December 01, 2006 Features & Images » Feature Story

Filmmakers’ festival 

Nicole Fitzgerald
gives us the scoop on what's rolling at the Whistler Film Festival.

By Nicole Fitzgerald

The Whistler Film Festival is more than just an armchair experience of traveling through amazing independent films. The festival has become a conduit for both emerging and established filmmakers to connect with leading industry professionals, to learn the secrets of the trade and to make the contacts to move a script to screen.

While the Whistler community enjoys the screenings, filmmakers now trekking in from all over Western Canada gather for the networking, the more than $32,000 in awards given and the workshops led by the industry’s best.

There is no red velvet barricade. Instead the festival acts more as an industry backdoor with an open-for-business sign — a cinematic hub where filmmakers find inspiration and the means to project vision into reel-ity.

Sometimes the inspiration comes from sitting in front of a screen, other times from being in front of an industry panel.

“We aspire to celebrate and promote the filmmaking community in Canada, but within a wider international context,” said festival programmer Bill Evans. “We focus on new Canadian films with the Borsos Award (which showcases) a wide spectrum of film that represents current trends in the international filmmaking community.”

International distribution and sales is one of the hot topics at the festival’s Whistler Filmmaker Forum, a four-day industry event, which provides Canadian producers with the tools necessary to compete in the national and international film marketplace. Forum participants have the opportunity to forge strategic partnerships with broadcasters, sales agents and distributors in seminars, networking meetings, workshops and pitch forums exploring all aspects of the industry beast, from script writing and directing to production funding and distribution.

“It’s not geared towards amateurs,” said festival director Shauna Hardy Mishaw. “The whole goal of what we are doing with the forum is to facilitate a very interactive and positive business environment for filmmakers. We want to see them make deals.”

Sometimes networking takes place in social soirées, other times in a formal setting where the creative meets the practical. A new addition this year, DOC Talk hosts “speed dating” between producers and networks over the weekend. Pitch Fest West is the granddaddy of them all, showcasing 10 documentary filmmakers who will pitch their projects to a roundtable of Canadian and International broadcasters. Industry heavyweights joining the roundtable include representatives from CBC, Sundance Channel, Life Network, National Geographic Channel and PBS, just to name a few.

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