Canadian Films at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival

This is a special year for the Toronto International Film Festival, which runs September 10-20. The festival will celebrate its 40 year anniversary - a significant milestone for a small Canadian festival that grew to become one of the biggest in the world.  

Don't know what to watch? We've got you covered.

Quebec filmmaker Jean-Marc Vallée's Demolition, about a banker whose life unravels following a family tragedy, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Naomi Watts, will open the festival. Meanwhile, fellow Quebec-er Denis Villeneuve's thriller Sicario will also play at TIFF, following its debut at Cannes.

There are some unexpected cinematic surprises amongst the 30 Canadian features unveiled, like the gangster film, Beeba Boys, from Deepa Mehta based on true events surrounding an Indo-Vancouver gang. Paul Gross is back with an Afghanistan war drama, Hyena Road, and Atom Egoyan takes on the subject of Holocaust retribution with Remember

Other films include Toronto filmmaker Patricia Rozema's dystopian survival drama Into the Forest starring Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood as orphaned sisters stranded in the wilderness after a catastrophe, Vancouver's Mark Sawer's mockumentary, No Men Beyond This Point, about men going extinct in a world ran by women, and Quebec's Phillipe Falardeau's political satire, My Internship in Canada.

Want something a little unusual? Guy Maddin's unique vision, The Forbidden Room, will also be coming to TIFF.  And if you're after some scares, Bruce McDonald has the fix for you with his horror film, Hellions.

Even Ethan Hawke is making an appearance in a Canada/UK co-production, Born to be Blue, a re-imaging of jazz trumpeter Chet Baker's life in the 1960s.

”The Festival is excited to showcase these distinctively Canadian voices,” said Steve Gravestock, Senior Programmer, TIFF. “From compelling documentaries on pressing social issues and complex, affecting dramas to political satires, we are proud to share the impressive range and talent of Canada’s directors.”

“This year’s filmmakers represent the depth and diversity of Canadian storytelling,” said Magali Simard, Film Programmes Manager, TIFF. “By presenting the strong perspectives of the best and brightest in the film industry from across the country, we share with audiences the unique ways Canadians view the world.”


Born to Be Blue– directed by Robert Budreau

Into the Forest – directed by Patricia Rozema

Ville-Marie directed by Guy Édoin


Al Purdy Was Here directed by Brian D. Johnson

Guantanamo’s Child: Omar Khadr directed b Patrick Reed and Michelle Shephard

Ninth Floor directed by Mina Shum

This Changes Everything – directed by Avi Lewis

Welcome To F.L., directed by Geneviève Dulude-De Celles


Closet Monster – directed by Stephen Dunn

Fire Song – directed by Adam Garnet Jones

The Rainbow Kid  – directed by Kire Paputts

River  – directed by Jamie M Dagg

Sleeping Giant  – directed by Andrew Cividino


How Heavy This Hammer  – directed by Kazik Radwanski,

Our Loved Ones (Les Étres Chers)  – directed by Anne Émond

My Internship In Canada  – directed by Phillipe Falardeau,

The Waiting Room   – directed by Igor Drljaca,


Endorphine  – directed by André Turpin

Hellions   – directed byBruce McDonald

No Men Beyond This Point  – directed by Mark Sawers


88:88   – directed by Isiah Medina

The Forbidden Room  – directed byEvan Johnson and Guy Maddin

Invention  – directed by Mark Lewis

Minotaur   – directed by Nicolás Pereda

Bring Me The Head Of Tim Horton   – directed by Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson and Galen Johnson

The Forbidden Room  – directed by A Living Poster, Galen Johnson

La Giubba  – directed by Tony Romano and Corin Sworn

Stories Are Meaning-Making Machines  – directed by Annie MacDonnell and Maïder Fortuné

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'3 Days in Havana' Sparks Big Interest in the US

Blog Post by Katja De Bock for Reel West Magazine.

The rapprochement between the US and Cuba couldn't have come at a better time for the makers for the BC indie feature
3 Days in Havana.

Filmed in 2011 and 2012 in Vancouver and Havana, Cuba, the comedic thriller premiered at the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) in 2013 and was theatrically released in Canada in 2014 and in the US in early 2015. 

The film has been available for rent on since its launch last April and the US distributor Synergetic placed it on 140 US online platforms. 

