VIWIFF 2017 Festival Highlight: Anishoara

By Emily Bignell

Anishoara 6

Anishoara is a fairy tale-like love story, coming of age hybrid, set against the changing of the seasons in breathtaking Moldova.

Minimal dialogue and simple landscapes stand in stunning contrast to the character’s busy relationships. Anishoara, is a 15-year-old girl from a small village. Outwardly, her life is calm, and of a dreamy aesthetic concealing the archaic feelings within. Alone with her old grandfather and her little brother, we follow Anishoara through the seasons as she falls in love with different parts of the earth. The melon harvest, the sea, and, eventually, a man.     

A must-see for foreign film fanatics, travel bugs, and anyone who is feeling nostalgic for summer days and young love.

Director Ana Felicia Scutelnicu from Moldova, graduated from German Film and TV Academy and went on to live in Benin, West Africa, before returning to Moldova to pursue her career in film and directing further.


VIWIFF 2017 Festival Highlights: “Shorts Programme 2: Relationships Under Pressure”

By Emily Bignell

shorts 2 Stalingrado 6With the world being what it is, it can be hard to remain compassionate.

Sometimes, the society we live in, the beliefs we have, or the stress we are facing amount to conflict – with strangers, friends, and the unknown. They put our relationships, in every sense of the word, under pressure.

The films from Shorts Block 2: Relationships Under Pressure reminds us of all the different ways that stress, prejudice and contrasting beliefs can create unintended consequences.

  • Aftermath (Germany) looks at the fight for everyday survival, the natural course of action and reaction and eventually takes a violent turn. A friendship evolves from this difficult and unusual circumstance but only lasts a moment before an unwavering grudge interferes.
  • Stalingrado (Spain) explores an Oedipal relationship, and the role it plays in the son’s relationship with another woman. A jealous mother becomes aggravated at her son and lover’s other woman.
  • The Patriot (UK) illustrates the simmering racial tensions within a young girl’s rural English community. The story follows a rollercoaster of tolerance and playfulness taking a quick 360 to tension and violence on the basis of class and race.
  • The Things We Do They Don’t Understand (USA) is a cinematically simple, heartfelt film that follows a girl who wakes up after a one-night stand, and finds herself alone with the man’s mother. The mother only speaks Spanish, and with the language barrier the two women have an emotional breakfast together, finding a way to communicate with each other, both verbally and emotionally.
  • Here Nor There (BC) begins with a mysterious meeting in an underground parking lot. A funeral for a woman who has been missing for years and a private investigator who discovered her body bring light to infidelity, intimacy, trauma mystery and the unique ways that people deal with loss and love. Nothing is as it seems in the face of personal tragedy.
  • On the Beach (Germany) is about the holidays at the sea in Northern Germany. A woman is bored and invents a game where she pretends to be blind, and her partner plays along. The game leads to a deep hole of lies and reveals the emptiness of their relationship.

If dark and sad isn’t your style, check out Shorts Block 5: The Lighter Side of Change, for films by local comedians as they tackle comedy in unique and endearing ways. If your doom-and-gloom quotient hasn’t yet been met, or if you’re looking for a new reflection point on conflict, this shorts programme is for you.

VIWIFF 2017 Festival Highlights: Breath

By Emily Bignell


Director Narges Abyar from Tehran is an author, screenwriter and film director with over 30 pieces published ranging from children’s stories to novels and political pieces – and it all comes together in Breath.

Abyar’s background is well-served by the cinematography of Breath, which captures the beauty of both peace and chaos as it follows the daily routine of an imaginative young girl.

Bahar’s story eloquently incorporates the beauty of literature and how she uses it to explore and interpret her life amidst the tumult of revolution and war in Iran.

Using animation and still pictures, Breath gives us a front row seat to the imagination and dreams of a child living the realities conflict.

By embracing her reality through self-directed studies and reading, Bahar escapes the day-to-day life in Iran, taking her existence from tolerable to near-enjoyable.

