VIWIFF 2018: Indigenous Perspectives

In our final series of festival suggestions, Indigenous talent takes precedence. Films made by both local and not-so-local (but still Canadian!) Indigenous filmmakers can be found throughout the Vancouver International Women in Film Festival schedule, but two blocs, in particular, are full of First Nations content—Indigenous Voices and Family and Friendship. Skillfully told and beautifully crafted, these stories are not to be missed! Here are a few choice titles that I think are especially worth making time for.

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“The Rive of Silence” Written by Petie Chalifoux

Local screenwriter Petie Chalifoux (in collaboration with director Micheal Auger—a husband-and-wife duo!) debuts her latest feature, River of Silence, at this year’s fest. Helen (Mariel Belanger) lives with her husband Nathan (Stan Isadore) in present-day Vancouver. They are forced to navigate the horror of a missing and murdered child when their daughter, Tanis, disappears en route to visit extended family. As the evidence begins to suggest a close connection between the killer and the community, an even more troubling tale emerges. Chalifoux navigates an important topic with depth and sensitivity, delving into the pain of grief amidst the unknown, and draws upon her own personal experience of a similar struggle.

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“The Roundhouse” Directed by Theresa Warbus

Theresa Warbus’ The Roundhouse (another B.C. production!) connects the social struggles of high school with one girl’s Ojibwe identity and celebrates triumph over the traps of peer pressure. Liya is caught between the social demands of her classmates and the traditions of her Ojibwe culture. She must make a tough decision about who she is and who she ultimately wants to be. Warbus’ film expertly weaves together different perspectives across a cultural divide, with the resilient Liya as our guide.

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“The Last Walk” by directors Anna Hoover, Johannes Lynge, and Jerri Thrasher (Northwest Territories, Greenland, USA)

Finally, from the Family and Friendship bloc, the distinct visions of three Indigenous filmmakers come together in The Last Walk, a stitched-together collection of three works of short fiction, all produced by the Arctic Film Circle. The films weave together both traditional and contemporary storytelling techniques, ultimately representing a new wave of Indigenous films in the Arctic—one that pays homage to history as well as empowers a generation of modern storytellers. Directors Anna Hoover, Jerri Thrasher, and Johannes Lynge all take on similar themes of familial loss, isolation, and second chances—to divergent ends.

And thus, my series of recommendations concludes with a collection of films chosen for their variety, creative merit, and cinematic skill. I hope you enjoy these films just as much as I do! Happy film-watching!

-Sarah Bakke

Rive of Silence screens during the Indigenous Voices program at 2:30 PM on Thursday, March 8th. Free event; Click here to register.

The Roundhouse screens during the High Stakes program at 3:15 Pm on Saturday, March 10th. Buy Tickets.

The Last Walk screens during the Friends & family program at 4:15 Pm on Sunday, March 11th. Buy Tickets.

The Indigenous Filmmaking Panel is a free event on Sunday, March 11th at 2:45 PM moderated by Doreen Manuel (Secwepemc/Ktunuxa First Nations) filmmaker and Coordinator/Instructor of Indigenous Independent Digital Filmmaking at Capilano University. Free event; Click here to register.

The Vancouver International Women in Film Festival runs from March 6th – 11th at the Vancity Theatres in Vancouver. Click here for the full festival schedule.

Get your tickets now

Sarah Bakke currently interns at WIFTV, where she gets to write all kinds of film-related material––a cinephile’s dream! When she’s not scribbling film notes or watching movies, Sarah can be found at The Cinematheque as a weekend theatre manager and online at SAD Magazine, in her role as web editor.

VIWIFF 2018: Symbols and Survival

In keeping with the theme of heartening stories from all corners of the globe, the Vancouver International Women in Film Festival’s bloc of films on Friday, March 9th—titled Symbols and Survival—fits the inspirational bill, and even pushes a few boundaries. Packed with seven outstanding films (six shorts and one feature) from an exceptionally diverse pool of filmmakers, Symbols and Survival offers cinematic energy and thoughtfulness in spades. Here are a few flicks, picked from the bunch, that I think you should know about.

