Whistler Film Festival – Wondrous Winter Web-land

Normally, I would make a video covering the gist of the festival, but with no one going anywhere these days especially for festivals, I had to stay in my private hideout and do the festival online. The online experience isn’t as fun as the real thing because even though there’s lots of people there isn’t that personal connection you make, well… in person. But despite the way things were, Whistler Film Festival was still an interesting experience I never experienced before. Well, at least not with Whistler. Everyone is doing everything online. 

Opening Night (?) – Well, everyone knows what makes this one different, so I’ll just get into two things I did that day. To start off was View From The Top: The New Creative Economy, which plunged deep into discussion of Indigenous Screen Budget. People stated hard facts on how the system needs to change in supporting growth strategy, COVID-19 has changed a lot of things, and there are so many stories out there that need to be told. Something else I checked out was the opening to the Spark Gala and Auction. The video’s sound could’ve been better. Still, it was insightful as Shauna Hardy Mishaw dwelled deep into the incredible beginnings of the world’s coolest film festival and was hosted by Erin Cebula who, much like myself has covered the festival for years, only she’s done it longer than me. The Silent Auction items mostly consisted of Whistler Hotel stays and passes for activities. All extreme Whistler stuff, really.


Coffee Talks – A good way to discuss and hear about topics such as backstories, COVID issues, flexibility depending on a  big budget or low budget and anything about genre films. Coffee Talks have connected me with some interesting individuals and find material to do coverage on. They have also educated me very well.


Spotlight On Sugar Daddy – An interesting panel discussion on the opening film, which mainly consisted of women. These fine working ladies told the interesting details of how the story was made. Since Sugar Daddy on a young lady in the service industry, the story was based on real life situations. After all, the best stores come from real life situations. I can attest to that. The women also discussed financial challenges, how the film was made, and how each of them got involved. Some of the greatest information I heard was during this panel. I never lasted long in the service industry myself but I can understand how much of a struggle it is. This is why I always address cashiers or employees as “my good man/woman” or “sir/madam”. So I stay on their good side.


Co-Producing with Luxembourg: A Case Study – Another highly informative panel, I learned how Luxenbourg’s film fund is like Telefilm but devoted to co-productions. They support all types of products internationally, explain why story is extremely important and also bring up other factors like requirements and how their company came to be.


Women In Focus – I attended one of these panels which was entitled Tools For Overcoming Bias & Affecting Systemic Change. They really went into detail about BIPOC, how they were hard to at work to make the industry more inclusive, and getting support from broadcast partners. They really felt black people needed to tell their own stories, and I find myself agreeing with that. This was very astounding and perplexing.


WFF Apres – An interesting mid-session hosted by the interestingly named Feet Banks who interviewed John Caritsky and some of the other guys who helped make Ski Bums, the first ever film of Whistler Film Festival. He also spoke to locals from a far enough distance, teaching me stuff about Whistler culture that I never knew (because I’m always watching movies or talking to filmmakers over there). In between interviews, Whistler Duo Hair Farmers made some impressive music to give the mid-session a fantastic kind of feel, almost like there was live music involved.


Power Pitch Competition – Now things got really interesting. There were about 7 different people (1 of them I spoke to at a coffee chat) who each had 4 minutes to pitch. After that, they all got well-deserved feedback from some experienced staff members in the jury. Each and every pitch was good in my opinion but we all know there can be only one. Jaskaran Singh won for his pitch of Jersey Boy, which told a truthful tale that was very sad and sentimental. He won about $36,000 or maybe more for his pitch to get his film made. I feel he’s going to make something amazing. His story focuses on a young Sikh-American living in the aftermath of 9/11 who becomes the subject of insults and racism as he goes on. I can’t wait to see it in the future.


Behind Closed Doors: Inside The Writer’s Room – As a writer, I felt obligated to watch and listen to this so I could figure some things out. Turns out and it was about writers for TV shows talking about Zoom rooms and how those were both good and challenging at the same time. Still, they managed to adjust, they talked about how things changed over the years, why it sometimes helps to have lots of skills, and what fanbases can be like. Honestly, I’ve seen plenty of crazy fandoms over the Internet so I understand. I also understand what it’s like to adjust to Zoom as well.


Films – I’ve done a couple reviews here and there on HNMAG, but I thought I’d talk about a couple more while I could. These were some of my personal favourites. 

