Stephanie Limage: Breaking the Norms of Filmmaking

WIFTV member, Stephanie Limage is redefining traditional filmmaking as we know it.

Steph is a filmmaker, musician, social entrepreneur, and Canadian delegate for the G20 Young Entrepreneur Association with the confidence and vision to impact change around the world through her art. She once relocated her entire life to Haiti for 5 years for a project. She has trained and educated film units in foreign countries to be ready to shoot at any given moment of crisis. She has mentored underprivileged people to use the power of film and documentation to change their own lives and get them out of poverty. Steph fully invests her time, attention, and energy to her art and to the people she works with. Her films are more than just entertainment, they are social impact projects that address and change social problems around the world.

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Steph at the G20

I met Steph for the first time at a coffee shop in Vancouver. She wore a black brimmed hat and a black top. But she beamed light and energy and rarely broke eye contact as she led me through story after story of her adventurous career.

Steph founded her production company, Limage Media Group, in 2008 in Vancouver BC. She is originally from Manitoba and currently resides in British Columbia, but her travels do not stop there. Limage Media Group has successfully set up a variety of media literacy programs in Canada, Haiti and Argentina to help assist marginalized and underrepresented individuals.

Steph’s first taste of humanitarian aid was through making art with the residents of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES). During the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Steph received a small grant. With the money, she bought canvases and paints and invited passersby to make art with her. Steph saw the moment as an opportunity to help others. She explains, “Why not create an event that benefits all parties and gets the artist outside of narcissism to make them think outside of self and inside the community. Treat a social problem through art.” Through her work in the DTES, Steph created the foundation and template by which she would move through every subsequent project of hers. “What I found is that when you have a community in unity, you have progressive social change that is enacted,” explains Steph.

At 26 years old, Steph uprooted her life and moved to Haiti for a project, which ultimately became her film Voices of Haiti. There, she helped communities get access to clean and potable water, helped musicians and artists produce work, and covered the presidential elections at the time. During the 8-year long project, she took time to teach people how to use the camera equipment and how to tell their story through the medium of film. “I wanted to put the power and control of the narrative into their hands,” Steph says. By reproducing herself in the people who surround her, Steph allows the story to be told by the communities it directly affects.

Through their training, Steph hired these filmmakers to work as content creators for her company. In this way, Limage Media Group can activate these teams abroad in the event of a humanitarian crisis or social unrest, rather than Steph flying a crew down. The rest of the year, these employees are kept busy with other projects so they can remain on the payroll, allowing them to build a life and a career for themselves. “I am essentially an investor,” Steph explains, “like microfinance in a different capacity. There’s nothing out there like it, and they know that.”

These groups of trained individuals became the content creators for Steph’s new channel, Ghetto News International. Ghetto News has been a dream of Steph’s for several years. Through the channel, Steph gives the power of media and storytelling to those at the margins of society. She believes in investing in human capital and having trained workers who can work on different projects in various locations.

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Terri and Steph in Buenos Aires

In 2018, Steph set up her most recent division of Ghetto News in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Terri, a young Argentinean woman, covers women’s issues and the women’s rights movement in Latin America, with a focus on inner city Buenos Aires. Terri is a single mom and is passionate about social justice. With Steph’s mentorship, Terri will create and produce monthly episodes for Ghetto News, while showing viewers how they can better support the women’s movement in Latin America.

Through Ghetto News, Terri’s life has changed. “She is able to have a predictable pay check, to see her family, provide food security for her child, and pay into a retirement plan,” explains Steph. “That’s huge.”

With Haiti and Argentina already underway, Steph looks to broaden her horizons for Ghetto News. Ultimately, she will have 1,000 employees stationed all around the world, just like Terri in Buenos Aires or Patrice in Port au Prince. In this way, Ghetto News can remain real, raw, and authentic, just like the people who are covering it.

As a filmmaker, Steph has always let her heart lead her through the story. She urges young filmmakers to prioritize doing the same. “Don’t worry about the money; worry about the narrative, worry about the story, and just go for it,” Steph encourages.

