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Whistler Film Festival wraps 12th edition

Whistler Film Festival wraps 12th edition

The 12th annual Whistler Film Festival , attracted more A-list talent and more deal-makers than previous years. The respected British stage and film actor Daniel Radcliffe discussed his upcoming films (Kill Your Darlings, The F Word, Horns) and return to London’s west stage during a special Spotlight on Daniel Radcliffe hosted by George Stroumboulopoulos.

Actor and screenwriter Rashida Jones was recognized for her talents in front and behind the camera with WFF’s Trailblazer Award For Acting and Scriptwriting. Writer and actor Will McCormack was also in attendance for the screening of Celeste and Jesse Forever, which he co-wrote and acts in. Both Jones and McCormack, who were among VARIETY’S 10 SCREENWRITER TO WATCH class in 2011, also received VARIETY’S ONE TO WATCH honor, which was announced at the festival. 

Variety’s Steven Gaydos presented Melissa Rosenberg with the publication’s BILLION DOLLAR SCREENWRITER AWARD for her impressive accomplishments with the Twilight Saga films. Five out of VARIETY’S 10 SCREENWRITERS TO WATCH were in Whistler to receive recognition: Katie Dippold (The Heat); Patrick Aison (Wunderkind); Reid Carolin (Magic Mike); Scott Rothman (Draft Day); and Ted Melfi (St Vincent De Van Nuys).

Other stars gracing the WFF red carpet included James Cromwell (STILL), Gil Bellows (MAD SHIP), Rachelle Lefevre (Borsos juror and actress in OMERTA which screened at WFF), musician Bruce Cockburn (featured in BRUCE COCKBURN PACING THE CAGE), Kristanna Loken (LOVE ORCHARD), Caroline Dhavernas (MARS ET AVRIL), Helen Shaver (Borsos juror), Liane Balaban (Borsos juror), Katherine Isabelle (AMERICAN MARY), and Emily Hampshire (MY AWKWARD SEXUAL ADVENTURE).

The WFF Audience Award went Sean Garrity’s MY AWKWARD SEXUAL ADVENTURE, which was one of eight contenders in the Borsos Competition for Best Canadian Feature. The WFF Audience Award runner up went to HIT ‘N STRUM, Kirk Caouette’s charming Vancouver street movie which was presented in the new Discoveries program. The WFF Audience Award is a non-cash prize presented to the highest-rated film as voted by the audience. 

“This year marks yet another milestone for us. We have been embraced by China, adopted by Variety, and partnered with Bell Media, and we surpassed all expectations in terms of our targets. We have 12 years of experience behind us, and we have several promising initiatives on the horizon,” commented WFF Founder and Executive Director Shauna Hardy Mishaw. “Not only have we become a desired place for filmmakers to present their films, we have become an essential place for the industry to meet and do business with both established and emerging filmmakers, and that is what makes Whistler a filmmakers’ festival. I can honestly say with my hand on my heart that this was the best fest yet!”

The WFF Programming Team under the direction of Director of Programming Paul Gratton assembled a program that was broader and more eclectic than in years past. New strands included American Indies, Discoveries, Late Night TerrorFest and GKIDS Animation Showcase. Certain films from these strands, such as Vancouver-made AMERICAN MARY, the French animated film THE PAINTING, IT’S A DISASTER and BRUCE COCKBRUN PACING THE CAGE created major buzz and word-of-mouth amongst festival-goers. Canadian films were prominently featured throughout the fest with a number of World Premieres such as MAD SHIP, the closing night film THE SHEEPDOGS HAVE AT IT and the World Documentary winner STATUS QUO?. Over all, the festival had something for everyone. 

“In what was hoped to be a transformative year for WFF, audiences and critics alike seem to have responded extremely well to such innovations as repeat screenings, press and industry screenings, new programming strands and the very successful China Canada Gateway for Film Script Competition,” says Paul Gratton, WFF’s Director of Programming. “Business was done, audiences were enthusiastic and the many celebrities that graced our presence, from Daniel Radcliffe and Rashida Jones to Bruce Cockburn and James Cromwell, all gave us very positive feedback on the warm Whistler welcome they received. We are all looking forward to building on this year’s momentum and an even greater WFF in 2013.”

