When this year’s From Our Dark Side Genre Concept Competition winners were announced, the five recipients knew that the accelerator program included a trip to the Frontières Co-Production Market in Montreal. What they did not know is that this year they would have the amazing opportunity to pitch their projects at the first ever Directed by Women pitch sessions at Frontières.
Frontières, organized by Fantasia International Film Festival, is a co-production market that provides a launch point for both established and emerging genre auteurs to get their films made through pitching opportunities and networking events. WIFTV had the pleasure of speaking with Lindsay Peters, the Market Director at Frontières, about how this unique opportunity came about and what she sees for future.
WIFTV: How long have you been working with Frontières?
Lindsay: I have worked on Frontières since its beginning. It began in 2012 and I took over as director in 2014, so it has been for the last 3 years.
W: And this was the first year that Frontières had the Directed By Women pitch sessions?
L: We have had this really nice collaboration with Women in Film & Television Vancouver and the From Our Dark Side since its beginning, where part of the winner’s prize package was Frontières accreditation. For a while, we have been wanting to create a real official space for female-driven projects because we are still not receiving as many female directed projects in our general call as I would like to be seeing. So the idea for creating the Directed By Women sessions was to maybe provide some support for projects and filmmakers at an earlier stage than what we ask for in our main call for projects. For the Frontières Market, we ask that projects be in late development, early financing, and that they have a producer onboard and the script is more or less complete. The idea for Directed by Women came about as a half pitch session, half incubator for female filmmakers and screenwriters.
W: In the last few years, many of the funding agencies such as Telefilm and the Canadian Media Fund, having committed to gender parity through a variety of measures. Did this play a role in the development of this Directed by Women program or has it always been an initiative to get more women in? I did notice that your team is mostly women.
L: We joke about that a lot actually, we are up to three [men on our team] this year and we felt very progressive about that [laughter]. But no, it is always something that has been a real priority for us. For our main selection process, we have not overtly set out to have more diversity in our lineup. We do just try to make sure that the best projects make it in, and two years ago it just so happened that we have a lot of female-driven projects and a lot of projects from visible minorities and that was completely by chance. Which was fantastic and people really noticed and responded to it. It wasn’t really something we advertised, it was just in our opening pitch sessions where people saw this and they started tweeting about it, it was great. But I realized it was really difficult to recreate that naturally. It has always been something that has been a big priority for us and it seems like good timing this year with Telefilms 50/50 initiative.
I also think that it is so early on that we haven’t quite seen exactly how they plan to accomplish that. There is still the question of whether the original problem with the lack of female-driven projects came from them not receiving enough submissions from women or whether they were not approving enough female-driven projects. That was the thinking for an earlier stage section, to help some of these women find the partners needed to get them to the telefilm financing stage.
W: Great! You mentioned the huge response to Directed by Women, who is this response coming from?
L: The people attending and the producers. I think that they liked that there was a change in format as to how the projects were pitched. It was a little more aligned with the early stages of the projects. Directed by Women were at the treatment or early draft script stage, and pitched by the director or screenwriter, and pretty much all of our pitchers were early on in their careers.
W: Do you have a plan on how the Directed By Women will continue to grow at Frontières?
L: We would really like to have Directed by Women pitch sessions next year. It really went over so great. We had such a huge response to it. Our focus is small, I think having seven projects pitching this year was the right amount. At Frontières we aim to keep things a little bit intimate. We grow a little bit every year but we would really love to continue working with WIFTV and From Our Dark Side.
Words by Kaitlen Arundale