Women Filmmakers Rise to the Top at Whistler Film Festival

Susan Cartsonis confirmed for Women on Top Keynote. WFF features a record number of films directed by women and female participation in talent programs plus three female-focused awards.

Whistler, B.C. (November 27, 2017) — At a time when the call for gender parity is more prevalent than ever, the Whistler Film Festival (Nov 29 – Dec 3) is proud to present an unprecedented number of female focused films, talent, events, and awards throughout its 2017 programs. To mark its commitment to championing women in the industry, and to celebrate the women directors and talent at this year’s festival, female filmmakers and industry leaders will ascend to the top of Whistler Mountain for WFF’s second annual Women on Top Keynote and Breakfast on December 2 sponsored by Whistler Blackcomb. The Whistler Film Festival is pleased to screen 14 feature films and 16 short films directed by women, which makes up 30% of this year’s film programming, the highest percentage for the festival to date. WFF is also honoured to have 40 Canadian females out of 82 (49%) participating in 11 different talent programs, including 14 directors, 5 producers, 4 screenwriters, 9 filmmakers, 3 actors, and 5 musicians in bands in the Music Showcase.

WFF’s Women on Top keynote address will be delivered by American film producer and co-founder of Resonate Entertainment Susan Cartsonis, who was named “one of the top five grossing producers of the year” by The Hollywood Reporter, in the year her film WHAT WOMEN WANT became the highest grossing romantic comedy of all time at the time of its release and remains number two to this day. Cartsonis has also produced THE DUFF, BEASTLY, WHERE THE HEART IS, and AQUAMARINE, as well as executive produced MIDDLE SCHOOL, INVISIBLE SISTER, and NO RESERVATIONS. Her most recent films produced include CARRIE PILBY, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 2016, and DEIDRA & LANEY ROB A TRAIN, a Netflix Original Film which premiered at Sundance 2017. She is currently executive producing The Disney Channel musical FREAKY FRIDAY THE MUSICAL.

“It’s not unreasonable to expect that women should be 50 percent of those creating content, considering more than 50 percent of us are consuming the content,” says Cartsonis. “I think it’s really important that women mentor both men and women. I’m well aware that some encouragement, direction and advice can change the course of your life. And when women mentor men, we change the way they view the abilities of women.”

Cartsonis was an executive at 20th Century Fox for nearly a decade and rose from script reader to Senior VP of Production. She is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and serves on the Independent Committee of the Producer’s Guild. She teaches Advanced Producing at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts and is strong advocate for female representation in front and behind the camera. She is a frequent speaker on the economic argument for female inclusion in media.

Greetings and updates at the Women on Top event will be delivered from public agencies that have initiated new policies for gender equality. The roster includes Creative BC CEO Prem Gil, Canada Media Fund President and CEO Valerie Creighton, National Film Board of Canada’s Executive Producer of Pacific and Yukon Centre Shirley Vercruysse and Telefilm Canada Feature Film Executive – English-language Market Stephanie Azam as well as current Women in Film and Televisions Chair of Advocacy Committee and Vancouver Honorary Lifetime Member, filmmaker and UBC professor, Sharon McGowan.

