FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – October 4, 2021: Women In the Director’s Chair (WIDC) organizers are pleased to announce the eight women directors selected to take part in the 25th Anniversary session of the WIDC Career Advancement Module (CAM). The Fall 2021 edition of the CAM marks a first-ever combined collaboration with Canada’s Reelworld Film Festival and the St John’s International Women’s Film Festival. Workshop sessions run through the month of October 2021, coinciding with both festivals. In addition to workshop sessions designed to build a strategic career plan, participants receive passes to both festivals’ online offerings, and follow up career coaching which will extend through March 2022.

The eight award-winning filmmakers are from British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec, are developing a diverse slate of narrative projects, and 50% of the cohort selected for this session of the WIDC CAM are from under-represented communities. See their short bios in the Backgrounder attached.

Developing new scripted series are actor, showrunner and Just For Laughs Pitch Competition finalist, Dani Pagliarello (The Drop); 2021 BANFF Diversity of Voices recipient, Bronwyn Szabo (Mardöll); and long-time ICG 669 camera local member crossing over to directing, Polly Pierce (Wytch Craft).

Developing feature film projects are: Crazy8’s alumna, Luvia Petersen (H.appiness) also known for her recurring role on the SyFy series Continuum; RBC Yorkton filmmaker mentorship recipient, Nika Belianina whose latest film, The Robbery just won Best Short Film at Cinefest Sudbury 2021; CSA-nominated documentary filmmaker Lorraine Price (Engraved on the Nation); NSI Totally Television, BANFF Diversity of Voices, and recent WIFT Indigenous Screenwriter Program alumna, Eva Thomas; and Reelworld E20 Program / BANFF Diversity of Voices Top 25 alumna, Dianne Wulf Mahoney.

“This award-winning cohort of directors has already earned recognition for their talent across industry development programs,” said WIDC co-creator and producer, Dr. Carol Whiteman. “The timing couldn’t be better to add WIDC’s investment towards the next phase of their career advancement.”

“We are excited to be in partnership this year with WIDC and connecting to the eight directors in their Career Advancement Module,” said Tonya Williams, Founder and Executive Director, Reelworld Screen Institute. “These are the kinds of relationships that allow for more diverse talent to meet each other and work creatively together so that our Canadian content can reach a wider audience.”

Due to COVID-19, this year all WIDC programs are remain online, beginning with WIDC’s specially designed Equity, Diversity and Inclusion module led by scholar/ filmmaker Dr. Dorothy Cucw-la7 Christian and Vision TV co-founder, Dr. Rita Shelton Deverell C.M.. A member of the Order of Canada, Deverell is also a WIDC alumna. Award-winning WIDC co-creator and producer, Dr. Carol Whiteman facilitates the CAM. At the end of the intensive, directors set strategic career goals then meet for one-to-one coaching with Whiteman.

The Mentor Directors for this cohort will be award-winning filmmakers Mina Shum (Meditation Park) being honoured with this year’s Reelworld Award of Excellence, and Sharon Lewis (Brown Girl Begins) whose latest feature With Wonder is screening at Reelworld Film Festival. Joining a series of Zoom roundtables to offer insights into navigating career paths and connecting screen projects with the marketplace are: Digital Media and Marketing Mentor, Annelise Larson; industry executives including Mehernaz Lentin (CBC Films), Mitch Geddes, (Bell Media); and Jon Taylor (Independent Production Fund); as well as members of the Reelworld Film Festival and Screen Institute board of directors; and Telefilm Canada.

Telefilm Canada, provides major funding support for WIDC. To address the financial challenges many women directors are facing as a result of the impacts of COVID-19, WIDC fees have been waived this year. This session of the CAM is presented in collaboration with St John’s International Women’s Film Festival and Reelworld Film Festival – both presenting hybrid in-person and virtual editions of their festivals this year.

Over one hundred other Canadian directors have used the WIDC CAM to help strategically springboard their careers including Lewis, and other award-winning directors such as, Jordan Canning (Suck It Up!; Schitt’s Creek) Gloria Ui Young Kim (Queen of the Morning Calm; Heartland), and Winnifred Jong (Tokens; Nurses) who are developing new own original work as well as working as directors for hire in television and digital series.