Written by Zoe Arthur. Zoe Arthur is a filmmaker living in Vancouver, BC. Her films tell stories of social justice and expose the need for change for communities at the margins of society. 

If you are interested in supporting Steph’s work, Limage Media Group needs equipment. If you or your organization is retiring equipment, Steph is taking donations so that she can grow Ghetto News around the world. You can contact Steph through her website: https://www.limagemedia.com/

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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!

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.

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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!”

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“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.

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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.”

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“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.”

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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.”

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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.

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.

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.

 

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.

WIFTV Members With Films at DOXA 2017

With DOXA right around the corner, Women in Film and Television Vancouver caught up with three members whose films will be screening during the festival. DOXA, the name stemming from a Greek word pertaining to the realm of opinion and belief, is heading into its 16th year as Vancouver’s annual international documentary film festival. Presented by the Documentary Media Society, the 11-day festival explores the role of documentary as both an art form and a ‘site of dialogue’.

Shirley Vercruysse

The festival is opening with The Road Forward, an innovative stage play turned musical documentary from award-winning writer, director, and producer, Marie Clements. Clements explores the important and often untold stories of the Aboriginal political and social movements in BC. We chatted with The Road Forward Producer and WIFTV member Shirley Vercruysse  who told us the film reminds the viewer of the history of the First Nations activism in BC in a very personal way, stating “this film is by the right person, made with the right people.” The film tells the stories of Canada’s oldest active Indigenous organization, the Native Brotherhood of British Columbia, The Native Voice newspaper (1946 – 2002), and the Constitutional Express — a peaceful protest on an Ottawa bound train to ensure the rights of Aboriginal people were included in the 1982 Constitutional Act. Vercruysse went on to explain that many of the people involved in making this film, who have also been involved in Aboriginal activism for 50 or 60 years already, felt that the work is successful in telling these stories. Shirley Vercruysse is the Executive Producer of the National Film Board of Canada’s BC & Yukon Studio, based in Vancouver, BC, where she leads the team producing documentary and animation projects. The Road Forward is screening on opening night (May 4th) and again on May 10th. 

The Carnival Band – Photo by Sandra Ignagni

Sandra Ignagni

You’re Already in the Band (You Just Don’t Know It Yet), created by WIFTV member Sandra Ignagni, follows The Carnival Band as they celebrate community through music. The Commercial Drive-based band can be spotted at a variety of events, from protests to parades, all over Vancouver. Ignagni followed The Carnival Band for over a year, documenting rehearsals, road trips, a wedding, a funeral, and everything in between. In 2016 Ignagni was chosen for a WIFTV Short Film Mentorship program. She explained that “my participation in that program helped propel the project forward and that positive momentum was critical to me finishing the film.” Sandra Ignagni is an award-winning documentary filmmaker based in Los Angeles and Vancouver. She trained in film production at Maine Media and Langara College and holds a PhD in Political Science and a Master of Arts in Indigenous & Canadian Studies. You’re Already in the Band (You Just Don’t Know It Yet) will be screening on May 9th and 10th as part of the City Voices: Short Program.

Fixed! Film Still – Photo courtesy of Cat Mills

Joella Cabalu

Fixed! is having its world premiere on May 8th and screening again on May 11th. The film centers around the volunteer-run, grassroots organization known as Repair Café in Toronto. The group holds monthly events where people bring in unexpected items they cherish enough to find out if they can be repaired. We sat down with producer and WIFTV member Joella Cabalu who described these repair services as “tangible, accessible solutions that people can introduce in their lives.”  Cabalu explained that the film focuses on the interactions between the volunteer fixers and the visitors in a way that explores both the community aspect and environmental aspect of repair cafes. Joella Cabalu is a Filipino-Canadian Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with an Art History degree from the University of British Columbia (2008) and a graduate of the Documentary Film Production Program at Langara College (2013). Fixed! is part of the Stuff: Shorts Program, described by DOXA as a collection of films that “calls attention to our increasingly complex and contradictory relationship with our stuff.”

DOXA 2017 is screening at select theatres throughout Vancouver from May 4th to 14th. Check out the schedule here.

Words by Kaitlen Arundale