Filmmakers Go West 

Whistler Film Festival becoming Sundance Institute of the West

By Nicole Fitzgerald

What: Go West Project Lab

When: June 18-22

Where: Whistler

The Whistler Film Festival Society continues its crusade to turn Whistler into a filmmaker destination by providing workshops and seminars led by respected industry professionals.

“We are using Whistler as a destination resort to attract a certain calibre of participants who are able to work intensively with (emerging filmmakers) and give them the training they don’t have access to unless they were to go to the Sundance institute,” said festival programmer Bill Evans. “The vantage of the society is to promote Canadian film and also help develop Canadian filmmakers.”

The next venture includes a partnership with Telefilm Canada to present the Canadian Film Centre’s Go West Project Lab June 18 to 22 in Whistler.

Up to six producers from B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the Yukon will be invited to participate in the week-long intensive workshops aimed at advancing a producer’s dramatic feature project, facilitating relationships and collaboration on and investment in film projects that have U.S. and international appeal.

“It’s an extension of the sessions we did during the festival’s Filmmaker Forum International Sessions, which was very successful,” Evans said. “We got lots of feedback from producers on the market intelligence and they wanted more of it. We are bringing back some of the international experts and paring them with producers in a more intensive way, so they get more in-depth training and more specific project-related information as opposed to a panel discussion.”

Participants will get one-on-one time to work through their projects with agents, distributors and market experts helping the producer to create interest, funding and marketing strategies for their films.

The Whistler Film Festival Society’s filmmaker programming has been highly successful. The Whistler Stories grant program funded a short film called the Heart of Whistler directed by Ken Hegan. The film had its U.S. premiere at the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival in New York last month and received a coo from a New York Times film critic. The project also provided momentum in helping the Vancouver director sign on to write and produce 13 episodes of a new documentary television series for a national network.

“It goes to show what can happen with a five minute short film produced on $5,000 — the film played in front of Robert De Niro and other New York luminaries,” Evans said. “The film was also shot in Whistler, showing off our town…. When we started out with Whistler Stories, the idea was to give Whistler and B.C. filmmakers the opportunity to make a short film to advance their own careers and help them develop their skills. It’s certainly been highly successful.”

Organizers hope Go West will follow suit. The deadline for Go West applications is Friday, May 11. Application details are available at


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