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Access Reelworld, the new national database strengthening diversity and inclusion in Canada’s motion picture industry

Tonya Williams is leading the mission to diversify Canada’s screen-based industries with the new database, Access Reelworld. Launched summer 2020, the database is creating access and inclusion for Black, Indigenous, Asian, South Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin American creatives and communities in the Canadian entertainment industry.

With the intention to correct the lack of representation of people of colour in the film and television industry, Tonya wants to open up these spaces to create and strengthen opportunities for racially diverse creatives both in front and behind the camera.

 

Courtesy of Access Reelworld

 

“Since founding Reelworld in 2000 it has been my desire to have a national database. You have to know where the talent is to be able to hire them. I created Access Reelworld as the platform for Black, Indigenous, People of Colour creatives to be in one place where not only can the Canadian industry find them, but the USA and International productions can find and hire our great diverse talent. We have many co-production treaties and many of those countries are struggling with their own diversity issues.  Canada and Access Reelworld can be the shining example of how other countries can improve their diversity hires.  I say to all our Canadian racially diverse talent, it’s up to you now.  The ball is in your court.  You have to sign up so that the industry can find you!”

Tonya Williams

 

 

In a matter of a few weeks, the database has already been populated with over 500 names of people of colour working in departments like costume design, cinematography, and animation, where current and upcoming productions can reach out to fill roles on their teams.

Tonya is no stranger to driving social change in the industry. This year marks the 20th year of Reelworld Film Festival and Reelscreen Institute, incubators and champions of diverse filmmakers. Access Reelworld is rather an antidote to the lack of diversity and representation Tonya found in the industry. With optimism, Tonya believes the changing narrative for Canadian Black, Indigenous and people of colour can catalyze change in how the Canadian motion picture industry operates.

Access Reelworld is owned by Reelworld Film Festival and Reelworld Foundation also known as Reelworld Screen Institute. To find out more visit www.reelworld.ca

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Whister Film Festival Announces Finalists for Producers Lab

The Whistler Film Festival (WFF) has selected six Canadian producers, with five hailing from British Columbia, to participate in its seven-month, multi-phased Producers Lab. Designed to prepare Canadian producers to develop, pitch, market, and sell their creative content, the Lab is focused on strengthening original scripted feature projects.

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The six producers and projects selected for the 2020 WFF Producers Lab are:

Alex Duong (BC) with BREAKING BREAD
Sibel Guvenc (ON) with LOYA
Camille Hollett-French (BC) with MAN IN PIECES
Kate Kroll (BC) with RED WINGS
Todd McCauley (BC) with THE MEDICINE LINE
Krista Rand (BC) with RE:UNITING

Phase I will take place online throughout June and will be followed by a five-month mentorship program. Participants who complete Phase I will be invited to participate in Phase II, a business immersion experience leading up to and during the Whistler Film Festival and Content Summit from December 2 to 6, 2020.

WFF Producers Lab faculty consists of accomplished experts with extensive production experience and comprehensive knowledge of the entertainment industry. The returning program facilitator is John Galway (ON), President, Harold Greenberg Fund. The Producers Lab faculty includes Producers Lab alumna Lauren Grant (ON), Producer, Clique Pictures (RIOT GIRLS); Jason James (BC), Producer/Director, Resonance Films Inc. (ENTANGLEMENT); and Damon D’Oliveira (ON), Producer/Founder, Conquering Lion Pictures Inc. (BOOK OF NEGROES).

The WFF Producers Lab is presented by Netflix in association with Telefilm Canada, and sponsored by Creative BC and the Canadian Media Producers Association.

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Motion Picture Industry’s PPE Drive Delivers

Location Managers, MPPIA, DGC BC and IATSE 891 Support Province’s Call for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

B.C.’s motion picture industry is staying home and staying safe in observance of measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 in B.C.

However, their coordination, resourcefulness and community-mindedness are being redirected in support of pandemic relief and provincial collaboration. To serve government authorities’ need for more PPE to keep B.C.’s frontline healthcare workers safe, many companies, productions and individuals in the province’s film industry are rallying to round up materials and donations, ensuring they serve the COVID-19 Supply Hub directly and efficiently.

