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
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
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.