VIWIFF 2017 Festival Highlight: Unveiled: The Kohistan Video Scandal

By Emily Bignell


Trigger Warning: Violence, Sexism

Vancouver-based director and producer Brikshay Ahmed originally from Afghanistan started in journalism and then moved on to bring light to similar topics instead through film and is also a member of WIFTV.

The worlds of investigative journalism and documentary filmmaking collide in her latest project, of blurred public and private spheres in Unveiled.

When four girls go missing after a video of them clapping and singing in public “illegally” goes viral in their small, remote village in the Kohistan region of Northern Pakistan, their families and community suspects the tribal council is behind the disappearance.

Cell-phone and professionally shot footage combines to tell the story of a fight for justice – fuelled by a dedicated community and media outrage, but ultimately silenced by the slow pace of progress.

Today, Pakistan more than 1,000 women and girls murdered in honor killings every year. Though many areas are making progress towards recognition of women’s rights, smaller villages continue to ingrain the patriarchy into the core of the culture. (

Join us at the festival for a FREE screening of Unveiled featuring a Q&A with the director. (Link)

Vancouver International Women in Film Screenplay Competition announces 2017 Official Selections


VIWIFF International Screenplay Competition founder Michelle Muldoon and jurist Bill Hurst at the 2016 Vancouver International Women in Film Festival.

By Joan Macbeth

The starting point for every great film is a well-written script. The VIWIFF International Screenplay Competition, in its third year, welcomed screenplays from women writers all over the world. Judging was based on a number of criteria, including story composition, scene construction, set-up and pay-off, imagery, character development, formatting, dialogue, and originality. Thanks to our esteemed jury for volunteering their time: Angela Crosato, Mia Divac, Sasha Duncan, Bill Hurst, Dee LeBlanc, Jenny Siddle and Kelly Tatham.

The philosophy of the competition is to replicate a professional experience for the writers, as much as possible. When submitting a script to producers, managers or agents, many times a writer’s success is based on the first few pages of the script. We allow up to 30 pages for the initial read, plus a synopsis, for the jury to decide if the script should advance to the second round. All of our judges are professional story analysts, with the same type of training you might find in the industry “gatekeepers” who make the initial decision on whose screenplays will move up the ladder. For the more advanced screenwriter, our objective is to garner for them industry attention and recognition for excellent writing.

Congratulations to our Official Selections!

Amanda Darling – Mary: The Trials and Tribulations of an Unwed Pregnant Teen in The Ancient World
Ana de Lara – The Virgin Mary Had a Little Lamb
Clara Dollar – Patients
Annie Frazier Henry – Footprints In Blood
Elizabeth Indianos – Libertaire
Alix Joyce – Kill Me
Anita Reilly McGee – Mammy
Lily Mercer – My Old Man
Kristine Stephenson – Flightless
Megan Turner – Amaranthine

For the ten Official Selections, WIFTV provides a prize package that includes a festival pass to VIWIFF 2017, and an opportunity to attend pitch meetings offered during the festival. For the top three finalists, to be announced just before the festival, additional prizes include a downloadable copy of Final Draft software, and an InkTip listing. The first place Grand Prize Winner receives a cash prize of $250.

Special thanks to our sponsors:

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What life looks like a year later for one of last year’s From Our Dark Side winners

darkside-websitejpgBy Brianna Girdler & Michaela Montaner

About this time of year, women writers from across Canada are getting wind of From Our Dark Side, a national English language contest coordinated by WIFTV, and deciding whether or not to submit (or resubmit!) their three-to-five page genre film outline to the competition. In 2015, Elisabeth de Mariaffi was one such person, contemplating and polishing her submission.

Fast forward to 2016, and you’ll probably agree it’s a good thing she did.

From Our Dark Side winners – there are five – join an intensive incubator program designed to support women writers in/approaching the genre market and get their idea for a feature length project to the next stage. Winners also attend workshops at the Vancouver International Women in Film Festival (hosted by WIFTV) and receive a transportation subsidy to the Frontières Genre Co-Production Market in Montreal. In both instances, they are set up with potential producers and buyers to receive feedback on their projects.