Coordinated by Location Managers Ken Brooker and Mary Jo Beirnes (who works on The Magicians), along with their teams with support from the DGC BC, IATSE 891, MPPIA, Whites LES, and Creative BC.

Results of the drive include over $57,000 worth of PPE donations, all of which were identified by local film industry productions, suppliers, and individuals for diversion in support of the provincial effort.

The Province of BC indicates that priority products for support of the COVID-19 response are medical in nature. View them on the COVID-19 Supply Hub.

Here’s the list of priority products that B.C.’s film industry delivered in support of the Province’s COVID-19 response:

23,790 nitrile gloves  |  6,635  shoe-covers  |  2,515 N95 masks  |  1,903 isolation gowns  |  890 dust masks  |  700 surgical masks  |  612 full-body paint suits  |  407 safety-glasses/goggles  |  51 half-mask respirators  |  40 Surgical caps  | 36 Litres Hand-Sanitizer   |  25 Surgical drapes  |  12 full face-shields

If you can donate or supply products from the list below you are invited to submit an offer through the Province’s webform.

Hollywood is watching its friends in British Columbia as both Deadline and the Hollywood Reporter covered the story.

Marie Clements captures the beauty of the land and people in Red Snow

 

Red Snow follows Dylan, a Gwich’in soldier from the Canadian Arctic, caught in an ambush in Afghanistan. His capture and interrogation by a Taliban Commander releases a cache of memories connected to the love and death of his Inuit cousin, Asana, and binds him closer to a Pashtun family as they escape across treacherous landscapes and through a blizzard that becomes their key to survival.

 


Marie Clements, Red Snow

 

The British Columbia film written and directed by Galiano Island filmmaker Marie Clements has gained acclaim since its debut at Vancouver International Film Festival in 2019. The award-winning feature opens this Friday, March 13th in Calgary, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver.

 

Tell us a little about yourself and your work.
I am Métis/Dene filmmaker with an independent media production company, Marie Clements Media, specializing in the development, creation and production of innovative works that ignite an Indigenous and intercultural reality.


What were the early days of your career like
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I originally started out as an actor, then writer and producer, and director in theatre and then formed a theatre company to produce works I was committed to bringing to stage. In some ways this has mirrored my transition to documentary, film and television, creating and producing works through my company MCM. Starting in theatre gave me an incredible appreciation for every single part of creation and a kind of single-minded discipline that was crucial to not only survive my own artistic goals but the many challenges that was put in front of me in doing so.

How did you get to where you are now?
We make decisions along the way that will determine the how of it, and ultimately what we want and need to create. There’s a time when these decisions aren’t conscious really but as you evolve in the doing, you begin to understand that your work defines you, and that you define it. I think there is a great responsibility to this but also a clarity that is freeing.

 


Marie Clements

What inspires you as a creator? What are your influences?
I have been impacted by artists that have gone before me, but James Baldwin helped me hang on. He gave witness to his time. His voice was undeniably unique yet inclusive, his perceptions razor-sharp and his humanity unapologetically massive. I found these attributes talked to me when I was younger and that it inspired me to use who I am at this time in history, my family’s history, this country’s history and our present realities as a resource in breaking a story that speaks to me. I am like so many filmmakers in the sense I am propelled into story by the influences of other artists, activists, musicians, current events and untold stories rising. Story is everywhere.


What advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry?
Know what your job is. Know how to start and also finish. Take responsibility when you should and don’t pass the buck.

Align yourself with like-minded and passionate people that hold integrity in the same ways you do. Beware of the posers. Rejection is part of the business. You are one “no” away from yes. Work hard. Be persistent. Lean into it. Take the risk of being extraordinary.


What accomplishments are you most proud of?
Red Snow took nine years to get to the screen, so I am grateful and proud to have it realized with the artists I worked with. I think there is an accomplishment in committing to stories you can’t not tell. This doesn’t always make it easy, but it makes it incredibly worth it on so many levels.

