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Talent on Tap – Eric Bizzarri Explains the 9th Annual Future of Film Showcase

The Future of Film Showcase (FOFS) returned to Toronto once again this year on June 17-25. For the first time, the festival will introduce a full-length feature film, Quickening – directed by Haya Waseem. It will be shown on opening night followed by 2 short films, Abuela and Eve Parade. There will be Web and TV Pilot workshops, virtual coffee sessions, a casting panel sponsored by ACTRA, and much more. 

This year’s showcase includes a variety of panels and events including How To Get Funded – Presented by the Canada Media Fund. This event will be ASL Interpreted and recorded and the recording of this panel will be posted to FOFS’ digital channels with closed captioning. In addition, there are One on One Virtual Coffees Sessions presented by the DGC Ontario. These are intimate sessions that allow the participants to register for time slots with industry professionals in their areas of interest. The sessions serve to foster possible mentorships and receive valuable insight from industry veterans. Some areas of interest may include directing, producing, cinematography, art department, picture and sound editing. Mentors will have individual breakouts rooms, and registrants will sign up for one 15 min slot. There are 8 slots per mentor in total and there are no pitches. 

In The Casting Room Workshop Presented by ACTRA Toronto, there will be an opportunity for BIPOC actors to sign up for a time slot with leading casting directors, and audition for them. The actors will then receive feedback, a critique and have the ability to foster a relationship with their assigned casting directors. 

There is a Web & TV Pilot workshop, screening a collection of pilot episodes of web series, presented by the Canada Media Fund and Fae Pictures. The premiere episode of Streams Flow From a River, a new series by creator Christopher Yip and Fae Pictures is joined by Less Than Kosher, a new series by creators Shaina Silver-Baird, Michael Goldlist and Filmcoop. Joining the screening, is the popular CBC Gem series Topline, by series creator Davin Lengyel.

There is a Locations Panel, there is the Future of Equity in Film Panel and the festival is designed to answer the unknowns as well as provide initiatives and knowledge of the industry that you can’t find anywhere else. There will be a closing keynote conversation with Jim Cummings, focusing on his journey as an actor, producer, writer, director and his body of work. The talk will touch on how to pursue a career in the industry and work on inspiring young creatives to follow their passions within film.

I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to speak with the CEO and co-founder of FOFS from his office in Toronto. It was an education and an inspiring talk. Roll the tape! 

 

HNMAG “This is a unique festival in its form. I’m curious why you have the age restriction to 40 and under?”

ERIC “Yes, that is something admittingly, that we’re working on, as well as possibly removing it within the next year. Our real goal for that was to create a very specific audience and specific niche. We define emerging filmmakers as those of a younger crowd but not limited to people over 40 that are doing their Masters, they can make a film and submit it to us. Creating a very specific niche and a very specific audience is important to our foundation and in growing our foundation.”

 

HNMAG “Considering there are many film festivals out there, did you see something missing from other festivals as a catalyst for starting the Future of Film Showcase?”

ERIC “The way that FOF first started was with a group of filmmakers coming together to create a safe and accessible space on a large platform for filmmakers making a short film, to exhibit their work. We partnered with Cineplex and the ScotiaBank Theatre and we’re eventually bringing them to CBC Gem for a national audience across Canada. We also want to create a more robust industry program. It’s less about what others are doing and what we’d like to see at other festivals.”

 

HNMAG “I understand that you’re showcasing 12 short films this year, as well as a feature film, Quickening?”

ERIC “We’re screening 14 short films and this is really our largest festival in the history of the event. We open the event on June 19th with our short films program but new this year is a screening of Haya Waseem’s feature film, Quickening – which is preceded by 2 more short films. In total, there’s 16 short films and a feature.”

 

HNMAG “How many screens will you be utilizing?”

ERIC “We’ll be utilizing 2 screens as well as a third at ScotiaBank Theatre on June 19th. Our in-person days will be June 17, 19 and the 25th.”

 

HNMAG “Will this be a hybrid festival – with part of it online?”

ERIC “Yes, it will. Anyone willing to watch the films in person, can do so on June 17 and 19 but they’ll all be released online on CBC’s GEM, June 20th.”

 

HNMAG “I’ve spoken to many festival organizers and they tell me that they need to start prepping for the next festival the following day. How far in advance do you start preparing?”

