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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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VIWIFF 2018: Best of the Fest On the Shore

This year’s Vancouver International Women in Film Festival was a great success—in turnout, audience participation, and cinematic skill. I miss it already! Luckily, I don’t have to lament it’s end for long. Keeping the festival flame burning is VIWIFF’s Best of the Fest on the Shore, a special presentation at North Vancouver’s Centennial Theatre of some award-winning festival films. Now is your chance to catch three films that perhaps you missed the first time around.

Best of the Fest on the Shore will include a trio of VIWIFF picks: Mascha Schilinski’s Dark Blue Girl (darling of the festival’s award ceremony, winning the IATSE 891 Award for Best Feature, the DGC Award for Best Directing, the Bron Award for Best Screenplay, the CCE Award for Best Editing, and the CFM Award for Best Musical Score), The World in Your Window (a New Zealand short film directed by Zoe McIntosh, which won the Side Street Award for Best Short), and local filmmaker Crystal Lowe’s The Curtain (winner of one of the Matrix Awards).

From its first images, elemental and disorienting, Dark Blue Girl leads us into a world both familiar and startling. When Luca’s separated parents, Jimmy and Hannah, finally find a buyer for their holiday home on the Greek volcano island of Santorini, the disjointed family returns to the place where they split up two years ago. Suddenly, the young girl faces an emotional environment now much changed, as her mother and father reignite a dormant passion. The magic and intensity of childhood provide Dark Blue Girl’s through-line, as Luca’s viewpoint reveals the strange ties that bind people together, whether they like it or not.

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“Dark Blue Girl” directed by Mascha Schilinski (Germany)

Jury response to Dark Blue Girl was strong. It was said that “the pacing of the film was exquisite. It was deliberate and on point within the context of the story… many scenes were cut so perfectly that they linger in the mind for days. [Dark Blue Girl] was a brilliant film [containing] beautifully observed characters and many poignant and memorable scenes. A rare and deeply moving look at this family triangle. The jealousies of childhood are brilliantly captured in this film. Illuminating!”

The World in Your Window follows eight-year-old Jesse, who lives in a twilight world of sadness and silence, squeezed into a tiny caravan with his grief-stricken father. They’re in limbo, existing more than living. The child intuitively understands that looking forward is harder than looking back; that’s where life happens. But they are stuck until an exceptional connection unlocks the means for Jesse to liberate his father and himself. A hopeful story about a surprising act of kindness.

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“The World in Your Window” directed by Zoe McIntosh

The jury loved The World in Your Window’s subtlety and storyline. In the words of the jury: “The World in Your Window speaks of loss and connection. With little dialogue, this satisfying film visually leads you through a story of a father’s grief, a child’s ability to cope, and an unlikely friendship. [It is a] film that surprises and touches your heart.”

And finally, The Curtain tells a tender and moving tale of two hospitalized strangers who develop a unique understanding of each others’ experiences. Through the safety and anonymity of the room’s curtain divider, they reveal painful, intimate details about their lives.

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“The Curtain” directed by Crystal Lowe

Winner of one Matrix Award, jury members found The Curtain notable for its “lovely, subtle moments between two people whose lives are more similar than they know. A story about pain that is also a story about hope and connection You see it in the performances as well as the colour palette of the film. [The Curtain displays a] very creative and satisfying concept and excellent execution.”

Come! Revel once more in these three films’ drama, intrigue, and warmth! Thank you to the Vancouver International Women in Film Festival, for providing yet another opportunity to engage with outstanding cinema made by women.

Check out the full list of VIWIFF award winners here and get your tickets here for the Best of the Fest on the Shore.

This event has been made possible thanks to the support of

VIWIFF 2018: Meet the Filmmakers

German filmmaker Claudia Vogt has learned that intuition is tantamount to a film’s success. Trust your gut, she says, and a project will flourish. Her latest film, titled Golden Hour, subtly and sensitively explores the refugee crisis as it affects Germany; she offers viewers a chance to more closely understand the way Germany’s children see a politically and socially charged situation. When asked about the inspiration behind Golden Hour, Vogt said that Germany’s political conversation surrounding Syrian and Iraqi refugees deserved an artistic perspective, and a more intimate one—she “decided to go to a place where children from different cultural, ethnic and social origin come in contact [with each other] every day; at a school.” Her intuition led her correctly, and soon Golden Hour had the full support of the school community, as well as Vogt’s own filmmaking sphere. The result is, as you will soon see during the festival, a delicate and endearing (but still politically resonant) look into the lives of Germany’s most vulnerable, and arguably most insightful, people—it’s children.

