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Navigating the film fest

A basic how-to guide to the Whistler Film Festival: parties, film premieres and tributes galore

Lights, camera, action… Organizers are gearing up for the 8th annual Whistler Film Festival (WFF), which runs from Wednesday, Dec. 3 until Sunday, Dec. 7, and offers up an impressive array of parties and premieres. And this year, they’re breaking new ground with the festival theme of   “New Terrain.”

“It’s a new theme, but in a way, it kind of sums up what we’ve been doing for the past four years and where the festival has been heading,” said Bill Evans, director of programming for WFF. “We are interested in presenting new films to the general public and also to the film industry in British Columbia.”

They’re hosting more Canadian premieres, and films that are different from those being shown at other film festivals.

“We’re expanding our reach,” Evans added. “We’re showing more films that have come to us from smaller distributors from other festivals like Tribeca, American Film Market, and then in terms of our industry programming we are embracing, I guess, the challenges and opportunities that are presented by new forms of technology that are transforming the industry.”

Evans believes there are even parts of the industry portion of the WFF – the Filmmaker Forum – that will appeal to the film-loving public. One of which is the Director Master Class with Bruce MacDonald, an engaging speaker, and the well-known independent cult director who created, “Hardcore Logo.”

“He’s really kind of a do-it-yourself filmmaker,” Evans explained, “He just picked up a camera and started shooting, didn’t go to film school, didn’t get a government grant, just went out in did it, and I think his kind of approach is something everyone can learn from.”

The Short Film Pitch Session also promises to be entertaining – four short-form filmmakers pitch scripts, with only one walking away with a $15,000 prize to help produce their project.

“Stakes are high, and the winning film from last year is actually going to be playing at the festival this year,” he added.

There are also quite a few special events on the WFF schedule that are perfect for the public.

The opening gala on Thursday, Dec. 4 ($25), features the B.C. premiere of the Michael McGowan directed “One Week,” starring Joshua Jackson.

“Basically, the opening night, it’s a big party,” Evans said.

But the highlight of the festival this year for both the public and members of the industry, Evans speculates, will be the Tribute to Donald Sutherland ($52.50) on Saturday, Dec. 6.

“He’s worked with everyone from Fellini to Oliver Stone, so he’s got a huge wealth of stories and a huge wealth of experience,” he said, adding that Sutherland will be speaking at the tribute.

“Basically, the format is somewhat like, ‘Inside the Actor’s Studio’ where he’s going to be sitting and talking about his life and his career with a moderator,” Evans explained.

In total, there are 92 films being screened during the four days of the festival, a number that can seem a bit daunting to the average filmgoer who just wants to check out some independent cinema. There are five main categories of films: World Cinema (full-length films that have been playing the festival circuit), Documentary Series, Borsos Competition (new Canadian directors), Short Films and the Late-Night Series.

But the WFF organizers have made the entire film selection process pretty simple and streamlined. A quick visit to the “Films and Events” link on their website ( ) yields a complete list of the films by title, day, director, or country. There’s even a feature, MyFest, which examines the films you’ve already selected and suggests ones of similar genres, format or content.

“It kind of makes recommendations on their behalf,” Evans explained.

And if you’re feeling like something a little more filling than popcorn and soda, check out the Festival Guide for a list of restaurants that are participating in the WFF’s Feast and A Flick promotion, which offers special deals to festival-goers.

Tickets to film screenings range from $10.50 for matinees to $12.60 for evening shows. You can also snag a pass to the Festival for as little as $60 for the Cinematic Six-Pack, $75 for an Opening Gala Package, or $125 for a Gold Pass, which gives you access to all public screenings, the Opening Gala and the Festival Party. There are also some big-ticket passes, which range from $150 to $500.

All ticket and pass holders must also purchase an annual membership to the Whistler Film Festival Society for $3, which allows the Society to screen films that haven’t been rated by the British Columbia Film Classification Board.

While most of the film screenings aren’t intended for kids, there is a full day of family-friendly films at Kidz Fest on Sunday, Dec. 7.

Apparently, sales are going well across the board.

“We’re on track with where we were this time last year,” Evans said.

For more information on the WFF offerings, visit .