Embracing Adaptation

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.


Danishka Esterhazy:

Francesca Lia Block: 

Black Field 


Markham Street Films 


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CanadaScreens Welcomes 9 New Titles from Factory Film Studio

A New Partnership with Factory Film Studio 



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 to 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!

Here are the most recent titles that are now available on


Check back soon for more great films from Factor Film Studio! 

For more details, or to rent these titles, visit

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My Interview with Roundhouse Radio on Canadian Film



At the wee hour of 6:30 am I walked into a retro fitted office building in Railtown at 714 Alexander Street in Vancouver, home of Roundhouse Radio 98.3FM for an interview with Kirk Lapointe. What a cool space, with the open office concept, a glass sound room for the interviews and art deco furniture in the waiting area. I sat and listened to the show for a bit as I was mentally preparing myself to run through all the Canadian films that are now playing (and there are a lot). I thought it was going to be one of those quick and dirty 5 minute interviews where I had to spit out all the important information quickly before I would be ushered out the door to make room for the next guest. I was delightfully surprised, however, to discover Kirk wanted to have a conversation with me about Canadian film and the current landscape, and of course, I was a very willing participant. If you are interested in what I had to say about the state of the Canadian film industry, about Canadian directors and actors working in Canada or choosing to go down south, and my thoughts on setting up a screen quota system similar to what happened in the music industry, take a listen. We’d love to hear your opinions about any of the subjects discussed as well.

Interview length: 18 minutes

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INDIECAN10k Films Initiative Announces Theatrical Releases

 INDIECAN10k Films Initiative Announces Theatrical Releases
After much anticipation, a handful of Canadian Films are opening in theatres soon, as part of the INDIECAN10k project, created by Avi Federgreen to help Canadian filmmakers manifest and achieve their storytelling visions. For more information on the screenings listed below visit our film listings at

Says Avi Federgreen about IndieCan10k Project,
"I believe initiatives like INDIECAN10K are imperative to the success and survival of the Canadian film industry, which is facing increasingly difficult parameters for young filmmakers. We need to encourage emerging filmmakers in Canada to get out there and make their first feature, and we need to show them they can make a great film for a very low budget.  The filmmakers that participated in the INDIECAN10K initiative are all amazing, passionate and creative people who deserved a chance to make their first feature and I think they all deserve all the success in the world not only for their INDIECAN10K films but then next films moving forward.  I am super proud of all of them!"

Films coming to theatres are
A Sunday Kind of Love
The Carlton, TORONTO April 15
*With special event Q&A hosted by FWC's Priya Rao following the 6:45 PM screening.

Vancity Theatre VANCOUVER April 16th and 18th

Basic Human Needs
The Roxy Theatre, SASKATOON, April 20 
Studio 7  REGINA, April 22nd

Noon Gun
Bus Stop Theatre, HALIFAX, April 15 and 20th
The Royal in TORONTO, June 4th.

Owl River Runners
Université de Moncton’s Pavillon Jaqueline-Bouchard Amphitheatre in MONCTON
April 15 and 16

About IndieCan10k Project
Inspired by director Ingrid Veninger’s 1K WAVE CHALLENGE, Federgreen’s INDIECAN10K is a Canada- wide ‘First Feature’ initiative that has seen eight first time filmmaker teams personally mentored by Federgreen as well as a select producer-mentor in each participating province or territory. The final projects must be feature length (documentary or narrative), and have a total budget of no more than ten thousand dollars. The INDIECAN10K initiative will also include considerable in-kind services, ranging from equipment to post production services.
About INDIECAN Entertainment
INDIECAN focuses on independent, low-budget films. As a distributor, Avi Federgreen follows the same principle that earned him his reputation as a filmmaker; bringing Canadians films they want to watch. Aside from the traditional distribution route, INDIECAN leans heavily on digital delivery. INDIECAN helps films find more opportunities with audiences through TV, Netflix, iTunes, websites, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms. INDIECAN’s vision is to not only support Canadian production but to encourage the viewing of quality independent films by Canadian audiences.

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Forsaken – The Outlaw Returns Home for a Chance at Redemption

Written by Anna-Lea Boeki

was the perfect film to watch with my father over the Easter weekend since it matched the theme of ‘new beginnings’. Kiefer Sutherland’s character, John Henry Clayton, in returning home, wants to put his gun slinging days behind him and reconcile with his estranged father, played by real-life father, Donald Sutherland who is the town’s Reverend. 