"Our little film 3 Days in Havana really got a great push from the [US] president's office. We really owe him a thank you," says Tony Pantages, who directed the film with star Gil Bellows (Ascension, Ally McBeal, The Shawshank Redemption). "We have a film about Cuba coming out when the United States is suddenly very interested in Cuba," he says, adding that 3 Days in Havana comes up in searches when people are looking for Havana. 

Pantages and Bellows met 26 years ago on the set of The First Season in Tofino, a film about fishermen killing themselves. It was the last film that Pantages acted in and the first one for Bellows. They became best friends and had been wanting to produce a film together ever since. In 2010, they sat down to write the story of 3 Days in Havana, which deals with Jack Petty (Gil Bellows), who gets more than he bargained for when he travels to Havana on business and gets caught up in an assassination conspiracy with his new friend Harry Smith (Greg Wise).

"3 Days in Havana was born out of the sheer need to make a film at a time when it's nearly impossible to make [indie] films. We just rolled up our sleeves and we put a blindfold on and we dove off the cliff. And that's basically what it takes these days to fly," says Pantages. "It only took a quarter century to do it."

Working together as direction partners after the long creative process together came instinctively, said Pantages, who says his first instinct is to work technically with the camera. Bellows was in 97 per cent of the shots and prepped the actors on set until Pantages would join the conversation.  



Pantages and Bellows cast the film themselves, with roles written for their star colleagues such as Robin Dunne, Michael Eklund, Christopher Heyerdahl, John Cassini, Rya Kihlstedt and Phyllida Law. 

Pantages says Havana became one of the main characters of the film, with the team dancing the night away after grand long days of shooting in the city's beautiful light. 

"It was such a magical place to shoot in, you can't not be inspired there," says Pantages. "We wanted to put into the film what people from western cultures actually experience when they get there. That kind of gasp, that breathtaking thing about the weather-beaten architecture, the beauty of the people and the kindness of everyone around us."

The many trips to Cuba certainly paid off for DOP Pieter Stathis, who won a Leo Award for Best Cinematography in a Motion Picture for 3 Days in Havana in 2014. 

Pantages returned to acting after 23 years of concentrating as a commercial music video director and photographer. He'll be seen as a - you guessed it - a photographer in Rachel Talalay's upcoming CBC film about the Robert Pickton case and another photographer in an episode of Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce.

Read more about the making of 3 Days in Havana in Tony Pantages' production diary - written for Reel West in 2013, it somehow never made it to publication until now.

By Katja De Bock for Reel West Magazine

Photos: Facebook


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Short Film Makes A Big Impact

Words to Remember movie Poster

Recently screening at the Italian Contemporary Film Festival, Words to Remember was shot in four different languages in over twenty locations in and around the Greater Toronto Area. This is director Pasquale Marco Veltri’s fifth short film and it’s receiving international attention.   

It won the Chris Statuette for Narrative Film last year, which is the highest honour from the Columbus International Film and Video Festival. As the longest running film festival in the United States, it has sometimes been considered a festival that forecasted potential Academy Award winners.

As a work that seeks to strike a universal emotional chord, Veltri taps into our feelings of regret. He points out, “We’re all hard-wired to focus on our careers and we forget that life is about caring for the ones we love and it’s important to continually reinforce the emotional bonds we have with one another.”

His work is “a visual poem” inspired by a period in his life where he reflected and wished to change things in the present, so that he wouldn’t have to deal with regret when his life came to an end. “How important is your anger and your own opinions in the grand scheme of things?” he asks, “How you treat others is more important than how many times you were proven right.”

Words to Remember pushes the boundaries of narrative film by interweaving the pearls of wisdom each character relates into verses of insights, appreciation and regrets about the human condition. Where most films seek to give us an escape from our own life, director Pasquale Veltri chooses a documentary-style approach.  His characters seem like real people, realizing what the truly important things in life are - thereby making us confront our own inner beliefs and desires.

As Veltri is also the writer of this piece, he relays his characters’ messages in their individual native tongues: Hindi, Gujarati, English and French – further adding to the documentary feel. “My community is reflected in my films,” he explains, “you can walk down the street of any major city in Canada and by the time you have travelled 3 blocks you have probably heard 3 to 4 different languages. I wanted to represent the backgrounds and cultures I grew up in and the only way to do that was to have several different languages in the film.”

