In the labyrinth-like village of Whistler, it’s not often an event comes like this. It does only come once a year, after all. This year’s was absolute fun and not because of skiing, snowboarding, or whatever anyone does in Whistler when they’re not doing stuff on the mountain. Whistler Film Festival has extended with a plethora of great films and a wide array of great events, both in teaching and networking. Aside from my interview last week, I got a chance to dwell on all the fun that happened at Whistler. I’m sure Darren will say how much fun he’s had at the festival (stay tuned) but in the meantime, here’s all the highlights of all the fun things that happened this year:
Opening Party: From what I heard, the opening movie Mary, Queen of Scots was jam-packed. It might’ve been good to watch, but sadly I didn’t get a chance to see it due to scheduling, and other more important matters. But for those who didn’t get the option to watch it much like myself, this year had an opening party for people to mingle, drink, and mingle more and drink more. And maybe eat some hors d’oeuvres (Did I spell that right?). This event took place at the strangely interesting and interestingly strange Acadian Art Museum, just right up the street from my hotel. Like I have said before, Opening parties are a great way to kick off festivals, as one gets the chance to meet connections they know or even make new connections, amongst the crazy hustle/bustle filmmakers have grown accustomed to. What was really great about this party was about an hour and a half in, people (including me) were already tearing up the dance floor, to the wicked beats of the DJ.
Screenings: Because what is a film festival without films? (I said this before, didn’t I?) But anyways, there were lots of great feature lengths this year (most of which I did not get to see due to my very congested schedule) with a wide variety of genres and playing in several locations close to each other, except for Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre, which was a fair hike away. Some of my favourite films included Girls of The Sun, which was based on a true story of the crazy wars happening all the way out in a third world country, The Great Darkened Days which took place during WWII and focused on a draft dodger named Phillipe from Montreal on the run, and In God I Trust which had many different people in a small town in Idaho converging in the same locations multiple times. All of these films were based off realistic stories, which is what truly makes a movie good. As for the more fictional side, Circle Of Steel was an interesting film which showed an Asian woman named Wendy who worked as a female engineer, looking for a boyfriend and worrying about the possibility of being laid off. One of the more edgy films was Free Solo, which detailed the crazy climbing routines of Alex Hannod, who went up the unruly rocks with barely any equipment. My palms are still sweaty from having watched it. Hugh Hefner’s After Dark: Speaking Out In America was one that really taught me about TV in the 1950s, and also showed me that Hef himself wasn’t always about half-naked women on magazines. I was the only young person at that screening, and it made me feel I was born in the wrong generation. Other personal favourites included Roma and The Fireflies Are Gone.
Signature Series: These events hosted by George Stroumboulopoulos were a special opportunity for people who got a chance to listen and speak with some of the most well respected people in the Canadian film industry. These people included Tantoo Cardinal, Giacomo Giannioti, and Robert Budreau. The best things about signature series is you learn a lot from experts on their incredible journeys. They have interesting stories and they always get awarded with a talking stick, a traditional artifact used among the Squamish and Lil’wat tribes. Because these people know how to talk! Also, the Variety 10 Screenwriters to Watch was an interesting seminar itself showing ten screenwriters who talked about how they work their craft in writing scripts. As a writer myself, I walked away with a lot of new learning material.
Shortwork Showcases: Because some people can’t always watch full length features, sometimes short simple films are better. I didn’t manage to see too many of these given my tight schedule, but I really enjoyed quite the small amount I saw in Showcase 1. The Garage really gave me some tight feelings of affection and a bit of a giggle fit, Cedar Tree of Life was a short documentary centred around First Nations, a personal favourite subject I like to see covered. The Shortwork Showdown was also interesting itself. While being in a rather small venue with a rather small screen, the films showcased were some of the best short films. The first two films in that were probably the best. The Day Don Died provided a rather interesting perspective as people pined over the loss of their best friend, with an ending that will either make you mad or laugh like crazy. Night Journey was also a good hilarious film which showcased a friendship spiralling out of control when two criminals as they go on a crazy shroom trip. I certainly do cherish the short films I got the short chances of viewing, no pun intended.
