Beyond the Dark Side with Gada Jane

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.”

unknown-5

Gada Jane

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.”

unknown-1

Gada Jane pitching thier web series at Storytek demo day. Photo by Laura Oks (@photosbylauraoks)

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.”

unknown-3

Gada Jane and her business partner Victoria Buchy at Storytek in Tallinn

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

To check out Gada Jane on Instagram, click here. To find out more about her web series and other creative endeavours, go to: @thevelveticons or www.gadajane.com

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.

 

Advertisements

WIFTV Whistler Film Festival Film Market Preparation Mentorship Awarded to Jen Walden

Jennifer Walden has been awarded the WIFTV Whistler Film Festival Film Market Preparation Mentorship for her project Elijah and the Rock Creature. Jennifer Walden is a Yellowknife filmmaker and noted visual artist whose distinctive style explores Canadian and Northern life through people, wildlife and topography. Her unique eye for aesthetic detail and captivating storylines has resulted in three award-winning short films. Jennifer’s first short, Painted Girl, found success as one of nine national finalists in the CBC’s Short Film Face Off competition and her first feature Elijah and the Rock Creature has been developed from a script that was chosen for the IndieCan 20K contest. Elijah and the Rock Creature was shot entirely on location in the Northwest Territories with a northern cast and crew. The film opened the Yellowknife International Film Festival in September 2018 and will be screening at the 2018 Whistler Film Festival.

Upon learning of the news, Jen expressed, “I am absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to participate in this mentorship. I am passionate about filmmaking, and I’m also passionate about learning. The chance to have one on one sessions with a seasoned professional is a dream come true. With my first feature film screening at this year’s festival, I’m so motivated to keep my career moving forward. I think this mentorship will be the perfect opportunity to help me do that.”

Jen Walden WIFTV WFF Mentee

Jen Walden – 2018 WIFTV Whistler Film Festival Market Preparation Mentee

Jen will receive industry immersion at the Whistler Film Festival, as well as personalized coaching sessions with an experienced producer. This year’s mentor is producer and creative partner at Sepia Films, Tina Pehme. For the last two decades, Tina has developed projects and relationships internationally through her extensive work on US, Canadian and International co-productions. Her background in production allows her to bring a hands-on knowledge of physical production as well as the ability to anticipate production needs in a variety of budget ranges and co-production scenarios. As a partner in Sepia Films, Tina has developed, consulted and produced for both film and television in Canada, the US, India, the United Kingdom, China, South Africa, Ireland, Spain and Argentina.

Special thanks to the WIFTV Whistler Film Festival Mentorship jury which consisted of Christian Bruyere, Producer, Mystic Films Ltd; Nick Kendall, Coordinator and Documentary Instructor, MOPA at Capilano University; Eileen Hoeter, Line Producer and former WiFTI International President; and Dusty Kelly, Secretary & Business Agent Vancouver Musician’s Association and Chair of the selection committee and member of the WIFTV board.

Visit www.womeninfilm.ca  to find out more about WIFTV’s mentorship opportunities!

Career Boost for Emerging Vancouver Production Manager, Tini Wider

We are pleased to announce that Tini Wider has been selected as this year’s recipient of the WIFT-V William F. White Production Management Mentorship Program!

After graduating from film school in Vienna, Austria, Tini worked as a Location Manager, Production Manager and Producer on various projects. Starting off with short films and gaining more experience with TV Movies and Commercials, Tini currently works as an Animation Line Producer in Vancouver.

Unknown-2

Tini Wider

“Tini has a great foundation of experience. She is a strong candidate for the program,” said the jury which consisted of Barbara Schoemaker, Training Coordinator & Assistant Business Agent at DGC-BC; Tom Adair, Executive Director at BC Council of Film Unions; Andrea Manchur, Education & Training Coordinator at William F. White International Inc; and Dusty Kelly, Secretary & Business Agent Vancouver Musician’s Association and Chair of the selection committee and member of the WIFTV board.

Unknown-1

Kim Steer

Tini will receive a 3-Day hands-on placement at William F. White International in Vancouver. Tini will also receive instructional sessions with experienced production manager, Kim Steer. WIFTV is excited to have a PM of this caliber on board.  Kim grew out of a background of art and production design to become a producer of Canadian independent films. She learned how to balance the needs of the creative forces with the realities of day-to-day production to become a respected line producer/production manager. She completed all six seasons of the Showtime series “The L Word” and recently guided the Netflix production of “A Series of Unfortunate Events” as their Production Supervisor. Read the full press release here.

Visit www.womeninfilm.ca for more detail on Women in Film and Television Vancouver’s programming and mentorship opportunities!

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.

DwayneMartineau-GWTTTM-3543-0482

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.

Banff 1

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.

Della-and-GOLIATH

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

 

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

01_Mariel_Headshot_2017

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.

02_Mariel_Headshot_2017

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.

04_Mariel_Frontiers_Photobooth_2017

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.

Shannon1

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.

Shannon2

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.
Frontieres Melanie Post-live pitch

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.
Frontieres Melanie Switcback table

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.

BCanningblogger

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.