Pasquale Marco Veltri’s vision as an independent filmmaker is to cross the boundaries of culture and language.  He remarks, “my films have covered a variety of topics including paranoia, memory, self-doubt and regret. Every artist has an obsession that drives them and pushes them forward and I’ve always been driven to try to understand why we do what we do and what makes us who we are.”

Having had the success of screening his short films here in Canada, the USA, Britain, France, Italy and Egypt - Veltri is branching out to work on his first feature film, Drowning, which we look forward to seeing. He is one of those artists, through the lens of their work that is always reminding us to take a good look at ourselves. Hopefully, we can all take away some “Words to Remember” from this latest inspiration. 

Posted in Blog


Canada Screens Has Arrived! Bringing Canadian Film to the World!

#CanadaScreens Launches! @CanadaScreens

Our Stories, Told to the World:
First Weekend Club Launches First-Ever Video-on-Demand Service Dedicated Exclusively to Canadian Films!

Curators include Tatiana Maslany, Sarah Polley, Jason Priestley, Paul Gross, Atom Egoyan, Guy Maddin, Don McKellar, Zoie Palmer, Robert Lantos, Michael Dowse & Sarah Gadon!

Great Canadian films should be available anywhere in Canada, anytime.  Don't you agree?

That’s why today, after 12 years of supporting theatrical releases for Canadian films, in partnership with the National Film Board of Canada (NFB), First Weekend Club (FWC) is set to launch -A unique curated, boutique Video-on-Demand streaming service dedicated exclusively to the best of homegrown cinema.  

Curated by top filmmakers and stars, Canada Screens is launching with a selection of hand-picked titles such as A Dangerous Mind, Barney’s Version, Goon, Starbuck, Maps to the Stars, The F Word, Sharkwater, Fubar, Monsieur Lazhar, The Sweet Hereafter, Incendies, The Whistleblower, and Keyhole, amongst others.

 The new platform will give a home for great Canadian films to be discovered, regardless of budget, or genre.
Unlike other platforms, Canada Screens is not just about viewing films. It also aims to foster audience engagement and interaction through online Q&As, social media engagement, sharing and celebrating Canadian Film, and exclusive complementary content such as interviews with talent and behind-the-scenes footage.

By renting or purchasing titles directly from Canada Screens, audiences will not only be supporting Canadian filmmakers, but also First Weekend Club’s mission to promote Canadian cinema across the country.
Visit to Discover the Best of Canadian Cinema -- On Demand.

We live in a country with stories and voices from places as vastly different as Iqaluit, Regina, Montreal, St. John's, Vancouver. Such a dense and varied history. That's what's so captivating and important about Canada and Canadian cinema. I learn something new about "us" every time out."
-Tatiana Maslany ( curator)

"Film is central to the cultural fabric that informs us of each other, challenges us, makes us laugh our heads off, and most importantly unites us as a nation.”  
-Paul Gross ( curator)

"Canada is a nation made up all types of people who have countless stories to tell and Canadian film is reflective of that... That's why it is important.”  

-Jason Priestley (curator)


FOLLOW #CanadaScreens on Twitter/ Instagram @CanadaScreens
LIKE US ON :  and INVITE your friends to LIKE too!

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FWC GIVEAWAY: Tickets To Crazy8s Gala and Afterparty Feb 28th in Vancouver

"Crazy8s is truly the single best way in BC to launch your career."
-Zach Lipovsky, Crazy8s alumni, whose film “Crazy Late” helped him secure a spot on the
Steven Spielberg show "On The Lot", where he placed in the top 5.

        First Weekend Club Wants to Send You & Guest
to Crazy 8s Film Gala and After Party in Vancouver Feb 28th!


"LIKE" First Weekend Club and Crazy 8s Films on Facebook
Also like and Comment on the Crazy 8s image posted to our Facebook. 
*Sharing is caring too!

