Hello from Banff!
Its only been a day and a half and I’m already burnt out, literally and figuratively! I was last in Banff in 2013 for the Women in the Director’s Chair program. Its hard to believe its been so long and yet I’ve grown tremendously as a filmmaker since then. The project I came to WIDC with was my first ever feature film screenplay, and at the time I was feeling rejuvenated in a way I hadn’t in a long time with regards to my film career and potential future as a director. IIDENT is still in development, but I’ve learned and done so much in the past four years that I don’t feel that as a negative. If anything, IIDENT is shaping up to be more complex, more beautiful and nuanced than I could’ve imagined back then.
I’m here in Banff this time again through the support of Women in Film. This time WIFT- Vancouver and Telefilm conspired to provide me with a pass as one of the winners of the From Our Dark Side Incubator Program. The other four winners and I have all been working very hard on our Treatments and One Sheets for our upcoming trip to Montreal and the Frontiers Co-Production Market and its been a fruitful and challenging journey to try and re-brand Switchback from straight drama to a much edgier and bolder thriller/horror film.
Switchback began as a relationship drama back in 2014, something I worked on to get my head out of FSM for a little break. As I developed it through the WIDC Career Advancement Module in 2015, and then last year competed in the Female Eye Film Festival Live Pitch, it became clear that although it is a great idea and pitches extremely well, the screenplay lacked enough edge to deliver on that promise of potential. And so began my quest to re-imagine it into something more in line with my long term goals as a filmmaker. I am dedicated to a future in genre (and I like it all: Comedy, Sci Fi, Action, Fantasy, even Animation!) and I decided to take Switchback into a genre direction, submitting to FODS and being selected as a winner this year.
Its no secret that sophomore efforts can sometimes be even harder to get made than first features. I’ve been very focused on completing, showing and promoting FSM for the past two years and have let my attention on Switchback slide to the back burner as a result (the nature of indie film producing in a nutshell.) Combined with getting a new permanent position at my job and the duties that came with that, I’m not as far along as I’d like to be in getting Feature #2 off the ground. However, as with IIDENT, I’m not lamenting the time as much as I thought I might. Time has been a gift that has allowed me to stay fluid and evolve the idea into what it is now, which I think will be a far better movie than what I had originally conceived. I have also learned things about market, producing and financing, distribution and casting that I can now apply to Switchback to ensure a greater chance of success. Without the past three years to germinate, I wouldn’t know how to market the film nearly as effectively.
The past couple of years of ‘flogging’ my feature and dealing with the delivery of crowdfunding perks and so on has shown me something else that is truly invaluable. I love making films and while I want to make features and TV (long form), it is far too long to wait between projects for me as a director. I thought, perhaps naively, that I would “graduate” from making shorts to features and never go back, but I’m realizing the value of short filmmaking, not necessarily for profit but for the sheer joy of filmmaking, honing my craft and my network and remembering to have a little fun in the industry we call “Entertainment.” So I’ve rekindled my interest in short form storytelling and am developing several projects that will allow me to shoot more often, to be “in my studio” more frequently which for me means being on set with cast and crew instead of in an office writing solo. The cool thing about travelling around with FSM in 2016 is that I learned much more about how to leverage short films into connections that might deepen opportunities for feature/long form development. Back when I was making shorts I didn’t have the money to attend festivals like I should have, and I definitely wish I’d known this sooner, but hey, better late than never right?
So what does all this mean for me here at Banff? I realized quickly its not a “film festival” and doesn’t have the same focus – here I’m a tiny fish in a very large pond and everyone is trying to sell something. At a film festival you screen at, people find and approach you and its a very different game. I’m taking it all in, trying to learn from every interaction with a mindset towards applying it to my upcoming Frontieres trip, watching other people pitch, introduce themselves, gathering tips and tricks, and occasionally talking about my own projects. I came with a “slate” – a collection of several projects and info about each in a handy format I can give to people to check out.. but I’m much more interested in meeting other filmmakers, learning about their experiences and projects and talking shop.
As a relative unknown and an independent, I know I’m not going to “sell” something in a 10 minute pitch here and that somehow takes some of the pressure off. This isn’t me writing myself off, I’m actually becoming more and more confident in myself as a storyteller as I realize I have interesting projects with a unique voice that have market potential. But I’m also realistic. I don’t have the connections to money, to star talent, to production partners (yet) to feel like a viable risk to most of these big players. YET. But I will. I’m in this for the long haul and this won’t be my first time at Banff.