FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – November 2021 (Vancouver BC), Women In the Director’s Chair (WIDC) organizers are pleased to announce the eight Canadian directors selected to attend the Women In the Director’s Chair Story & Leadership program, presented in collaboration with the Whistler Film Festival.
Celebrating its 25th Anniversary, WIDC is internationally known as one of Canada’s highly effective script development and director mentoring programs.
“As a Proud partner of the WIDC, we at Telefilm Canada want to thank you for your continuous contribution in elevating and strengthening the voices of women directors for twenty-five years,” said Christa Dickenson, CEO of Telefilm Canada.
Each director in this Story & Leadership cohort has brought a promising original fiction project to develop at this online edition of WIDC. The director participants include:
Recently named among Playback’s 2021 Top 10 to Watch, Samantha MacAdam is developing her hilarious comedy Prom Night. The short concept film premiered at Just for Laughs and spent a year on Kevin Hart’s LOL Network.
Also developing their debut feature films are Alayna Silverberg (Strange Bird) whose WFF-pitched MPPIA Short Film Award film, B-Side won the Gerry Brunet award at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival 2020; Alexandra Caulfield (What Comes Next) who is also in the 2021 cohort of the Whistler Film Festival Producers Lab; and Niara Modi whose India-set feature Malabar Court has already received support from Telefilm Canada and Corus.
BC-based Indigenous storyteller, Joy Haskell is developing a new drama series, Greyfeather. Haskell was selected for the CFC / Netflix Project Development Accelerator for her debut feature film Cookies or Crack and is part of the Academy’s 2021/22 Program for Women Directors, and WFF Talent Lab alumna.
CSA-winning writer/director Chris Deacon (Degrassi TNG; Dino Dana) is developing her comedy series Mother Complex; CSA-nominated CBC journalist turned filmmaker, Bal Brach is also developing a comedy, Surviving the Singhs; and direct from the writers’ room of CBC’s new comedy series Sort Of, Léa Geronimo Rondot is developing their own comedy series, Sola and the Oracle.
Mentor directors for this session of WIDC include Shelley Thompson multi-award-winning actor / filmmaker (Trailer Park Boys) and WIDC Feature Film Award recipient (Dawn, Her Dad & the Tractor); and Joyce Wong 2021 CSA winner for Best Direction, Baroness Von Sketch Show.
Story & Leadership is also led by a team of experienced instructors and mentors including multiple industry award-winner and WIDC co-creator, Dr. Carol Whiteman who produces and facilitates the program; Dr. Dorothy Christian Cucw-la7 and Dr. Rita Shelton Deverell C.M. who lead a module on equity, diversity and inclusion work; writer and Jungian expert, Dr. Carolyn Mamchur, screenwriter / story consultant Linda Coffey (Never Steady, Never Still; Rustic Oracle), actor and filmmaker, Lori Triolo (Blackstone, Lost Solace), actor / instructor, Veena Sood (A Million Little Things; Welcome to Marwen) and Digital Media & Marketing Mentor, Annelise Larson, who will lead respective sessions on leadership, story development, marketing and working with actors. An ensemble of ACTRA actors from across Canada and ICG cinematographers, Kim Derko csc (Save Me; The Next Step), and Daytime Emmy winner, Gayle Ye (Odd Squad, Mobile Unit), will also join the program, workshopping excerpts from the directors’ original scripts.
During the WFF Industry Immersion part of the program, the eight director participants partake in a first-class industry environment during the fest’s twenty-day run that includes an array of master classes, artist talks, one to ones, and notably, WFF’s Women In Focus series. WIDC-hosted sessions with industry guests include Lauren Davis (Telefilm Canada), Mitch Geddes (Bell Media), and Dawn, Her Dad & the Tractor producer, Terry Greenlaw (Picture Plant); as well as representatives from CBC, the Independent Production Fund, Creative BC, among others who will participate in roundtables and individual meetings with participants.
Also being showcased at 2021 Whistler Film Festival are WIDC alumnae feature films including Thompson’s Dawn, Her Dad & the Tractor and Valerie Buhagiar’s fourth feature film Carmen. Both films are nominated for the WFF Borsos Prize. Lauren Grant’s short film, Things We Feel But Do Not Say also screens at the festival.
Story & Leadership culminates with intensive follow up development of story and marketing materials, and career coaching modules that run through to spring 2022. WIDC receives major financial support from Telefilm Canada. Story & Leadership is also supported by ACTRA National, AFBS, the Independent Production Fund and Creative BC.
We gratefully acknowledge that the WIDC program originates from the traditional and unceded lands of the Coast Salish peoples, 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.
