcomed by the Frontières staff and programming team – they made such an effort to make us feel like we belonged there and our projects mattered – this is no small thing in a competitive industry! Simply by virtue of being in the company we were in, and treated like professionals, I felt a surge of confidence in my project and in my future as a writer/director not just in Canada, but Internationally.
Melanie M. Jones

From Our Dark Side Winner, Bridget Canning, Talks about Projects and Pitching at the 2017 Frontières Market

Less than a week after the 2017 Frontières International Co-Production Market in June, Bridget Canning was listed on IndieWires “The Best Horror Films Yet to Be Made” List. Here is what she had to say about her time at Frontières.

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Frontières was amazing. I left feeling much more confident in my ability as a writer and storyteller and with more “tools” for getting my work out there. Pitching was nerve-wracking, but overall, the experience was worth it – especially as the pitch session worked as an ice-breaker for meetings. Many meetings went from discussing my project to talking about stories themselves; it was great to get to the heart of why people work in film.  I left Frontières with many contacts I feel would be a pleasure to collaborate with.

If I was to do it again, I think I would spend more time researching participants to get a closer “fit” as to what we are both looking for. And I would gladly do it again.

        — Bridget Canning; Author

To find out more about the From Our Dark Side Genre Concept Competition click here.

Laura Adkin Reflects on Her Experience as a WIFTV Actor Career Mentee

When I was three years old I stood on stage during my pre-school Christmas nativity play (where I played an Angel) and looked out into the crowd – I was hooked. I knew this is what I wanted to do. A lot has happened since then.  

Laura Adkin

Laura Adkin

For the past 15 years, I have been working in the film and television industry, starting out as a wide-eyed actor with really big dreams (not all of those dreams came true). I’ve had major victories and hit major road bumps, but it wasn’t until I discovered mentorship that I realized I didn’t have to go it alone.

Nine years ago, when I was living in LA, I decided to become a member of Women in Film Los Angeles. Through that organization, I participated in a mentorship program with Elaine Hendrix, who helped guide me in the direction I wanted my career to move. It was inspiring and eye opening and had a huge impact on me.

Years later, when I was back in Vancouver, I was desperate for that same sort of mentorship opportunity. Luckily for me, Krista Magnusson, seeing the lack of female actor mentorship in Vancouver, decided to start a program through Women in Film and Television Vancouver. And I was lucky enough to be selected for the inaugural round of the WIFTV Actor Mentorship Program.

My mentor was actress Pascale Hutton. She became an amazing source of information and support, as well as a great sounding board. The program not only gave me the opportunity to have a successful and strong woman to look up to and ask questions, but it also forced me to look at my career in a different way. What did I want? What are my goals? Where do I see myself in five years? The results were career changing to say the least. I had always dabbled in content creating (writing, producing, etc.), but the more I talked with Pascale and the more I did my own soul searching, I realized: not only did I want more than acting – I needed more.

A part of my creative brain wasn’t being accessed and I knew I needed to do something about it. I wrote a short film, which I starred in and produced. I wrote it and produced it within my six- month mentorship program and that set me on a path I never would have imagined. In one of our meetings, Pascale told me I wouldn’t go the typical route of an actor, that my path would be different and I should embrace that. And that’s what I did.  

Since being a WIFTV mentee, I have Directed and written three short films, pitched features to networks, written a pilot, won grants, been accepted into programs, won awards and now even teach at a prestigious acting school. This program was amazing on so many levels and was invaluable to my career. It also showed me the power of mentorship and, like Kevin Spacey said, “If you’ve done well, it’s your obligation to spend a good portion of your time sending the elevator back down.” For the rest of my career I will send the elevator back down and help whoever wants to get on it.

 

Samantha Loney, From Our Dark Side Winner, Dishes about the Highlights (and more) of the 2017 Frontières Market

We asked Samantha Loney some questions about taking her project Married to Murder to the 2017 Frontières International Co-production Market and Networking Platform and here is what she had to say. 

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What were your Top 3 Highlights from your time at the Frontières Market? 

1 – Seeing a rough cut scene from George A. Romero’s Road of the Dead!!!

2 – Getting the chance to pitch my project alongside some amazing ladies and be berated in front of an audience by an amazing group of judges. Was a great learning experience.

3 – The Femme Fatales ladies only gathering was amazing. It was a safe space to discuss our period cramps, and how to overthrow the patriarchy. Stay tuned world.

What was one of the lessons learned through the experience?

Grey Nuns Residence is a great place to stay because you’re a block away from all the events at Frontières, but is it worth it when you have to lay awake at night dressed in nothing but your own stank? For lazy people like me yes, but warning to future participants Grey Nuns has no air conditioning.

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If you had to pick only one, tell us about your favourite moment.

The farewell dinner. After spending four days of talking we got to eat some amazing food, and dance away all the calories from the wine we had consumed all week.

What impact do you feel being at Frontières Market had on your project?

I’ve made quite a few connections, and have been in talks with a director, which I hope works out well so we can take Married to Murder back to Frontières next year to beg for some money on the big stage!

If you would like to learn more about From Our Dark Side, click here.

 

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 FRONTIÈRES!

-Elle Wild, Filmmaker/NovelistIMG_0739