Top Canada and U.S. film executives to attend WFF 2016 Industry Summit 

Whistler Film Festival also announces program finalists, business unit plan

click to enlarge L-R: Allan Hopkins, Mary Galloway, Duane Howard
  • L-R: Allan Hopkins, Mary Galloway, Duane Howard

Film industry heavy hitters are coming to the Whistler Film Festival (WFF).

The lineup for its 2016 Industry Summit, which runs alongside the festival from Nov. 30 to Dec. 4, speaks to the festival's desire to bring Canadian films to market.

It includes American and Canadian speakers at 12 events, including Telefilm Canada's executive director Carolle Brabant, who will deliver the summit's opening address.

Corrie Coe, senior vice-president, independent productions, Bell Media, Patrick Roy, president of film at Entertainment One, and Hal Sadoff, CEO of Silver Pictures will take part in a discussion of the state of the film industry from the top.

There are other marketing and pitch events.

"I think on the summit side, it is one of the best years ever," said WFF's programming director Paul Gratton.

"Just looking at some of the high-level Canadian players, it's pretty hard to top having the head of Telefilm come... they are worth their weight in gold, especially for Western filmmakers to access, listen to and interact with (some) of the most powerful people on the Canadian side."

Gratton was especially happy to get Coe's attendance as she was a former colleague and has never been able to attend WFF before.

He said that WFF is also attracting more American film executives, as well as representatives of film distribution in Canada.

"The industry side of Whistler is growing at an exciting but manageable pace, year to year," he said.

As well, WFF announced 21 participants for some of its professional development programs, including the Aboriginal Filmmaker Fellowship, the Canon Hi5 Short Film Challenge, the Feature Project Lab and the Praxis Screenwriters Lab.

To make the most of the filmmaking development programs it currently offers, WFF says it is looking to the future with a new "business unit" using a film institute model.

In an email statement, WFF executive director Shauna Hardy Mishaw said:

"The Whistler Film Festival has a plan to increase its market-driven programs for Canadian and international talent and to become a leader in training for filmmakers and creators in the screen-based entertainment industry through the establishment of a new business unit.

"A much-anticipated next step in WFF's steady evolution, the initiative involves building on the industry and professional development programming offered by the organization since 2007 and currently through its talent programs, and incorporating them under an 'institute model' to build capacity for additional programs for which there is currently a gap in the industry, and to open up select programs for international intake.

"Inspired by the successes of the acclaimed Sundance Institute and Film Independent, utilizing elements of Hollywood's star-creating studio system and aiming at accelerating audience engagement with Canadian content, WFF aims to become Canada's Western epicentre for the development and promotion of world-class creative screen-based content for a national and global marketplace. The vision is to bring Canadian, and specifically British Columbian, content creators to the 'pinnacle of success' in the film, television and digital media space.

"This is not a 'bricks and mortar' proposition but proposes to utilize existing infrastructure and accommodation within the resort, with modules taking place in 'off peak' times during the year and week. It is similar in nature to the Whistler Education Group's Whistler Learning Centre initiative, and aligned with Whistler's Learning and Education priorities.

"Based on WFF's 16-year track record, reputation and experience in this space, it will provide yet another opportunity to shine the spotlight brighter on Whistler as a destination for the screen-based industry."

For more information on the WFF Industry Summit and fellowship and development programs, visit www.whistlerfilmfestival.com.

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