2016 From Our Dark Side Winner Gada Jane’s Tips on Attending Frontières the Second Time Around

The Frontières Co-Productions Market is a small and very friendly genre film market that takes place in Montreal as part of the Fantasia Film Festival. I’ve attended for the past two years, first as one of the 2016 winners of the WIFTV From Our Dark Side Genre Concept Competition and then to pitch my film, Tricks, as part of the Directed by Women program. 20171024_153135

The market is designed to enable connections that facilitate genre film financing and North American-European Co-Productions. A number of successful projects have come through the pitching program including RAW,TURBO KID, LES AFFAMÉS, and the documentary 78/52 which have screened at various 3festivals including TIFF, Sundance, and Cannes.

At Frontières, the morning of the first day is devoted to pitches. Each project has 8 minutes to pitch to an audience of financiers, sales agents, producers, production companies, distributors and other types of film humans. After this, there are lots of meetings. As part of the Directed by Women section for projects in early stages, I pitched along with this year’s From Our Dark Side winners at a smaller pitch session the next day and then we began our meetings.

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L – R – Samantha Loney, Melanie Jones, Mariel Scammell, & Gada Jane

The market is set up really nicely to be a frame for meeting people. This means your experience will depend a lot on what are looking for and whom you meet. Pitching projects are set up with their own tables where they have a whole series of 20-minute meetings. There are also lounges in the building,  restaurants, and coffee shops nearby where you can have more meetings. Also, everyday there is a cocktail party where you can continue to meet people and then people usually gather at the Irish Embassy.

Frontières is a remarkably pleasant film market. The people who run it work hard, are very helpful, and set a quite delightful tone for the event. It’s relaxed. It’s Canadian. It’s genre. This all comes together to mean that Frontières is mostly full of people who just want to make cool things. Not everyone has the same definitions of cool or fun or worthwhile or even marketable, but it’s a great place to go to find people who share yours.

By: Gada Jane

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

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An Interview with “The Breadwinner” Director Nora Twomey at the Spark Animation 2017: Film Festival

From left to right: Marge Dean, Co-President of Women in Animation, and Nora Twomey, Director of Breadwinner

Written by: Ping-Ping Wong & Dechen Khangkar

Nora Twomey is an Irish animator and filmmaker. Her company Cartoon Saloon, has been Oscar-nominated twice for its short film The Secret of Kells in 2009 and its feature The Song Of The Sea in 2014.

We caught up with Twomey at the Spark Animation 2017: Film Festival where she was awarded the Women in Animation Diversity Award – an accolade highlighting and celebrating organizations and artists who are making a positive contribution to diversity in filmmaking. As women of color, it was deeply encouraging to see this much-needed beacon of light in an industry dominated by white, male filmmakers.

Upon arrival at the Scotiabank Theatre in Vancouver, there was a snaking sold-out crowd pressing their way into the theatre. Twomey’s “The Breadwinner” premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival 2017 and counts Angelina Jolie as an executive producer. Based on the bestselling novel by Deborah Ellis, “The Breadwinner” is a moving story about a young girl in Afghanistan masquerading as a boy to provide for her family. During the powerful film, we could feel the outrage bristling from the audience followed by people reaching for their tissues. Covering issues such as misogyny, state abuse and children in war zones, “The Breadwinner” was a film that will stay with us and linger in our conversations long after the lights in the theatre went down.

Interview with Nora Twomey

Do you have any advice for women who want to join the animation industry?

Getting into a good college is the key really. It’s not necessarily the college itself; it’s the people that you meet. The people that I met in college I still work with to this day. So those relationships can be extremely important. So my best advice is to go to college and get a degree as well.

Your film is about adversity and overcoming challenges. I was wondering what was the greatest challenge you faced when making this film and how you overcame it?

I had lots of challenges making this film and certainly, one of them was not being able to go to Afghanistan. In order to overcome that I listened to people and listened to as many Afghani people as I could – making sure that their voices became part of the story and that made things quite simple for me.

So I think it’s important to look for the universal in the story as well, finding things that people can identify with and just have compassion for the characters.

It is amazing that you can encourage other women of color to make films like this. Just wondering what changes you would like to see in the industry – in terms of diversity in animation?

I would love to see a level playing field where it wasn’t an issue and we didn’t need to have a quota system. I think we do (need a quota system) in order to reach some kind of balance in a 100-year-old industry that’s always been slanted in one direction. We do need to take action to correct it. For my children’s generation, I would like it not to be an issue anymore and have it more to do with making films about what’s in your heart I guess.