The Directors (in alphabetical order by last name)
Bal Brach, BC – Frustrated at the lack of representation in Canadian television, Bal started Wrise Productions Inc. She wrote, directed, and produced a documentary about the growth of the Indian wedding business in Canada. Wrise Production Inc.’s first film LITTLE INDIA BIG BUSINESS aired on CBC television and the Documentary Channel. In 2017, the film was named a finalist at the New York Festivals in the TV documentary category of best cultural issues. That same year, Bal was nominated for a Canadian Screen Award for her stories about Syrian refugee resettlement, as part of her freelance journalism work at CBC News. Bal is an award-winning broadcast journalist and producer with more than 15 years’ experience working in Canada’s top newsrooms. Currently, Bal is developing several projects primarily focused on the lives of South Asians in North America.
Alexandra Caulfield, BC – is a Director & Writer based in Vancouver on the unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. Their most recent short film Dear Departed is starting its festival run in late 2021 and they are currently attending the Women In the Director’s Chair Story & Leadership Program with their debut feature WHAT COMES NEXT. They have been awarded a Geena Davis Institute Mentorship, was a runner-up in the Women in Film & Television From Our Dark Side Genre Pitch Contest and have attended the National Screen Institute and the Whistler Film Festival’s Talent Labs. Previously, they have worked as a Creative Executive overseeing the production of 12 feature-length films in two years and produced several films award-winning short films which have screened at festivals in North America, Europe, & Asia, including the Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival, Vancouver International Film Festival, and winning the Judge’s Award at the Northwest Filmmakers’ Festival.
Christine Deacon, ON – Writer-Director Chris Deacon grew up in Montreal and moved to Toronto to study film at Ryerson University. In her work, Chris enjoys mining the minutiae of everyday life. Her comedic short films have played festivals internationally, garnering numerous awards, including a Gemini/CSA nomination and a Genie award for Best Short for her comedy MOVING DAY. Chris has directed several episodes of television, including Degrassi TNG, Raising Expectations, Radio Free Roscoe, and Dino Dana. She has also worked as a script reader for the Harold Greenberg Fund, Telefilm Canada, and the CFC. Chris is also an essayist whose work has been featured in Chatelaine, and The Huffington Post. Chris has several projects in development, including a feature about a girl’s hockey team, and a half-hour comedy series about motherhood.
Joy Haskell, BC – is an Indigenous Filmmaker, Screenwriter and Director based in Vancouver. She was an Associate Story Editor for Season 1 on Ron E. Scott’s TV series TRIBAL and is an alumna of BANFF MEDIA FESTIVAL’s Diversity of Voices Initiative in 2018/21, 2019 WIFTV WFF Market Preparation Mentorship, and a participant in the 2020 Women In Focus Series for Whistler Film Festival. Joy was selected for the Canadian Academy Directors Program for Women 2021/22. Her first feature film script, COOKIES or CRACK, is now receiving support through the highly competitive CFC/Netflix Project Development Accelerator. The project has received CMF and Telefilm development support. She is a recent alumna of Women In the Director’s Chair having received the 2021 Banff Media Festival Fellowship Award as part of the Career Advancement Module. In 2018, Joy created, wrote, directed and produced the comedy short HEY CUZZIN which is now being developed as a half-hour comedy series with Andrew Carr (Corner Gas). Joy’s most recent credit includes two social media videos for the David Suzuki Foundation. In 2020, Joy started her own company called Firediva Productions, where she is currently developing a feature film and two original tv series. Joy’s background is in theatre, specializing in acting, singing and dancing.
Samantha MacAdam, ON – Just selected for Playback’s 10 to Watch 2021, Sam MacAdam is an award-winning Guyanese-Canadian narrative ﬁlmmaker, with a focus on comedy and horror. Some of her career highlights include her short ﬁlm, PROM NIGHT, starring Gerry Dee premiering at Just for Laughs in Kevin Hart’s LOL Showcase; and the selection of her one-hour dramatic pilot for the Netﬂix-Banﬀ Diversity of Voices Initiative. PROM NIGHT, her feature comedy screenplay, was chosen for the Second Round of the MACRO x The Black List Feature Screenwriter Incubator created in partnership with Warner Bros., the Caribbean Tales Film Festival’s Creators of Colour Incubator and the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival’s Big Pitch Event. Sam directed on two CBC Gem web series, TRUE DATING STORIES (one episode) and Aden Abebe’s (coming of age drama/comedy) VIRGINS! (the pilot, along with two episodes), and she just directed a proof-of-concept for a web series by Cream Productions. Sam is a recipient of an ISO Solidarity Fund, from which she directed her thriller/horror (proof-of-concept/short ﬁlm), THE HORRIBLE HISTORY OF HARRIET JONES, starring Jessica Salgueiro — a story that was birthed from true-crime stories that took place in Georgetown, Guyana. HARRIET was also selected for the ACTRA Diversity & Inclusion’s Working the Scene in Colour initiative. Sam continues to work as a director, as she develops her two feature ﬁlm projects.