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This nuance is perhaps a skill Vogt absorbed while watching the films of Ingmar Bergman and Andrei Tarkovsky, both of whom she cites as major inspirations. She felt a great connection to “their films’ specific imagery and [style of] storytelling, especially how much they knew about the human soul.” Attention to the more transient and ephemeral aspects of human life—it’s soulfulness—is certainly present in Golden Hour. We observe an elementary-school janitor make his rounds from empty classroom to empty classroom, sunlight streaming in through the windows, as he follows the traces left by youngsters full of promise, hope, and imagination. The delightfully candid voices of children narrate his journey, speaking about the goings on of their day at school but also of the adversity they face after migration.

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Vogt’s skill and the strength of her film’s theme allowed her access to funding through the Berlin Project Fund for Cultural Education, a regional support fund for the arts. She says that Germany’s awareness surrounding gender inequality in the film industry has grown, and that funding is a key element in the country’s efforts towards equal opportunity, but that there is always more work to be done. “Of course,” she says, “we need more women in the film industry. Quite clearly, we as female filmmakers still have a lot to do to bring about change and to assert ourselves.” After watching Golden Hour, it is clear that the assertions of Germany’s female filmmakers are exceptionally worthy of the public’s attention. Vogt’s artistry as a filmmaker, combined with her aforementioned intuition, certainly solidifies the need for female perspectives, if that need wasn’t already obvious.

Another German filmmaker whose newest film will be screening at this year’s festival is Claudia Euen—her documentary, In the Shade of the Apple Tree, similarly explores the soulfulness of human life, with equal success. “In the Shade of the Apple Tree is a very personal film,” Euen says. “It was a long process of research, over many years, into my own family history. I decided to make a film to tell the sweet story of my grandparents. To me, they were an extraordinary couple. The starting point of my research was when my own relationship ended; I asked myself with even more intensity, how did they do it? How could their love survive over all those years?” In the Shade follows Ilse and Wolfgang Gutsche, who have been married for 65 incredible years; together, they have faced four social orders, the raising of children, growing old, and all manner of life’s ups and downs. Their love and respect for each other are palpable through the screen. This is certainly due, at least in part, to Euen’s familial connection with Ilse and Wolfgang (she is their granddaughter, after all). But the power of this story also lies in its slow, steady progression; the care and contentment that Ilse and Wolfgang feel as a couple is mirrored by the camera’s repose. A love’s strength lies in its moments of stillness and quietude, so In the Shade would suggest. In Euen’s words, “the film feels very slow because everything moves slowly in their life. The camera is fixed, and life develops before [its lens].”

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Euen made her documentary with a very small crew, and shouldered much of the production work in addition to her role as director. Thankfully, she was able to secure funding from Germany’s government resources—otherwise, we might have never had the opportunity to meet Ilse and Wolfgang. However, Euen states that her success with government funding is not the experience of all female filmmakers. “In Germany, half of all students in film schools are female, but when you look at [the allocation of] funding and awards, there are far more men than women,” she says. “The chief of the MDM (Filmfund in central Germany) said once, that only 25 percent of project applications are from women. Another big problem is that most juries who decide [where the money goes] contain more men than women. This is a big subject of discussion.” Institutional barriers preventing women’s voices from being widely heard are internationally felt, it seems. As, unfortunately, one might expect.

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But hope and consolation are not hard to find, especially with superb cinema such as Golden Hour and In the Shade of the Apple Tree available to enjoy. How lucky are we, to have the work of emerging artists such as Vogt and Euen on Vancouver screens? Not only will their films be screening at this year’s festival, but both filmmakers will be in attendance during the International Women in Film Festival’s bloc of artist talks, taking place on Friday, March 9th. When asked how they feel about travelling to Vancouver and participating in the festival, both stated their enthusiastic excitement. Vogt said that she “is greatly looking forward to attending the festival, meeting other filmmakers, and talking about our films. I am excited and feel honoured. I am sure this journey will be a great experience.” Similarly, Euen expressed enthusiasm for the work of other filmmakers, stating that she is “really looking forward to coming to Canada—to seeing the country, presenting my film to an international audience, and to meeting and talking with people about film and future projects.” I can’t wait to hear more from Vogt and Euen during their time at VIWIFF—cinematic insight will abound!

-Sarah Bakke

In the Shade of the Apple Tree  is screening at 8:30 PM on Wednesday, March 7th with the short film about a man and his cat, KisGet tickets now!

The Golden Hour is screening at 9 PM on Friday, March 9th in the Symbols and Survival shorts block of international gems. Get tickets now!

The Vancouver International Women in Film Festival runs from March 6 – 11th, 2018 at the Vancity Theatres. Don’t miss a diverse selection of local and international short and feature films as well as the workshops, artist talks, parties, panels, & more! Click here for more info on the festival.