Follow @1stWeekendClub and @Crazy8sFilm then tweet the following:
"#Vancouver @1stWeekendClub wants to send you to @Crazy8sFilm gala Feb 28th! #Crazy8sFilms15


Email us your full name, email address and contact phone # to
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
*Must include Subject line "Crazy8s Film Contest Vancouver"

Crazy 8s 2015 Gala and After Party Details

Saturday, February 28, 2015
Time: 7:00pm (Doors at 6:00pm)
Location: THE CENTRE, 777 Homer St, Vancouver, BC

Dress to impress and come witness the premiere of the six 2015 Crazy8s short films -- made in just eight days from Feb 13 to 20. Preceding the premiere screenings of our films, we will show our latest Behind-the-scenes film, sure to become a legend in its own right.

This year's Gala is hosted by Diana Bang (from The Interview and Assaulted Fish comedy troupe) and Nelson Wong (from American Mary and Assaulted Fish comedy troupe).

Invite your friends to our event on Facebook:

This year's Crazy8s Afterparty will be at SCIENCE WORLD.

Time: 9:00pm - 2:00am
Location: 1455 Quebec St, Vancouver, BC 


This year, our legendary Afterparty returns once again to the spacious environs of Science World, with more than enough room to accommodate our growing number of attendees.

After entering on a red carpet photo wall, guests will dance to DJ Static of WEFUNK Radio, rock out to Colleen Rennison and the band No Sinner and party down to DJ Emilita.

There's also plenty of chill-out space to socialize with both local film industry veterans and up-and-comers.

As a bonus for being at Science World, party-goers will have full access to the fascinating and fun interactive displays.

There will also be multiple cash bars with a wide selection of drinks, as well as food catered by Sugar Mountain Catering.

An evening not to be missed!

About Crazy8s

Crazy8s is an 8 day film-making challenge that provides funding and support to emerging filmmakers to help them produce a short film. 

Crazy8s is run by the Crazy8s Film Society, a not-for-profit society.  It was created to foster support for emerging filmmakers who have little or no access to funding for short films. 


Aspiring filmmakers are invited to present their short film idea in a 5-minute video. Every year over one hundred teams apply.

40 semi-finalists are chosen to pitch in person to a jury of industry professionals.

12 finalists workshop their script with a professional story editor.

6 winners receive $1,000 and a production package provided by sponsors in the local production community with everything they need to make their short film in just 8 days.

Finished films are screened at a gala event to the who's who of the Vancouver film industry.

It's fast! It's fun! It's Crazy!

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Canadian Screen Week Ticket Giveaway

Are you ready to celebrate Canadian film, television and digital media? It's time to get excited for Canadian Screen Week taking place February 23 to March 1 in Toronto. There will be panels, free screenings, opportunities to meet stars, and much more!

Guess what? We want you to be part of it! You could win a pair of tickets to an exclusive 'Invite Only' event during Canadian Screen Week!

On Friday February 27th, join acclaimed director, host Patricia Rozema and director Barry Avrich who will introduce the World Premiere screening of the documentary, WOMEN WHO ACT at 7 pm at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.  

In the film, Rozema sits down for intimate interviews with iconic Canadian actors Andrea Martin, Tatiana Maslany, Sandra Oh, and Ellen Page.

Plus, you'll be invited to the post-screening reception where you can mingle with Rozema and other Canadian talent and film lovers.

To enter, send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with "Canadian Screen Awards" in the subject line and tell us who your favourite nominee is for this year's Awards. The full list of nominees is available here.

Good luck!

Don't miss the 2-hour live Canadian Screen Awards Broadcast Gala on CBC on Sunday, March 1 - hosted by Andrea Martin.

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Richie Mehta on 'Siddharth'

It was a chance meeting that set off Canadian filmmaker Richie Mehta on a journey to make Siddharth, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival this month. 

While visiting New Delhi, Mehta encountered a rickshaw driver who was searching for his lost son. The driver was illiterate, couldn't take time off from work because he needed to support the rest of his family, and didn't even have a photograph of his own child. All he could do was drive the rickshaw and ask other people for help. His one clue was that many missing children end up in a place called Dongri. Where that happens to be, however, remained a mystery for the man.

Not having a cell phone of his own, the rickshaw driver provided Mehta with a number for his neighbour, should he have any information. It took Mehta all of five seconds to find the location via a Google search on his iPhone, but when he tried calling, the number was disconnected.

"It was just so messed up that I don't even know how to wrap my head around it," recalls Mehta. "That has haunted me for a long time, for many different reasons."

