FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Updated March 4, 2020 – Vancouver, BC – Organizers of Canada’s Women In the Director’s Chair (WIDC) program are pleased to announce six directors have been selected to take part in the 2020 Vancouver Career Advancement Module presented during the 15th annual Vancouver International Women In Film Festival (VIWIFF), March 3 to 8, 2020.

Developing original feature films are award-winning Toronto-based short filmmakers Anita Abbasi (Saturday Fuego Diablo), along with ACTRA members Sarah Deakins (Violet), Monica Mustelier (G.O.A.T.), and BC-based filmmaker Hayley Gray (Dry Year).

Developing their original series projects are Nauzanin A. Knight (All the Wrong Pills), and Anaisa Visser (Mixed).

Deakins also has a web series in development (Happenstance), and along with Gray they are the recipients of WIDC’s nomination to Telefilm Canada’s Talent to Watch program which provides them with an added year-long mentorship.

This WIDC workshop will be led award-winning WIDC co-creator and producer Dr. Carol Whiteman who along with Digital Strategist and Mentor, Annelise Larson who will present master class sessions on leadership, digital marketing and promotion. Writer/ director Marie Clements (Red Snow) will provide mentorship during a directors’ roundtable. Industry guests include John Dippong (Telefilm Canada), Smita Acharyya (Telus STORYHIVE), Kristy Assu (Telus Originals), Erika Kumar (Creative BC), and Guest Mentor, Susan Curran (A-71). After a week-long intensive program each director will develop a strategic career plan will receive three months of follow up coaching from Whiteman.

The WIDC program receives major funding support from Telefilm Canada. This session is presented in collaboration with the Vancouver International Women In Film Festival. The next WIDC deadline will be June 30, 2020 for the annual WIDC Feature Film Award, a prize valued at up to $200,000 in in kind services and rentals from Canada’s most influential screen industry companies. Past winner, Metis filmmaker Marie ClementsRed Snow opens the VIWFF at VanCity Theatre, March 3 when two singles from the film’s soundtrack will be launched.  Tickets to the VIWIFF are available here.

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2020 WIDC CAM – Vancouver Director Participants

Anita Abbasi is a writer / director based in Toronto. Hailing from two disparate immigrant backgrounds: Pakistan and El Salvador, Anita’s work explores diasporic identity, disconnections to the “motherland”, our desire to be loved and Western popular culture. Cinema, music and laughter have always been places of belonging for her stories though mainly drama, often cross genres into comedy and dance musicals. She holds a BA in Creative Writing and Art History and studied directing under Deepa Mehta.  In the nine years since graduating, Anita has contributed to the work of other creatives in Montreal and Toronto in roles ranging from production assistant to associate producer in productions ranging from experimental dance videos to narrative features. In the last four years, she has refocused her resources on developing her own creative voice.  She has produced three short films with co-director Martin Baena: The Talent Scout (2015), French Poutine (2016) and Mariah que baile! (2017). Her first feature, Saturday Fuego Diablo is in development and was written with the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.

Sarah Deakins was born in Kenosha, Wisconsin to British parents who then moved to Canada, multi-award-winning writer/director. She is a graduate of the University of Victoria theatre program and has extensive stage and screen credits. The first short film she penned and starred in, Late, went to Cannes as part of Telefilm Canada’s “Not Short On Talent” Program, and more recently Deakins has collected over 25 awards on the festival circuit as the writer and director of Greece, produced by Brightlight Pictures. She is the creator, writer, director of the multi award-winning pilot episode, Yellow, with Brightlight Pictures, for an anthology series called In Person, currently in development. Deakins is also working on a web series called Happenstance in Toronto, and developing her first feature film, Violet. She makes her home in three main cities, splitting the year between LA, Toronto, and Vancouver.

Hayley Gray is a Vancouver-based writer and director, living, working and creating on Unceded Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh land.  Since making the jump to the West Coast, Hayley has completed her training at Vancouver Film School and built u pa reputation for collaborating with diverse communities. Hayley started her career as a production manager and producer. She has now written and directed narratives, documentaries and music videos.  Hayley’s first music video, 4 Push Ups, won a TELUS grant and premiered at the LA Skins Film Festival.  Her short film, Pass the Salt, has won awards at festival around the world and aired on CBC’s Short Film Fac-Off.  Her feature script, 36 Questions, was short-listed for The Harold Greenberg Fund and her feature script Blue Sky made it to the Bell Media List as part of the Canadian Film Festival. Hayley is currently working on a TELUS-funded documentary, Hyashi Studio which explores the diverse history of British Columbia through the lens of a Japanese photographer at the turn of the century. She is in development on a documentary feature with the NFB and her latest feature script, Dry Year has been selected as the WIDC Feature Film Nominee for Telefilm Talent to Watch. The nomination includes a year-long mentorship to further develop the project.  The film’s concept short, Send the Rain will be shot in the summer of 2020.