Sarah Bakke currently 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 and online at SAD Magazine, in her role as web editor.

VIWIFF 2018: Symbols and Survival

In keeping with the theme of heartening stories from all corners of the globe, the Vancouver International Women in Film Festival’s bloc of films on Friday, March 9th—titled Symbols and Survival—fits the inspirational bill, and even pushes a few boundaries. Packed with seven outstanding films (six shorts and one feature) from an exceptionally diverse pool of filmmakers, Symbols and Survival offers cinematic energy and thoughtfulness in spades. Here are a few flicks, picked from the bunch, that I think you should know about.

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“Laymun” directed by Catherine Prowse

Laymun, a short film by U.K.’s Catherine Prowse, tells the beautifully animated story of a gardener working amidst the crumbling walls of a Middle Eastern city, affected by the destruction of war. Her plants, left on doorsteps and window-sills, give hope and point to the promise of growth; life can flourish even in the darkest shadows. See it and admire the skilled animation technique, warm sentiment, and humanitary resonance.

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“The World in Your Window” directed by Zoe McIntosh

Another festival treasure is Zoe McIntosh’s The World in Your Window, a stirring film from New Zealand talent. Eight-year-old Jesse lives in a twilight world of sadness and silence, squeezed into a tiny caravan with his grief-stricken father. They’re in limbo, existing more than living. The child intuitively understands that looking forward is harder than looking back; that’s where life happens. But they are stuck until an unlikely friendship unlocks the means for Jesse to liberate his father and himself. A hopeful story about a surprising act of kindness and connection, The World in Your Window is not one to miss.

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“Anissa 2002” directed by Fabienne Facco

Finally, I recommend Anissa 2002, directed by France’s Fabienne Facco. Closing out the Symbols and Survival bloc, this feature (clocking in at a lean 48 minutes) follows 16-year-old Anissa as she suddenly rebels against her parents’ wishes and runs away into the French countryside. She befriends two travelling strangers who, without understanding the consequence of their actions, help Anissa find the independence she seeks. A poignant and tender presentation of adolescent desires and the turbulence of familial expectations, Facco’s film sticks with me in a strong way.

There you have it. A perfect Friday evening spent munching on popcorn and taking in the powers of great storytelling, with these three titles nestled in amongst a collection of similar gems. Symbols and Survival showcases cinema at its best and most deliberate, highlighting filmmakers from varying paths of experience who create films of great significance. You’re welcome, in advance!

-Sarah Bakke

The Vancouver International Women in Film Festival runs from March 6th – 11th at the Vancity Theatres in Vancouver. Click here for the full festival schedule.

Get your tickets now!

Sarah Bakke currently 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 and online at SAD Magazine, in her role as web editor.

VIWIFF 2018: Resistance and its Many Expressions

Cinema has the power and privilege to influence the way we understand the people and conflicts of the world, hopefully for the better. By turning a considerate eye towards life both near and far, filmmakers can offer what the boundaries of our own lives cannot—an open and ever-changing perspective. To meaningfully engage with the world is oftentimes to know someone else’s sorrow and, with confidence, their triumph too. This year’s Vancouver International Women in Film Festival offers an outstanding line-up of documentary films, both feature-length and short, sure to change the way we experience the struggles and successes of people across the globe. Here are a few of those titles!

VIWIFF’s program of critical and affecting films, titled Resistance, will be screening on Saturday, March 10th at 12:00 p.m. and features outstanding works from three international filmmakers followed by a panel discussion.

“Irina Patanian’s short documentary, Little Fiel, examines the civil warfare which lasted in Mozambique for sixteen years, beginning in 1977 and ending in 1992, and celebrates the resistance and hope found in the toughest of times. Artist Fiel dos Santos creates sculptures from decommissioned guns used during wartime, usurping their original purpose and turning them into expressive figures. Fiel uses these sculptures to tell meaningful stories based on childhood memories of perseverance, family, and respect through immersive stop-motion animation.”

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Second in the program is Objector, another short documentary with political resonance, directed by Molly Stuart. With articulate precision, the film tells the compelling story of Atalya who, at nineteen years of age, chooses prison over obligatory military service in the Israeli army. The film offers a window into the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine from the perspective of a young Jewish woman taking a stand against it.

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Finally, VIWIFF’s Resistance bloc ends with Tatiana Chistova’s Convictions—a sharp take on Russia’s political and social traditions. Russian men are required to serve in the military once they reach the age of eighteen. An alternative to military service is offered to conscientious objectors, but they must first prove the validity and strength of their convictions to a staunch draft board. Chistova follows four brave young men as they each make their case.