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“Laymun” directed by Catherine Prowse

Laymun, a short film by U.K.’s Catherine Prowse, tells the beautifully animated story of a gardener working amidst the crumbling walls of a Middle Eastern city, affected by the destruction of war. Her plants, left on doorsteps and window-sills, give hope and point to the promise of growth; life can flourish even in the darkest shadows. See it and admire the skilled animation technique, warm sentiment, and humanitary resonance.

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“The World in Your Window” directed by Zoe McIntosh

Another festival treasure is Zoe McIntosh’s The World in Your Window, a stirring film from New Zealand talent. Eight-year-old Jesse lives in a twilight world of sadness and silence, squeezed into a tiny caravan with his grief-stricken father. They’re in limbo, existing more than living. The child intuitively understands that looking forward is harder than looking back; that’s where life happens. But they are stuck until an unlikely friendship unlocks the means for Jesse to liberate his father and himself. A hopeful story about a surprising act of kindness and connection, The World in Your Window is not one to miss.

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“Anissa 2002” directed by Fabienne Facco

Finally, I recommend Anissa 2002, directed by France’s Fabienne Facco. Closing out the Symbols and Survival bloc, this feature (clocking in at a lean 48 minutes) follows 16-year-old Anissa as she suddenly rebels against her parents’ wishes and runs away into the French countryside. She befriends two travelling strangers who, without understanding the consequence of their actions, help Anissa find the independence she seeks. A poignant and tender presentation of adolescent desires and the turbulence of familial expectations, Facco’s film sticks with me in a strong way.

There you have it. A perfect Friday evening spent munching on popcorn and taking in the powers of great storytelling, with these three titles nestled in amongst a collection of similar gems. Symbols and Survival showcases cinema at its best and most deliberate, highlighting filmmakers from varying paths of experience who create films of great significance. You’re welcome, in advance!

-Sarah Bakke

The Vancouver International Women in Film Festival runs from March 6th – 11th at the Vancity Theatres in Vancouver. Click here for the full festival schedule.

Get your tickets now!

Sarah Bakke currently interns at WIFTV, where she gets to write all kinds of film-related material––a cinephile’s dream! When she’s not scribbling film notes or watching movies, Sarah can be found at The Cinematheque as a weekend theatre manager and online at SAD Magazine, in her role as web editor.

VIWIFF 2018: A Trio of Girlhood Truth

What a joy it is to watch movies by Canadian directors! I don’t know about you, but I’ll watch home-grown content anytime, and this year’s Vancouver International Women in Film Festival is full of exactly that. As a favour to all you festival-goers, here are a few top Canadian picks. Consider them highly recommended!

Ingrid Veninger’s latest feature follows the success of her 2015 film, He Hated Pidgeons, and sticks with her talent for nuanced story-telling and affectionate character study. After moving from Toronto to the small, northern Ontario town where her father lives, thirteen-year-old Bea befriends rambunctious Kate, who quickly becomes the centre of Bea’s adolescent world. As both girls face the adversity of growing up, their friendship remains a source of courage and comfort against the trouble of adulthood. Strong performances and well-woven drama drive the film, as Porcupine Lake invents a story of girlhood in cabin country with sensitivity, choosing to face the scary-strangeness of young friendships and family dynamics head-on.

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Preceding Porcupine Lake, VIWIFF has programmed Alberta filmmaker Sandi Barrett’s Chokecherry, a short film that is sure to stir up feelings of nostalgia and adolescent heartache. Over the course of one summer, a young girl in the midst of childhood freedom balances on the precipice of young adulthood, and she must choose to either remain with her sisters in their world of imagination or abandon herself to the inevitability of growing up.

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Or, on a more uplifting note, be sure to check out Threads, the latest from Oscar-winner Torill Kove. This charmingly animated short has city-folk soaring above high-rise and farmland alike, pulled by strings hanging from the sky. At the end of each string are a child and an everlasting connection. Motherhood and the passage of childhood are lovingly explored in Kove’s work.

These three Canadian films feature the intricate worlds of girls as they face the truths of adulthood, and dive deep into complicated feelings of relationship—Porcupine Lake deepest of all. Add them to your list of screenings to catch, since you won’t want to miss out!