 


Red Snow

Tell us about RED SNOW and your process or influence in the creation of the film?
Dylan, a Gwich’in soldier from the Canadian Arctic, is caught in an ambush in Kandahar, Afghanistan. His capture and interrogation from a Taliban Commander releases a cache of memories connected to the love and death of his Inuit cousin, Asana, and binds him closer to a Pashtun family as they escape across treacherous landscapes and through a blizzard that becomes their key to survival. Filmed on location in Canada’s Northwest Territories and the desert interior region of British Columbia (the Ashcroft Band Lands, Cache Creek and Kamloops). Over a rigorous 20-day production schedule, the Red Snow team worked in temperatures as high as +38 degrees and as low as -40 to capture the beauty of the land and people. Red Snow was filmed in four languages – Gwich’in, Inuvialuktun, Pashto and English.

 

What’s next for Marie?
I am currently working on a slate of projects with my company MCM including Bones of Crows, a mini-series and Tombs, a feature drama.  

 


Red Snow

Heather Perluzzo frees herself through filmmaking

Heather Perluzzo is a film director originally from Montreal, Quebec. Her desire to tell female-driven narratives and reimagine traumatic life experiences through sci-fi brought her to Vancouver Film School in 2017. Since then, she has directed multiple short films, including Girl in the Galactic Sun, which received Best Sci-Fi Short from Women in Horror and was an official selection at Whistler Film Festival.

Late last year, Heather was awarded the MPPIA Short Film Award, presented by Whistler Film Festival and Creative BC in partnership to assist emerging talent to develop their career. Heather is now currently working on the short, Wildflower, which follows a woman who creates an AI version of herself to escape an abusive relationship.

Heather is an advocate for balanced gender representation on and off the screen and prides herself on reinventing her struggles as a woman into strange yet meaningful films.

 


Tell us about yourself and your work

I am a female-forward director and writer from Montreal, though I have moved around quite a bit. I was bullied for being weird as a kid, a true victim of the classic stereotype of pre-pubescent “mean girls”. I’ve never stopped being a weirdo though, and now surprisingly it’s been embraced here in the indie film scene. My work up to this point have been trials and errors of communicating my imagination and mashing it with a dose of personal trauma.

What were the early days of your career like? How did you get to where you are now?

Well, honestly, I still believe I’m in my early days. I have a lot of passion and as someone who has worked hard for everything in my life, I value how important these opportunities are. I don’t want to make another version of a film everyone’s already seen, I want to put myself, my true vision on the screen and I want to talk about the hard things. Even if it doesn’t turn out to be my calling card, I feel happy that I tried something different. And I think that’s why I am where I am now, by stepping out of the box and being real about it.

What inspires you as a creator?

Thus far, most of the inspirations for my films have come from personal experiences. I am rather anti-social and introverted, and most of my life I’ve kept all the bad things that have happened to me in my head. I never really figured out how to communicate and grow from them until I started filmmaking. Film has given me a way to express myself and, in some ways, “free” myself from those negative moments in my life. I’m also very influenced by music; artists like Banks, Allie X and Grimes inspire me to push boundaries and not be afraid to let my freak flag fly.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry?

Surround yourself with an environment that allows you to focus. Don’t be afraid to explore yourself and say yes to your gut, remember this is your perspective. And just put the work in, no one is going to hand you a career. That being said, you’ll do your best work when you make time getting to know yourself, so set time aside every now and then to reconnect with who you are and what you want. And on top of that, unfortunately for us introverts, networking! I know it can be hard when you’re socially awkward, but they’re good people I promise. Vancouver has a wonderful indie scene and we all want to succeed together!

 

 

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

My student film, Girl in the Galactic Sun, is one of my biggest accomplishments. I know that’s strange to say, most people want their student films to go away forever. But for the first time in my life, I was in an environment that encouraged me to be creative and in turn, I made something entirely unique, powerful and proved to myself that I’m worth something. Since film school, I’ve been a part of two Crazy 8s films and just won the MPPIA Short Film Award. I feel so humbled but also proud of myself. I never thought anyone would ever really see value in me, and this community in Vancouver has really helped me grow.