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It’s rare to find such galvanizing material, and all in one place. Don’t miss the Resistance series at this year’s festival! All three films provide a peek into the often tumultuous, always inspiring lives of foreign folks. You and I are lucky to know them in this way!

– Sarah Bakke

The Vancouver International Women in Film Festival runs from March 6th – 11th at the Vancity Theatres in Vancouver. Click here for the full festival schedule.

Get your tickets now!

Sarah Bakke currently 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 and online at SAD Magazine, in her role as web editor.

Opening Night & Beyond: an Introduction to VIWIFF 2018

Cinema is multi-faceted and varied in its expression—thank goodness. If not for the compassion and insight of filmmakers from all political and cultural experience, much of the world’s creative spheres would be unknown to those outside of them. It is an honour to be able to peek into the lives of beautiful, strange, troubled, joyous, and extraordinary people; to whom we are introduced by skilled and singular filmmakers.

This year’s Vancouver International Women in Film Festival (#VIWIFF) will be an excellent opportunity to reach out and metaphorically shake the hands of people all across the globe, and revel in their remarkable presence onscreen. In fact, it will be such a gathering of great minds and personalities, it may become a bit overwhelming. And so, here are a few suggestions, in case you’re unsure of where to start.

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“Dark Blue Girl” directed by Mascha Schilinski (Germany)

Where better to begin than opening night? Mascha Schilinski’s Dark Blue Girl is slotted to break the festival ice, on March 6th. This feature film from Germany has a surrealist bend, appropriately so; seven-year-old Luca is the film’s fiery lead (it’s dark blue girl), and the turmoil of her youth takes you in often bizarre directions. When Luca’s separated parents, Jimmy and Hannah, finally find a buyer for their holiday home on the Greek volcano island of Santorini, the disjointed family returns to the place where they split up two years ago. Suddenly, the young girl faces an emotional environment now much changed, as her mother and father reignite a dormant passion. The magic and intensity of childhood provide Dark Blue Girl’s through-line, as Luca’s viewpoint reveals the strange ties that bind people together, whether they like it or not.

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“Kis” direced by Svetlana Bolycheva (Russia)

Speaking of strange ties, Kis, Svetlana Bolycheva’s short documentary, peeks into the delightfully intimate relationship between a Russian Orthodox priest and his cat. Priest Konstantin Michailov and his companion, Kis, get along as equals in a life of happy solitude, save for each others’ company. The two friends banter with one another, share meals together, and muse over the oddities of life, though only one speaks out loud. Perhaps strange is not quite the right word—remarkable should be used instead.

As a final addition to this list of must-see’s, may I suggest the festival’s program of local short films? Some gems include: Akashi, directed by Mayumi Yoshida, which examines the strength of family connections, as well as secrets: Jean Parsons & Jennifer Chiu’s Memory of the Peace, a close look at the intersecting lives of three people living with the reality of the impending Site C hydroelectric dam: Mental (Jax Smith), a fantastical interpretation of one woman’s insecurities and instabilities, as she fights to break through depression and anxiety’s formidable cycle: and Unintentional Mother, directed by Mary Galloway, which poignantly tells of a young Indigenous nanny’s struggle to decide between her responsibility to the little boy in her care and to the demands of her father.

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Clockwise from top left – Akashi (Mayumi Yoshida), Memory of the Peace (Jean Parsons and Jennifer Chiu), Mental (Jax Smith), & Unintentional Mother (Mary Galloway)

These are just a few of the many outstanding films screening at this year’s fest. Quick! Mark them down on your calendar! I’ll see you at the theatre, fellow film-lovers.

– Sarah Bakke, VIWIFF Blogger

Dark Blue Girl is screening at 7pm on Tuesday, March 6, 2018, followed by a Q&A with the filmmaker, Mascha Schilinski.

Kis is programmed with the feature-length documentary, In the Shade of the Apple Tree, at 8:30pm on Wednesday, March 7, 2018.

Mental is screening in the From Haunting to Horrific block with many other local short films at 5pm on Friday, March 9th.

Memory of the Peace is screening in the High Stakes Block at 3:15pm on Saturday, March 10, 2018

Akashi & Unintentional Mother are screening in our Family & Friendship block at 4:15pm on Sunday, March 11, 2018.

For the full festival schedule, click here.

Sarah Bakke currently 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 and online at SAD Magazine, in her role as web editor.

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

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Mariel Scammell

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Follow me:

www.marielscammell.com/

Twitter : @truesweetheart_

Instagram: marielscammell

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

 

 

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

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

Here is what Shannon had to say…

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

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Shannon Walsh with her mentor Robyn Wiener (left)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shannon Walsh

Find out more about WIFTV mentorship opportunities here.