From left to right: Vonnie von Helmolt, Elise Swerhone, Darena Snowe, Derek Mazur, Carmen Lethbridge and Norma Bailey – photo by Kim Bell
It was a dramatic drive north on Highway 8. The sky to the east was filled with ominous thunderclouds and lightning flashes. The sky to the west was sunny and blue. I rode the edge of the storm all the way up to Gimli arriving in time for the opening sponsors dinner at the Gimli Film Festival, a wonderful smorgasbord of fresh sushi, goldeye, aged cheeses and wines provided by Francis Ford Coppola.
After opening remarks from festival board chairperson Janice Johnson and festival sponsor RBC’s Rob Johnston Gimli Film Fest was under way.
The evening was spent greeting old friends and meeting new ones, ending at a dear friend’s cottage under a star-filled sky with a bonfire on the beach and the low rumbles from the sound track of Jaws ll playing in the distance.
On Thursday morning a fierce north wind brought pounding waves onto the Gimli shore. I wasn’t sorry to be indoors at an On Screen Manitoba/Film Training Manitoba seminar on “Blending Traditional Financing with Emerging Opportunities on Digital Platforms.”
It wasn’t as dry as it sounds. The always entertaining, somewhat cynical Daniel Cross moderated the conversation between Hot Docs’ Stephanie McArthur, RBC’s Lawrence Dennis and Avi Federgreen and what became obvious was nothing is easy in the world of financing feature films in Canada.
Even though the internet allows filmmakers to reach more people and connect directly with a potential audience it all requires a great deal of effort on the filmmakers part for a small financial reward. However, it can pay off once the film is made in bringing people into the theatres if the effort is well-timed and genuine.
Lunch with Stephanie McArthur, Daphne Vaz, High Fidelity MDTV, Cam Bennett, MTS On Demand and Knowledge Network’s Murray Battle was a lively discussion about what constituted a successful film.
Stephanie encouraged the 20 or so participants at the table to describe a successful film. The responses varied from being able to find the money to fully finance the venture to touching people in some way, making them laugh or cry or making them think about changing their lives.
Avi Federgreen told a touching story of being contacted by the wife of a man who was dying from cancer who said her husband, on seeing One Week, made the decision to undergo the arduous cancer treatments that would, in the end, prolong his life for five years. She wrote to thank the filmmakers for giving her those extra five years with the man she loved. Not a bad measure of success.
At some point in the morning, the north wind died, the skies turned blue and it was once again a glorious summer day. This made it a bit more difficult to go inside but Daniel Cross’ Pitch Workshop sponsored by On Screen Manitoba and DOC Winnipeg was entertaining and fun. His personal anecdotes and refreshingly funny film clips made me realize at the end of the afternoon that pitching was an organic process. If the first pitch did not succeed you can use the information gained in the process to make the next one more successful and in the end the most important thing was persistence. Do your research, make your pitch, follow up with the cocktail schmooze and take any inkling of positivity as a reason to continue. Be sensitive, smart and persistent. Sounds easy.
I managed to squeeze in a screening of The Frog Princes in between the Pitch Workshop and the RBC Live Pitch Competition by coming late for both the movie and the competition but I did get to the Pitch Competition in time to watch two of the NSI New Voices grads do courageous and valiant pitches in front of a panel of judges and a theatre full of people.
And I saw the tears in the eyes of Ursula Lawson, our proud NSI New Voices mama, when they announced that Justina Neepin was the winner. Way to go Justina!
You know that wonderful feeling when you exit a dark movie theatre into the blinding sun of a summer day? That’s what greeted me leaving the pitch competition. It took me back to my childhood, leaving the Roxy Theatre after a Saturday afternoon matinee – a theatre not unlike the Aspire Theatre in Gimli.
It was 7 p.m. and there was still plenty of glorious sunshine left in the day. The lake glinted in the distance as I followed the crowd to the barbeque at the Gimli Yacht Club and yet another smorgasbord of food laid out by the wonderful volunteers at Gimli.
Enjoying the headiness of yet another Manitoba summer evening outdoors without mosquitoes and perhaps a glass or two of wine made some of us old timers decide that it was an opportunity for a photo (above).