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The Whistler Film Festival will present an unprecedented number of female focused films, talent, events, and awards throughout its 2017 programs. Female filmmakers and industry leaders will ascend to the top of Whistler Mountain for WFF’s second annual Women on Top Keynote and Breakfast on December 2 sponsored by Whistler Blackcomb.

The Whistler Film Festival will screen 14 feature films and 16 short films directed by women, which makes up 30% of this year’s film programming, the highest percentage for the festival to date. WFF will also have 40 Canadian females out of 82 (49%) participating in 11 different talent programs, including 14 directors, 5 producers, 4 screenwriters, 9 filmmakers, 3 actors, and 5 musicians in bands in the Music Showcase.

WFF’s Women on Top keynote address will be delivered by American film producer and co-founder of Resonate Entertainment Susan Cartsonis, who was named “one of the top five grossing producers of the year” by The Hollywood Reporter, in the year her film WHAT WOMEN WANT became the highest grossing romantic comedy of all time at the time of its release and remains number two to this day. Cartsonis has also produced THE DUFF, BEASTLY, WHERE THE HEART IS, and AQUAMARINE, as well as executive produced MIDDLE SCHOOL, INVISIBLE SISTER, and NO RESERVATIONS. Her most recent films produced include CARRIE PILBY, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 2016, and DEIDRA & LANEY ROB A TRAIN, a Netflix Original Film which premiered at Sundance 2017. She is currently executive producing The Disney Channel musical FREAKY FRIDAY THE MUSICAL.

“It’s not unreasonable to expect that women should be 50 percent of those creating content, considering more than 50 percent of us are consuming the content,” says Cartsonis. “I think it’s really important that women mentor both men and women. I’m well aware that some encouragement, direction and advice can change the course of your life. And when women mentor men, we change the way they view the abilities of women.”

Cartsonis was an executive at 20th Century Fox for nearly a decade and rose from script reader to Senior VP of Production. She is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and serves on the Independent Committee of the Producer’s Guild. She teaches Advanced Producing at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts and is strong advocate for female representation in front and behind the camera. She is a frequent speaker on the economic argument for female inclusion in media.

Greetings and updates at the Women on Top event will be delivered from public agencies that have initiated new policies for gender equality. The roster includes Creative BC CEO Prem Gil, Canada Media Fund President and CEO Valerie Creighton, National Film Board of Canada’s Executive Producer of Pacific and Yukon Centre Shirley Vercruysse and Telefilm Canada Feature Film Executive – English-language Market Stephanie Azam as well as current Women in Film and Televisions Chair of Advocacy Committee and Vancouver Honorary Lifetime Member, filmmaker and UBC professor, Sharon McGowan.

The Whistler Film Festival is poised to help elevate efforts to increase women working together across the entertainment industry. In addition to the talented content creators attending the festival in support of their films and projects, WFF will also host industry elite including actress and Borsos Jury member Camille Sullivan, award winning director and WFF alumni Ingrid Veninger with PORCUPINE LAKE, first time feature director Jackie English with BECOMING BURLESQUE, Darcy Hennessey Turenne, director of WFF’s closing gala film THE MOMENT, Sarah Rotella director NOBODY FAMOUS, Michelle Ouellet director PRODIGALS, acclaimed director Éva Gardos with BUDAPEST NOIR, first time feature directors and WFF alumni Hannah Cheesman and Mackenzie Donaldson with THE DEFINITES, acclaimed director Camille Thoman with the American Indie selection NEVER HERE, Kyra Sedgwick director of STORY OF A GIRL, award winning director Eisha Marjara with VENUS, American director Lori Stoll with HEAVEN’S FLOOR, Gail Harvey director of NEVER SAW IT COMING, and Jordan Canning and Renuka Jeyapalan co-directors of ORDINARY DAYS.

WFF will host the Variety 10 Screenwriters to Watch class of 2017 which is primarily comprised of women screenwriters. The seven female screenwriters being honored include Liz Hannah, THE POST; Hallie Meyers-Shyer, HOME AGAIN; Maggie Betts, NOVITIATE; Tracy Oliver – co-wrote GIRLS TRIP, Dorothy Blyskal – “THE 15:17 TO PARIS”, and Sarah Ruhl, MY LIFE ON THE ROAD. Maggie Betts, Tracy Oliver and Dorothy Blyskal will be attending the festival.