The challenge to remain a pacifist becomes increasingly difficult as the community of frontier families deal with the likes of James McCurdy (Brian Cox) and his gang of thugs, who intimidate them in order to extort their property. The option to fight violence with violence, becomes a not-so-black-and-white issue. I’m admittedly not a watcher of Westerns, however, with the recent terror attacks around the world, this classic ode to the genre reflects the relevancy of our human condition and the endeavour for good to triumph of over evil. 

The quintessentialstrong silent type haunted by his past’ portrayed by Kiefer conveys a strong performance with raw, pained expressions forming his character rather than relying on much dialogue. He manages to honour the cowboy code of ‘standing by your word’ in his choice to selectively not answer questions. Donald’s character, although brash and attempting to evoke a dialogue with his son, also reveals so much more with the bare, conflicting emotion in his face and eyes: love, anger, loss, betrayal, fear and pride. Even the bad guys, played by Aaron Poole and Michael Wincott draw from a strong repertoire of looks that could kill. 

Father and son have a particularly touching and potent scene that occurs in the church, where, for a moment, they drop their macho persona and confess each other’s most vulnerable moments, ultimately allowing their relationship to heal. My father thought it was out of place and too gushy…but I felt it was essential and allowed us to understand the deep level of scars that war and violence had inflicted on John Henry. 

The stunning beauty of Alberta was the ideal backdrop for a story that reminds us that all is not as it seems. The harshness and lawlessness of the land, produces characters that leap to unfounded harsh judgments. By the end, there is a satisfying return to order that allows all misjudged characters their redemption. I thought it was a high complement that this film reminded my father of the highly acclaimed, award-winning 1953 Western, Shane

“You must watch it to compare,” he said. I thought I’d give it a try, after all - Star Wars is like a Western in space. So I did - and I can now say, I am a converted fan of the Western. 

Curious about this Canadian Western starring Kiefer and Donald Sutherland and Demi Moore?

Click to view Forsaken


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Canadian Filmmaking Talent Shines in the Heart of Texas at SXSW

Canadian Film Talent Shines at SXSW 2016!

Every March, lovers of film, music and digital innovation converge in the heart of Texas to celebrate the latest and the greatest in arts and culture, at the SXSW festival and conference. Honoring creative talent as royalty in the capitol-cool city of Austin, film industry and fans alike lined up in the sunshine for this year's freshest   lime-squeeze of storytelling. First Weekend Club's Alexandra Staseson was on the front lines (and a few times at the front of the line ;) to support the Canadian film-making talent that shone under the spotlight at the festival in over 6 different film programs! FWC congratulates the Canadian talent paving the way in the Wild West at SXSW 2016!  Get to know the films that played, and their talented filmmakers below. Keep an eye out for these films coming to multiple-screens and platforms in the future!  

In this competition were ten world premieres with ten unique ways to celebrate the art of storytelling. Selected from 1,442 narrative feature submissions in 2016.

Canadian Film World Premiere

Written and directed by Joey Klein
Starring: Tatiana Maslany, Tom Cullen, Suzanne Clement, Henry Czerny, Mark Rendall, Deragh Campbell, Nancy Palk

About the Film
A grief-stricken man and a bipolar woman fall in love and try to forge a simple life together.  
Nickie is a self-destructive loner ever mourning the disappearance of his younger brother. Having abandoned a life of promise in his native UK, he has subsisted by drowning grief in alcohol and violence. On the fifth anniversary of his brother's disappearance - and on the verge of reaching his nadir - he meets Emily. The two form an immediate, inseparable bond: it is a love at first sight deepened by a shared sense of sorrow.

About Filmmaker Joey Klein
Joey Kein is a native of Montreal and  a graduate of Circle in the Square Theatre School.'
His experience as an actor greatly informs his process as a filmmaker. He has written and directed two shorts: WAITING FOR YOU starring Tatiana Maslany and WATERLOO starring Joshua Close and Jodi Balfour. Favourite films: HUNGER, UNDER THE SKIN, and FAT CITY.


This program featured high profile narrative features receiving their World, North American, or U.S. premieres at SXSW!

