Whistler, B.C. (December 6, 2016): The 16th Whistler Film Festival (WFF) wrapped Sunday night, living up to its title as ‘Canada’s coolest film fest’ by hosting more high-profile premieres, filmmakers, industry executives and talent than ever before.
The 2016 Whistler Film Festival Audience Award goes to LA LA LAND, Damien Chazelle's charming romantic musical featuring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Audiences in Whistler were completely charmed by our Opening Night selection, building on its popular momentum following screenings at the Venice and Toronto film festivals. People on the village stroll (the main street in Whistler) were still talking to each other about how much they had loved it days after its screenings.
Two other amazingly popular films tied for second place for WFF’s Audience Award. All narrative and documentary feature-length films in the Whistler Film Festival are eligible to receive the Audience Award, which is a non-cash prize. The Festival-going public casts their votes to choose the most popular film in this year’s festival.
Tied for second place was John Madden's razor-sharp profile of a take-no prisoners female Washington lobbyist memorably played by Jessica Chastain. MISS SLOANE fascinated Whistler audiences who were delighted to hear director John Madden talk about his experiences shooting the film in Toronto and how rare it is to come across such an intriguingly intricate first-time screenplay (by Jonathan Perera). The general consensus among Whistler audiences was that Chastain's performance should be remembered on Oscar night.
Garth Davis' LION was also a very popular runner up with our audiences, who were charmed by the presence in Whistler of screenwriter Luke Davies, who was in attendance as one of the Variety 10 Screenwriters to Watch who was in attendance and who generously shared insights into the real-life experiences of Saroo, an Indian boy who was separated from his family at the age of five and spent twenty-five years searching for his lost birth mother. There was not a dry eye in the house at both sold-out Whistler screenings, and every single audience member stayed to hear what Davies had to say about the real-life protagonists in this story.
The most popular Canadian film with Whistler audiences this year was the BC based GRAND UNIFIED THEORY, directed and written by David Ray. Fresh and funny, shot over a twelve day period in North Vancouver, the film tells the story of a brilliant nuclear physicist who may know how to lecture about the order in the universe, but whose personal family life is a living example of chaos theory run rampant.
Says Paul Gratton, Director of Programming of the Whistler Film Festival: "We felt going in that this year's selection of films was the most diverse and audience-friendly mix that we have ever had the privilege of presenting at Whistler. We were gratified to note that our instincts were correct. The audience rating numbers were the highest that we have ever seen for this year's films, and that reflects the ever growing relationship between the Whistler Film Festival and the audiences that support it."
Total attendance for this year’s fest was 13,993 attendees including film screenings, special events, industry Summit and talent programs, with film screening attendance increasing 12%. 19 sold out screenings were at or near capacity, including LA LA LAND, MISS SLOANE, LION, 20TH CENTURY WOMEN, LOVESICK, RAW*, SLED DOGS, THE SUN AT MIDNIGHT, SECOND TIME ROUND, LOST SOLACE, GUILT TRIP / THE HIGHWAY and GRAND UNIFIED THEORY.
Designed to facilitate international alliances and financial partnerships, WFF’s industry Summit program presented 25 interactive sessions that addressed a range of issues affecting the film, television, and digital media industry. Overall Summit attendance increased 17% with 2,962 attendees including 915 delegates (7% increase over 2015).
The Whistler Summit directly connects to WFF’s slate of 12 talent programs designed to provide creative and business immersion experiences for up to 75 Canadian artists including its Feature Project Lab, Praxis Screenwriters Lab, Aboriginal Filmmaker Fellowship, Power Pitch, Digital-First Lab, Doc Lab, Canon Hi5 ShortFIlm Challenge, Music Showcase and Stars to Watch. WFF also collaborates with several industry organizations by hosting specific third party initiatives at the Whistler Summit including the Women in the Director’s Chair Industry Immersion, Women in Film & Television Film Market Preparation Mentorship, and the MPPIA Short Film Award Pitch with the Motion Picture Production Industry Association and Creative BC.
In addition to the 461 scheduled meetings (a 141% increase over 2015) that took place during the Summit, there was again a notable increase in unscheduled meetings that took place outside of scheduled blocks proving the festival remains an important place for the industry to meet and do business. Industry guests came from Canada, USA, UK, India, and China to participate, and included some of the top talent and executives in the business.
