Movie deals are going down at the Whistler Film Festival

Shauna Hardy-Mishaw

What people are talking about at WFF: how to elevate talent

Film festivals often promise the chance for the little guys to rub elbows with dealmakers, and today the Whistler Film Festival (WFF) Industry Summit delivers the goods. It’s small, it’s intimate and people here care about local talent.

“We need to nurture our own stories,” says Shauna Hardy Mishaw, taking a break from networking. When she and partner Kasi Lubin started the WFF 15 years ago—originally on a volunteer basis—they soon realized it was more than just showing films. They needed to connect with the larger film industry, particularly in Vancouver.

Today the summit consists of 30 industry sessions over three days with more than 100 industry execs in attendance. That includes representation from all the major distribution companies in Canada and several sales companies in North America. In other words, this is a place where emerging B.C. talent can make a deal.

What’s new at this year’s summit is the “disruptor panel,” consisting of reps from Vimeo and Vine, among others. These are technology companies who are changing the way consumers watch films. In an early morning panel today on the state of Canadian film, the year in review, there was some grumbling–from exhibitors especially–about the new ways of doing business.

But Hardy-Mishaw sees it another way. “Disruption, I find it extremely exciting. Really it’s still storytelling. It’s just the way that we’re viewing it.” She says the challenge for the storyteller is getting you to find their story. That’s where the disruptor panel comes in. Its official title, “Stream big, do-it-yourself distribution,” is designed to help emerging talent with digital marketing—a must-have if you’ve just made your film for five grand, says Hardy-Mishaw. A good example is a company called IndieFlix, another deal-maker at the summit. Here’s how it works: “If you know you have 10 minutes, standing at a bus stop, and you know you want to see a documentary about food, you can have it on your playlist, you can pick it, you can watch your film and bank the rest. So the technology behind how we’re finding these films is very interesting,” she says. “We have a lot of talent here—what can we do to elevate them?”