ERIC “That’s a good question. When Covid hit, we pushed the festival to August. There were a few months of determining what the festival would look like. Each year, we’ve been inching our way back to May. Last year we had it in July, this year is in June, so our timeline for organizing the festival has shifted. We always take a couple weeks off after the festival because I think it’s important to regroup and for mental health. I would say that we all come back… a month and a half later and after this year’s festival, will likely start planning for next May’s festival in August.”

HNMAG “It must take an incredible team to put this festival together. How many people would we be talking about?”

ERIC “The success of this festival is a testament to the incredible team members. I might be the CEO and co-founder but there are so many people aside from me that make this work. I believe our team this year consists of 35 people, including our advisory board but not including our festival volunteers, which would bring the number up to 50 or more.”

 

HNMAG “How do you advertise the festival?”

ERIC “We have partnerships with various festivals around the city – TIFF Next Wave, the Images Festival and we co-present with those organizations, which allows us to tap into their audiences; I also do talks, I’m a director and producer and I work with a lot of emerging talent on a day-to-day basis. We’re also on social media – twitter, Instagram, Facebook and we promote through various channels. We also have a great team at Route 504 handling the press for us this year. Many of our team members are also filmmakers and are constantly making connections with other film enthusiasts and quite frankly, it’s how we find most of our team members and volunteers. Many of them are stepping into the industry and they want that exposure, which is what we can give them, through our partnerships with Telefilm, DGC Ontario and the Canada Media Fund.”       

 

HNMAG “How many submissions would you receive every year and how do you sift through them?”

ERIC “The number of submissions have been steadily increasing every year and we have a great team of programmers (5) that sift through all the films. I believe we received just over 300 submissions this year, so we’ll give each programmer 25 each to start. We’ll then have weekly meetings to discuss the films and once they’ve secured 25-30 films, we will then shrink the list and that’s when I come in to watch the films that are shortlisted.”

 

HNMAG “You have a lot of different speakers this year. What can you tell me about them?”

ERIC “They’re always different, we try to engage with diverse audiences and different personalities. This year we’re fortunate to have Lawrence Sher. He’s the cinematographer from The Joker and Black Adam, coming out later this year. We do have a few returning guests this year, which are part of our virtual coffee sessions, where filmmakers and individuals can sign up for a 15-minute slot to chat with twelve different mentors. It’s one price and for twelve dollars you can sign up for 6 mentors at 15 minutes each.”

 

HNMAG “This is the 9th year of this festival. Do you still continue to tweak it and implement new strategies/workshops/venues?”

ERIC “From 2014 – 2019 we were a 1- day festival in Toronto, then in 2020 we brought it from a 1- day festival to a 14 – day festival. Because it was such a big jump in a short time, we only had 1 industry panel. In 2021, we introduced new panels, such as the virtual coffees. We’ve really been building our film industry program a lot. This is our first year screening a feature film – it’s very new and exciting.”

 

HNMAG “What was the idea behind screening a feature film at this year’s event?”

ERIC “It’s in line with our mandate to foster the future of emerging Canadian filmmakers but it’s also about us holding ourselves accountable to what we believe the future of Canadian film looks like. We don’t want to attract audiences and filmmakers of just short films. Introducing a feature film is a great example of a filmmaker that’s gone from short films to a feature. They’ve made that big step and Haya Waseem is someone that resonates with that message. I think it’s important to bring someone in that can speak to that.”

 

HNMAG “With a small library of films, is it difficult to have multiple categories?”

ERIC “Yes, it is but what unifies our festival every year is having a cohesive theme amongst the program. With the 14 films chosen for the programming, then the other 2 shorts that precede the feature, Quickening. The opening night has its own theme and the June 19th Shorts program has its own theme. What’s important is that we’re creating original storytelling through filmmakers that bring a very dynamic and unique aesthetic consideration to their films. We’re collecting those films and bringing them into a program that offers a nice cohesion and theme for our audience.”  

 

Eric Bizzarri and company are putting in an outstanding effort to provide the best opportunities for budding filmmakers, to encourage, to foster and help develop the future of filmmaking so it remains relevant and ever evolving. FOFS is raising the bar and opening the doors to the industry. Canadian made has a new home.



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