Canadian Film World Premiere
Written and Directed by Stella Meghie
Starring: Taylour Paige, Sherri Shepherd, Gloria Reuben, Michelle Hurst, Erica Ash, Mamoudou Athie, Francois Arnaud, Demore Barnes, Anna Hopkins (World Premiere)

About the Film
Chaos ensues after the estranged patriarch of the Jones family dies on their doorstep. When the paramedic who answers their 911 call tries to win over acerbic Jean Jones, his attempts are disrupted by old conflicts that come to a boil at the funeral.
Writer-director Stella Meghie's first feature revolves around the troubled Jones family, one of whom dies at the start of the movie, leading the paramedic who answers the 911 call to develop an attraction to the rambunctious Jones family member Jean. Apparently, the courtship goes south during the funeral. With "Hit the Floor" star Taylour Paige making her big move into a leading role, "Jean of the Joneses" is poised to offer more than one breakthrough in a dark comedy that seems like just the right fit for the SXSW crowd. - Eric Kohn, Indiewire

About Filmmaker Stella Meghie
With a blind script deal at Warner Bros., a pilot in development with John Wells Productions, a comedy optioned by BET and a deal to pen a feature script for VH1, Stella Meghie is not short on momentum. She's a Tribeca Film Institute fellow and Showtime's Tony Cox Award recipient for her feature debut Jean of the Joneses.

This program shone a light on new documentary features receiving their World, North American, or U.S. premieres at SXSW!

Canadian Film World Premiere

Directed by Morgan White. Written by Derek Lageunesse and Morgan White.

About the Film
THE SLIPPERS pulls back the Wizard’s curtain on the unbelievable story and cultural impact of Dorothy's Ruby Slippers from The Wizard of Oz.
Through first-hand accounts and archival interviews, THE SLIPPERS will detail the life of the Ruby Slippers after their sale at the famed 1970 MGM auction. Discovered by costumer Kent Warner, it is unclear how many pairs were found and how many pairs exist. That mystery has only helped to propel the shoes to the forefront of the Hollywood memorabilia market.
They have been bought, stolen, and coveted by many. They are considered the most important piece of Hollywood memorabilia and the catalyst for the creation of Hollywood memorabilia collecting.

About filmmaker Morgan White
A cinephile practically since birth, Morgan White grew up on a steady dose of all things Hollywood. THE SLIPPERS marks his second foray in to documentary film making, his first being THE REP, a film about a group of three film fans opening a repertory cinema in today's dying landscape of independent movie theatres.

This unique program featured the innovative new work aimed squarely at the small screen. Episodic tunes in to the explosion of exciting material on non-theatrical platforms, including serialized TV, webisodes, and beyond.

Canadian Episodic Film Screening

Directed by Nisha Ganatra.  Written by John Scott Shepherd (EP / Showrunner)
Starring, Greg Poehler, Rachel Blanchard, Priscilla Faia, Jarod Joseph, Melanie Papalia.

About the Show
YOU ME HER is television's first "polyromantic comedy," infuses the grounded and relatable sensibilities of an indie rom-com with a distinctive twist. What begins as an impulsive “date” between suburban husband Jack and neophyte escort Izzy spins into a whirlwind three-way affair including Jack’s wife Emma, who’s been keeping secrets of her own. Their “arrangement” soon breaks free of its financial bonds to become something else entirely – a real romance with real stakes involving three real people – confronting viewers with a compelling question: What if your best, truest, happiest life looked nothing like you thought it would? Would you be brave enough to live it?


This program showcased the sounds, culture, and influence of music and musicians, with an emphasis on documentary!

Canadian Film Screenings

Written and directed by Robert Budreau.
Starring Ethan Hawke, Carmen Ejogo, Callum Keith Rennie, Tony Nappo, Stephen McHattie, Janet-Laine Green, Dan Lett, Kedar Brown, Kevin Hanchard, Tony Nardi and Katie Boland.

About the Film
Ethan Hawke lights up the screen as jazz legend Chet Baker, whose tumultuous life is thrillingly re-imagined with wit, verve, and style to burn. In the 1950s, Baker was one of the most famous trumpeters in the world. By the 1960s, he was all but washed up, his career and personal life in shambles due to years of heroin addiction. In his innovative anti-biopic, director Robert Budreau zeroes in on Baker’s life at a key moment in the 1960s, just as the musician stages a hard-fought comeback. Driven by Hawke’s virtuoso performance, BORN TO BE BLUE unfolds with all the stylistic brio and improvisatory genius of great jazz.
About filmmaker Robert Budreau
Born in London, Ontario, Robert Budreau studied at the Vancouver Film School and worked as a lawyer before directing his first feature, THAT BEAUTIFUL SOMEWHERE (2006). His shorts include DRY WHISKEY (2005) and THE DEATHS OF CHET BAKER (2009). BORN TO BE BLUE (2015) is his latest feature.


