FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – November 12, 2018 (Vancouver BC) Women In the Director’s Chair (WIDC) organizers are pleased to announce the eight Canadian women directors who will attend the highly acclaimed script development and director mentoring program WIDC: Story & Leadership, that takes place in part at the Whistler Film Festival (November 28 to December 2). We also celebrate the four WIDC alumnae whose feature films bow at this year’s festival.

This year, five of the eight directors selected are performers crossing-over to directing feature films. Developing their first features are CBC Heartland star Michelle Morgan (The Plains), Penny Eizenga developing the Gordon Pinsent starrer, A Far Cry; and BC-based Meeshelle Neal (Sweet Release) and Mia Fiona Kut (Heliophilia) are developing sci-fi features. Morgan and Kut receive member bursaries from UBCP-ACTRA to attend.

Celebrated Acadian documentary filmmaker, Pamela Gallant is developing the rural dramatic feature, Monica’s News, and comedic songstress, Jude Klassen whose debut feature Love in the Sixth screened at WFF2015, is developing her second musical feature Theoretically Sentient.

Spring-boarding from the inaugural Academy Apprenticeship for Women Directors program are Alberta-based Anna Cooley developing the web series Everyone We Know Will Be There, and Manitoba-based Indigenous filmmaker JJ Neepin who is developing the feature Luminous.

Also, five WIDC alumnae are heading to Whistler! Three WIDC alumnae-directed feature films will have their world premieres in Whistler: Honey Bee directed by Rama Rau, Bella Ciao! directed by Carolyn Combs, and Into Invisible Light directed by Shelagh Carter.

In addition, Deanne Foley’s gripping feature Audience of Chairs has its western Canada premiere, and MPPIA Short Film Award winner, Veronika Kurz’s comedy, 20 Minutes to Life will have its world premiere at the Festival.

The Story & Leadership program is led by multiple industry award-winner Carol Whiteman who produces and facilitates. Mentor Directors include Deanne Foley (An Audience of Chairs) and Siobhan Devine whose multi-award-winning The Birdwatcher bowed at WFF 2015. Instructors, writer and Jungian expert, Dr. Carolyn Mamchur, screenwriter / story consultant Linda Coffey (Never Steady, Never Still, Rustic Oracle), and actor and filmmaker, Lori Triolo (Blackstone, Lost Solace) return to lead sessions on leadership, story development, marketing and working with actors.

Industry guests include Mehernaz Lentin (CBC Films), Steve Bates (Telefilm Canada), independent producers Lael McCall (Principia Productions) and Terry Greenlaw (Picture Plant Ltd), John Galway (Bell Media’s Harold Greenberg Fund), Susan Curran (A-71), Andra Sheffer (Independent Production Fund) and Kristy Assu and Des Ocampo (TELUS STORYHIVE) who will participate in roundtables and one to one meetings with participants.

WIDC and the Whistler Film Festival collaborate again through the WIDC WFF Industry Immersion, offering the eight director participants a chance to partake in a first-class industry environment during the fest’s four-day run that includes WFF’s signature Women On Top series.


About WIDC
Women In the Director’s Chair (WIDC) is an internationally respected Canadian professional development offering, founded in 1997 through an initial collaboration among ACTRA, the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and Women In Film and Television Vancouver. WIDC is specially designed to advance the skills, careers and fiction screen projects of women directors. With 250 director alumnae across Canada who have directed 100’s of hours of quality screen entertainment, WIDC is presented with major support from Telefilm Canada, CBC Films, , and appreciates the participation and support of Telus STORYHIVE, ACTRA National, UBCP-ACTRA, Actra Fraternal Benefit Society, Creative BC, Independent Production Fund, ACTRA Alberta; in kind support from, Panavision Canada, SIM Group, Poste Moderne, Keslow Camera Film and Digital, William F. White Intl., Walters Lighting & Grip, North Shore Studios, Encore Vancouver, Technicolor Toronto, Skylab Vancouver, White Hart Productions, The Bridge Studios, Vancouver Film Studios, The Research House Clearances Inc, Descriptive Video Works, Front Row Insurance, National Captioning Canada; Line-21, and community collaborations with 1st Weekend Club’s Canada Screens, NFB. WIFT Vancouver’s International Women In Film Festival, Female Eye Film Festival, St John’s International Women’s Film Festival, and the Whistler Film Festival. Contact: | | | @WIDC_ca | #WIDC


Anna Cooley (AB) – EVERYONE WE KNOW WILL BE THERE (web series)
Through her company Erratic Pictures, Anna has directed, written produced commercials and docs including the multi award-winning doc, A Saurpod Abroad. She is an alumna of the Academy Apprenticeship for Women Directors program.

Penny Eizenga (ON) – A FAR CRY (ff)
An independent filmmaker and actor, Penny has produced award-winning shorts, television concept pilots, and the feature film Go Fish. Her recent short, Martin’s Hague, written by Gordon Pinsent, stars Sheila McCarthy. She teams up with Pinsent again for her debut feature, A Far Cry.

Pamela Gallant (NB)  – MONICA’S NEWS (ff)
With three decades of filmmaking experience in documentary including Port-au-Port, Au Rhythm du courant, and the radio-Canada series, Courants; and short drama (La voisine, Home Care), Acadian director Pamela Gallant returns to her rural roots with the dramatic feature, Monica’s News.

Filmmaker, comedic songstress, fiction and TV writer Jude Klassen has written for Canuck comedians and her alter-ego Tasha James wrote songs to Rob Ford and Big Oil. Her debut feature, Love In the Sixth world premiered at WFF.

Mia Fiona Kut (BC) – HELIOPHILIA (ff)
Filmmaker and actor Mia’s work reflects her unique voice of Chinese, Russian and Indonesian heritage growing up in Canada. Her work including web series (Ivy Tower), shorts (Wildhouse, Sonder) and genre features scripts, Land of No Noctune and Heliophilia have garnered recognition from WIFTV, Vancouver Asian Film Festival among others.

Michelle Morgan (BC) – THE PLAINS (ff)
Crossing over to directing after fifteen years in front of the camera including starring in CBC’s Heartland, Michelle’s debut short, Mi Madre, My Father landed her at Telefilm’s Not Short on Talent at Cannes. She is in post on her latest short Save Yourself, a concept for a feature comedy supported by TELUS STORYHIVE. She is developing the feature drama, The Plains.

Meeshelle Neal (BC) – SWEET RELEASE (ff)
With an acting / writing / producing background, Meeshelle’s previous multi award-winning works include Mental  (BravoFACT recipient) and Therapy. She directed the shorts Check and Ladies Don’t Wear Slacks, which are currently touring festivals. Check recently took home Best Short Form at the Covellite International Film Festival. She is currently in pre-production on the short version of her feature Sweet Release, set to go to camera mid-December.

JJ Neepin (MB) – LUMINOUS (ff)
Indigenous writer and director JJ Neepin has directed for APTN’s CSA-winning series Taken and The Other Side. Through her company JJ Neepin Films, co-owned with sister Justina, she has directed multiple short films and documentaries including Headress which screened at Hot Docs. JJ is an alumna of the inaugural Academy Apprenticeship for Women Directors program.

About Whistler Film Festival
From November 28 to December 2, the Whistler Film Festival will welcome film fans and filmmakers to experience its 18th edition featuring 85 fresh films, special guests, epic events, unique industry initiatives, and time to play in North America’s premier mountain resort. The Whistler Film Festival combines an international film competition with a focused Industry Summit dedicated to the art and business of filmmaking in the digital age, complimented by 11 talent programs for over 70 Canadian artists. Find out more at

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Amended November 15, 2018