Ross Moore on Pitchin’ It

    Posted on: Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

Every year, we here at the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival bring in industry pros from the city, the province and the country to hear your ideas and maybe — just maybe — hand you a development deal.

This year we’ve got Mongrel Media, Telefilm Canada, Bell Media, Super Channel, NLFDC, CBC, Best Boy Studios, Pope Productions and you can also pitch interactive projects to companies such as Other Ocean Interactive, iThentic, Clockwork Fox Studios and the NFB/Interactive. In order to make the most of your session, and of the pitchees’ time, we’ve tried to streamline things a bit and make sure that everyone goes in prepared. We’re asking interested people to submit a one-pager for their project so we can share it with your requested pro and be sure you’re meeting with the people who can best serve you.

Our Face 2 Face Pitch session is one of my favourite events. Standing there in that room, with all of those ideas flying around, all of those beautiful brains churning away, all of that nervous energy buzzing and sparking, is an incredible experience. Everyone’s on, everyone’s talking, and everyone wants to know what you’ve got up your sleeve.

And though it seems white-knuckle horrifying, it’s actually not that bad. I’ve done it and I survived. But for a second opinion, here’s Ross Moore, who’ll be blogging about the Festival over at Jealous Opinion.

Ross Moore pass

So, you’ve pitched at the Women’s Film Festival?
Yeah, I think it was two years ago.

 

Who did you pitch to?
I pitched to Pope Productions and Best Boy and it might have been somebody from Superchannel.

 

Was it terrifying?
It was a little nerve-wracking, yeah. But really, it’s only as intense as you make it to be. Because really, they’re just people, they’re just there doing their job and, for the most part, everyone is very friendly. They’re there to have a conversation, so as long as you keep that in mind and don’t put too much pressure on yourself, you’ll be just fine. They’re not really putting any pressure on you. They’re there to hear your ideas.

 

So you didn’t start crying or anything?
Haha, no, I wasn’t crying during the pitch, anyway.

 

Did you get good feedback, though?
I did. I mean, you can’t expect someone to just say “Yes!” immediately, and then you’ll walk out of there with a multi-million dollar deal. You have to walk in expecting just feedback and, at best, you might get a soft “maybe” or a business card or something like that. If you go in with those types of expectations, and just really listen to the feedback, you can learn a lot. Hoping to land something, I think, is not really the point. You’re putting too much pressure on the moment, and on yourself, when really it’s just more of a learning experience. It’s like an audition. As an actor, I try to audition for as many things as I can, for the practice. The more you practice, the better you are.

 

I’ve heard that about pitching, that it’s a skill and you need to continually cultivate that skill.
It is, and the more you practice, the more natural you’ll be. And I think that a key part of the pitch, that you need to be natural. It’s not about memorizing your pitch, it’s about knowing your idea through and through.

 

The film industry to me seems to be so much about knowing people and connecting with people and being able to put the right people together. Does pitching help with that aspect of it?
I would say so, yeah. When I was pitching to Best Boy, I talked to a producer there, and I pitched him a couple of ideas and he was really receptive and gave great feedback. But then I ended up doing a bit of work with Best Boy and we already knew each other, so that was handy. Then conversations would come up and he’d ask me what I was working on, and I’d bring up things that we were talking about that day and that conversation would continue, which was neat. Then, when Closet Monster was shooting, I got an email from him asking to help out with auditions. So it is all about those connections. It’s about making it a conversation because you are trying to ignite what could be a friendship or a professional friendship, at least. If someone doesn’t necessarily like your idea, you still want to exit on a high note.

 

And you still want them to like you
Exactly.

 

It’s worth the fear?
Definitely, definitely. It’s sparked a fire beneath me now, I think I might try to pitch a few ideas this year.


To set yourself up with a pitch session with one of our pros, please visit  www.womensfilmfestival.com/face2face to read the guideines, more about who you can pitch to, and to fill our your applicaiton. Deadline to submit is Friday, October 10th at 12pm. Any questions? Give Jenn a call at 754-3141.

ross mooreRoss Moore is an actor, writer and filmmaker based out of St. John’s, NL. Visit his blog Jealous Opinion for Festival updates, or find him on vimeo.