The Whistler Film Festival is poised to help elevate efforts to increase women working together across the entertainment industry. In addition to the talented content creators attending the festival in support of their films and projects, WFF will also host industry elite including actress and Borsos Jury member Camille Sullivan, award winning director and WFF alumni Ingrid Veningerwith PORCUPINE LAKE, first time feature director Jackie English with BECOMING BURLESQUE, Darcy Hennessey Turenne, director of WFF’s closing gala film THE MOMENT, Sarah Rotella director NOBODY FAMOUS, Michelle Ouellet director PRODIGALS, acclaimed director Éva Gardos with BUDAPEST NOIR, first time feature directors and WFF alumni Hannah Cheesman and Mackenzie Donaldson with THE DEFINITES, acclaimed director Camille Thoman with the American Indie selection NEVER HERE, Kyra Sedgwick director of STORY OF A GIRL, award winning director Eisha Marjara with VENUS, American director Lori Stoll with HEAVEN’S FLOOR, Gail Harvey director of NEVER SAW IT COMING, and Jordan Canning and Renuka Jeyapalan co-directors of ORDINARY DAYS. Add to that industry leaders from all of Canada’s public agencies and the high level female executives that will be attendance, including Kim Fox – Partner, MadRiver Pictures, Christina Rogers – Director, Content Acquisitions, Netflix, Kristin Harris – VP, Acquisitions and Distribution, Good Deed Entertainment, Joanna Miles – VP, Marketing, Films Canada, eOne, Viviana Zarragoitia – Vice President, Three Point Capital, Amanda Archibald – VP, International Marketing and Publicity, IM Global, Gosia Kamela – Production Executive, Drama & Feature Film Original Programming, Bell Media, Christina Davila – Creative Executive, Stage 13/Warner Bros Digital Network, Tania Natscheff – Director of Programming, VICE Media Inc. and many more.

WFF is thrilled to host the Variety 10 Screenwriters to Watch class of 2017 which is primarily comprised of women screenwriters. The seven female screenwriters being honoured include Liz Hannah, THE POST; Hallie Meyers-Shyer, HOME AGAIN; Maggie Betts, NOVITIATE; Tracy Oliver – co-wrote GIRLS TRIP, Dorothy Blyskal – “THE 15:17 TO PARIS”, and Sarah Ruhl, MY LIFE ON THE ROAD. Maggie Betts, Tracy Oliver and Dorothy Blyskal will be attending the festival.

“The Whistler Film Festival’s female focused initiatives are aligned with several industry wide mandates launched last year, and we are committed to promoting the shared goal of breaking the celluloid ceiling and increasing the number of women in the director’s chair, addressing the imbalance of industry diversity behind the camera and supporting the collaborative efforts to bring more female written and directed narratives to screen,” says Shauna Hardy Mishaw, WFF Executive Director. “With strong representation both in front of and behind the camera in our films, and talent programs this year, Whistler is maintaining a timely leadership role for women in the industry, when the need is not only apparent, the collective is calling for it.“

WFF Feature Films directed or co-directed by women:

  • BECOMING BURLESQUE (Canada) Dir. Jackie English
  • THE MOMENT (Canada) Dir. Darcy Hennessey Turenne
  • NEVER SAW IT COMING (Canada) Dir. Gail Harvey
  • NOBODY FAMOUS (Canada) Dir. Sarah Rotella
  • PRODIGALS (Canada) Dir. Michelle Ouellet
  • BUDAPEST NOIR (Hungary) Dir Éva Gárdos
  • THE DEFINITES (Canada) Dir. Hannah Cheesman & Mackenzie Donaldson
  • NEVER HERE (United States) Dir. Camille Thoman
  • STORY OF A GIRL (United States) Dir. Kyra Sedgwick
  • VENUS (Canada) Dir. Eisha Marjara
  • THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ANDRÉ (United States) Dir. Kate Novack
  • PORCUPINE LAKE (Canada) Dir. Ingrid Veninger
  • HEAVEN’S FLOOR (Canada, United States) Dir. Lori Stoll
  • ORDINARY DAYS (Canada) Dir. Jordan Canning, Kris Booth, Renuka Jeyapalan

WFF Short Films directed or co-directed by women:

