Happy Canada Day! Naturally, First Weekend Club and CanadaScreens.ca celebrate Canada everyday of the year, but we are pleased to patriotically present for Canada Day 2016 2 fun Canadian Films available to rent at CanadaScreens.ca today!

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The Banff World Media Festival (BWMF) announced winners of the annual Rockie Awards today at their flagship Program Competition that celebrates excellence in TV and digital content from around the world, during a special Awards ceremony held at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. 

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Patricia Rozema’s Into the Forest tackles many of our dystopian fears in a world that’s on the brink of an apocalypse.  But you won’t find any zombies here. Instead, the film stars Evan Rachel Wood and Ellen Page as two young sisters who do their best to survive in their home in a secluded ancient forest.  They are not only forced to fight against the elements, intruders, and starvation — but also against their own loneliness and sense of isolation.  They must fight to keep hope, and each other, alive.

First Weekend Club’s Katherine Brodsky caught up with one of the film’s stars, Evan Rachel Wood to discuss her experiences making the film (reprinted from AICN).

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Canada Screens and FWC Celebrate Xavier Dolan at Cannes 2016!

First Weekend Club and Canada Screens offer congratulations to prolific Canadian filmmaker & actor, Xavier Dolan on his premiere at Cannes 2016! The 27 year old Quebec director Xavier Dolan’s new film, Juste la fin du monde (It’s Only the End of the World) is officially in the running for the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival! To celebrate, we’ve got TWO of his film feats available to rent online from our VOD at CanadaScreens.ca!

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One day Glenn Cockburn of Meridien Artists Management had the incredible idea to create a writing workshop that was more than simply ‘how to become a writer’, one that delved deeply into the craft and business of screenwriting with top speakers from Canada and Hollywood. Today that conference, the Toronto Screenwriting Conference, is in it’s 7th year. We spoke with the winners of the Telefilm New Voices Award about their experiences at this year’s event.

John Ward

The conference had so many great sessions it’s hard to single out a specific highlight. Corey Mandell’s inspiring sessions were full of advice and practical tools; Stephen Falk’s talk on breaking an entire season was as hilarious as it was instructive; and the conversation with Moira-Walley-Beckett gave us insight into her writing journey and the Breaking Bad writers room. My personal highlight was listening to Glen Mazzara. His sessions were simply amazing; thought-provoking, passionate, and made me want to immediately rush home and start writing. Overall it was a fantastic conference. 

John is currently pitching his pilot “Flux” – an episodic sci-fi about an unlikely team of cops and criminals forced to work together to change the future, and also “Dodge & Burn” – a show about an undercover Mountie who’s also the leader of the criminal organization he was sent to infiltrate. 

Ana de Lara

The Toronto Screenwriting Conference was an amazing experience.  The whole weekend was phenomenal. I left motivated and inspired by the variety of writing tools, perspectives, experiences, and words or wisdom presented by the speakers.  Highlights for me include meeting Glenn Cockburn, having my mind blown away by Corey Mandell’s sessions, and leaving knowing that I have tools I can apply to elevate my current projects and progress my career.

Ana is currently working on the following projects. Her first feature film screenplay, The Virgin Mary Had a Little Lamb, a comedy told with magic realism about a Filipina-Canadian girl who loves the Virgin Mary, wants to be just like the Virgin Mary, and what happens to her when God answers her prayers.

The Chosen One is a supernatural horror feature,  about a Filipina-Canadian playwright who must stop dark forces that have been summoned by Filipino witchcraft from attacking her sanity.

Yellow Magic, a comedic webseriesabout a Filipina witch who flees to Canada to escape from her family’s association with witchcraft.  When her past catches up with her, the idyllic suburban neighbourhood where she resides is never the same. 

Kim Izzo

It was an amazing experience to be in the same room with such incredible talent as the speakers at this year’s TSC. Glen Mazzara’s frank and often hilarious talk about Anti-heroes on Day One and then the behind the scenes of creating and filming his new series Damian gave me a lot of insight into the evolution of television  and were the medium is going. I was also riveted to In-Conversation with Moira Whalley-Beckett because Breaking Bad is one of  my favourite shows it was a treat to hear stories from that particular writer’s room and she was truly inspiring. I also felt that Interview with the Executive, Nicole Clemens from FX was an absolute must, it was enlightening from a writer’s perspective to hear firsthand how FX approaches story, pitching and the value of the writer. I will definitely be back for TSC 2017! 

She is currently finishing off the final draft of my feature, The Shame Sisters, for the NSI Script to Screen program as well as developing several television pilots scripts. 

Rebecca Hales

The Toronto Screenwriting Conference has the best screenwriting content of any conference I have attended. It’s so much more than just great stories from top industry professionals – though those are GREAT. It’s really about master classes in craft, process, production, and development. Glenn Mazzara walked us through the provenance of the anti-hero. Stephen Falk walked us through the entire season development process he uses on You’re The Worst complete with photos of his boards. Moira Walley-Becket talked about life on Breaking Bad and the lessons she brought to Flesh and Bone. Nicole Clemens gave a real breakdown of how FX Network finds and fosters groundbreaking TV. Everyone came to talk about the business in real terms, not platitudes and anecdotes. My personal highlight was Corey Mandell and his very practical teachings on Integration and Story Engines. I know I’m not alone in saying it was a game changer. He got a standing ovation for a reason! 