-Sarah Bakke

Chokecherry & Porcupine Lake are screening at 6:00 PM on Saturday, March 10th.

Threads screens during the Family and Friendship shorts programs at 4:15PM on Sunday, March 11th.

The Vancouver International Women in Film Festival (#VIWIFF) runs from March 6th – 11th, 2018 at the Vancity Theatres in Vancouver. Click here for the full festival schedule.

Get your tickets now!

Sarah Bakke currently interns at WIFTV, where she gets to write all kinds of film-related material––a cinephile’s dream! When she’s not scribbling film notes or watching movies, Sarah can be found at The Cinematheque as a weekend theatre manager and online at SAD Magazine, in her role as web editor.

VIWIFF 2018: Resistance and its Many Expressions

Cinema has the power and privilege to influence the way we understand the people and conflicts of the world, hopefully for the better. By turning a considerate eye towards life both near and far, filmmakers can offer what the boundaries of our own lives cannot—an open and ever-changing perspective. To meaningfully engage with the world is oftentimes to know someone else’s sorrow and, with confidence, their triumph too. This year’s Vancouver International Women in Film Festival offers an outstanding line-up of documentary films, both feature-length and short, sure to change the way we experience the struggles and successes of people across the globe. Here are a few of those titles!

VIWIFF’s program of critical and affecting films, titled Resistance, will be screening on Saturday, March 10th at 12:00 p.m. and features outstanding works from three international filmmakers followed by a panel discussion.

“Irina Patanian’s short documentary, Little Fiel, examines the civil warfare which lasted in Mozambique for sixteen years, beginning in 1977 and ending in 1992, and celebrates the resistance and hope found in the toughest of times. Artist Fiel dos Santos creates sculptures from decommissioned guns used during wartime, usurping their original purpose and turning them into expressive figures. Fiel uses these sculptures to tell meaningful stories based on childhood memories of perseverance, family, and respect through immersive stop-motion animation.”

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Second in the program is Objector, another short documentary with political resonance, directed by Molly Stuart. With articulate precision, the film tells the compelling story of Atalya who, at nineteen years of age, chooses prison over obligatory military service in the Israeli army. The film offers a window into the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine from the perspective of a young Jewish woman taking a stand against it.

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Finally, VIWIFF’s Resistance bloc ends with Tatiana Chistova’s Convictions—a sharp take on Russia’s political and social traditions. Russian men are required to serve in the military once they reach the age of eighteen. An alternative to military service is offered to conscientious objectors, but they must first prove the validity and strength of their convictions to a staunch draft board. Chistova follows four brave young men as they each make their case.

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It’s rare to find such galvanizing material, and all in one place. Don’t miss the Resistance series at this year’s festival! All three films provide a peek into the often tumultuous, always inspiring lives of foreign folks. You and I are lucky to know them in this way!

– Sarah Bakke

The Vancouver International Women in Film Festival runs from March 6th – 11th at the Vancity Theatres in Vancouver. Click here for the full festival schedule.

Get your tickets now!

Sarah Bakke currently interns at WIFTV, where she gets to write all kinds of film-related material––a cinephile’s dream! When she’s not scribbling film notes or watching movies, Sarah can be found at The Cinematheque as a weekend theatre manager and online at SAD Magazine, in her role as web editor.

Opening Night & Beyond: an Introduction to VIWIFF 2018

Cinema is multi-faceted and varied in its expression—thank goodness. If not for the compassion and insight of filmmakers from all political and cultural experience, much of the world’s creative spheres would be unknown to those outside of them. It is an honour to be able to peek into the lives of beautiful, strange, troubled, joyous, and extraordinary people; to whom we are introduced by skilled and singular filmmakers.

This year’s Vancouver International Women in Film Festival (#VIWIFF) will be an excellent opportunity to reach out and metaphorically shake the hands of people all across the globe, and revel in their remarkable presence onscreen. In fact, it will be such a gathering of great minds and personalities, it may become a bit overwhelming. And so, here are a few suggestions, in case you’re unsure of where to start.