Indian Road Trip is about two Indians, Hank (Ajuawak Kapashesit) and his cousin Cody (Paul C. Grenier) who inspect families who drive their way to a Pow-wow. It just so happens these so called brigade boys are none other than a couple troublemakers scamming people out of money. This attracts the attention and concern of another Indian named Billy Cardinal (Nathaniel Arcand) and his nephew Junior (Nathan Alexis) working as Pow-Wow security and word about the scamming is heard throughout the community. So the two scammers relax for a while in a car yard with their friend Casper Manywords (Evan Adams) and then help him dismantle a seat from a car that he found on the highway. But just as the two are on their way out on a road trip to Wreck Beach, Billy catches them and and gives them a new task to pay off the damage they did: They have to drive an elderly lady Hetta Yellow-Fly (Dale Hunter) to meet her sister Bertha over on the reserve. They reluctantly accept and head on an unexpectedly long and awkward trip consisting of obstacles like spirits, very thick ominous fog, and freaky memories of their damaged past. Meanwhile, two men Ned (Ross Munro) and Speedo (Rob McEachren) who had lost their car come to retrieve it at the lot and it happens to be the one with the missing chair. Instantly the men go on a trip themselves to find the missing seat (which is full of money). But as the two teams go on their journeys to wherever they’re headed (as it’s not quite clear given the layout of the land), there’s no telling just where they’ll stop, what they’ll figure out, or if anyone or anything will ever be the same again. For the majority of the movie, there isn’t much going on. It’s not so much a road trip as it is a journey of self-discovery but it does take the viewer on a nice trip of a story as the plot drives you to interesting spots. Aside from the simple but impressive story, there’s a wide array of characters, some very picturesque scenery within the woodland areas, a nice use of colour grading when things get really freaky, and while there isn’t many locations, there’s still lots to see and admire as you watch. Indian Road Trip is one kind of journey you have to see to believe. Not what one expects, but in a good way.

There were a lot of short films screening at Whistler but one of my personal favourites is Richard Pierre’s film, An Uninvited Guest, which tells the story of a young black man at a white family’s dinner watching another black person get beat up by a policeman. In a manner of minutes, the officer comes after our protagonist and we are brought into a dark twisted story that gets more dark and twisted. An Uninvited Guest is a steady mixture something that still sadly goes on today with ominous soundtrack and lighting mixed with that chilling feeling you get when you’re on edge. A really well made film that’ll have people freaked out and hopefully more aware of what happens when people think the wrong thing.


The Futurists : Using Analytics and Data to stay ahead of the curve – Another interesting and informative panel that talked to me about something I use and gave me information to help me out in the long run. The panel consisted of people heavily involved in businesses who use data as much and as often as possible. They also discussed the importance that filmmakers also use data, reach out to people on social media, study trends, and understand how to study trends. After all, analytics change so often over the years, but they help out a lot in the long run. Even to those on a tight budget, social ads on minimal costs can reach an audience of consumers and communities.


Closing/Awards Ceremony –To top it all off was the closing Awards Ceremony. Hosted by Erin Cebula, she happily brought together some of the most talented film types to a part of the jury. Melanie Mark and Bob D’eith first provided an opening and showed their approval for how hard the organization worked to make WFF as an online revenue. Then head of the Board of Directors, Roger Soane spoke about how well the festival managed and how much of an impact it had on filmmakers. Then Shauna Hardy Mishaw and Angela Heck said something as well. If there’s anything I can say, there were lots of speeches to start off this ceremony. Now I’m not going to go into excessive detail on Awards, but I’ll be happy to to talk about the highest recipients and most well-recognized as well as anything we covered. Colm Feore and his film got the Canadian Icon Award, Kelly McCormack got the One to Watch award, while the film Utopia won the Sea to Sky Award, Shooting Star got the Canadian Shortwork Award, and Ashmina won the International Short Award. Then there’s the Eda Awards for best Female Narrative Feature (Small Time) and and Best Female Directed Short (Single), and afterwards Gabriel Byrne got rewarded with the Maverick Award which he felt gave him great recognition. Then along came the awards for Stars To Watch, which awarded Ali Skovbye, Elyse Levesque, both involved in The Corruption of Divine Providence, Paul Grenier and Miika Whiskeyjack of Indian Road Trip, and Melanie Rose Wilson in All in Madonna. There was also an award that followed Whistler traditions, by giving the Mountain Culture Film Award to the documentary On Falling. Tzi Ma and his film A Shot Through The Wall got the Trailblazer Award, followed by the Best World Documentary Award which was given to Crock of Gold, an interesting documentary about music and alcoholism. The Best BC Director was AW Hopkins for Indian Road Trip, Remy Girard (not Remi Gaillard) got the Career Achievement Award as well as Best Performance in the film You Will Remember Me. Now it’s time for a couple more from Borsos Film Competition. There were awards given to the co-writers of Quebexit (Best Screenplay), Sophie Dupuis of Underground (Best Director), and Little Orphans (Best Feature), which I plan to release a review on next week. There’s plenty more listed online. I won’t go into details on them today, but they are truly all well-deserved. In conclusion, WFF didn’t seem as fun without all the people around, but it was still an interesting experience even on the Internet. I enjoyed every moment I got involved in on the net this year and cannot wait for next year, where hopefully things will be sociable and we can travel once again.

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