For Elisabeth, one of five winners from the 2016 competition, the incubator experience was just the beginning. Since winning, her From Our Dark Side submission, Fly Girls, has been optioned, and what was just a three-to-five page outline this time last year, today, is on its way to a screen near you.

As we eagerly anticipate WIFTV member and supporter submissions and resubmissions, our own Brianna Girdler caught up with Elisabeth to hear more about how things have been going since she won “FODS 2016”, and with Rupert Harvey, a From Our Dark Side mentor, and the producer who went on to option Elisabeth’s script.

Elisabeth on life since winning FODS 2016


de Mariaffi_Elisabeth

Elisabeth de Mariaffi, one of the five winners of the 2016 From Our Dark Side genre concept competition.

How do you feel about having your script optioned?


I’m thrilled. I’m really new to script writing and this has been a real vote of confidence. The idea itself was something I’d been kicking around in the back of my head for a long time, but I guess I felt unsure about jumping into a genre project — and especially one that feels, at least to me as a literary novelist, *really* genre, a feminist vampire movie that pits a bunch of flight attendant trainees against the vamps at an isolated airport. So obviously it feels great to get this early support for the idea and for me as a writer.

How will the option impact the project and your career?

It moves the project way up on my priority list — it’s now on my personal work schedule for early 2017 and I do find that it’s really helped me open up my thinking about other projects I might like to dream up or take on. I’m more likely to give myself permission to spend time with ideas that seem outlandish and I also find that now, when I think of a story idea, I really think about what might be the best way to tell it: is it short story, is it a novel, is it a film? That’s exciting and fun.

How did the option come about?

Part of the FODS mentorship win was a trip out to Vancouver for VIWIFF — while there, I was lucky enough to meet and talk to a lot of industry insiders, working in all facets of movie making and promotions. I live about as far away from Vancouver as you possibly can, while staying within Canada: St. John’s, Newfoundland. So I figured, if I was out there, I’d make the most of it and try and meet up with as many people as I could. That kind of thinking resulted in some great conversations, and one of those conversations was with the producer who has since optioned Fly Girls.

Now that it’s optioned, what’s next for Fly Girls?

Now comes the hard part: I write the screenplay. I’m just trying to clue up a few other pre-existing projects, and will be moving on to the Fly Girls script early in the new year.

What’s your next project? Will you continue to work in genre?

Well, currently I’m juggling two projects. One of those is the screen adaptation of my novel, The Devil You Know, which is a thriller about a rookie news reporter investigating the cold case murder of her childhood best friend. The other is a brand-new novel — so brand new, it hasn’t been announced, so I can’t tell you too much about it, but I can say it’s a kind of ghost story, set in 1950s upstate New York. So I guess both of those lean to genre, anyway, but absolutely, I wouldn’t rule out working in genre in future, in any medium.

You primarily write fiction. How did you find the screenwriting experience?

It’s a fascinating change. My way of approaching fiction, in first draft, is really gestural: it’s largely about voice and tone and atmosphere. I find that my approach to screenwriting has been way more disciplined and organized: outline! beat sheet! treatment! I’ve never written an outline for a novel. I wonder, though, if I will now that I see how it’s done?

Rupert Harvey, on judging, then optioning Elisabeth’s submission

Rupert Harvey is a producer and writer, best known for Pump Up the Volume, A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, The Blob, and Critters. He has been working with WIFTV since 2014 as a From Our Dark Side mentor. In 2016, Rupert also participated in the competition jury that ultimately recognized Elisabeth’s submission as one of the top 5 pieces. Here’s what he had to share with Brianna about Elisabeth’s work and his impressions of whether we are approaching gender parity in the industry, genre and otherwise.

How were you first introduced to Fly Girls?

Through Women in Film and Television Vancouver. It was one of the finalists last year and it was one of the ones I particularly liked and thought it had the most potential out of everything I read. I was on the panel and it jumped out at me.

What interested you about it?