ABOUT THE DIRECTORS (in alphabetical order by last name)

Moscow-raised, Toronto-based award-winning filmmaker Nika Belianina has an MA in Social Psychology and has been making music videos, fiction, and documentary films since 2005. Her work has been screened at over 80 film festivals around the world including Tribeca, Scheffield Doc Fest, Atlanta and Sao Paulo. Her latest fiction film, The Robbery won Audience Choice award for Best Short Film at Cinefest Sudbury 2021. Switching creative hats when needed, Nika writes, directs, and occasionally edits and co-produces. She has created projects in Chile, Georgia, Kenya, Mexico, Romania, Peru, USA, and Canada. An avid visual storyteller, prior to focusing on directing, Nika worked as a lighting technician and props person on numerous television series, MOW’s and feature films. She has also camera operated on shoots for the Government of Canada, on the Indigenous territories in Canada, USA and Peru, for the BBC Studios,, Joss Whedon and others. A recipient of international artist residencies, Nika has also taught film and photography to students in Montana, Nebraska, Wyoming, Ontario and Moscow. She has shadowed directors on television series The Wire (HBO), Taken (NBC), Private Eyes (Global, eOne), and is a past recipient of the WIFT Toronto scholarship to attend BANFF and the RBC Yorkton filmmaker mentorship. Nika’s critically acclaimed photographic work has been showcased at over 25 exhibitions around the world.

Dani Pagliarello is a director, writer, and actor with a BFA from York University’s Acting Conservatory. Her production company, Food n’ Money Productions has produced two digital series, which she wrote, directed, produced, and starred in: Food n’ Money – reviewed as Broad City on acid; and Shitty Roommate – an offbeat comedy about a penthouse recluse in search of authentic friendship. Daniella received 2021 IPF Development from their short form packaging program and is a finalist in the Just For Laughs Pitch Competition for her newest comedy series, The Drop. She is excited to have been selected to participate in the Fall 2021 edition of the Women In the Director’s Chair Career Advancement Module. Her path to show-running is reflective of the work she wants to see on screen – women directing comedy! She lives in Toronto, ON.

Luvia Petersen is a multi-nominated actor and director best known for her work as the scrappy, stern-gazed soldier Garza on SyFy’s Continuum. Her directing credits include the Leo-nominated short film Dog Bite and the Harold Greenberg Fund-supported short film H.appiness, which has secured distribution in Canada on CraveTV and internationally on the streaming service DUST. Most recently, Luvia directed the short film iDorothy, made entirely in eight days as part of the prestigious Vancouver filmmaking event Crazy8’s. She is currently developing a slate of projects alongside her team at Download Joy Productions, a women-led production company she started with writer Huealah Lander and producer Amanda Konkin.

Polly Pierce is an emerging director with Canadian-Australian dual citizenship and biracial ethnicity (Chinese and Caucasian). She has worked throughout Australia, Canada, Mexico, and Hong Kong. Polly is a member of the Western Canada International Camera Guild – ICG 669 and has amassed more than 80 professional credits in her over decade-long career as a 1st and 2nd Assistant in the camera department. She has also been a cinematographer on award-winning short films that have screened at the Honolulu International Film Festival and the Canada International Film Festival. Polly wrote, produced, and directed two short films: the pandemic-set rom-com, Dependable Pandemic Life Partner, shot entirely remotely and on iPhones during the height of lockdown, and her award-winning supernatural dark comedy Wytch Craft, for which she received the Best Female Director Award at the Arthouse Festival of Beverly Hills and Best Female Filmmaker Award at the Chicago Indie Film Awards. Recently, Polly directed the coming of age short, Slump which explores toxic locker room culture through the female lens. Now on its festival run, the film has been nominated for Best Lead Actress, Best Short and Best Movie Director at the Toronto International Nollywood Film Festival. Summer 2021, Polly shadowed director David Frazee on the Global TV series Family Law.

Lorraine Price is an award-winning writer and director. In 2020, she directed “On the Line”, the final episode of TSN’s lauded documentary series, Engraved on the Nation. The episode was nominated for four Canadian Screen Awards and won two (Best Directing and Best Editing on a Documentary Series). In 2021 Lorraine directed and produced the short documentary The Hairdresser, which had its world premiere at Hot Docs International Film Festival. The film received honourable mentions for Best Canadian Short and finished second in the Shorts Audience Choice Awards. The Hairdresser went on to screen at AFI Docs 2021, continues to screen at festivals internationally and will broadcast in fall 2021 as part of POV Docs Season 4 lineup on PBS. Lorraine’s projects have been supported by Rogers Documentary Fund, TSN, Bell Media, CMF, SODEC, CALQ, CBC, Documentary, and Rogers Cable Network. In 2017, Lorraine was selected from among hundreds of applicants to take part in a filmmaking workshop with Werner Herzog. She is currently developing a personal creative non-fiction film, Every Time We Say Goodbye, and her first fiction film, Death In Small Places.