What milestones have you achieved or are you focusing on now?

After Wildflower, my sights are set on a feature. While I love short films, I know the large, gated doors will only truly open once I dive into that new territory. That is the biggest, scariest milestone ahead. I’ve also found an amazing production company, Aimer Films, that have taken me under their wing and are pushing me to better not only my career but myself. I’d always wanted to have that core film family here, and I feel that I’ve found that in them. But yeah, just keep going until I can maybe make a living off of doing what I love.

Are there any upcoming projects we should know about that we can promote for you?

Well my upcoming MPPIA short film Wildflower is something I’ve been waiting to make for a while now. It’s about a woman who creates an AI replica in her image and the two form a romantic relationship, reflecting on how romance is something we can feel for ourselves. I’ve been saying, “This is the one, the last short that I need to make before I make a feature”. And we are making it this year.  My feature, New Places to Hide, is in the script stages. So, if anyone has any advice for someone starting out in the big bad feature-length woods, I’d love to hear it.

Zena Harris, President, Green Spark Group 

“The leaders of every single industry organization I deal with feel strongly about sustainability.”

Zena Harris first learned about corporate sustainability 20 years ago while she was working for a large corporation. “I was frustrated with how things were being done, and I knew there had to be a better way.” After studying organizational psychology, she decided to pursue a master’s degree in sustainability and environmental management from Harvard University. 

In graduate school, she realized that the film industry was lagging behind when it came to sustainability, and so she started to do some research to develop some best practices. It just so happened that she moved from Boston to Vancouver, where she discovered a strong film and television industry. “It was a right-place, right-time scenario. I started to work on set, focusing on sustainable production work. I could see where the gaps were, and I made it my mission to fill those gaps and help the industry transition.”

Zena started Green Spark Group to help educate people in the film industry around sustainability. “When I talk to people about climate change, it’s so overwhelming for them. There are so many things to do, but I try and put their mind at ease. If you just think about two or three things you can do right now, that makes it more manageable. That’s how we change behaviour.”

Changing behaviour is an education process. Most recently, Zena’s been trying to shift people’s ideas around donating food. “For a lot of them, they get hung up on a perceived barrier. So I’m sharing stories about how other shows are donating food, and if I give them one good example, they get behind it.”

Zena believes people need to tell their stories to inspire each other about what’s possible. The Reel Green initiative focuses on bringing people together to inspire and catalyze a movement that will transform an industry. “The way our industry has been able to become an icon and shift our culture in various ways is through storytelling and inspiration. We need the data, but people need to hear it in inspiring ways.”

B.C. is known as a sustainable production centre, recognized for the resources and efforts put toward sustainability – and it has become part of the dialogue in Vancouver. Organizations like CreativeBC are stepping up to help spread the word. “Creative BC provides a space to discuss sustainability. They spend time being thoughtful about how this could best be incorporated in the industry. They are willing to get out there and talk about it, both locally and internationally.”

What is needed now is scalability when it comes to educating everyone around sustainable practices and their impact. The more we talk about this, the more people become aware. “This industry loves a challenge, and we need to challenge them to do more. We really do need to act more urgently. There’s a big crisis on our hands and we all need to act a little bit more mindfully, with more intent to reduce our impact. It’s such a creative industry that when you empower people with information and give them the tools and resources to act on their ideas, great things can happen.”

Discover more about Green Spark Group and Reel Green.

Kat Jayme, Filmmaker, Finding Big Country

You could say that Kat Jayme was destined to become a filmmaker. “I’ve had a camera pointed at me all my life. My grandfather was a director in the Philippines, and so everything was documented.”

 

Kat grew up in Vancouver, where she was the point guard for her high school basketball team.  When she got her first video camera, she started documenting her friends in their day-to-day life. Capturing moments was something she innately knew how to do, and when she graduated from high school, she naturally gravitated toward film. She studied film production at the University of British Columbia and then interned with the National Film Board for three years, learning the ropes. “That experience was invaluable,” she reflects.  

