There was a time when Whistler Film Festival (WFF) executive director Shauna Hardy-Mishaw was involved in the entertainment world in front of the camera.
"My brother and I used to do magic shows when we were kids. I was 10, 12, or maybe 14. I was the assistant and we got on TV because we were doing all these magic shows for birthday parties," she recalls.
"I thought, 'Wow!' when I saw the cameras, this is what I want to do. It was my 'ah-ha!' moment. But here I am on the other side of it."
Hardy-Mishaw has more than one "ah-ha!" moment since she gave up on her dream of broadcast journalism, and most of them have been directed at her brainchild, WFF, now in its 14th year.
She has been named 2014 Woman of the Year by Women in Film and Television Vancouver (WFTV). The award, presented to a woman who has achieved "a significant success" in the industry and for mentoring other women, will be presented at the annual Spotlight Awards in Vancouver on April 30.
Her career included being on the committee for WFTV that set up these awards in the late '90s, when the organization also included women who worked in tech and communications.
She joined from the tech side, through her sales and marketing work.
"I met all these people in the film and television world, so that was my segue into it unknowingly," Hardy-Mishaw says.
A career in accounts, sales and advertising shifted after moving to Whistler.
After a "crossroads" led to a stint as a volunteer with the 2000 Sydney Olympics and time with the World Ski and Snowboard Festival and other festivals, Hardy-Mishaw went to the movies.
"I had an entrepreneurial background and how the film festival started was I answered an ad," she says.
The ad was for a company called Moving Pictures Canadian Films on Tour.
"They were looking for someone to do it in Whistler and they'd done it before here, so I had a meeting with them and I said it sounded great but that I wanted to call it the Whistler Film Festival," Hardy-Mishaw says.
Agreeing to program 12 of Moving Pictures' film, the now legendary Ski Bums by Oscar-winner John Zaritsky opened the first WFF; 3,600 attended that first festival over four days.
"The funny thing was that I came to Whistler when I was 22 and it was about all of my friends living in squats and school buses. It was apropos," she says.
Former colleague Kasi Lubin, now with the charity Zero Ceiling, co-organized with Hardy-Mishaw.
"We looked at the other and, oh my God, we had something here. There was an appetite. The place was packed," Hardy-Mishaw says.
Now, in 2014, there is another crossroads — with the festival getting busier and wider in scope. This week Hardy-Mishaw is ordering the new digital system for the recently refurbished Rainbow Theatre, the main home for the WFF.
Hardy-Mishaw says it has taken six years to get the project to this stage.
Show Canada, the movie theatre association in this country, will be the first to use the new system in June. They're bringing six major studios and 450 marketing and distribution reps and have asked WFF to manage the event.
"It's going to help us for sure," she says.
The technological improvement also means so much to WFF's future year-round growth and programming — including an adventure film series that will run during the new GO Festival in May.
Hardy-Mishaw says the plan is to run similar series throughout the year, including a children's film festival in October.
And last week, WFF announced a collaboration with Simon Fraser University's Praxis Centre for Screenwriting in a new screenwriter's lab for 2014 WFF in December.
"I find this industry, and the talent in this country, and the people that work in the industry to be very inspirational, very committed to the craft and I really love it," Hardy-Mishaw says. "As much as it is me driving the ship, this has really been a consolidated group effort."