Women In the Director’s Chair (WIDC) is a Canadian nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting women filmmakers and developing their projects. Among its successful programs, WIDC partners with Whistler film Festival for the ninth year to present its annual In the Director’s Chair Story & Leadership program, an intensive mentorship that benefits eight mid-career and non-binary filmmakers from across Canada and representing Canada’s diverse population. The eight filmmakers selected for the 2022 program will attend this year’s Whistler Film Festival (taking place November 30 through December 4 and online until January 2, 2023), participating in the WFF Industry Immersion part of the program, a first-class industry environment (virtual and in-person) that includes an array of master classes, artist-talks, one-to-ones, and notably, WFF’s Women In Focus series. WIDC-hosted sessions also include industry guests from Telefilm Canada, Bell Media, CBC Films, the Independent Production Fund, and Creative BC, among others who will participate in roundtables and individual meetings with participants.
“This is the 9th year of our collaboration with WIDC that continues to deliver significant results. It’s gratifying to see previous participants returning with projects they’ve developed through the program, as mentors, and guest speakers,” says Angela Heck, Executive Director, Whistler Film Festival.
Mentors for the 2022 session include multi-award-winning writer/director Mina Shum (Mediation Park, The Wire), and screenwriter/story consultant Karen Walton (Orphan Black, Ginger Snaps). Instructors also include Dr. Dorothy Cucw-la7 Christian and Dr. Rita Shelton Deverell C.M. who lead a module on equity, diversity and inclusion work; writer and Jungian expert, Dr. Carolyn Mamchur, actor and filmmaker, Lori Triolo (Blackstone, Lost Solace), actor/instructor, Veena Sood (Children Ruin Everything), and Digital Media & Marketing Mentor, Annelise Larson, who will lead sessions on leadership, story development, working with actors and marketing. An ensemble of ACTRA actors from across Canada along with ICG cinematographers, Kim Derko csc (Save Me; The Next Step), and Daytime Emmy winner, Gayle Ye (Odd Squad, Mobile Unit), will also join the program, workshopping excerpts from the directors’ original scripts. WIDC co-creator and producer, Dr. Carol Whiteman facilitates, and leads follow up mentorships for the program.
“Over 330 women and non-binary individuals have benefited from the WIDC program,” says Eleanor Noble, President ACTRA National (Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists). “Over 25% of alumnae directors [overall] are ACTRA members who have taken their performing skills to the next level and are creating and directing original work that engages other members!”
Five of this year’s Story & Leadership cohort of mentee directors are award-winning ACTRA members, including Toronto-based Liz Whitmere (Designated Survivor, The Changeling) who is developing the feature drama Loved By You, Supinder Wraich (Sort Of, Private Eyes) developing the feature 4th of July, and Sam Coyle director of award-winning web series, (Avocado Toast the series, Dating Unlocked) who is developing the sci-fi thriller, Audrey 2.0 about an aging actress navigating life with her AI double.
UBCP/ACTRA members, CSA-winner Sarah Strange known for her roles in Loudermilk, Snowpiercer and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, is developing the Queer rom-com series, Funambulist Falling, while Luvia Petersen (Van Helsing, Riverdale) is developing the feature-length psychological thriller Human Nature.
Also developing their debut feature films are documentary and short filmmakers including Nigerian-born Nova Scotia-based Osas Eweka-Smith who is developing the drama The Road To Back Home; Yukon Territory-based Naomi Mark (How to Bee), developing the dark comedy Lucky Baby; and based in Toronto, multi-award-winner Nika Belianina is developing her comedy feature, Doing Time In Paradise.
“Telefilm Canada is proud to continue its support of the Women In the Director’s Chair (WIDC) program for mid-career and non-binary directors and writer-directors,” said Francesca Accinelli, Interim Executive Director and CEO of Telefilm Canada. “We want to thank and congratulate WIDC for its continued support of diverse voices in film.”
The 2022 Whistler Film Festival will also showcase WIDC alumnae feature films by Jules Koostachin (Broken Angel), KC Carthew (Polaris) and Madison Thomas’ doc, Buffy Saint-Marie: Carry It On! Gloria Mercer’s short Smoke Eater also plays the festival, while alumnae Marie Clements, Rebecca Gibson, KC Carthew, Jules Koostachin will be featured speakers.
Story & Leadership culminates with intensive follow up development of story and marketing materials, and career coaching modules that run through to spring 2023.
Formal WIDC declaration: “WIDC recognizes the term Woman/Women is in an evolution of language and note that our intention in our use is to be fully inclusive of underrepresented persons who may identify as she/her and or they/them and share the goals and values of WIDC to promote these marginalized voices and stories. Further, we gratefully acknowledge that the WIDC program originates from the traditional and unceded lands of the Coast Salish people, including the xmkym (Musqueam), Swxwu7mesh (Squamish), and slilwta (Tseil-wau-tuth) Nations. We also acknowledge the Indigenous Nations on whose traditional lands our guests, participants, and colleagues live, work and create. We commit to working together in the spirit of collaboration and respect for the generations that came before, those living now, and the generations to come.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: AWFJ partners with Whistler Film Festival to present EDA Awards @ Whistler Film Festival for Best Female-Directed Films. 2022 is the eighth consecutive year of the collaboration.