While she was at film school, she knew that she had to tell the story of her childhood heroes, The Vancouver Grizzlies. “I had a feeling that I had to make this film, so I started to do some research. Bryant ‘Big Country’ Reeves was the only player people couldn’t track down, it was like he was missing, and so I set out to find him.” 

Kat documented her journey in Finding Big Country, and she learned so much along the way. “He had become the scapegoat, the guy people blamed for how terrible The Grizzlies were. As a little girl, I loved them, even though they were terrible, and I wanted to find my long lost hero. It was the perfect recipe – you couldn’t have written a better storyline.” Yet, it wasn’t always easy. As a young, female director, Kat knows how lonely it can get, working by herself all day. Finding a group of like-minded individuals was a game-changer for her. “I’m really lucky I found my film family. We’re all female documentary makers, and we lift each other up.” 

In a genre heavily dominated by white men, Kat was often the only female in a room full of male sports reporters. They assumed she was lost, or that she didn’t belong, yet she would use that to her advantage. “I believe I got access to Bryant and his family because he wasn’t as guarded with me as he might have been with someone else. No one else had been able to do that except me.”

Kat believes her basketball training helped her become a better filmmaker. “Being a point guard is very similar to being a director. You’re a leader on the floor, the one trying to bring out the best in everyone.” She also knows that nothing great happens without a strong team. “When it comes to producing an independent film, you need all of the help you can get. Creative BC was nothing but supportive. Without their help, I wouldn’t have been able to complete this film the way I wanted. We are so lucky to have organizations like this supporting emerging filmmakers, helping to bring their dream projects come to life.”

As for Kat’s grandfather, he was able to fly to Vancouver to see her film premiere at the Vancouver International Film Festival. “That’s something I will always be grateful for, to see him there opening night. He was so proud that I was following in his footsteps and keeping the family tradition of filmmaking alive.”

Kat Jayme
Finding Big Country

Interview with Lori Lozinski, President of Violator Films

Lozinski moved to Vancouver with a project management career in the telecommunications industry, but a week after arriving, the company claimed bankruptcy. Sometimes forced change is a good thing and as she started to look for a new job in a new city, she discovered Vancouver’s booming film industry. “Growing up in Edmonton, I didn’t realize this profession existed. After some research, Lori saw how her project management skills would translate to Producing and she entered the Film Foundation program at the Vancouver Film School to learn how films were made.

Coming out of film school, Lori wanted to work for a female-run company, because in her view, women lead differently. She worked with Screen Siren Pictures where she got to help tell stories of real women. “I realized I wasn’t seeing women on screen who represented how I felt about the world, and I wanted to work with women in control of the stories they’re telling.”

She launched Violator Films in 2007 with a focus on telling character-driven stories with female-identifying creatives. “I’ve worked with male writers and directors, but I feel my real purpose lives in the specific perspective of a woman’s experience – the storytelling looks and feels different and female-identifying folks need to see real authentic representation.

 

“Leadership should be circular, not top-down.”

 


Lori admits it’s not easy being a woman in this industry. “Every woman I know has a long list of the microaggressions they’ve had to endure every day; it’s the way the patriarchal system continues to dominate. Now, I’m in a position where I can choose the filmmakers I support, the stories I put my full energy towards and how I want the sets to be run. And I have the ability to be supportive of every crew member we hire. I don’t believe in hierarchies or exclusion. Yes, structure is needed to get things done, but I like to think of it as circular rather than top-down.” Being a feminist means equality for all and it’s important for me to have a gender-balanced crew. Even though I solely focus on the narratives of women, all genders can collaborate to create powerful and beautiful stories. It’s a slow burn toward change.”

At the end of the day, Lori believes it’s real people telling their stories that will help other people. “The last film I shot here, everyone on the set was changed because of working on that movie, and they will carry that forward with them. It really is a family on set, and it’s important to respect everyone. You don’t make a movie alone. I see it as all of us as hubs in these concentric circles, spinning around one another, with the story in the middle.”

Main Image: The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open