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“Dark Blue Girl” directed by Mascha Schilinski (Germany)

Where better to begin than opening night? Mascha Schilinski’s Dark Blue Girl is slotted to break the festival ice, on March 6th. This feature film from Germany has a surrealist bend, appropriately so; seven-year-old Luca is the film’s fiery lead (it’s dark blue girl), and the turmoil of her youth takes you in often bizarre directions. When Luca’s separated parents, Jimmy and Hannah, finally find a buyer for their holiday home on the Greek volcano island of Santorini, the disjointed family returns to the place where they split up two years ago. Suddenly, the young girl faces an emotional environment now much changed, as her mother and father reignite a dormant passion. The magic and intensity of childhood provide Dark Blue Girl’s through-line, as Luca’s viewpoint reveals the strange ties that bind people together, whether they like it or not.

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“Kis” direced by Svetlana Bolycheva (Russia)

Speaking of strange ties, Kis, Svetlana Bolycheva’s short documentary, peeks into the delightfully intimate relationship between a Russian Orthodox priest and his cat. Priest Konstantin Michailov and his companion, Kis, get along as equals in a life of happy solitude, save for each others’ company. The two friends banter with one another, share meals together, and muse over the oddities of life, though only one speaks out loud. Perhaps strange is not quite the right word—remarkable should be used instead.

As a final addition to this list of must-see’s, may I suggest the festival’s program of local short films? Some gems include: Akashi, directed by Mayumi Yoshida, which examines the strength of family connections, as well as secrets: Jean Parsons & Jennifer Chiu’s Memory of the Peace, a close look at the intersecting lives of three people living with the reality of the impending Site C hydroelectric dam: Mental (Jax Smith), a fantastical interpretation of one woman’s insecurities and instabilities, as she fights to break through depression and anxiety’s formidable cycle: and Unintentional Mother, directed by Mary Galloway, which poignantly tells of a young Indigenous nanny’s struggle to decide between her responsibility to the little boy in her care and to the demands of her father.

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Clockwise from top left – Akashi (Mayumi Yoshida), Memory of the Peace (Jean Parsons and Jennifer Chiu), Mental (Jax Smith), & Unintentional Mother (Mary Galloway)

These are just a few of the many outstanding films screening at this year’s fest. Quick! Mark them down on your calendar! I’ll see you at the theatre, fellow film-lovers.

– Sarah Bakke, VIWIFF Blogger

Dark Blue Girl is screening at 7pm on Tuesday, March 6, 2018, followed by a Q&A with the filmmaker, Mascha Schilinski.

Kis is programmed with the feature-length documentary, In the Shade of the Apple Tree, at 8:30pm on Wednesday, March 7, 2018.

Mental is screening in the From Haunting to Horrific block with many other local short films at 5pm on Friday, March 9th.

Memory of the Peace is screening in the High Stakes Block at 3:15pm on Saturday, March 10, 2018

Akashi & Unintentional Mother are screening in our Family & Friendship block at 4:15pm on Sunday, March 11, 2018.

For the full festival schedule, click here.

Sarah Bakke currently interns at WIFTV, where she gets to write all kinds of film-related material––a cinephile’s dream! When she’s not scribbling film notes or watching movies, Sarah can be found at The Cinematheque as a weekend theatre manager and online at SAD Magazine, in her role as web editor.

VIWIFF Screenplay Competition Announces 2018 Official Selections

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2018 marks the fourth year for the VIWIFF International Screenplay Competition. This year we welcomed feature screenplay submissions from female writers across Canada and the U.S.A., Japan, Australia, Brazil, United Arab Emirates, Tajikistan, Hong Kong, France, Austria and the U.K. Our jury consists of professional-level story analysts and experienced screenwriters who judge the entries on a spectrum of criteria: structure, character development, dialogue, set-up and pay-off, scene composition, visual imagery, formatting and originality. Probably the most important aspect of a writer’s success in the competition is her ability to hook the reader in the first 5-10 pages. In the initial round of judging, advancement is based only on the script’s first act. Just like real-life in the industry, if a reader is hooked early on, she’s going to want to read the remainder of the script. So those first 10 pages are key.

