Whistler Film Festival ramps up movie industry summit 

December festival has more panels, more deal opportunities

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Getting Canadian films to audiences is the theme of the Whistler Film Festival's (WFF) 2014 Industry Summit.

The summit is an integral part of the festival, taking place this year from December 3 to 7. During it, filmmakers and dealmakers take part in workshops, seminar sessions and are given the opportunity to connect.

"We're very business oriented," says Paul Gratton, WFF's director of programming.

"The focus is on film financing, co-productions and distributors. Frankly, some of the feedback we got, last year at our distribution panel, was that almost all the films that came to Whistler, the Canadian films that had no distributors, left with distributors attached.

"(There is) sufficient distance between us and TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival), where a lot of business gets done, and the Cannes Film Festival, a major event for market activity on the calendar... for Canadian movies, which is our major focus, Whistler seems to be developing a whole business sense around it, as opposed to merely a celebration of artistic achievement."

This year, says Gratton, WFF organizers want to organize the summit in order to allow more of these connections between filmmakers and industry leaders to occur.

To that end, the summit's State of the Industry lineup this year looks at evolving business models for feature filmmaking.  One panel, Canadian Film — a Year in Review, includes a major producer, funder, distributor and film critic to discuss the state on the industry in 2014.

State of the Industry takes place over one day, on Friday, Dec. 5.

Other panels that day include the New Dynamic in Distribution, moderated by Peter Belsito, executive VP of Film Finders, Fund Times for Canadian Films, First Time Feature Makers — highlighting the stories behind films being show at WFF, and View from the Top on Indie Films in the Digital Age, hosted by Steven Gaydos of Variety Magazine and featuring Tom Bernard, co-president and co-founder of Sony Picture Classics and Victor Loewy, former chairman and CEO of Alliance Films.

There will also be one-on-one meetings, allowing registered filmmakers and producers to pitch their works to commissioning editors, sales agents, distributors and other key film executives.

"This year, there are 22 Canadian films at the festival, of which 11 are world premieres so we expect a lot of business to be done at the summit this year," says Gratton.

"People looking for financing for their films or distribution will find that the activities that we've structured are just perfect for them. We're trying to be hands on, functionally concrete and useful to the production community in B.C., which is what we focus on above all."

WFF is also keeping up with its international co-production connections, during Crossing Borders on December 5.

This includes China Canada Gateway, set up to bring together Canadian screenwriters and directors with Chinese production companies in an annual film script competition, which is entering its third year.

New this year is the India-Canada Film Forum, which looks at similarities and differences between Indian and Canadian audiences, with director Ketan Mehta and producer Deepa Sahi.  It is being presented by WFF and the Praxis Centre for Screenwriters.

Meanwhile, WFF also released the full list of the 22 Canadian films being shown at the festival.

World premieres: After Film School, After the Ball, Bad City, Elsewhere, N.Y., The Cocksure Lads, Les Loups, Mountain Men, Pretend We're Kissing, Snowman, Stay A While and What an Idiot.

Other films on show: Ally Was Screaming, Bang Bang Baby, Backcountry, The Backward Class, Big Muddy, Felix and Meira, I Put A Hit On You, In Her Place, The Outlaw League, Relative Happiness and We Were Wolves.

 For more information on films and tickets visit www.whistlerfilmfestival.com.



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