Written and Directed by Daniel Cross

About the Film
I AM THE BLUES takes the audience on a musical journey through the swamps of the Louisiana Bayou, the juke joints of the Mississippi Delta and Moonshine soaked BBQs in the North Mississippi Hill Country. Visiting the last original blues devils, many in their 80’s, still living in the deep south, working without management and  touring the Chitlin’ Circuit.  Let Bobby Rush, Barbara Lynn, Henry Gray, Carol Fran, Lazy Lester, Bilbo Walker, RL Boyce, Jimmy ’Duck’ Holmes, Lil Buck Sinegal, LC Ulmer and their friends awaken the blues in all of us.

About Filmmaker Daniel Cross
Co-founder and president of EYESTEELFILM in Montreal, Daniel Cross was named by Real Screen Magazine as a top 100 non-fiction production company in the world. He is Professor and past-chair of the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema, Concordia University, an inductee in the Provost’s Circle of Distinction and serves on the University’s Board of Governors.



by Ben Petrie

About the Film
A boyfriend's jealous impulse spirals out of control in 16 minutes of romantic doom.
About Filmmaker Ben Petrie
A Toronto-based writer and director, Ben Petrie's work uses laughter as a Trojan Horse, inside of which he smuggles his ideas. He recently wrote and directed HER FRIEND ADAM, which premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.

by Zack Russell

About the Film
An aspiring performer struggles to breathe life into a new character she's created. Suddenly, she sees him: the real-life doppelgänger of her masked character. Where's the line between inspiration and theft? A gender-bending romantic comedy that celebrates those who defy the status quo in their search for self-expression.

About Filmmaker Zack Russel
A Canadian writer/director from Toronto, Zach Russell wrote and directed the plays FIXED AT VIDEOFAG and JUST CAUSE at the Flea Theater in New York, as well as the live-stream digital play RIHANNABOI95 in 2013. SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER (2015) is his first film.   


by Sol Friedman

About the Film
A 90-year-old Jewish woman reflects on her life’s experiences as she prepares to try bacon for the first time.

About Filmmaker Sol Friedman
Award-winning, animator and filmmaker Sol Friedman is based in Toronto, Canada. His short films blend a variety of live-action and animation techniques, and have played at the Toronto International Film Festival, Sundance, SXSW, Annecy and over sixty other international film festivals worldwide.


Discover Great Canadian Films at, Rent them online at

Follow us: @1stWeekendClub  @CanadaScreens

Alexandra Staseson
is First Weekend Club // Canada Screens Social Media Manager, Contributing Writer and FWC live event and interview host. 
You can follow her @MoveThrough

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It truly was a great night for Canadian film as the industry gathered in downtown Toronto to celebrate the best of 2015. Host, Norm MacDonald brought his unique wit to the festivities by starting off the evening suggesting the presenters and winners refer to the CSA statuette as 'the Candy' in honour of Canadian comedy legend, John Candy.

Little Jacob Tremblay was first up to present and to take up the challenge, saying "and the Candy goes to..." It quickly became a trend with presenters and winners taking up the challenge. Which leads me to the natural conclusion that the song "I Want Candy" should become the official song of the CSAs. As a side-note, this kid could have a future in comedy as his first line was "Thank you Mr Norm Macdonald, my dad says you're a funny guy."

Canadian co-pro, ROOM, swept the major categories by taking home prizes for best actor, actress, director and film, as well as in makeup, editing and adapted screenplay.

HYENA ROAD also won big with awards in visual effects and sound.

The award for cutest acceptance speech of the night went to Jacob Tremblay as he accepted his Best Actor award. "I can't believe a kid like me won against a bunch of talented adults" he said, before going on to acknowledge Christopher Plummer as 'a legend'.  

Congrats to curator, Tatiana Maslany for her win as Best Performance by an Actress in a Continuing Leading Dramatic Role. Always a class act, she thanked all the cast including day players for making every day on set a great experience.

Jamie M. Dagg won for Best First Feature Film for RIVER--he's someone to keep an eye on for great films to come! 

A nod to all the nominees who proved that Canadian film is alive and strong and our future is bright. The full winners' list can be found at

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'Born to be Blue' Premieres at The TIFF Lightbox on March 11 - Special Event

Love Chet Baker and Ethan Hawke? Well, the Directors Guild of Canada, eOne, and TIFF invite you to attend the Premiere of Born to Be Blue on Friday, March 11, 7PM, at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. A re-imagining of the famous jazz musician's life as he prepares for his musical comeback, it is directed by Robert Budreau and stars Ethan Hawke, Carmen Ejogo and Callum Keith Rennie.