Film became Mehta's canvas for the story he wanted to tell. Siddharth follows Mahendra (Rajesh Tailang), a chain-wallah who fixes zippers on the streets of New Delhi. He sends his son to work in a trolley factory in another province to help support their family, but when he fails to return home, the distraught father begins to search for him, scolded by police and warned that a kidnapped child becomes virtually untraceable after two days.

Mehta was determined not to make a melodramatic story about child trafficking. This was to be a story about a man who is living in a radically different world with very limited access to information, and about how powerless he is within that world.  

As technology grows exponentially, it has created a deep divide between the wealthy and the people living below poverty line, argues Mehta. "I think that gulf is much bigger because of access to certain things."

What fascinated Mehta was the idea that those of us living in an industrialized country are like gods, in a sense, given our easy access to information.

"What really bothered me about this whole situation was exactly that access to information and understanding of the world [that we have], and the fact that [the father] didn't even know the right questions to ask people. That's what I wanted to do a story about. Somebody who has limitations that do not apply to you and me, and yet he has to come up with some sort of coping mechanism to deal with it. Which means that he may be more resilient than you and I. Because he has no other choice. Because he starts to recognize that whatever force took his kid, it is a world that he doesn't understand."

Mehta began to sketch out how this father would even begin to find his son in such a world, detail by detail.

At first, reluctant to admit that anything is wrong, the truth eventually dawns on him. Unsure of what to do next, his wife urges him to file a police report. But there’s little the police can do without even so much as a photo of the boy. So he takes matters into his own hands, borrowing money from his friends and traveling to the factory where his son was last they spoke. He questions the owner – who claims that the boy just ran away.

He clings to the only clue he has – that his son might be in Dongri. But he has so much working against him. He is running out of time and money. He can’t afford to take time off work because he needs to support his family. Perhaps more importantly, he lacks the technology to connect him to the information he needs such as where Dongri might be and organizations that help find missing children – information that’s at our fingertips. So he seeks that information within his community, but they are an unreliable resource as they are just as disconnected as he is.

"It is a very different world, with a different etiquette," explains Mehta.

He had tried to capture those differences by paying attention to little details. For example, in those communities, even those who own a cell phone, aren’t constantly plugged in. They top-up the minutes prior to making each call, which makes them inaccessible the rest of the time.

It’s as if they exist in their village only, cut off from the rest of the world – and even the rest of India. 

Mehta wanted to really capture the types of personalities that surround Mahendra, often casting actors who were themselves intimately familiar with that community. 

Tailang even learned how to fix zippers, spending a few days working alongside local chain-wallahs.

"The idea was that if someone is playing a cop or a fruit stand owner, they know those types people so well that they wouldn't need any research, they know the attitude so well already," explains Mehta, "I didn't have to write it, I knew that they would bring it." 

Mehta, who was born in Canada, first visited India as a teenager. "I had such an issue coming to terms with the fact that we were the elites of the world and not knowing that beforehand," he recalls, "Thinking that middle class upbringing is a normal thing and then realizing it's not -- it's not normal at all."

But Mehta insists that it’s not just a matter of putting money into social and civic services, it's actually a way of looking at the world that's very different: "It's a fundamental education, from day one, that changes your outlook on [the world]."

Beyond his connection to the culture and language, what draws Mehta to telling stories about India is that "it feels like it's a different planet from over here."

For him, it is all about fostering a stronger sense of community around the world. "I have access to a culture that which is so far away from here," he admits. Mehta believes that by finding parallels between two very different places like India and Canada, on a basic level, it can foster an understanding about people in general as well as that sense of universal unity.

"[E]ven though at the beginning of the film you start out thinking that you're different, we still arrive at a similar place," a place where we are better able to understand the world that the characters live in and their way of thinking, argues Mehta. "We're on the same wavelength now. To me that's very important."

So far, Mehta says that the response to the film has been around the content, rather than the style of filmmaking: "Which is really great because that is exactly why we made it. I didn't do it to show off, I did it to get something across and pose some ideas and challenge some notions and it seems to be completely landing that way."


Posted in Blog


FWC Celebrates Canadian Cinema at Palm Springs PSIFF15!