The fact that it’s a combination of several different elements sitting on top of a fairly standard, classic format. First on the list is that it was funny, as well as being scary – well, potentially funny. That came through in the one-pager that I initially read. And it was a female protagonist. It was about a group of women under attack and triumphing over evil. It was within an environment that represents so much of the old world attitude towards women. It was a good opportunity to juxtapose some contemporary sensibilities with the tropes of a group of flight attendants. It’s not contemporary, so it offsets that classic world of flight attendants coming from the age of Playboy Magazine and TWA and Pan American Airlines. The hero is a very contemporary character and is set against this slightly distant world of classic anti-feminism – if that’s not too strong a word.

What are your plans for moving forward with the project?

Elisabeth is going to write the first draft of the script. We have a rough date for her to start working on the screenplay in February/March. I would hope we’ll have a draft by the summer, with which we can start developing some of the commercial attributes of the production.

To my way of thinking, this is an old-school enterprise with this one. It’s a theatrical potentially in both the US and Canada, primarily. And I’ll be looking to cast it from both countries. This is not a mini budget, compared to the big stuff, which is the only stuff that manages to get through the filter these days with studios. There’s a fairly demanding number of people in the cast and it’s a location shoot because it requires a small airport or an airfield, which are not generally around Vancouver. We don’t know exactly where we’ll go to shoot it.

Have you noticed any changes over the past few years in terms of women working in professional capacities in filmmaking?

Only in the amount of talk about it. Only in the amount of attention being paid to it. Not practically on the ground to any degree that indicates a great deal has changed. I’m assuming, I’m hoping, that the amount of discussion and conversation and attention being paid to the issue is going to create that change, but it’s slow in coming.

Every time I crew-up, I’m looking for as many women as I can, and it’s still difficult. Part of it, I think, is that the entry level positions are still dominated by men, so there isn’t the opportunity for progression.

The development side of the industry has undergone a bit of a sea change. The last show I worked on was entirely with women executives and you are often pitching to women. But in terms of production, there has not been a lot of change on set.

Do you want to submit to From Our Dark Side? Click here to review the submission guidelines and learn about what’s in it for you.

Can we support your professional development as a woman in the screen-based media industry? Or maybe you can help build WIFTV, as a volunteer or donor, and help us get the industry to gender parity? The first step is membership – learn more here.

A recap of WIFTV’s submission to the CRTC



Sharon & Susan at the CRTC making submissions on behalf of WIFTV members and supporters.

This is an edited version of an email I sent to WIFTV members and supporters. If you would like to become a WIFTV member, please click here. To subscribe to receive occasional updates like this in your inbox, please click here. 

Barely a week ago, I listened via live stream from my Vancouver office as WIFTV board members and advocacy leads, Sharon McGowan and Susan Brinton, made a presentation to the CRTC in Ottawa on behalf of our members and supporters.

In a nutshell, WIFTV traveled to Ottawa to challenge the Commission’s selective enforcement of the Broadcasting Act. Specifically, section 3.1.d.3, which stipulates that the Canadian broadcasting system should:

“…through its programming and the employment opportunities arising out of its operations, serve the needs and interests, and reflect the circumstances and aspirations, of Canadian men, women and children, including equal rights, the linguistic duality and multicultural and multiracial nature of Canadian society and the special place of aboriginal peoples within that society.”

Despite the above, there has never been a Commission policy to support Canadian women’s aspirations and rights to equal opportunities in the productions triggered by Canadian broadcasters, or in the creative personnel who receive employment through those productions.

This being the case, Sharon and Susan challenged the Commission to do the following:

  • By March 2017, develop, file, and begin implementing a plan to achieve 50/50 gender equity in key creative positions of director, writer and producer across its programs of national interest programming by 2020;
  • Implement accurate metrics that track and compare male and female participation in the key creative roles annually and over the three year period; and
  • Present an evaluation report of the 3-year plan in 2020.

The commissioners responded with genuine interest and concern and, less than 24 hours later, I listened again as, using notes from WIFTV’s submission, they challenged broadcasters’ on the lack of gender equity in the key creative positions on the productions they license. The broadcasters were caught off guard and did not have good answers to these concerns.

Colleagues, this is the first time in decades, if ever, that these issues were raised in license renewal hearings.

Though we do not yet know the outcome of the hearing, given the response our presentation received, WIFTV made an obvious impact at the highest level of policy development in the Canadian film and television industry.