Nauzanin A. Knight is a Canadian woman of Caribbean and Middle Eastern descent. Her nuanced stories reflect the uniqueness of her heritage as well as her international life. Nauzanin began her career in creative writing before directing her attention to film projects. Upon completing her MSc in Countering Organized Crime and Terrorism at University College London, in the UK, Nauzanin set out to share stories about human beings who have been forced into extremes of situation, ideology, belief. After publishing her non-fiction book “State Terrorism in Iran: understanding the case of the Iranian Bahá’í Community”, her screenwriting work has been recognized at international festivals. Since then she went on to direct films like “My Lyric I Never Knew” which follows the life of an indigenous woman as she overcame a past of trauma; published “A Gypsy’s Scroll” a young adult fantasy novel set in the Greek Isles; and, is in the process of directing and producing a feature-length documentary film on Female suicide bombers in Nigeria. Nauzanin is Executive Producer of 1844 Studios, a film production company which is dedicated to fostering international artistic collaborations and exposing striking stories which tell us about the universality of human emotion despite diversity of human experience.

Monica Mustelier is an award-winning writer and director. Her story-telling voice embraces the styles of Christopher Guest and Taika Waittit but with a clearly female spin. She has created awkward and funny short films and web series. Her one-woman show, Growing Up Moni can be described as a TedTalk taking place in an episode of The Office, staffed by Latin and Caribbean immigrants. It premiered at the Vancouver Fringe Festival and was voted one of the six ‘must see’ shows of the Festival. Monica made her writing and directorial debut on-stage. She co-produced and acted in the sold-out sketch comedy show, The Project Series. She then went on to write, act and produce her own award-winning comedic short films. God Squad, the first film she wrote, won the Best Actress Award at the Vancouver Short Film Festival. The Stand Off, written, directed and co-produced by Monica, won Top Pick at the Vino’s Film Festival.  Monica has also written, directed and produced for two comedy web series: John and Mandy follows a couple as they work on their relationship with a questionable therapist and her alternative healing advice; and One on One with Nadia Burkoff centres around the sex-positive former Russian beauty queen and inspirational vlogger.

Anaïsa Visser grew up all over the world, namely in Mozambique, the United States, then France, before moving to Vancouver to pursue an undergraduate degree at Emily Carr University. She graduated in 2013 with a BFA in Film, Video and Integrated Media. After that, Anaïsa worked in equipment rentals and continued to work on short projects on the side to continue honing her skills. Anaïsa is currently pursuing her Masters Degree in Film Production and Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia, which she expects to finish in May 2020. She dedicates all of her spare time to helping others make their independent films, and to writing, directing, and producing her own independent work. Her recent accomplishments include the 2017 Vancouver Mayor’s Arts Award for Emerging Artist in Film & New Media, being selected as a finalist for Crazy8s in 2018, and the 2018 Women in Film and Television Newcomer Spotlight Award. In 2019, she founded an online network called Womxn Filmmakers of BC, which has given women and non-binary folk a space in which to exchange about filmmaking experiences in BC.

About WIDC
Women In the Director’s Chair (WIDC) was founded in 1997 by ACTRA, The Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and Women In Film and Television Vancouver and is administered by national non-profit society Creative Women Workshops Association. WIDC offers mentorship for Canadian women screen directors, along with project development and production awards to help them get their narrative stories on screen. With more than 270 award-winning director alumnae across Canada, over the last twenty-three years WIDC has advanced the voices of a generation of women screen directors.

WIDC is presented with major support from Telefilm Canada, CBC Films, and ACTRA, and with the participation of the Canada Council for the Arts | Conseil des Arts du Canada, Actra Fraternal Benefit Society, ACTRA National, TELUS STORYHIVE, Creative BC, UBCP/ACTRA, Independent Production Fund, ACTRA Alberta; WIDC appreciates community collaborations with 1st Weekend Club, National Film Board, WIFT Vancouver’s International Women In Film Festival, Female Eye Film Festival, St John’s International Women’s Film Festival, Crazy 8’s, and the Whistler Film Festival.

WIDC Awards include the WIDC Feature Film Award,  valued at up to $200K and supported by some of Canada’s most influential screen industry companies. Past sponsors include Panavision Canada, Sim, Post Moderne, Keslow Camera, William F. White International, Walters Lighting and Grip, Encore Vancouver, Technicolor Toronto, Skylab Vancouver, White Hart Post Productions, North Shore Studios, The Bridge Studios, Vancouver Film Studios, The Research House Clearance Services Inc., Descriptive Video Works, Front Row Insurance, National Captioning Canada, and Line 21 Media. The CBC Films WIDC Talent Development Award offers a cash prize of $10,000 towards a woman writer/director’s tuition to WIDC Story & Leadership and story consulting to take their feature script to the next draft.


For more information:

Carol Whiteman, WIDC Producer  | 778-809-0747