See the Photo Gallery from PSIFF15 HERE! was excited to attend the annual celebration of Canadian Cinema at Palm Springs International Film Festival, #PSIFF15!
Our FWC host/ producer, Alexandra Staseson attended the festival, along with Telefilm Canada and great Canadian filmmakers representing NINE Canadian Films which were honoured at the esteemed festival this year! Several Canadian talents were honoured at the Festival, including directors Xavier Dolan (Mommy), Sturla Gunnarsson (Monsoon) and Maxime Giroux (Félix et Meira). MOMMY actress, ANNE DORVAL received the FIPRESCI AWARD for BEST ACTRESS OF THE YEAR in a Foreign Language Film! The U.S. feature film BOYCHOIR, by Canadian director François Girard, was the closing night film at the Festival this year!

The NINE Canadian Films honoured at the festival, and screening to SOLD-OUT film-loving audiences, were

BACKCOUNTRY by Adam MacDonald,
FELIX et MEIRA by Maxime Giroux,
HENRI HENRI by Martin Talbot
IN HER PLACE by Albert Shin,
MOMMY by Xavier Dolan,
MONSOON by Sturla Gunnarsson,
LE REGNE DE LA BEAUTE (An Eye for Beauty) by Denys Arcand,
SOME KIND OF LOVE by Thomas Burstyn 
TU DORS NICOLE by Stéphane Lafleur.

Telefilm Canada celebrates tbe activity at PSIFF, as Palm Springs is one of the marquee events of the film-festival season and generates significant buzz owing to the fact that its line-up includes several contenders for the Golden Globes and Oscars, two events that take place not long after the Palm Springs Festival. The Festival is very well attended, welcoming more than 135,000 festival-goers every year.

“With Canadian films enjoying a high profile at the Palm Springs International Film Festival so early in the new year, 2015 certainly bodes well for Canadian cinema,” said Carolle Brabant, Executive Director of Telefilm Canada. “We are proud to support Canadian talent at the Festival, an event recognized for producing major promotional spinoffs in the United States.”
Added Helen du Toit, PSIFF Artistic Director: “Canadians constitute 0.5% of the world's population, but at the Palm Springs International Film Festival they make up 7 to 10% of our audience! So it is only fitting that we show a disproportionately high number of Canadian films. And with Canada's international wunderkind leading the charge to awards season, this is gearing up to be a very exciting year.”

There are close ties between Canada and the Palm Springs International Film Festival 
It’s worth noting that, in addition to the strong Canadian contingent at the Palm Springs International Film Festival each year, PSIFF Director Darryl Macdonald and Artistic Director Helen du Toit are both Canadian.

January 4th was an exciting day of specials events for Canada including, “Canada, A World of Talent,”  
Canadian cinema was particularly in the spotlight on January 4, as the day’s screenings of Canadian films included a special showing of Xavier Dolan’s Mommy, Canada’s selection for the 2015 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar; and in support of the Talent Fund, a private donation fund set up by Telefilm in order to stimulate investment in the production and promotion of Canadian films. Canadian philanthropists Carol and Paul Hill hosted the event, which brought together business persons and Canadian and international creative talents. Carol Hill is a member of the Talent Fund’s Advisory Committee.

About Telefilm Canada 
Telefilm is dedicated to the cultural, commercial and industrial success of Canada’s audiovisual industry. Through its various funding and promotion programs, Telefilm supports dynamic companies and creative talent here at home and around the world. Telefilm also administers the programs of the Canada Media Fund. Visit and follow us on Twitter at and on Facebook at

FWC Congratulates all filmmakers and Canadian Film Talent at PSIFF this year!
Follow FWC on twitter @1stWeekendClub for continuous news and coverage of Canadian Film and on

~Alexandra Staseson (@MoveThrough)
Host/ Producer/ Social Media Manager

Posted in Blog


Whistler Film Festival Spotlights Variety's 10 Screenwriters to Watch

Being an actor turned writer can have its privileges, as Chris Sparling, one of Variety's 10 Screenwriters to Watch can attest to.  "I knew at the very least which lines I'd hate to say," said Sparling, speaking with Variety VP & Exec Editor Steven Gaydos at the Whistler Film Festival presentation on Dec 6. 

Audiences got to glean insight about the art, craft, and business of screenwriting from the six writers in attendance - whose highly-anticipated projects have attracted some of the top A-listers around.