The screening will be followed by a Q&A with DGC Director Member Robert Budreau and producer Leonard Farlinger of New Real Films, moderated by DGC Director Member Annie Bradley.

Born to Be Blue was shot in Sudbury Ontario in 2014 and premiered at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival to overwhelmingly positive reviews. Variety called it “one of the best performances of [Ethan Hawke’s] career.” The film’s success is a reflection of the talented DGC Members who worked together to make it happen.

The film was praised for its creative direction, excellent performances and stellar production design by Aidan Leroux and team, which transformed the town of Sudbury into a moody, jazz-era California.

 “Born to be Blue opens in the idealistic setting of California’s 1950’s west coast ‘Cool Jazz’ scene,” says Leroux. “Here we are introduced to a young and optimistic Chet Baker amongst blue skies, palm trees, beautiful women and convertible cars. The film then jumps ahead a decade. We then find ourselves in gritty New York City and the frenetic east coast Jazz scene of Dizzie Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Birdland. The decade saw a drastic change in the culture and aesthetics of America as well as a drastic change in Chet’s life as we see the consequences of his addiction. The design of Born to Be Blue tries to capture a world that lies in a realm between the poetic and the melancholic.”

“Our film explores issues of addiction and race that are as relevant today as they were in the 1960s,” says Budreau. “I’m excited to share this musical story and look forward to opening weekend discussions with audiences following the screenings,” says Budreau.

For tickets to the screening, please visit the TIFF website here:


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Celebrating 10 Years of the Canadian Film Fest!

Written by Guest Blogger: Bern Euler

What an insane comeback the Canadian Film Fest has had. Since reintroducing ourselves to the landscape in 2012 we've grown solidly. We're now at four days long, a crazy mad Industry Series that includes a $10,000 cash development prize, networking sessions, panel discussions and the iconic CFF Masterclass that kicks the festival off every year. Not to mention the parties. Oh, the parties. 

But we're really about the movies, about our filmmaking talent, about our culture. It's out there and it's badass. Just this year, the amount of screening-worthy films that I had to say no to -- just because we don't have room -- could've filled another festival. It's just insane. We're bursting at the seams here because every province is churning out artists with enthralling things to say and show. And I'll never complain. 

And neither does the viewing public. The only complaint I hear is "Why haven't I ever heard of this movie?! Where else is it playing? I want more!" Every year someone tells me these things and I eat it up. Because that's what I've been saying the whole time. This year our Opening Night is Jeremy LaLonde's HOW TO PLAN AN ORGY IN A SMALL TOWN, we're closing with Director X's feature debut ACROSS THE LINE and our Masterclass is going to be full of established directors directing well-known actors. And that's just the tip of the Baffin Island iceberg, as they say. Or maybe no one says that. It doesn't matter. 

We're so glad to be holding our 10th annual event this year at The Royal in Little Italy from March 30-April 2. Our filmmakers deserve it, the public wants it and Canada needs it. Here's to 10 more years of watching mesmerizing films made by an incredibly talented people: Us.


Bern Euler
Festival Director 
Canadian Film Fest
Fresh Voices in Independent Film
416.846.3378    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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Demystifying Digital Distribution

I had the great pleasure of moderating a panel on Demystifying Digital Distribution at the Available Light Film Festival in Whitehorse earlier this month. There were some great insights on this topic shared by my fellow panelists who included producer and distributor Avi Federgreen from IndieCan, distributor Dylan Marchetti from Amplify Releasing and Suzanne Crocker, a multi award winning filmmaker, All the Time in the World.

During our discussion we explored the changing landscape of releasing a film in Canada and discussed some of the opportunities and challenges filmmakers face today. We also discussed the various facets of distributing a film, from festival screenings, to theatrical release through to online distribution. We all agreed that the theatrical release is no longer the 'be all and end all' for a film’s release. As Avi said, it’s great for a filmmaker to get a theatrical release and have their film play on the big screen, but often it’s not practical and can be extremely costly. Dylan argued that in many cases it makes no sense to book a film in a movie theatre for multiple screenings per day for a week, particularly a low budget film with no star's attached. Most of those screenings play to an audience of two or three people at best. What a colossal waste of money. I agreed that in many cases it is better for the filmmaker to book a theatre for one screening in their home city, pack the house and then release day and date, or shortly thereafter, on VOD. 

