The entertainment industry consists of talented and creative people in front of the camera, behind the camera, on stage and behind the stage. Today we go BTS (Behind The Scenes) to shine the spotlight on Suzette Laqua (Founder and Executive Director of the Vancouver WebFest).
Suzette is an true entrepreneur! In addition to running the Vancouver WebFest, she is an Executive Producer and Writer of TV Series, Digital Series and Short Films.
The Vancouver WebFest runs April 19th to 21st, 2018 – get your tickets now … and take a moment to check out the interview below with the amazing superwoman behind the scenes.
Here’s Suzette Laqua:
WHAT WAS YOUR JOURNEY TO BECOMING A FESTIVAL DIRECTOR?
I did a pilot with a friend in 2011 and when it wasn’t picked up by a Canadian network we wanted to keep it alive, so we edited back many ‘cut scenes’ and made it into a 10-episode webseries. We submitted it to a festival in Los Angeles where we were picked as an Official Selection. I attended the festival and even though we didn’t win anything I was very much taken by the idea of starting a festival in Canada. At that time in 2013, there were only 5 ‘web’ festivals in the world and none in Canada. So in 2013 Vancouver Web Fest was born. Its inaugural date was May 2014.
WHAT IS THE MOST EXCITING PART OF YOUR JOB?
I love travelling to other festivals and conferences. I’ve met so many amazing people. Some famous such as Oliver Stone, Richard Dreyfuss, Jason Priestly (who’s wife submitted and was accepted in VWF14 – Jason came to the opening night of the festival). Other people I’ve met on my journey are Kiefer Sutherland, Al Pacino, Michael Moore, Tom Skerritt, one of HGTV’s property brother’s (I didn’t want to ask which one he was ?), Rod Perth (ex-Vice President of CBS – he’s the one that got David Letterman to move networks), Henry Winkler, Dan Rather, Ben Mulroney, YouTuber Matt Santoro, Alan Thicke, whew, I feel so blessed!
WHAT TASKS ARE YOU GENERALLY WORKING ON A YEAR BEFORE THE FESTIVAL?
Wrapping up of that year’s festival with all sorts of paperwork (the fun stuff – LOL). And preparing for the next year’s festival. Laying out everything from promotions, when we’ll be opening for submissions, a new theme with our speakers, workshops, keynotes, etc. and of course announcing our next year’s date so everyone can save it in their calendar with hearts and happy faces ?
TO SOME EXTENT, SOCIAL MEDIA HAS HAD AN IMPACT ON ALL INDUSTRIES. HOW HAVE YOU USED SOCIAL MEDIA TO RAISE THE PROFILE OF THE FESTIVAL?
Absolutely. For VWF, it’s an essential piece of the puzzle. Our festival is based on digital storytelling and this is where the creators, their teams and their followers are, on social media. And it’s where we are as well. I believe the traditional sources like radio and television play a part when we’re promoting the festival but not to the extent social media does.
YOU ARE NOW PART OF A FESTIVAL THAT HAS TRULY GROWN SINCE ITS INCEPTION. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY WERE TWO TURNING POINTS IN ITS DEVELOPMENT, EITHER WHILE YOU’VE BEEN THERE OR BEFORE YOUR INVOLVEMENT?
Because I founded the festival I’ve seen it grow from sitting at home building the website, FB, twitter & Instagram pages and starting in a small venue in 2014, which held a couple hundred people, to moving to the beautiful Vancouver Convention Centre which enables us to give back more to the creators with more panels, workshops, screenings, keynotes and networking.
THERE ARE SO MANY COMPONENTS TO A FESTIVAL OF THIS MAGNITUDE. WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES LINKED TO THE POSITION THAT YOU’RE IN?
LOL – I feel like I’m pulled in a hundred different directions. I want to be involved in what my team of 20 is doing. I don’t want to micromanage, but I want to be there for them, have them reach out to me if they need help. And I like to go on social media and participate such as ‘liking’ and commenting on posts. I think it’s extremely important to stay in the ‘now’ with the creators. To see how they are doing and to support them best I / VWF can. And I love supporting these hard-working people however I can.
TALK TO US ABOUT ALL THE BEHIND-THE-SCENES TECHNICALITIES! WHAT IS IT LIKE WORKING WITH SPONSORS, VENUES, PERFORMERS, MEDIA, THE GENERAL PUBLIC AND SO FORTH?
I really enjoy it. Nothing is more gratifying than going to a sponsor after the festival and personally thanking them and having them say that no one does that anymore. That they just get emails asking for more money. How sad. Venues are all different, so they can be a challenge when moving from one to another but after the first year it works out. The public is great, they don’t know who I am, so I can just be me. Which I am with everyone anyway. For the most part it’s how we see our daily challenges and making them part of our fun life experience and VWF has been just that, my fun life experience.
IN WHAT WAYS WILL THE FESTIVAL GROW IN THE COMING YEARS?
I’m hoping to see it continue to grow in quality, not quantity. I’d rather have a boutique festival with top notch delegates and participants who are there for a purpose and have everyone leave feeling that was the best festival/conference they have attended.
WHAT DO YOU FEEL THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY CAN DO DIFFERENTLY IN ORDER TO GROW?
Hmmm…that’s a tough one. I can’t say for sure.
WE ALL HAVE MENTORS. THESE ARE THE PEOPLE WHO GIVE US THE HOPE, INSPIRATION, AND THE DRIVE TO KEEP GOING. IN THIS INDUSTRY, WHO ARE YOUR MENTORS AND WHY?
Mentors are amazing angels and I have been lucky to have a couple throughout my life. Most recently in my life, 4 years ago, I met a man after a festival in an elevator (I reread this, and it sounds like the festival was in the elevator – LOL – there’s my silly sense of humour). Apparently this man was not in a good mood when my colleague and I hopped on because the elevator kept going up and down picking up and dropping off people. We got on and went down 2 floors with him (he was with his wife and colleague) and by the time the doors opened in the parkade he was laughing, we were all laughing and just having a good time. I didn’t even know he was grumpy, I was just being me in the elevator; friendly and chatty and sometimes funny. He took out his business card and I gave him mine thinking I’m sure we’ll never connect again. Well he called me the next day and told me his story of being in such a terrible mood the night before in the elevator until I got on. And he has been a very special part of my life and a mentor since 2014. It’s an absolute honour to know Hank Leis.