Bronwyn Szabo is a proud half-Inuk filmmaker and creator. She honed her craft at Straeon Acting Studios for Film and Television where she was introduced to the necessity of storytelling and producing her own work. Since the pandemic began, she has directed two film projects: the horror short film Mardöll, and the documentary Just Us for StreetART Toronto. She also narrated the audiobook Happy Hour by Marlowe Granados where she discovered her inner 21-year-old party girl is quite forthcoming. In 2021, Bronwyn was pleased to virtually attend the BANFF World Media Festival as a top 25 Diversity of Voices recipient to pitch her half-hour comedy pilot Line?, set in a post MeToo world, about her traumatic experience at Classical Theatre School. After making friends with some googly-eyed creatures on the set of the children’s show Anaana’s Tent, shot in Iqaluit, Brownyn’s new-found love is puppetry. She is thrilled to be learning Inuktitut as she prepares to co-direct the upcoming season 3 of Anaana’s Tent.

EVA THOMAS, Wallaceburg, ON
Eva Thomas is a writer, director, producer and story editor. She is a member of Walpole Island First Nation which is located in Southwestern Ontario; she is also Tohono O’odham, Cherokee and Scottish, and has dual-citizenship in the US and Canada. Eva is an alumna of the 2018 LA SKINS Native American Feature Film Lab in Los Angeles, the 2019 Telefilm Talent-to-Watch Program, and the 2020 Netflix-BANFF Diversity of Voices Initiative. In 2021, Eva was one of five women selected for the Women in View – Five in Focus: Indigenous Edition as well as the WIFT Toronto Indigenous Writers Program. A participant in the inaugural imagineNATIVE & Harold Greenberg Fund (HGF) Indigenous Story Editing Mentorship, as a story editor/mentor, Eva has worked with writers in the imagineNATIVE Screenwriting Intensive, the Magee TV Diverse Screenwriters Mentorship Program, and the Women in Film and Television-Vancouver’s Tricksters & Writers Program. She is currently working with a number of writers as story editor and producer. In preparation for her cross-over to directing, Eva has worked on-set as an Associate Producer with Danis Goulet (Night Raiders), Director’s Assistant Mentee with Darlene Naponse (Stellar), and with Gail Maurice (Rosie). Along with writer Darren Anthony, Eva is currently in development with CBC on a new series, Dwayne Has Issues which was supported by the NSI Totally Television Program (2020), and has funding to direct the short, Tina and Lisa, in preparation for the feature which she will be developing at WIDC.

Dianne Wulf is a Filipina-Canadian writer/director. She has worked on commercials, music videos and films including a Telus-Optik web series and Telus STORYHIVE-funded projects, four of which she directed and five that she co-produced. She was selected as a participant in Reelworld Film Festival’s Emerging 20 (E20) program for her feature script Disconnected. In 2019, she was one of 25 participants selected for the Netflix-BANFF Diversity of Voices Pitch Program for her original concept Out of this World and was selected again in 2021 for her feature project Rose Among Thorns. She received an AMPIA Rosie nomination for her short film, The Legend of Mindi, and her short Like Right Now was one of 9 finalists in the 2019 CBC Short Film Face-off. Her short screenplays, Where or When and Kaza no Denwa received support from Alberta Media Arts Alliance Society and Women In Film and Television-Alberta. Dianne is an advocate for women and diversity in film and continues to tell stories that bring much needed representation in the Industry.

Currently celebrating 25 years of advancing the career and screen fiction project of women directors, Women In the Director’s Chair (WIDC) organizers recognize the term Woman/Women is in an evolution of language and note that our intention in our use is to be fully inclusive of underrepresented persons who may or may not identify as women and share the goals and values of WIDC to promote these marginalized voices and stories. Further, we gratefully acknowledge that the WIDC program originates from the traditional and unceded lands of the Coast Salish people, including the xmkym (Musqueam), Swxwu7mesh (Squamish), and slilwta (Tseil-wau-tuth) Nations. We also acknowledge the Indigenous Nations on whose traditional lands our guests and participants live, work, and create.

WIDC SPONSORS: We gratefully acknowledge major financial support from Telefilm Canada and the participation of CBC Films, Creative BC, Actra Fraternal Benefit Society, ACTRA National, and the Independent Production Fund.

WIDC COMMUNITY COLLABORATORS: St John’s International Women’s Film Festival, Reelworld Film Festival, Vancouver International Women in Film Festival, Female Eye Film Festival, Crazy 8’s, TIFF Share Her Journey, BANFF World Media Festival, Whistler Film Festival.

WIDC FEATURE FILM AWARD SPONSORS: These companies have recently supported the Feature Film Award with in kind services and rentals: Sim, William F. White International Inc., Panavision Canada, Keslow Camera, Company 3, Encore VFX, Post Moderne, Technicolor Toronto, Skylab Vancouver, White Hart Post Production, North Shore Studios, The Bridge Studios, Vancouver Film Studios, The Research House Clearance Services Inc., MELS Studios, Walter Lighting & Grip, Front Row Insurance, Descriptive Video Works, National Captioning Canada, and Line 21.