Whistler Film Festival screenings were organized in 9 categories: Borsos Competition for Best Canadian Feature; World Documentary; World Now; Mountain Culture; and ShortWork as well as the newly added American Indies; Discoveries, Late Night TerrorFest and GKIDS Animation Showcase. Five Special Presentation screenings and a Programmer’s Surprise, SAMSARA, rounded out this year’s diverse lineup.

Several of the feature films were at or near capacity and included STILL, MY AWKWARD SEXUAL ADVENTURE, BRUCE COCKBURN PACING THE CAGE, LOVE, MARILYN, BIRD CO MEDIA, ANNA KARENINA, AMERICAN MARY, THE MOVIE OUT HERE, KARAKARA, HIT ’N STRUM, THE MOUNTAIN RUNNERS, and FEW WORDS. Total attendance, including industry insiders, was at 9,964 attendees, a 20% increase over 2011 (8,270 in 2011), including 556 delegates (a 10% increase compared to 506 in 2011). Box office was up 37% over 2011.

The Whistler Film Festival celebrated its 12th edition as one of Canada’s leading festivals from November 28 to December 2. It showcased 78 films consisting of 44 features and 34 shorts on five screens in four theatres over five amazing days including 6 World Premieres, 1 North American Premiere, 8 Canadian Premieres, 5 English Canadian Premieres, 15 Western Canadian Premieres, 4 British Columbian Premieres, and 3 Whistler Premieres. 51 percent of the films presented were Canadian. Films from 18 countries were screened: Canada, UK, USA, France, China, India, Iran, Japan, Netherlands, Mexico, Norway, Spain, Vietnam, Slovakia, Colombia, Poland, Palestine and Australia.

The Festival continued to support cinematic excellence and awarded up to $31,500 in cash prizes and commissions. PICTURE DAY, by first time feature director Kate Melville, won the coveted $15,000 Borsos Competition for Best Canadian Feature. The$1,000 Canadian ShortWork Award went to REQUIEM FOR ROMANCE, directed by Jonathan Ng. The $500 ShortWork Student Award went to PLATING by SFU student Jon Thomas. The MPPIA Short Film Award was won by Jon Ornoy for TRUE LOVE WAITS. Presented by MPPIA and British Columbia Film + Media, the award consists of a $15,000 cash award plus up to $100,000 in production services.

Whistler Film Festival announced three Canadian film projects that will move into development with Chinese production financing. There were several other deal discussions that began at the Festival both with China and other international investors.  

With a focus on the changing media landscape and designed to facilitate international alliances and financial partnerships, the Whistler Summit, WFF’s industry forum, focused on filmmaking in the digital age presenting 15 interactive sessions that addressed a range of issues affecting the film, television and digital media industry. Sessions were complimented by networking opportunities including one-on-one meetings, roundtable information sessions and receptions. 

Overall, the industry Summit was at 82% capacity. In addition to the scheduled meetings that took place during the Summit, there was again a notable increase in unscheduled meetings that took place outside of scheduled blocks proving the festival remains an important place for the industry to meet and do business. Industry guests came from the USA and Canada to participate, and delegate representation was from the USA, China, UK, Norway, Japan, Korea and Canada.

A team of 143 volunteers contributed over 1500 hours of time to support the festival’s success.

For information, go to

The Whistler Film Festival is supported by Telefilm Canada, the Province of British Columbia, the Resort Municipality of Whistler and Tourism Whistler, and is sponsored by Bell Media, Variety, the Directors Guild of Canada – British Columbia, American Airlines, Sorel, Kokanee, Zoom Audio Visual Networks, Christie Digital, Glacier Media Group, Whistler Blackcomb and the Westin Resort & Spa Whistler.

The Whistler Film Festival Society (WFFS) is a cultural charitable organization dedicated to furthering the art of film by providing programs that focus on the discovery, development and promotion of new talent culminating with a must attend festival for artists, the industry and audiences in Whistler. WFFS produces one of Canada’s leading film festivals and plays a leadership role in offering professional and project development programs for filmmakers.

Whistler is Canada’s premier, year-round destination located in the spectacular Coast Mountains of British Columbia, and just two hours north of Vancouver. Consistently ranked the number one mountain resort in North America, Whistler features two majestic mountains, epic skiing and snowboarding conditions, four championship golf courses, more than 200 shops, 90 restaurants and bars, accommodations galore, hiking trails, spas and arguably the best mountain bike park in the world. In short, Whistler has everything you will ever need to have the time of your life – and so much more.

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