Rebecca Hales is currently working on a spy thriller in which a young woman’s world is shattered when her parents are arrested on suspicion of terrorism, and a half hour cable comedy that takes a surreal look at identity and those little voices in our heads.

Maria Dame

Lunch in a private room at The Spoke Club was the prefect kick off to the conference. It was super cool to talk to Moira about Breaking Bad and her transition from acting to writing; to Melissa about Super Chanel and her move to Toronto, to hear Dan’s remarkable story of how he ended up working for Telefilm and to learn from Glenn that his reading of Elephant Bucks was the catalyst that got him thinking about creating a screenwriting conference in Toronto. 

The party at The Fifth later that night was a blast and after speaking with Jen in such a casual atmosphere I couldn’t wait for her seminar the next day. 

With the eclectic and inspiring roster of speakers, my learning curve over the weekend was pretty steep. This morning as I was reading over my notes I really just felt so grateful to have been given the opportunity to participate. It’s like I already feel like a better writer just by being in the room with those people.  

Maria is working on PASSPORT, a one-hour drama that probes the complexities and conundrums of the refugee housing experience.Tensions arise and prejudices surface when The New Hope Centre– a refugee housing residence — moves into in a middle class neighbourhood.

Myself and the team at FWC look forward to working with all these talented writers to promote their feature films! 

For more information on the conference, visit: http://torontoscreenwritingconference.com

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Guest Blogger: Danishka Esterhazy

I have always written my own screenplays. Because it has always felt right to move from that first initial spark of inspiration (usually an image), through to story, character and structure. Followed by production — all the elements of staging, lighting and coverage — and then into post. Right up to the final cut. I write, I direct and I edit. This has always been my preferred method of filmmaking. Immersive. Total. 

But with every film that I make, I become more excited by collaboration. It is a wonderful feeling to sit down and share ideas with a talented artist — whether they be a cinematographer, production designer, or actor. There is a unique and powerful creative pleasure to be found in these relationships. Even during disagreements. Because a great collaborator will challenge you to rise to new levels.

And so it is with this attitude that I embarked on my very first literary adaptation — a short film called The Singing Bones.

It started by accident. In 2011, I was attending the UCLA Writers Studio. At one of the group gatherings, I looked around the room and spied Francesca Lia Block. She is hard to miss. She was absolutely the most magnetic (and best dressed) person in the room. Francesca oozes style and charm. I nearly jumped out of my seat.

I had been a fan of Block’s writing for years. Most people know FLB for her celebrated Weetzie Bat novels. But it was her wonderful dark and modern retelling of fairytales that I loved the most. 

Impulsively, I tweeted a short message about my excitement to see FLB in person. And, to my surprise, she tweeted back! She invited me out for lunch. After an hour of great vegetarian noodles and a passionate discussion of fairytales and feminism — we were already talking about making a film together.

Fast forward to 2014. I optioned Block’s story “Bones” from her short story collection The Rose and the Beast. It is a retelling of the fable Bluebeard. And an amazing story about a young woman discovering her own power and her creative voice.

The writing experience was an absolute dream. Often, I find the writing process to be the most demanding, draining and disenchanting part of the filmmaking process. An exhausting uphill trek. But working with Block was inspiring. First, I loved her story. It was very important for me to respect her original vision and her voice as a writer. In the option agreement, FLB did not have any legal right to input or approval of my screenplay. But I sent her every draft as both a courtesy and opportunity. I valued her notes. She was able to provide me with deeper insight into her characters while also respecting my creative freedom as the screenwriter. 

Development and production were not easy. I had a lot to learn about crowdfunding as this was my first experience raising money through Indiegogo. I was also forced to recast my lead actors (heartbreaking!) after immigration complications made this Canadian-American co-production more challenging than I ever expected, But, luckily, I was aided by my fabulous producers Bianca Beyrouti, Rebecca Gibson and Ashley Hirt. I also had an amazing volunteer crew. Post-production is nearly complete and we expect the film to premiere this summer or fall.

So, would I adapt another short story or novel? Absolutely. I don’t expect every collaboration to be as special as The Singing Bones. But I have seen how great the process can be when two like-minded storytellers come together for all the right reasons.

-Danishka Esterhazy

Danishka Esterhazy is a Winnipeg-based filmmaker. Her debut feature, Black Field, was released theatrically by Century Street Distribution and broadcast on SuperChannel. Her second feature, H&G, was released theatrically by MultipleMedia Entertainment and broadcast on The Movie Network. She is currently preparing to shoot her third feature, Level 16, with Markham Street Films.

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First Weekend Club is excited to welcome Toronto-based Factory Film Studio as our newest partner. As part of the partnership, we will be bringing 9 new Canadian films toCanadaScreens.ca as well as collaborating with them to support some of their theatrical releases.  We are looking forward to working with them and sharing even more great home-grown films with Canadians!

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