WFF announced four deals from the festival. Inflo Films announced that Academy Award-nominated director Deepa Mehta and producer David Hamilton of Hamilton Mehta Productions will executive produce Dusty Mancinelli’s and Harry Cherniak’s of Inflo Films first feature LITTLE KINGS. The film was one of the feature titles selected to participate in the WFF’s 2016 Feature Projects and Praxis Screenwriters Lab. A71 Entertainment Inc. announced today that they have acquired the Canadian rights to two feature films premiering at this year’s Whistler Film Festival (WFF). CHOKESLAM (directed by Robert Cuffley) is having its BC premiere and POPULATION ZERO (directed by Adam Levins and Julian T. Pinder) is having its Canadian premiere at WFF. IndieCan Entertainment has acquired the Canadian distribution rights to Amy Jo Johnson’s debut feature film THE SPACE BETWEEN, which is in competition and having its Western Canadian festival premiere at this years Whistler Film Festival. IndieCan Entertainment will release the film theatrically in Spring 2017 following its run on the festival circuit.
WFF proudly celebrated Canadian icon Alan Thicke as its Signature Series’ Tribute honouree with its Canadian Icon Award, presented to an individual whose tireless work expands beyond our borders yet is someone who remains a beloved ambassador of the Canadian spirit. Thicke was attending WFF with the Canadian Premiere of Chris Craddock’s offbeat comedy, IT’S NOT MY FAULT AND I DON’T CARE ANYWAY. WFF also honoured acclaimed filmmaker Deepa Mehta with its Trailblazer Award, presented to an actor, writer or director who has blazed a unique and inspiring trail for themselves in film and who continues to engage audiences with meaningful and impactful work. Mehta was attending the festival with the Western Canadian premiere of her latest work ANATOMY OF VIOLENCE and as the head of the Borsos Jury for Best Canadian Feature. WFF also honoured former NHL All-Star, Stanley Cup winner and Olympic Gold Medalist Theo Fleury as its Signature Series’ Spotlight honouree and with its Humanitarian Award for his commitment to making a difference. Fleury was attending the festival with the Canadian premiere of Michael David Lynch’s VICTOR WALK, a moving documentary that chronicles his ten day 400 kilometre walk from Toronto to Ottawa along Highway 7 in May 2013, to draw attention to the light sentences meted out to convicted pedophiles in Canada.
The Whistler Film Festival proudly hosted Variety Contender Conversation with John Madden, who was attending with the Canadian premiere of MISS SLOANE and received WFF’s Maverick Award for Directing. WFF also presented the Variety 10 Screenwriters to Watch conversation and awards presentation for the fifth consecutive year hosted by Variety Vice President and Executive Editor, Steven Gaydos. This year’s slate of screenwriters in attendance included Luke Davies - “Lion” directed by Garth Davis and received its Western Canadian premiere at WFF, Pamela Ribon - “Moana” directed by Ron Clements and Don Hall, Kristina Lauren Anderson - “Catherine the Great” directed by Barbra Streisand, Jojo Moyes - “Me Before You” directed by Thea Sharrock, Todd Komarnicki - “Sully” directed by Clint Eastwood, and Jonas Cuaron - "Desierto" who is also the director. Luke Davies and Todd Komarnicki also delivered Master Classes for the six WFF Praxis Screenwriters Lab participants.
To top it all off, WFF’s Stars to Watch sponsored by UBCP/ACTRA were recognized at this year’s Awards Celebration, and all had films premiering at the fest. Actor Agam Darshi who attended with the BC premiere of CHOKESLAM; actor and musician Charlie Kerr who attended WFF with two Canadian premieres - AN AMERICAN DREAM: THE EDUCATION OF WILLIAM BOWMAN and LOST SOLACE, and performed an acoustic set with JPNSGRLS in WFF’s Music Showcase; Michael Eklund who attended with the BC premiere of CHOKESLAM; and Taylor Hickson who attended with the Western Canadian premiere of HUNTING PIGNUT.
Over 420 guests attended the fest with other notable talent in attendance with films premiering at the fest.
A team of 190 volunteers contributed over 2,000 hours of time to support the festival’s success.
From November 30 to December 4, the Whistler Film Festival welcomed film fans and filmmakers to experience its 16th edition featuring 86 fresh films, special guests, epic events, unique industry and talent programs, and time to play in North America’s premier mountain resort destination. The Whistler Film Festival combines an international film competition with a focused Industry Summit dedicated to the art and business of filmmaking in the digital age.
The Whistler Film Festival + Summit are supported by Telefilm Canada, the Province of British Columbia, the Resort Municipality of Whistler, the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation and the American Friends of Whistler, funded by the Government of Canada through Western Economic Diversification, and is sponsored by Creative BC, Variety, The Harold Greenberg Fund, Cineplex, Tourism Whistler, Whistler Blackcomb, Gibbons Whistler and the Westin Resort & Spa Whistler.
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The Whistler Film Festival Society (WFFS) is a cultural charitable organization dedicated to advancing the art of film by providing programs that focus on the discovery, development and promotion of talent culminating with a must attend festival for artists, the industry and audiences in Whistler. WFFS produces one of Canada’s leading film festivals and industry Summits, and plays a leadership role in offering talent development programs for Canadian artists. Find out more at whistlerfilmfestival.com.