Niara Modi, ON – Born and raised in Mumbai, India, Niara also lived in Italy and North Carolina before making Toronto home. This immigrant experience is fertile territory for Niara and a strong presence in her work. Niara recently wrote and directed the short, food-themed, drama STIR which had a successful festival run: including the Cleveland International Film Festival USA, The Toronto International Short Film Festival, River to River Indian Film Festival, Florence, Italy and Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival. STIR also streams on Reel Women Network. In upcoming projects, Niara is slated to direct the India-set feature film, MALABAR COURT from her original screenplay developed with support from Telefilm and Corus. Niara’s credits include writing and directing the short, World War II drama AFTER which screened extensively on Canadian TV and directing VARANASI TRAIL a music video. Other selected credits include Videography and Sound Recordist work in TV documentary series. Niara is an alumnus of the REEL WORLD FILM FESTIVAL Emerging 20 program and is currently developing feature and television projects as writer and director. Niara is also excited to be story editor for Jorge Muniz’s Peru-Canada set feature screenplay LA SANTA.
Léa Geronimo Rondot, ON – Writer / Director (She/They) is an award-winning filmmaker and writer from a small town south of Montreal. They’re the product of a Franco-Québécois, mixed Filipino-Caucasian household. Now in Toronto, Léa is focused on creating more short films as a writer/director/actor, developing their original pilot scripts, and working as a writer or story coordinator in television. Coming from the world of live comedy and theatre, she has translated her performance style into her voice as a writer and director. Léa’s writing has earned her a reputation for her dry satirical edge, and for sneaking sincere commentary into the world’s stupidest jokes. She’s been selected to the Netflix-Banff Diversity of Voices initiative, twice, WIFT-T Scripted Digital Series Incubator, Working the Scene in Colour Live Reads, and the Women On Screen Web Series Incubator. Most recently they’ve worked as a story coordinator and story editor on new CBC/HBOmax series, SORT OF, premiering this Fall.
Alayna Silverberg, BC – Award-winning queer director and writer known for her short film B-SIDE, a 90’s coming of age story featuring an all-female cast of skateboarders. Alayna is currently developing her first feature. Alayna pulls from her own experiences to create heartfelt, personally driven stories with Queer characters. She was top 3 in Elle Canada’s Fashion Film competition, then took home a $10k Telus STORYHIVE grant for their Female Directors edition. Alayna participated in the Women in the Director’s Chair Career Advancement Module in 2018. She won the MPPIA short film pitch at Whistler Film Festival the same year for her film B-SIDE. The award allowed her the support and sponsorship to create B-SIDE the short film. Since its completion, B-SIDE was nominated for Best Short Drama and Best Musical Score Short Drama at the 2020 Leo Awards. The film also screened at Vancouver Short Film Festival, Whistler Film Festival and at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival 2020, where Alayna was the proud recipient of the Gerry Brunet award in recognition of a BC short filmmaker.
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 over 300 director alumnae across Canada who have directed 1000’s of hours of quality screen entertainment, WIDC is presented with major support from Telefilm Canada, and appreciates the participation of Creative BC, ACTRA National, Actra Fraternal Benefit Society, and the Independent Production Fund.
WIDC also acknowledges the in kind support of Panavision Canada, Sim Complete, Poste Moderne, Keslow Camera Film and Digital, William F. White Intl., North Shore Studios, Encore VFX, Elemental Post, The Bridge Studios, Vancouver Film Studios, Walters Lighting & Grip, The Research House Clearances Inc, Descriptive Video Works, Front Row Insurance, National Captioning Canada; Line-21, and community collaborations with WIFT Vancouver’s International Women In Film Festival, Female Eye Film Festival, Reel World Film Festival, St John’s International Women’s Film Festival, VIFF, TIFF, Crazy 8’s, and the Whistler Film Festival. Contact: email@example.com | www.widc.ca | facebook.com/widc.ca | @WIDC_ca | #WIDC
About Whistler Film Festival
The 21st edition of the Whistler Film Festival will be presented as a hybrid event in Whistler, December 1 to 5 and online December 1 to 31. In-person screenings, Content Summit and events take place in Whistler, British Columbia, from December 1 to 5. From December 1 to 31, audiences across Canada will be able to stream 81 films, access filmmaker Q&As, and attend a virtual Awards Celebration in true Whistler style.
WFF will deliver its Content Summit from December 1 to 10, as a unique hybrid industry event, presenting a snapshot of the most transformative ideas shaping the future of screen entertainment. With over 34 sessions, including keynote conversations, masterclasses, workshops, fireside chats, roundtables, and 1+1 Virtual Market meetings featuring forward thinkers, innovators, and decision-makers, there’s something for every interest.
Tickets, packs and passes are on sale now at whistlerfilmfestival.com