Canada’s Women In the Director’s Chair Participants Celebrate Each Other’s Work – Filmmaker Rebecca Gibson Bears Witness

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rebecca gibsonMy name is Rebecca Gibson, and I am a filmmaker. A writer, director, producer, and actor.

On November 25, 2014, I came from Winnipeg, Manitoba to Vancouver, British Columbia to join a group of eight carefully-selected female filmmakers from across Canada to participate in the nineteenth annual Women In the Director’s Chair program, an internationally respected Canadian professional development offering, specially designed to advance the skills, careers and screen projects of women directors.

For many of the participants in my group, this meant preparing us to make our feature film directorial debuts. Each of us is mid career, with diverse backgrounds that include documentary filmmaking, film and television writing, short film directing, producing, acting, casting, journalism, second unit directing, and more. My colleagues in the program are, from the Northwest Territories, Kirsten Carthew; from Ontario, Renuka Jeyapalan and Simone Stock; British Columbia-based Kate Kroll, Reem Morsi, and Loretta Todd; and Prince Edward Island-based Jenna MacMillan.

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Reading the biographies of my fellow participants was daunting. These are experienced, award-winning, highly trained and highly skilled filmmakers with whom I was to spend a week in Vancouver for a Story Incubation Module, and two days in Whistler (that became a week) for a pilot session of the WIDC Whistler Film Festival Industry Immersion. Now that that portion of the lab has concluded, the program will continue for the next month, with online mentorship based on each of our goals, to take our projects to the next step. In January, we will attend a specialized technical creative master-class, Aspects of Camera and Post Production, at the Banff Centre. Our WIDC program will then be done. However, given the way WIDC is set up, creating an ensemble atmosphere, the connections I have made with my fellow filmmakers and with our generous mentors will surely be lasting.

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Since its inception, nearly two hundred women filmmakers have participated in Women In the Director’s Chair, and have benefited from the mentorship, connections, and the practical and technical training the program offers.

WIDC's Carol Whiteman

WIDC’s Carol Whiteman

Leadership Through Guidance

WIDC producer and co-creator, Carol Whiteman has run the program for all of its nineteen years. Carol sets a tone of professionalism that draws top mentors, industry connections at the highest level, and a competitive pool of applicants who set the bar higher each year. To quote Carol’s bio, she “has produced more than 150 short films through WIDC, executive produces the WIDC Feature Film Award, and fosters the careers of the nearly 200 WIDC director alumnae. She is currently a doctoral candidate at SFU, where her thesis will focus on transformational change achieved through the WIDC initiative.” Each participant speaks highly of Carol, and the program.

I asked my fellow participants to share their experiences. Here is what they had to say:

  • ”WIDC wants women directors to succeed. Carol Whiteman and her team of advisors and trainers start by recognizing already tested skills and experience we directors bring to the Lab and then enriches that knowledge. I feel more determined and ready to make my films.” — Loretta Todd.
  • “As an emerging female filmmaker, being at the Whistler Festival and participating at WIDC, is an invaluable opportunity that opens a lot of what seemed like obscure doors. I feel so connected, supported and hopeful that I will be seeing my film at Whistler in the near future.” — Reem Morsi
  • “WIDC is a visionary workshop that provides 360 degree training to support new generation storytellers. What a fantastic and intensely important program.” — Kirsten Carthew
  • “The WIDC SIM 2.0 was a life changing step forward in my career. The collaboration, support and mentorship offered through this program was invaluable.” — Jenna MacMillan

Mentors Matter

Our program mentors include award-winning Canadian writer/directors Katrin Bowen (Amazon Falls, Random Acts of Romance), Lulu Keating (Lucille’s Ball, The Moody Brood), Deanne Foley (Beat Down, and Relative Happiness premiering at Whistler Film Festival). WIDC selected top professional actors from across Canada to work with us in developing our casting and directing skills, under the guidance of actress/acting instructor, Lori Triolo (Blackstone, Supernatural). Screenwriter and Jungian expert, Dr. Carolyn Mamchur, taught us about archetype, our own personality types working within the Myers Briggs system. Writer / story consultant Linda Coffey (These Arms of Mine) has contributed support in terms of writing, marketing, pitching, and will continue to mentor us online through the beginning of January. Industry experts who have offered their mentorship include John Galway (of Harold Greenberg Fund), Maureen Levitt, (of Super Channel), independent producer, Lael McCall, (of Principia Productions), and Lauren Davis of Telefilm Canada. In Banff, we will work with director of photography Roger Vernon (Twilight: Breaking Dawn), Teresa Hannigan (Rookie Blue), Jeanne Slater (Lucille’s Ball, Evangeline), and mentor director Gail Harvey (Looking Is the Original Sin, Long Story Short).

Women Support Women

Working with each of these experts while in Vancouver and Banff reminded me of my mentors back home. I am lucky to live in Winnipeg, where I was aggressively mentored by the powerful women who in large part run the film industry in Manitoba. I went to film school in New York after a successful career in the theatre that started in my teens. I wanted to make my own work, and I wanted to work in film. When I came home, I was hired regularly by the local directors and producers who would help shape my career. Kim Todd. Lesley Oswald. Vonnie von Helmolt. Ellen Rutter. Phyllis Laing. Lisa Meeches. I did my fair share of grunt work, happily, because every step of the way these mentors helped me define my path. I have always felt, and continue to feel, a kinship with these women, and pay their mentorship forward in my work. In Winnipeg, the tone of collaboration and kinship has been set by these mentors. I felt the same kinship in WIDC.

Women In The Directors Chair 2014 Participants

Women In The Directors Chair 2014 Participants

Working with each of my fellow filmmaker participants, I became really fired up about women in film. When I arrived to participate in the program, my goal was to get my film made. My goal has become to get all eight of our films made. Each of their projects is brilliant, original, powerful, engaging, incredible. I want to watch each of those films.

Those films need to be financed. They need to be made at a level that pays them for their time and their energy. They need to be connected to an audience. I feel passionately that we need to collaborate with each other to achieve these goals. The notion that, as female filmmakers, we could be competing for the same piece of the pie is incomprehensible to me. There isn’t just one piece of pie. We are bakers. We’ll never starve as long as we get to keep baking. We might need to get creative about where to find the flour and sugar we need, or where to find an oven to bake in, or who to sell the pie to — but there is plenty of pie as long as we’re willing to bake, and I’d rather do it together.

About Women In the Director’s Chair

WIDC is presented in partnership by Creative Women Workshops Association, The Banff Centre and ACTRA, with major support from Telefilm Canada, William F. White Intl., and with the support of the Canada Council for the Arts | Conseil des Arts du Canada, Panavision Canada, SIM Digital, Clairmont Camera Film and Digital, North Shore Studios, The Bridge Studios, Vancouver Film Studios, Front Row Insurance, Banff World Media Festival, Actra Fraternal Benefit Society, UBCP/ACTRA, ACTRA Alberta, IATSE 669, IATSE 212, Independent Production Fund, WIFT Vancouver, Female Eye Film Festival, St John’s International Women’s Film Festival and Whistler Film Festival. Director’s chair sponsors include Creative BC, BC Arts Council, WIFTV. Find out more at www.widc.ca www.facebook.com/widc.ca and enquiries@creativewomenworkshops.com.

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