The Whistler Film Festival will be turning 10 in 2010, and organizers are determined to make this milestone year one to remember.
The most notable change is the extension of the festival from four to five days, starting on Wednesday, Dec. 1. In previous years the festival had started on a Thursday.
"It gives us more flexibility with our programming and the opportunity to have more screenings, which was some key feedback the we received from not only audiences, but industry," said Shauna Hardy Mishaw, executive director of the Whistler Film Festival.
Hardy Mishaw pointed out that they also host an industry conference that starts first thing on Thursday morning, but many people are already in town by Wednesday evening and are eager to dive right into the film festivities. Last year's festival also saw a 46 per cent increase in attendance, so organizers felt confident in extending the festival by a day and beefing up the screenings.
The 2010 festival will also see the addition of two new competitions to the festival: an International Feature Film competition and a Student Short Award.
The International Feature Film competition carries a $10,000 cash prize. It will showcase up to eight feature-length narrative films from around the world by directors making their first or second feature.
"The strategy is really to use it as a discovery section, so the idea is the opportunity to discover and celebrate new talent," Hardy Mishaw explained.
Of course, WFF has always maintained a strong focus on the Canadian film industry, featuring Canadian talent through the annual $15,000 Borsos Prize and within other categories, as well. And that focus remains, though it will be augmented by the addition of the International and Student Short competitions.
"Canadian film really is at the heart of our festival; it's really important that we celebrate our own talent, but in the context of an international film competition," Hardy Mishaw said.
The new Student Short Award, which carries a $500 prize, will feature short films produced by post secondary students from B.C.
"Our idea is that we want to grow with the talent, so if we position ourselves as a discovery festival and start with people when they're young, the idea is that we'll work with them through their entire careers," Hardy Mishaw said.
WFF issued their call for submissions at the beginning of May and will accept films until Aug. 3. Usually, organizers receive almost 1,000 films for consideration in the festival, many of which come from outside of Canada.
"During that time, we're also tracking films and scouting films," Hardy Mishaw added.
Artistic Director Stacey Donen has been busy traveling the film festival circuit, looking for the best new films to debut at the Whistler Film Festival.
The WFF organizers have also already invited someone to be president of this year's Borsos competition, though Hardy Mishaw couldn't name names, yet.
"But I can tell you that it is basically, probably the most esteemed filmmaker in the world," she hinted. "So we're setting our sights very high for this festival, seeing that it's a hallmark for us, and really, I think we're the last major event in Whistler on the heels of a year that celebrated a vision that we had, which was to host the Olympic Games, and that's over."
"Our hope is that the Whistler Film Festival, that this 10 th edition, will be the feather in the cap of this very exciting year."
They developed a new vision for the festival, which is to "establish Whistler as a preeminent destination that connects the art and business of film." Hardy Mishaw points out that the WFF has had an $11 million annual impact on Whistler's economy, and they hope to grow that number to $20 million.
And in order to continue to grow and attract international industry, WFF must be able to offer cutting-edge technology to filmmakers. So, they're still raising funds and negotiating with Tourism Whistler to lease and renovate the Rainbow Theatre in hopes that construction can begin this July. They hope the space can be converted into a state-of-the-art digital theatre in time for the 10 th annual festival.
"We are gaining incredible momentum and we're really working hard to get this thing ready by December, but in order for us to do that, we have to start construction in July."