The Whistler Film Festival (WFF) marked three-months until its 15th anniversary in December with a Vancouver benefit that announced new plans and honoured two long-time supporters.
Independent film producer and president of Brightlight Pictures, Shawn Willamson, and Neal Clarance, President of NG Clarance Inc., were presented with awards for their contributions to B.C. and Canadian film.
WFF executive director Shauna Hardy Mishaw paid tribute to Williamson, saying he'd given "10 years of his life to us."
She described Clarance as having an accounting background but also being a great leader of the film industry, WFF, and mentoring herself and others.
He was no less generous in his response, particularly in terms of the film festival's impact.
"Shauna has made more sales (of films) than Vancouver has ever done... (WFF) matters," Clarance told those gathered.
"I always thought film festivals were where people could enjoy business and film together... It's a privilege to see the growth of Whistler over the years."
The annual benefit raises between $20,000 and $25,000. This year's event took place at the Blue Water Café in Yaletown on Friday, Aug. 28.
Also introduced at the Vancouver benefit were six B.C. filmmakers whose movies are premiering at this year's festival. Hardy Mishaw said 18 out of 90 films to be selected for the festival had been made to date.
"We typically unveil a sneak peek at this time of year," she said in an interview.
"We cast a wide net in terms of subject matter. There will be a lot of Canadian premieres, over 50 per cent of our programming has historically been that way."
The films include How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town by Jeremy Lalonde, The Birdwatcher by Siobhan Devine, and Suspension by Jeffrey Landau.
Hardy Mishaw said the aim was for WFF to continue to emerge as a must-attend event for "hip, young film buffs and emerging filmmakers.
"You won't see these films in Vancouver (VIFF), only if you come to Whistler."
She added that women were strongly represented at this year's festival.
"There is a lot of buzz in the industry about females being underrepresented," Hardy Mishaw said.
"We're coming out of the gates super strong."
As well, the Boursos Award for Best Canadian Film has been changed.
"We've opened up the competition. Traditionally it was only six films, but all Canadian films in the festival that are, at minimum, Western Canadian premieres are eligible," she said.
The contenders for the award should be finalized in October.
The rest of the film lineup will be finalized in mid-November.
Back this year is the festival's connection to film industry magazine Variety, with the confirmation that the 10 Screenwriters to Watch interview session would return.
To celebrate the 15th anniversary, there will also be a large party on Saturday evening, Dec. 5.
WFF takes place from Dec. 3 to 6. Tickets can be purchased at www.whistlerfilmfestival.com.
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