This year we had several instances where jury members commented that they had seen the title submitted in prior years… And happily, those scripts had improved substantially! Writers who had previously not made the cut, showed their tenacity, improved their skills and their scripts – and we are happy to include them among the list of 2018 Official Selections:

Marquette Jones – After the Jump

Jocelyn Osier – If I Could I Would

Ellie Foumbi – Zenith

Jes Sugrue – A Homemade Christmas

Shannon Walsh – Unidentified Minor

Bonnie Maffei – Becoming Picasso

Jill Taylor – I Need A Hero

Sophie Naima Caird – When He Gets to Her

Sheri Davenport – Sins of the Father

Lina Roessler – The Rescuer

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Top 10 Finalists (clockwise) Marquette Jones, Jocelyn Osier, Ellie Foumbi, Jes Sugrue, Shannon Walsh, Lina Roessler, Sheri Davenport, Sophie Naima Caird, Jill Taylor, & Bonnie Maffei.

Congratulations to the top ten Official Selections for the 2018 VIWIFF International Screenplay Competition, who will receive a festival pass and an opportunity to pitch their scripts to industry professionals at the festival. The top three writers will receive additional prizes and the first place winner will be presented the Ken Hayward Award for Best Screenplay at the VIWIFF Awards Ceremony on Sunday, March 11, 2018.

Many thanks to our volunteer readers, jurors and VIWIFF Screenplay Competition Coordinator, Joan Macbeth.

The Vancouver International Women in Film Festival runs from March 6th to 11th, 2018.  Join us for a diverse selection of local and international short and feature films and stay for the parties, panel discussions, artist talks and more. Free events on International Women’s Day, March 8th. Check out this year’s schedule here.

 

 

Mariel Scammell on Frontières, Fantasia, & From Our Dark Side

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Mariel Scammell

Participating in the 2017 Frontières Co-Production Market at Fantasia this year was both an honour and an incredible opportunity. The five-day market was a whirlwind of industry panels, pitch sessions, networking cocktails, and meetings. As an emerging writer, director, and producer, I gained invaluable insight and experience into the production, financing, and distribution of feature-length genre films.

The highlight for me was participating in the first year of the Directed by Women Networking and Pitch Session. This session provided a challenging and supportive environment to present my first feature project, The Lot, a supernatural thriller developed through WIFTV’s From Our Dark Side Incubator Program. I received expert feedback on the project from industry professionals and connected with an impressive slate of producers, distributors and sales agent in a series of one-on-one meetings. At this event, I also had the opportunity to watch six other fantastic projects presented by incredible and inspiring women. As an advocate for women in genre film, participating in this event was truly inspiring.

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Mariel Scammell’s “The Lot” table for Pitching at Frontières

At Fantasia, I also had the great honour to present Undress Me, a short body-horror film I recently produced with director Amelia Moses at the Born of Woman shorts program. This screening, which featured nine female-directed genre shorts, was an amazing compliment to the Directed By Women Pitch Session.

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Amelia Moss (left) with Mariel Scammell celebrating the screening of their film “Undress Me” at the Born of Woman shorts program at Fantasia

These back to back experiences were wonderful, and express the growing commitment to broadening horizons for women creators in genre film. I was honoured to be a part of of this year’s events, and the experience I gained and the connections I made during Frontières will be invaluable as I move forward with The Lot.

 

Follow me:

www.marielscammell.com/

Twitter : @truesweetheart_

Instagram: marielscammell

If you would like to find out more information on the From Our Dark Side Genre Concept Competition, click here!

 

 

Day By Day at the Whistler Film Festival with WIFTV Whistler Film Festival Film Market Preparation Mentorship Recipient, Shannon Walsh

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.

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Shannon Walsh with her mentor Robyn Wiener (left)

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.

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Shannon Walsh (middle) with Pamela Jones (left) and Carolyn Combs (right)

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.

Shannon4Day 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.

Shannon3The 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!

Shannon Walsh

Find out more about WIFTV mentorship opportunities here.