I truly believe that with the momentum of the National Film Board, Telefilm, and the CBC’s recent announcements, we are closer than ever to getting to gender parity in Canadian programming, but we will continue to need voices like WITFV’s at the table.

I urge you to read Sharon and Susan’s submission to the CRTC and, if you are moved as I was, I hope you’ll join me in publicly thanking and congratulating Sharon and Susan on WIFTV’s Facebook or Twitter for their hard work and generosity.

If you have not recently had the chance to, I’d like to invite you to chip in to support this work.  

Our advocacy work, including Sharon and Susan’s work and travel on WIFTV’s behalf has been 100% volunteer-led and funded. These efforts will continue in 2017, but with nominal financial contributions from our members and supporters – people like you – we can increase their frequency and impact. With your support, WIFTV can continue to bring the voices and perspectives of our members to forums as crucial as the Commission is proving to be.

Please chip in what you can here:

As always, thank you for all the ways you support Women in Film and Television Vancouver and our mission.

By Sarah Kalil, President
Women in Film and Television Vancouver

Actor Mentee Laura MacDonald Reflects on her Experience with the WIFTV Actor Career Mentorship Program

Before joining Women in Film and Television Vancouver, I found myself working my restaurant joe job day in, day out, waiting for someone to call me and offer me auditions or projects that never came. I felt completely alone in this business and didn’t even know that I didn’t know what I was doing. I was unconsciously incompetent. I had no idea where to begin. When my acting teacher suggested I look into joining Women in Film and Television and applying for their mentorship program, I jumped at the opportunity to put my passion to work. I appreciated how thorough the application process was; it gave me a chance to reflect on where I saw myself as an artist and where I wanted to go. What am I working on? What are my challenges? What are my goals? These are questions that I hadn’t really asked myself and getting clear on the answers was the first step towards creating the professional life I wanted for myself.

When I found out that I had been chosen to be paired with a mentor, I was thrilled and very nervous. Here was this incredible woman, with decades of experience in the industry, offering to help little ol’ me. I arrived at our first meeting with a million questions, ready to soak in everything I could. What I didn’t anticipate was how excited she was to work with me! I had gained an instant teammate and friend. We hit it off right away, chatting about everything from our roots on the east coast, to classes offered in the city, to personal life balance. All my fears and doubts about my ability washed away. She assured me that I was exactly where I should be – at the beginning.

Over the next six months, we emailed, texted and met up regularly. She gave me valuable insight into the world of auditioning, production, casting, and the role of an actor on set. I came to understand how the camera and casting sees me and worked on putting together reflective marketing material. I grew more confident in not only my acting ability, but in the value of my personality – in who I am, as a woman in film and television.

Of course, the mentorship program is about so much more than just the one on one relationship with a mentor. I was now a part of the WIFTV Mentees of 2016, and what a mighty group we are! I met so many talented, inspiring ladies that I am proud to now call my friends. Getting together with the ladies to volunteer at QUEST food exchange became a highlight of my month. All of a sudden, I didn’t feel alone anymore. I was one of a team who were all working hard to make strides in the industry. I loved sharing our individual stories, how we got to be where we are, and where we want to go. It gave me a real sense that there is a place for all of us. We may all be looking for careers as actors, but in different, specific ways. It’s exciting to think that 10 years from now we could be in the position to become mentors in our own right. I can’t wait to see what this fierce group of ladies accomplishes next.

As if all that wasn’t enough, the mentorship program also opened me up to the larger film and television community in Vancouver. The workshops that were offered introduced me to the respected Actors Business Collective, the inspiring work of Project Limelight and Tuesday Night Live, the monthly Cold Read Series, as well as the greater WIFTV community. I even had the opportunity to stretch my writing skills and preview some beautiful films created by women for the WIFTV film festival. It’s crazy to think that in just one short year, I went from feeling alone to finding my place in Vancouver’s awesome film and television world.

If you’re reading this blog, thinking about applying to be a part of the program, don’t hesitate. There’s a whole world out here eager to help you on your journey. All you have to do is start!

By Laura MacDonald