  • THE STAKEOUT (Canada) Dir. Jax Smith
  • NEGATIVE SPACE (France/US) Dir. Ru Kuwuhata and Max Porter
  • WE FORGOT TO BREAK UP (Canada) Dir. Chandler Levack
  • BFF (Canada) Dir. Sofia Auza
  • GOOD GIRLS DON’T (Canada) Dir. Ana de Lara
  • MONDAY (Canada) Dir. Liz Levine
  • LOLZITA (Canada) Dir. Katie Boland
  • THE BURDEN (MIN BÖRDA) (Sweden) Dir. Niki Lindroth von Bahr
  • DEAR HATETTS (Canada) Dir. Kerry Barber
  • SHADES OF WINTER: CROSSROADS (Austria) Dir. Sandra Lahnsteiner
  • THE THINGS YOU THINK I’M THINKING (Canada) Dir. Sherren Lee
  • UNINTENTIONAL MOTHER (Canada) Dir. Mary Galloway
  • WAITING FOR LOU (EN ATTENDANT LOU) (Canada) Dir. Katerine Martineau
  • FLOATING LIGHT (Canada) Dir. Natalie Murao
  • VIOLET AND JUNE (Canada) Dir. Linnea Ritland
  • THE BUTTERFLY (Canada) Dir. Andy Alvarez

WFF Talent Programs with female participation announced to date include: 

Feature Project Lab (4/6 producers): Lettie Costea (BC) – ALONE; Tricia Lee (ON) PENUMBRA; Amanda Verhagen (BC) PARTY FAVOUR and Carmen Forsberg (BC) – BOUNDARY COUNTRY.

Praxis Screenwriters Lab (4/5 screenwriters): Andeep Singh (BC) – GOODNIGHT MR G; Emily Bridger (NL) – LITTLE ORPHANS; Simone Stock(ON) POLARIS and Kate Bond (BC) – TRAPLINE.

Power Pitch (1/5 producers): Rebeka Herron (BC) – SALTBOX

Aboriginal Filmmaker Fellowship (3/6 directors): Nikita Weiss Day (BC) – SWEETGRASS ROAD; Madison Thomas (MB) – STARBOUND and Sonya Ballantyne (MB) – REVISION

Doc Lab (5/10 filmmakers): Kate Kroll (BC) -, CALAMITY KATE AND THE FIGHTING CHOLITAS; Jessica Dymond (BC) – TO LETHBRIDGE WITH LOVE; Christina Ienna (ON) – COLDWATER; Ali Harris (BC) – XWAAQW’UM: A JOURNEY and Jaime Leigh Gianopoulos (BC) – WE ARE THE BRIDGE.

Digital First Lab (4/7 filmmakers): Rebecca Campbell, THE GIRL WHO TALKS TO THE MOON; Farah Merani, SUPER ZEE; Sonya Ballantyne, REVISION and Nikita Weiss Day, SWEETGRASS ROAD.

Music Showcase finalists (5/31 musicians): The Katherines (3 – all female band); I M U R (fronted by a female) and Rya (female – solo).

Stars to Watch (3/4 actors): Jessica Parker Kennedy attending WFF with the world premiere of SOMEONE ELSE’S WEDDING; Tiera Skovbye attending with the world premiere of PRODIGALS and Julia Sarah Stone attending with the Western Canadian premiere of A WORTHY COMPANION.

MPPIA Short Film Award (2/4 directors): Jessie Anthony (BC) – THE LAST CIGARETTE and Veronika Kurz (BC) – 20 MINUTES TO LIFE

WIDC WFF Industry Immersion (8/8 directors): Sonia Bonspille Boileau(QC) – RUSTIC ORACLE; Jessica Bradford (BC) – FINN MCKAIN AND THE LOST TOAD; Katia Café Fébrissy (ON) – GROUNDED; Leah Cameron (ON) – THE COMMUNIST’S DAUGHTER; Sandi Gisbert (BC) – ALL PRANKS AND NO FUN; Sophie Jarvis (BC) – INVASIONS; Elizabeth Lazebnik (ON) – HANNAH and Shannon Walsh, UNIDENTIFIED MINOR.

WIFTV Mentorship (1/1 director): Shannon Walsh, UNIDENTIFIED MINOR. Mentor is Robyn Wiener – CEO Owner/Producer, Synergy Cinema Inc.