 

25 Years of Seeing in the Dark: An Anecdotal History of the St. John’s International Women’s Festival

    Posted on: Friday, October 3rd, 2014

Year2 The St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival (SJIWFF) didn’t start as a festival. It started as a screening of a documentary on witch-burning. In 1989, the NFB released Goddess Remembered, and the NFB’s St. John’s office teamed up with Noreen Golfman (then a junior professor at Memorial’s English Department) to get the film screened at the LSPU Hall, along with a few other films. And people came. A lot of people came. Some of them dressed up as witches. Golfman said the event had “a sort of spontaneous enthusiasm for something you didn’t expect,” which is typical for St. John’s. It was such a hit that the organizers planned to have more screenings the following year. Again, people came. When you keep screening films and people keep coming to see them, it turns into a Festival. And then, it turns into that Festival’s 25th anniversary.

According to Golfman, the festival was born out of “the perfect storm of political pressures, creative interest, and commitment.” Film was proving to be a powerful channel for women’s voices, speaking not only about so-called “women’s issues”, but any subject matter. (To the world’s surprise, women can talk about more than wage gaps and tampons.) Thanks to the NFB’s Studio D, the only government-funded feminist film studio in the world, women had a growing number of opportunities to make movies. However, it’s one thing to make a movie and another to get the chance to show it. And no one makes a movie so no one can see it.

Year7The SJIWFF intended to meet the filmmakers’ need to screen their work, and the audience’s need to see the films. (Audience enthusiasm for the films has been obvious since the witch costumes.) Golfman says that gathering in a theatre is a way to “get out of your insularity”. Being a woman filmmaker, especially one on the farthest edge of the Atlantic Ocean, can be pretty isolating. The SJIWFF arrived as an opportunity for filmmakers from around the world to get together to see a movie and to see that they’re not working alone.

The Festival has always had a lot of support from the community, but in the early and mid-nineties, that didn’t necessarily translate into financial support. Those were “the lean years”, according to Danine Farquharson, a board member from that time. At that time, the Festival’s office was above a pet grooming shop on Queen’s Road. In the summer, the office was sweltering hot and the chemical smell of poodle shampoo overwhelmed the office. They had one little window, stacks of VHS tapes, and a commitment to women filmmakers.

In the 90s, it was hard for any arts organization to secure funding. The NFB office closed its St. John’s office in 1995 (and later reopened it) and had to shut down Studio D the following year. That same year, it looked like the St. John’s International Women’s Film and Video Festival was going to have to fold, too. But when people heard there might not be a seventh annual festival, they wouldn’t allow it. The community rallied and together, they raised enough enthusiasm to present a scaled down version of the festival. Festival Lite was one and a half days instead of three, but it kept the momentum of the annual event going. The next year, the Festival got a decent-sized grant, and it hasn’t looked back since.

Year8Though money troubles made organizing difficult, it also made the SJIWFF unique. Opening night might be a dressy event at the Arts and Culture Centre now, but at least one opening night at the Hall featured an open bar in the form of a kiddie pool full of ice and beer. During the lean years, there was no money to put visiting filmmakers up in hotels, so board members would host them in their homes. Having breakfast with a visiting filmmaker guarantees an intimate festival. People from here and away were able to establish a community for women filmmakers, which is exactly what they needed.

While Kelly Davis was Executive Director, from 2004 to 2014, she says she set out to “professionalize the festival.” Of course, the SJIWFF was already a professional festival: a well-respected event screening high-quality films from around the world. But there comes a time in every festival’s life when it outgrows the kiddie pool. They need a bigger space to show movies to more people. Davis explains, “the push over the next couple years was to really get that message out that these are film made by women but this is not an exclusive festival.” In her effort to make sure everyone knew they were welcome, Davis briefly considered taking the word “women’s” out of the festival. The stats on the film industry quickly convinced her that explicitly focussing on women’s work was–and still is–necessary. It’s obvious now that “professional” and “women” are not contradictory words. The SJIWFF was always something to be proud of, but it’s a bit more polished now, and that’s pretty nice.

There’s no doubt the SJIWFF has come a long way, and as Davis explains, there’s a high concentration of powerhouse women who work to make it happen every year. Giving recognition to smart, interesting films made by women isn’t easy, but it’s never boring. It’s clear everyone’s looking forward to seeing the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival around for another 25 years.

