Shannon Walsh is not only the recipient of the 2017 WIFTV Whistler Film Festival Film Market Preparation Mentorship but she was also one of eight directors chosen for the Women in the Director’s Chair (WIDC) script development and directing mentorship program, Story & Leadership. Both opportunities were in collaboration with Whistler Film Festival and included participation at the festival.
Here is what Shannon had to say…
I had no idea what to expect at the Whistler Film Festival – I’d heard it might be something of a Sundance Lab of the north, and that felt like a good description. Nestled in the snow and the beauty of the mountains, it was an absolute treat to pitch my script and meet a ton of new people along the way.
My WIFTV mentor, Robyn Wiener, and I sat down in Vancouver a few weeks before the festival and had a great lunch getting to know each other. With all that is happening in the industry right now around women, sharing stories of some of the uglier parts of the film industry, it was so good to connect and feel the importance of female mentorship. Mentorship offers support without an agenda, meant to lift us up so all of us can be better together. That kind of community-building spirit is so important to me and it was such a key component of being part of this mentorship opportunity.
After meeting up, I sent Robyn the materials for my film “Unidentified Minor”. It was really great that Robyn took the time to read the script I sent her and give me detailed feedback. I was really pleased with her enthusiasm, and it made the project feel that much more doable. She had lots of comments and insights to share around the story and the potential she saw in the project.
Day one at the Whistler Film Festival got off to a great start. The morning was filled with a WIDC roundtable and one-on-one meetings with Mehernaz Lentin from CBC, which was exciting and inspiring. After that, we met with all the other Talent Labs from the festival and had the rather nerve-wracking opportunity to pitch our work to the room! After lunch with CBC and the WIDC cohort, I returned to the Conference Centre to meet up with Robyn as soon as she arrived at registration. The centre was abuzz, and we took the opportunity to grab some photos, and to catch up.
After bags were dropped and sorted, I met up with Robyn in the evening and we had dinner, where I shared with her what I’d been doing the last few weeks as part of the WIDC “Story and Leadership” lab. We met up with a few other women in the industry there, before heading to the evening festivities at the Grill & Vine at the Westin. Robyn introduced me to a range of people at the party, and I quickly found my way through some new, and some familiar, faces. Already we were off to a good start, as the chilled out and open vibe at Whistler made it easy to mingle and meet people.
Day two started with a very early breakfast and one-on-one meetings with Lauren Davis from Telefilm in the Maury Young Arts Centre. My next meeting was cancelled, so I slid over through the mix of rain and snow to the Conference Centre for the next few hours of meetings with the WIDC script editor and acting coach. Then straight from there to the Squamish Lil’Wat Cultural Centre for the Whistler Film Fest’s “Got Talent” Luncheon, which brought together groups from all the Talent Labs happening at the festival. This was an awesome lunch; there was so much talent in the beautiful space. Robyn introduced me to a number of people at the lunch, including some of the “Stars to Watch,” like Julia Sarah Stone, and I had the chance to have a great chat with her.
Robyn and I walked back to the Maury Young Arts Centre, chatting about the film and possible connections along the way. That evening we went to the Apres Networking event at the Grill & Vine, another great opportunity to pitch the film and meet new people. I attended films in the evening and supported some of the local talent to watch on the big screen!
Day three was an early morning once again, with scheduled meetings with WIDC mentors and the Harold Greenberg fund, as well as a group lunch. Between films, watching pitches, panels, and meetings, I caught some parties, and celebrated awards given out at the Apres Networking sessions. Another day filled with great new contacts and energy about pushing the project forward.
Day four and the “Women on Top breakfast and Keynote” was a stunning way to round off the festival. Inspiring talks and again new contacts and discussions with some incredible women who are leaders in the field. I left feeling like I had renewed energy and connections. Back down on solid ground, I caught up with Robyn about the events of the last few days, and again attended panels and a number of films, soaking in all the inspiration I could.
The final day on Sunday started with early breakfast and a few hours of industry immersion meetings with WIDC, before supporting some of my own students with work in the BC Short Student work segment, and listening to the stunning panel on Screenwriting hosted by Variety. Then films, films, films! Taking in as much as I could as the day sped by!
Each day held such a range of connections, inspiration, and networking, and it will take me some serious time to process it all. I’m thankful to Robyn and to the many women who have paved the way for folks like me to come up in this industry. It was a truly transformative experience and one that I believe has sparked just the beginning of my relationship with the film industry in Vancouver! Many thanks!
Find out more about WIFTV mentorship opportunities here.