Women On Top: This part of the festival came in a marvellous two-parter starting off with a luncheon that consisted of more than just food, but also having actor Geena Davis and Madeline De Nonno speaking about gender equality. The second part of Women On Top was a productive workshop to further explain gender equality and what is happening in the Canadian film industry along with what filmmakers can do to make the future brighter and more equal for all genders. It was so informative and detailed that I have hope it’s going to make the future much better.
Filmmaker Hotspots: Like opening parties, filmmaker hotspots are a great place to network, meeting connections as well as making them. I have successfully managed to meet a plethora of individuals ranging from first-timers to long-timers. It’s really not much different from the usual networking events, taking place in a bar, and everyone talking to each other. Great times, as always. It was also a great chance to meet actual filmmakers, something I had the pleasure of doing. And it heated me up as well. Either it was a warm fuzzy feeling of being accepted or the heaters being cranked up, no wonder they’re called HOTspots. Sorry, that was uncalled for.
Music Showcases: Much like Filmmaker Hotspots, these took place at one of Whistler’s many local bars, and consisted of drinking and networking. Y’know, the stuff that us film industry types do when we’re not shooting or watching films. Or running film festivals. Or whatever. The only difference was that there was live music from bands looking to make it big into the business. Adding live music was a great touch, as it drew in a small crowd of audience to scope out their next soundtrack professionals amongst the larger crowds who discussed films they saw.
Pitch Competitions: Taking place early on Saturday morning, the first round was the power pitch which had 10 Canadian producers pitching their different projects while jurors Bill Bromiley, Todd Brown, and Tory Jennings listened intently and then asked questions shortly afterwards. All of the pitches were creative and very well made. The next round was for short films, with 5 producers pitching with slideshows consisting of slides showing pictures they had in mind for production design, themes, and inspiration in general. Jurors Angie Nolan, Zach Lipovsky, and Nimisha Mukerji watched over these pitches, and made questions and comments. After that, the audience got treated to a short film (winning pitch) called 20 minutes of life, which chronicled the tale of a perfect little ace student as she struggles through her first detention. A funny little film that shown there is always a way. These were really well done and I enjoyed the pitches. Congratulations to the winners, and I hope to see them in the near future.
Awards Ceremony: Taking place in the Maury Young Arts Centre (being the only venue big enough to hold a vast majority of people), the awards ceremony was a great chance for me to photograph some people Darren interviewed, and an amazing chance for me to sit in one of the front rows next to an actor. With an opening speech by Event Coordinator Donna Dwyer thanking the many sponsors and the strong female crew this year, the awards ceremony increasingly got better as John Ross explained why the Variety Top 10 Screenwriters got the recognition they deserved. Moving on, many awards were awarded to both feature films and short films alike. But the one film that got the most awards was the incredibly made film A Colony, which won best feature, best director, and best performance. A Colony is a coming of age which focuses on Mylia as she ventures into high school dealing with family issues as well as school struggles. However, her two friends Jacinthe and Jimmy introduce her to a whole new world. While it was a basic plot, it shows that sometimes high school can change your life in interesting ways. Also unlike films with similar subjects, this one is a bit more different. I haven’t seen too many coming of age films with a girl in them, so this is a nice new touch.
Closing Party: To close off WFF, there were two options. People could either go see the closing gala’s film Momentum Generation (which was just about surfing as far as I know) or they could hang out at Buffalo Bill’s for a night of mingling and drinking. You can probably imagine what I did that night. Yup, I went to the bar. But not before seeing one final screening, so I was fashionably late. The attendance was pretty minimal, and some folks told me the real closing party was at Dubh Linn’s Irish Pub. I don’t know where it was that night, but wherever it was, networking and drinking is a good way to wrap up WFF 2018. Here’s hoping next year is just as amazing.