Other female-focused talent programs that WFF supports includes the Women in Film & Television Vancouver Film Market Preparation Mentorship, which provides the recipient with experience in preparing her feature film project for market by immersing her in the festival, and the Women In the Director’s Chair (WIDC) with eight Canadian women directors recently announced to attend the 20th anniversary session of the highly acclaimed script development and director mentoring program WIDC: Story & Leadership. A major component of the program takes the form of an Industry Immersion at the Whistler Film Festival, and culminates with each director receiving individually tailored coaching to advance her project to the next stage over the three months following face-to-face sessions. These eight directors-to-watch will join the ranks of WIDC’s prestigious alumnae network of over 220 women directors across Canada. Between 2006 and 2016 over 60% of Telefilm Canada funded features directed by women were directed by WIDC alumnae. One of the directors will win the WIDC Feature Film Award valued at nearly $200,000 including in kind services and rentals from companies across Canada, and $35,000 cash investment from Harold Greenberg Fund, will be presented to a Canadian woman director to help her complete her fiction feature film at the Whistler Film Festival.

WFF is also providing a platform for the fifth consecutive year to present three female-focused awards including the juried Alliance of Women Journalists EDA Awards – for Best Female-Directed Narrative Feature and for Best Female-Directed Short Film to recognize and honor excellent work by female directors. Eligible female-directed films are being screened as part of the festival’s regular program, and are being nominated for EDA Awards consideration by Whistler Film Festival’s administration and programmers. The Narrative feature jury includes: Marina Antunes – Row Three, Vancouver, Nikki Baughan – Screen International, London, Betsy Boszdech – Commonsense Media, San Francisco, Jennifer Merin (Chair) – Cinema Citizen, New York, Gill Pringle – The Independent, Los Angeles; Short Film Jury includes: Katherine Brodsky (Chair) – Variety, Vancouver, Lexi Feinberg – Big Picture, Big Sound, Berkeley, Karen Martin – Arkansas Online, Little Rock, Diana Saenger – East County Gazette, San Diego, Susan Wloszczyna – RogerEbert.com, Washington, DC. The EDA Awards will be presented to winners at the Whistler Film Festival’s awards ceremony on December 3.

From November 29 to December 3, the Whistler Film Festival will welcome film fans and filmmakers to experience its 17th edition featuring 87 fresh films, special guests, epic events, unique industry and talent programs, and time to play in North America’s premier mountain resort destination. The Whistler Film Festival combines an international film competition with a focused Industry Summit dedicated to the art and business of filmmaking in the digital age. WFF’s film lineup, events and industry Summit schedule are now available at whistlerfilmfestival.com, and will be updated regularly.

The Festival’s online box office at whistlerfilmfestival.com/attend/ is now open for VIP Patron Passes, Industry Passes and Ticket Packages. Single film and event tickets are now on sale (until December 3). The Festival Box Office is open for phone sales (1-877-838-FILM) and on November 24 for walk-up sales.

Air travel and ground transportation deals as well as best accommodation rates are now available on whistlerfilmfestival.com/attend/. WFF has 20 accommodation partners to choose from including host hotel, the Westin Whistler Resort and Spa and VIP hotel the Fairmont Chateau Whistler Resort.

The Whistler Film Festival is funded by the Government of Canada through Telefilm Canada and Western Economic Diversification, and by the Province of British Columbia and the Resort Municipality of Whistler, is supported by the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation and the American Friends of Whistler, and is sponsored by Variety, Creative BC, The Harold Greenberg Fund, the Canadian Media Producers Association, Cineplex, SW Event Technology, Remax Sea to Sky Real Estate, Whistler Blackcomb, Tourism Whistler, and the Westin Resort & Spa Whistler.

The Whistler Film Festival Society is a charitable cultural organization dedicated to furthering the art of film by providing programs that focus on the discovery, development and promotion of new talent culminating with a must attend festival for artists, industry and audiences in Whistler. Find out more at whistlerfilmfestival.com.

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