FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: National, February, 2017 – The organizers of Canada’s acclaimed Women In the Director’s Chair (WIDC) program are delighted to announce that recent Story and Leadership alumnae Winnifred Jong and Shelley Thompson have been nominated for consideration for the 2017 Telefilm MicroBudget Production program.
Nominated with producer Lynn Matheson, writer/director Shelley Thompson’s heartwarming dramatic feature film Dawn, Her Dad and the Tractor, tells the story of a young transgender woman who returns home to her Nova Scotia farming community after the death of her mom. Shocked by her transformation, Dawn’s dad, to be played by Rob Wells (Trailer Park Boys) struggles with the change as they work together on a family tractor, a long-neglected restoration project.
Says Thompson, “While Dawn’s story is not autobiographical, it is drawn from my experience as the mother of a young transgender man. As I’ve been with my son on his journey, I’ve come to understand some of his challenges and also the complexities of the parent – child relationship, which is central to this story. The grief of ‘losing’ a child of one gender can feel overwhelming, but there is an extraordinary joy in celebrating and discovering a differently gendered child.”
Web series creator and director, Winnifred Jong is nominated in the short digital works stream for Tokens, a comedic interactive web series that takes a satirical look at casting diversity in the film and television industry. The series follows a group of diverse actors who join the roster of a new “on-call” casting agency that fills roles with professional actors on a first come first serve basis. Toronto-based Jong is the creator and series director of Tokens, and is nominated with digital media producer and social media specialist, Tinni Franke.
Says Jong, “I am continually grateful for the support of the WIDC which has been instrumental in fostering an environment which challenges me to develop my artistic voice and nurtures my growth as storyteller. I’m looking forward to taking Tokens into the digital mainstream.”
Over 6.2 million Canadians (19.1%) identified as a visible minorities in Canada’s 2011 census. Statistics Canada predicts that by 2036 over one third of Canada’s population will belong to a visible minority. Since WIDC was piloted in 1997 at The Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity more than 220 Canadian women screen directors have benefited from the specialized mentoring, project development and production support offered through this one of a kind offering in Canada, and 26% of WIDC alumnae directors are from visible minority or Aboriginal backgrounds.
Says WIDC producer, Carol Whiteman, “At WIDC, we’re always mindful of the need to champion directors whose voices represent diverse geographic locations and cultural interests. Each nominated team will receive additional tailored mentoring from WIDC along with their nomination.”
Over the last twenty years WIDC alumnae have gone on to direct hundreds of hours of quality screen entertainment including 41 feature films (60% of the women-directed feature films funded by Telefilm Canada between 2006 and 2016 were directed by WIDC alumnae). WIDC alumnae have also created six major network television series, including CBC’s Little Mosque on the Prairie (Zarqa Nawaz); Globals’ Combat Hospital (Jinder Oujla Chalmers); APTN’s Anash and the Legacy of Sunrock (Carol Geddes); YTV / Corus’ Just Jamie (Katie Tallo); and Flashpoint (CTV) and X-Company which currently airs on CBC, co-created by Stephanie Morgenstern.
WIDC’s 2013/14 MicroBudget nominee Maureen Bradley’s debut feature Two4One earned multiple award accolades, was a festival favorite and has aired on Super Channel. WIDC is among more than forty industry partners working with Telefilm Canada to jump start filmmakers’ careers through the MicroBudget program.
The next WIDC program intake deadline is April 15, 2017 for the Career Advancement Module (CAM) in Toronto presented in collaboration with the Female Eye Film Festival.
About the Nominee Directors:
WINNIFRED JONG was born and raised in Toronto. She got seriously hooked on film after attending that Cannes Film Festival where she infamously talked her way in when she didn’t have accreditation. As soon as she got home from Cannes, Winnifred promptly enrolled in the film production program at Ryerson University. Upon graduation, her lyrical documentary, THE STORY OF SAM earned her a National Apprenticeship Award through the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television. She now has over 15 years experience as a script supervisor. She has directed second unit on CTV’s Flashpoint and Played, on Global’s Bomb Girls and on CBC’s X Company. Her debut short, THE OFFER, was an official selection in more than a dozen film festivals worldwide, the film won the Deluxe Canada First Award at Lakeshorts International Film Festival and was nominated for Best Short Film in the 2016 DGC Awards.