The story has such a meaningful message. Are there certain issues that resonate with you?

As a storyteller, I evolved. With this one, it was such a big challenge and I feel like my life changed since I became a mother and it made me more interested in kids in different parts of the world and in other mothers’ struggles. That’s the kind of perspective I came at this film with. The idea of family is certainly one that is really interesting to me at the moment and the idea of having not particularly happy endings but to convey a complexity in our storytelling that acknowledges the complexity of conflict.

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.

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!

 

Lindsay Peters Explains How The From Our Dark Side Winners Got To Pitch Their Projects At This Year’s Frontières Market

When this year’s From Our Dark Side Genre Concept Competition winners were announced, the five recipients knew that the accelerator program included a trip to the Frontières Co-Production Market in Montreal. What they did not know is that this year they would have the amazing opportunity to pitch their projects at the first ever Directed by Women pitch sessions at Frontières.

Frontières, organized by Fantasia International Film Festival, is a co-production market that provides a launch point for both established and emerging genre auteurs to get their films made through pitching opportunities and networking events. WIFTV had the pleasure of speaking with Lindsay Peters, the Market Director at Frontières, about how this unique opportunity came about and what she sees for future.

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Lindsay Peters – Market Director at Frontières Market

WIFTV: How long have you been working with Frontières?

Lindsay: I have worked on Frontières since its beginning. It began in 2012 and I took over as director in 2014, so it has been for the last 3 years.

W: And this was the first year that Frontières had the Directed By Women pitch sessions?

L: We have had this really nice collaboration with Women in Film & Television Vancouver and the From Our Dark Side since its beginning, where part of the winner’s prize package was Frontières accreditation. For a while, we have been wanting to create a real official space for female-driven projects because we are still not receiving as many female directed projects in our general call as I would like to be seeing. So the idea for creating the Directed By Women sessions was to maybe provide some support for projects and filmmakers at an earlier stage than what we ask for in our main call for projects. For the Frontières Market, we ask that projects be in late development, early financing, and that they have a producer onboard and the script is more or less complete. The idea for Directed by Women came about as a half pitch session, half incubator for female filmmakers and screenwriters.    

W: In the last few years, many of the funding agencies such as Telefilm and the Canadian Media Fund, having committed to gender parity through a variety of measures. Did this play a role in the development of this Directed by Women program or has it always been an initiative to get more women in? I did notice that your team is mostly women.

L: We joke about that a lot actually, we are up to three [men on our team] this year and we felt very progressive about that [laughter]. But no, it is always something that has been a real priority for us. For our main selection process, we have not overtly set out to have more diversity in our lineup. We do just try to make sure that the best projects make it in, and two years ago it just so happened that we have a lot of female-driven projects and a lot of projects from visible minorities and that was completely by chance. Which was fantastic and people really noticed and responded to it. It wasn’t really something we advertised, it was just in our opening pitch sessions where people saw this and they started tweeting about it, it was great. But I realized it was really difficult to recreate that naturally. It has always been something that has been a big priority for us and it seems like good timing this year with Telefilms 50/50 initiative.

I also think that it is so early on that we haven’t quite seen exactly how they plan to accomplish that. There is still the question of whether the original problem with the lack of female-driven projects came from them not receiving enough submissions from women or whether they were not approving enough female-driven projects. That was the thinking for an earlier stage section, to help some of these women find the partners needed to get them to the telefilm financing stage.

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Directed By Women Pitch Sessions at Frontières Market

W: Great! You mentioned the huge response to Directed by Women, who is this response coming from?

L: The people attending and the producers. I think that they liked that there was a change in format as to how the projects were pitched. It was a little more aligned with the early stages of the projects. Directed by Women were at the treatment or early draft script stage, and pitched by the director or screenwriter, and pretty much all of our pitchers were early on in their careers.   


W: Do you have a plan on how the Directed By Women will continue to grow at Frontières?

L: We would really like to have Directed by Women pitch sessions next year. It really went over so great. We had such a huge response to it. Our focus is small, I think having seven projects pitching this year was the right amount. At Frontières we aim to keep things a little bit intimate. We grow a little bit every year but we would really love to continue working with WIFTV and From Our Dark Side.
Words by Kaitlen Arundale

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

 

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Elle Wild – Strange Things Done

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

-Elle Wild, Filmmaker/NovelistIMG_0739

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