The entire SJIWFF25 schedule of events can be found <a href=”http://www.womensfilmfestival.com”>here.</a>

Pop-Up Library Brings Hard-to-Find Books to Bannerman Park

    Posted on: Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

It seems like everything is pop-up lately, from pop-up tacos at Fixed to pop-up yoga pants at Lululemon’s temporary store.  The whole town’s gone Whac-A-Mole.  Tomorrow, the People to People Library is joining the fun with the inaugural Royal St. John’s READgetta in Bannerman Park.  (The pun gives them literary cred, right?)  It’s not a race–it’s a chance for people and books to come together for some reading al fresco.

This is the People to People Library’s second event since the organization started in May.  The project began when Daniel Miller and a few friends were looking for books that the public library didn’t carry and at the same time, they realized they had a bunch of great books gathering dust on their own shelves.  They created the People to People Library to bring resources to readers.  The catalogue is online, through LibraryThing. It has standard activist reads, like Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and some lesser known titles, like Teach Yourself Visually Knitting by Sharon Turner. The list also includes works of general interest.  (Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs*, anyone?)  At the People to People Library, Miller says, they “definitely do encourage the sharing of books that fall in the broad category of ‘books that help us understand ourselves, communities and world and make all of the above happier, healthier, more just, more free.’”

The online catalogue is a great tool, but Miller says it quickly became clear that in order for the project to work, people would have to meet face-to-face.  The People to People Library is supposed to be more than a kijiji for books.  Miller explains that the project is twofold: It’s “people sharing books with people and, at the end of the day, that can mean we’re doing more than just sharing books, we’re creating community and sharing ideas.”  This happens when people are all together in one place.  With luck–or rather, with hard work and enthusiasm–the People to People Library can fill the void left by no library downtown.  If  you’re trying to fill a library-shaped hole in your heart, pop by the park tomorrow.

The People to People Library’s READgatta Wednesday, August 6 from 12 – 6 pm in Bannerman Park.  For more information, check out it out on facebook or visit their website.

Aw, Shucks

    Posted on: Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Signal Blog won runner up in The Overcast’s Best Local Blog category!  Thank you to everyone who voted, and congratulations on exercising your democratic right to express your good taste.  And, of course,  double congrats to The Overcast for making it all happen and for bringing home the gold.  Keep up the good work, everyone, and swing by this end of the internet again soon!

(In the meantime, I’ll be celebrating our popularity with a little dance party.)

 

Shakespeare by the Sea’s Taming of the Shrew: An Uncomfortably Modern Rom Com

    Posted on: Friday, July 25th, 2014
Taming of the Shrew--inspiration for Fifty Shades of Grey?

Taming of the Shrew–
inspiration for Fifty Shades of Grey?

 

It’s hard to tell if Shakespeare by the Sea’s latest production in Bannerman Park is a comedy or a tragedy.  The Taming of the Shrew has bright dialogue delivered by a cast that generally looks like they’re having a good time.  It’s easy to laugh along, until you realize at whose expense you’re laughing.

The Taming of the Shrew has an infamously misogynistic script: an outspoken, independent, and admittedly kind of violent woman named Kate gets pwned by her new husband, who explicitly marries her for her (daddy’s) money.  Naturally, things get out of hand.

The show is a play within a play performed as a prank on some drunk with an unpaid bar tab.  But why perform it for us, the actual audience?  We have picnics and seemingly progressive opinions about gender equality.  Of all of Shakespeare’s plays, why present one that leans dangerously close to Men’s Rights Activist propaganda?  Why a play that even the director, Jenn Deon, says has “no redeeming backstory?”

Deon says she wanted to stay true to Shakespeare’s story, but she makes a point of defying the script in several little ways.  Save for the drunk’s small role, the show features a strong all-women cast, who were “a real joy” to work with, according to Deon.

This production also really emphasizes that it’s a play within a play, which gives some extra space for irony.  Eyebrow wiggles abound while the actors switch costumes, which get more modern as the play progresses.  The show is framed as “a kind of history”, but it seems more and more like a reflection of today.

Sabrina Roberts, who plays the infamous shrew, Kate, says you can translate her character’s experience to going to a bar on George Street and running in some guy who gets aggressive dancing.  Such a dude might not call an uncooperative woman a “shrew”, but I can think of a few other choice words that might come up.

The Taming of the Shrew is sharp in more ways than one.  It’s played witty, but then it hits home–so much so that by the end of the show, it’s hard to tell if they’re still joking.  Is Kate being sarcastic, or has she cracked?  The players leave it for the audience to decide.

The Taming of the Shrew runs on Sunday and Monday nights in Bannerman Park until August 11.  For ticket information, visit http://shakespearebytheseafestival.com/