Although there was general agreement with this approach, Avi pointed out that some films are required by Telefilm Canada to have a minimum of one week in three cities, and if a filmmaker wants to be reviewed by the critics they must have a proper theatrical release. We speculated as to whether Telefilm will change their policies as we start seeing more success with alternative distribution models. There’s no way around getting those critics reviews though.  The question is, how important are they? I know you can’t guarantee that your film will get reviewed and even if you could, there is certainly no guarantee you’ll get a good review. 

The other consideration for going the theatrical route, is if you want to play in a Cineplex theatre, which dominates over 80% of the theatres in Canada, you cannot release on VOD within 90 days of it’s theatrical screening. That’s a long time to wait after a one or two week theatre run (three weeks if you are lucky). Any buzz generated for your film during it’s theatrical will be long gone and forgotten. You have to start your VOD marketing campaign from ground zero and with a limited budget you may have little to no impact. 

In a perfect world, you would have a strong festival screening at a significant, well respected festival, then quickly move into your theatrical release in Canada, day and date with your US release, and then immediately follow that with your launch on VOD.  Unfortunately, we seldom see that perfect scenario unfold, and it’s particularly unlikely for the smaller films.  In fact, it is very difficult for low, or smaller budget films to even book a theatre, and it can be near impossible to time it with an American release. If you happen to get an American release, your southern distributor will then insist that you not release your film online until it has had it’s theatrical release in the States. This is something Suzanne is currently experiencing with her film All The Time In The World and her American distributor is basically forbidding her to release online in Canada. Unfortunately, unlike the title of Suzanne’s film, filmmakers don’t have the leisure of time, and if there is too much of it between festival, theatrical and online distribution your film can quickly go stale. 

I like Dylan’s recommendation. He said a low budget film that is likely to be subjected to this kind of waiting game torture is much better off to plan a VOD launch immediately following a significant festival screening. By doing so you can ride the wave of publicity buzz generated by the festival and people will more likely seek out your film to watch online. It’s a cost effective way to build your audience and keep the momentum rolling. 

From here we moved into talking about aggregators - that’s an expensive business and from what I gathered it’s not necessarily the best approach for smaller films. First off, you have to pay approximately $1,000 to work with an aggregator and every time you want to send your film to a VOD platform the aggregator will charge you another $175 for delivery. They don’t help market your films, but just dump them on the VOD sites and walk away. The problem is, if you want to get your film on iTunes or Netflix you have to either have a distributor or work with an aggregator as these two giants will not deal with individual filmmakers. 

There are other platforms that filmmakers can go directly to though. Suzanne is in favour of Vimeo as they only take 10% of sales and you set the price. This is the DIY approach to distributing your film, which works for those who are great marketers and already have an existing and well established fan base. The biggest problem with Vimeo is that it is difficult to find new films unless you know exactly what you are looking for. 

Another great platform is CanadaScreens - Ok, I know I’m a tad biased about this one but it really is pretty cool. First off, if you already have a pro-res file it will cost you nothing to get it on CanadaScreens. If the film needs to be digitized, it will just cost $100 (much less than the $1,000 to go through an aggregator). Content is curated and actively marketed by a savvy social media team; and we promote the service as a place to discover great Canadian films so people who haven’t heard about your film will be exposed to it. You can find out more about CanadaScreens here.

Once you figure out your online releases strategy and what platforms you are going to be on then make sure you have the assets to attract your audience. Avi commented on how important it is to have a simple, clean poster. Remove all the laurels, keep your graphics to a minimum, don’t have actor names or quotes. Remember the VOD poster is not the same as the theatrical poster as your audience’s first exposure to your movie will be captured in a thumb nail. Keep it simple.  

Dylan said if you can’t get a professionally cut trailer (and he sternly advised against filmmakers cutting their own trailers) then just take a :30 second clip from the film - a teaser of sorts. You must have something to preview. Both Avi and Dylan also strongly recommended that filmmakers have their own YouTube channel where they post their trailers, and warned filmmakers against trying to monetize them. You’ll frustrate you audience if you make them watch an ad before your trailer, which is in fact another ad. 

In closing, it's an exciting time to be a filmmaker. It's easier then ever to make movies and if you have some social media savvy, are committed to promoting your work, there are many avenues for you to take to help find your audience. 

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