This year's Screenwriters to Watch included Ben Schwartz (Major!), writing duo Chris Bowman & Hubbel Palmer (Loomis Fargo), Chris Sparling (The Sea of Trees), Graham Moore (The Imitation Game), Matt Charman (co-writer of Suite Francaise), Melissa Stack (The Other Woman), Michael Starrbury (The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete), Phyllis Nagy (Carol), and Suha Arraf (Villa Touma).

Bowman and Palmer have a special advantage when it comes to avoiding writerly procrastination, they keep each other accountable -- and competitive. However, they caution, pick your collaborators carefully.  "Every note [Chris] gave me didn't feel like a compromise," says Palmer.

Melissa Stack also recalled the collaborative nature working on 'The Other Woman,' where she spent most days on set. "They had amazing chemistry and were very generous and kind to each other," she said, "The more they played together the better it got." Stack also revealed the true 'troublemaker' on set, "Leslie [Mann] stirred the pot."

Phyllis Nagy, a long time playwright, had resisted jumping into the screenwriting fray for a long time, turning down projects, insisting on also directing. That tactic seemed to have paid off. Her first pic, 'Mrs. Harris' earned her two Emmy nominations.

Sparling doesn't see writing and directing as mutually exclusive either. "You see the movie in your head," he insists, so you're already directing it in a sense.

Meanwhile Nagy's next project is a screen adaption of her late friend Patricia Highsmith's "Carol," out in 2015. She says that while working on this film she had become more aware of a shifting trend with financing becoming more global than before. 

Variety's 10 Screenwriters to Watch are presented for the third year at the Whistler Film Festival.

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Spotlight on: The Whistler Film Festival

When it rains, it snows – at least in Whistler. This year, the Whistler Film Festival will showcase 41 features.

Canadian selections include TIFF favorites including winner for Best Canadian Feature Film, Felix and Meira, and stylish sci-fi musical Bang Bang Baby, which took the Best Canadian First Feature Award. There’s also Sean Garrity’s After the Ball, a fairy tale retelling of the Cinderella story set in the world of fashion design, Cameron Labine’s comedic/dramatic tale of survival in the harsh Rocky Mountain winter, Mountain Men, Deanne Foley’s Relative Happiness about an overweight but feisty bed and breakfast operator in Nova Scotia, and Sophie Deraspe’s Wolves. All of the films will compete in the Borsos Awards.

Amongst this year’s lineup are also several potential Oscar contenders such as The Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game. The festival will also host the Canadian premiere for J.C. Chandor’s A Most Violent Year with Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain, as well as the Western Canada premieres for Still Alice starring Julianne Moore about a woman dealing with an early onset of Alzheimer’s.

Documentaries include award-winners such as The Backward Class (audience award winner at Hot Docs), Point and Shoot (best documentary at Tribeca), and ’71 (9 British Independent Film Awards nominations).  

Paul Gratton, WFF’s artistic director, attributes the festival’s ability to secure films to good relationships with distributors. “Managing the relationships with the main distributors in Canada is the key to having a good festival, without them it’s impossible, you really need their support,” he says.  

According to Gratton, aside from good word-of-mouth and filmmaker loyalty, the festival also benefits from its timing and an existing vacuum for a real market for Canadian films to be showcased and scouted by distributors.  

One film that’s hoping to draw some attention is The Cocksure Lads Movie (one of the pitches vying for investors on “Dragon’s Den”), about a UK band that breaks up ten minutes into their North American tour. The pic is written and directed by musician Murray Foster (Moxy Früvous) who says that beyond taking advantage of the “hot-tubbing” and networking opportunities, he chose the festival because “they’ve got a great indie vibe and are also very supportive of Canadian films, it just seemed to make sense.”

The Industry Summit is also a big draw. Here the focus isn’t so much on the creative process but rather the nuts and bolts of film financing, distribution, and alternative platforms – all necessities for success.

The China Canada Gateway for Film® Script Competition, which returns for its third year, has also been a big draw, says Gratton, and he hopes to also generate some excitement with the newly launched India-Canada Film Forum, given Canada’s co-production treaty coming into effect.

Each year WFF also turns the spotlight on talent, with honorees to include Kim Cattrall, Dean DeBlois and Don Carmody, and Sarah Gadon, in addition to Variety’s 10 Screenwriters to Watch.

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