CBC Films renews WIDC commitment of $35,000 for 2020 in support of underrepresented voices


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – December 5, 2019 (Vancouver BC) Women In the Director’s Chair (WIDC) organizers are pleased to announce the 2019 winners of the WIDC CBC Films Talent Development Award, a $10,000 story development prize supported by CBC Films that will cover Story & Leadership program tuition plus a fee for a story consultant. The 2019 winners of this important new development prize are Winnipeg-based Cree filmmaker JJ Neepin for Luminous, Neepin’s debut feature film about an Indigenous woman who has the power of second-sight; and BC-based Meeshelle Neal’s feature script Sweet Release, about a modern-day alchemist who attempts to save her daughter’s life by stopping death for the entire world. Neal and Neepin will be matched with story consultants to help them take their scripts to the next draft. CBC Films contributed $35,000 towards the 2019 WIDC Story & Leadership program, and has renewed its commitment for the coming year.

Both Neepin and Neal are alumnae of the 2018 Story & Leadership program, along with fellow directors Anna Cooley (AB), Ontario-based Penny Eizenga, and Jude Klassen; BC-based actors crossing over to directing Mia Fiona Kut and Michelle Morgan, and Pamela Gallant from Atlantic Canada whose attendance was subsidized by the Award’s support.  The program is led by multiple industry award-winner Dr. Carol Whiteman who produces and facilitates, as well as Mentor Director Siobhan Devine whose multi-award-winning debut feature The Birdwatcher bowed at WFF 2015. Devine’s television work has received multiple awards including for CBC’s Kim’s Convenience. The instructors are 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), who return to lead sessions on leadership, story development, marketing and working with actors. Two Canadian cinematographers also support the development program as well as an ensemble of ACTRA actors from across the country.

Industry guests include executives include Mehernaz Lentin (CBC Films), Lauren Davis (Telefilm Canada), Alan Bacchus (Bell Media’s Harold Greenberg Fund), Susan Curran (A-71), Andra Sheffer (Independent Production Fund), Smita Acharrya (TELUS STORYHIVE); independent producers Lael McCall (Principia Productions) and Sonya Di Rienzo (Hawkeye Pictures); and filmmaker, Gloria Ui Young Kim (Queen of the Morning Calm), who will participate in roundtables and one-to-one meetings.

WIDC Story & Leadership also receives major funding support from Telefilm Canada, ACTRA National, UBCP-ACTRA. Part 2 of the program includes the WIDC Whistler Film Festival Industry Immersion, which provides a first-class industry offering during the fest’s four-day run. The four-month program concludes with Parts 3 & 4, offering additional story and career planning.  Backgrounder follows.


2019 WIDC CBC Films Story Development Award Winners

Meeshelle Neal (BC) – Sweet Release (feature film)
Neal is an award-winning director, with a writing / producing / acting background, who creates impactful and intimate films that have garnered international acclaim. Her portfolio of work includes Mental (BravoFACT recipient), Therapy, Check, and Ladies Don’t Wear Slacks. She recently completed a concept short under the same title, Sweet Release, which has begun its festival run. An alumna of the WIDC Story & Leadership program, Neal is currently apprenticing with indefatigable director Gary Harvey.

JJ Neepin (MB) – Luminous (feature film)
Indigenous writer and director Neepin has directed for APTN’s Canadian Screen Award-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. Neepin is an alumna of WIDC Story & Leadership, and the inaugural Academy Apprenticeship for Women Directors program. She is an associate producer on the new CBC series, The Trickster.

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 260 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 ACTRA National, UBCP-ACTRA, Actra Fraternal Benefit Society, and ACTRA Alberta, Creative BC, Independent Production Fund, as well as 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, 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: enquiries@widc.ca | www.widc.ca | facebook.com/widc.ca | @WIDC_ca | #WIDC

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Mary M. Frymire, WIDC Communications, laserinapictures@gmail.com
Carol Whiteman, WIDC Co-creator & Producer, 778-809-07747; carol@widc.ca