WFF Feature Films directed or co-directed by women:

BECOMING BURLESQUE (Canada) Dir. Jackie English
THE MOMENT (Canada) Dir. Darcy Hennessey Turenne
NEVER SAW IT COMING (Canada) Dir. Gail Harvey
NOBODY FAMOUS (Canada) Dir. Sarah Rotella
PRODIGALS (Canada) Dir. Michelle Ouellet
BUDAPEST NOIR (Hungary) Dir Éva Gárdos
THE DEFINITES (Canada) Dir. Hannah Cheesman & Mackenzie Donaldson
NEVER HERE (United States) Dir. Camille Thoman
STORY OF A GIRL (United States) Dir. Kyra Sedgwick
VENUS (Canada) Dir. Eisha Marjara
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ANDRÉ (United States) Dir. Kate Novack
PORCUPINE LAKE (Canada) Dir. Ingrid Veninger
HEAVEN’S FLOOR (Canada, United States) Dir. Lori Stoll
ORDINARY DAYS (Canada) Dir. Jordan Canning, Kris Booth, Renuka Jeyapalan

WFF Short Films directed or co-directed by women:

THE STAKEOUT (Canada) Dir. Jax Smith
NEGATIVE SPACE (France/US) Dir. Ru Kuwuhata and Max Porter
WE FORGOT TO BREAK UP (Canada) Dir. Chandler Levack
BFF (Canada) Dir. Sofia Auza
GOOD GIRLS DON’T (Canada) Dir. Ana de Lara
MONDAY (Canada) Dir. Liz Levine
LOLZITA (Canada) Dir. Katie Boland
THE BURDEN (MIN BÖRDA) (Sweden) Dir. Niki Lindroth von Bahr
DEAR HATETTS (Canada) Dir. Kerry Barber
SHADES OF WINTER: CROSSROADS (Austria) Dir. Sandra Lahnsteiner
UNINTENTIONAL MOTHER (Canada) Dir. Mary Galloway
WAITING FOR LOU (EN ATTENDANT LOU) (Canada) Dir. Katerine Martineau
FLOATING LIGHT (Canada) Dir. Natalie Murao
VIOLET AND JUNE (Canada) Dir. Linnea Ritland
THE BUTTERFLY (Canada) Dir. Andy Alvarez

WFF Talent Programs with female participation announced to date include:

Feature Project Lab (4/6 producers): Lettie Costea (BC) – ALONE; Tricia Lee (ON) PENUMBRA; Amanda Verhagen (BC) PARTY FAVOUR and Carmen Forsberg (BC) – BOUNDARY COUNTRY.

Praxis Screenwriters Lab (4/5 screenwriters): Andeep Singh (BC) – GOODNIGHT MR G; Emily Bridger (NL) – LITTLE ORPHANS; Simone Stock (ON) POLARIS and Kate Bond (BC) – TRAPLINE.

Power Pitch (1/5 producers): Rebeka Herron (BC) – SALTBOX

Aboriginal Filmmaker Fellowship (3/6 directors): Nikita Weiss Day (BC) – SWEETGRASS ROAD; Madison Thomas (MB) – STARBOUND and Sonya Ballantyne (MB) – REVISION

Doc Lab (5/10 filmmakers): Kate Kroll (BC) -, CALAMITY KATE AND THE FIGHTING CHOLITAS; Jessica Dymond (BC) – TO LETHBRIDGE WITH LOVE; Christina Ienna (ON) – COLDWATER; Ali Harris (BC) – XWAAQW’UM: A JOURNEY and Jaime Leigh Gianopoulos (BC) – WE ARE THE BRIDGE.

Digital First Lab (4/7 filmmakers): Rebecca Campbell, THE GIRL WHO TALKS TO THE MOON; Farah Merani, SUPER ZEE; Sonya Ballantyne, REVISION and Nikita Weiss Day, SWEETGRASS ROAD.

Music Showcase finalists (5/31 musicians): The Katherines (3 – all female band); I M U R (fronted by a female) and Rya (female – solo).

Stars to Watch (3/4 actors): Jessica Parker Kennedy attending WFF with the world premiere of SOMEONE ELSE’S WEDDING; Tiera Skovbye attending with the world premiere of PRODIGALS and Julia Sarah Stone attending with the Western Canadian premiere of A WORTHY COMPANION.

MPPIA Short Film Award (2/4 directors): Jessie Anthony (BC) – THE LAST CIGARETTE and Veronika Kurz (BC) – 20 MINUTES TO LIFE

WIDC WFF Industry Immersion (8/8 directors): Sonia Bonspille Boileau (QC) – RUSTIC ORACLE; Jessica Bradford (BC) – FINN MCKAIN AND THE LOST TOAD; Katia Café Fébrissy (ON) – GROUNDED; Leah Cameron (ON) – THE COMMUNIST’S DAUGHTER; Sandi Gisbert (BC) – ALL PRANKS AND NO FUN; Sophie Jarvis (BC) – INVASIONS; Elizabeth Lazebnik (ON) – HANNAH and Shannon Walsh, UNIDENTIFIED MINOR.

WIFTV Mentorship (1/1 director): Shannon Walsh, UNIDENTIFIED MINOR. Mentor is Robyn Wiener – CEO Owner/Producer, Synergy Cinema Inc.

Other female-focused talent programs that WFF supports includes the Women in Film & Television Vancouver Film Market Preparation Mentorship, which provides the recipient with experience in preparing her feature film project for market by immersing her in the festival, and the Women In the Director’s Chair (WIDC) with eight Canadian women directors recently announced to attend the 20th anniversary session of the highly acclaimed script development and director mentoring program WIDC: Story & Leadership.

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