Winnifred was selected to participate in the 2016 Women In the Director’s Chair Career Advancement Module in Toronto and the WIDC Story and Leadership Program in Vancouver and Whistler (WIDC 2017) where she developed her web series, TOKENS. She’s currently in post production on her second short, MILK, which she penned and produced, and in financing for her third short, DISTANT COUSINS. She was a Finalist in the 2016 Reel Asian Film Festival “So You Think You Can Pitch?” for DISTANT COUSINS. Winnifred Jong is a member of the DGC, WIFT-T, and Nabet 700.
SHELLEY THOMPSON trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) UK, the Canadian Film Centre, Toronto (2015), and is a recent participant in the Women In the Director’s Chair Story & Leadership program (WIDC 2017). Before returning to Canada in 1997, Thompson’s extensive work in the UK included the Royal National Theatre, the West End and regions, a long running family series for Thames TV, and the BBC. An in-demand voice artist, she did extensive radio work for BBC and BBC World Service and numerous London Loop Groups. She settled in NS where she’s played Barb Lahey for 11 seasons of Trailer Park Boys, as well as varied roles in features and television, most recently Mike Melski’s The Child Remains and Jay Dahl’s Halloween Party. She is an ACTRA Maritimes councillor and the Women’s Committee chair, and active in WIFT-AT.
Thompson was Artistic Producer of Willpower Theatre from 1998 to 2008, and she is the Eastern Front playwright-in-residence for 2017. DAWG, her first short film, (2015) won hearts at family festivals across North America. Leaving Wonderland, her first feature script, was developed from her stage-play of the same name at the CFC; her feature ensemble comedy, THE BENEFIT, was developed during her time at the Atlantic Film Festival Script Development Program (2016); short film BATS (2016) debuted at the Atlantic Film Festival and has played extensively in Eastern Canada. Thompson is the proud parent of singer/songwriter T. Thomason and a keen advocate for LGBTQ issues.
Founded in 1997, and celebrating its 20th anniversary, Women In the Director’s Chair (WIDC) is an internationally respected Canadian professional development offering, specially designed to advance the skills, careers and fiction screen projects of women directors. With 220 director alumnae across Canada, who have earned over 100 awards and nominations for their work this year alone, over the last twenty years WIDC has fostered the development of a generation of women screen directors. Co-created by representatives of ACTRA, Women In Film and Television Vancouver, and The Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity which was its home venue for eighteen years, WIDC is presented with major support from Telefilm Canada, Harold Greenberg Fund, and with the participation of the Canada Council for the Arts | Conseil des Arts du Canada, Actra Fraternal Benefit Society, ACTRA National, TELUS Optik Local, Creative BC, UBCP/ACTRA, Independent Production Fund, ACTRA Alberta, IATSE 669; WIDC appreciates community collaborations with 1st Weekend Club’s Canada Screens, National Film Board, WIFT Vancouver’s International Women In Film Festival, Female Eye Film Festival, St John’s International Women’s Film Festival, WIFT Toronto, WIFT Atlantic, Film Fatales Toronto, Black Women Film-Canada, Women In View, New York WIF&T, Alliance of Women Directors, Tangerine Entertainment, Crazy 8’s, TIFF, and the Whistler Film Festival. The WIDC Feature Film Award is supported by Bell Media’s Harold Greenberg Fund, William F. White International, Tattersall Sound and Picture, Panavision Canada, SIM Digital, Clairmont Camera Film and Digital, Encore Vancouver, Technicolor Toronto, Skylab Vancouver, North Shore Studios, The Bridge Studios, Vancouver Film Studios, The Research House Clearance Services Inc., MELS Studios, Front Row Insurance, White Hart Post Production, and Descriptive Video Works
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