For Immediate Release: June 2023, Vancouver, BC.
Women In the Director’s Chair Presents Awards To Alumnae
at 27th Edition Launch Event
Giselle Miller (L) and Hayley Gray (R) receive 2023 WIDC Alumnae Awards
The 27th annual Launch Event of the acclaimed Women In the Director’s Chair (WIDC), held June 8, presented two awards to BC-based alumnae, and announced the call for submissions for the 2023-24 slate of WIDC programming.
Hayley Gray is the 2023 recipient of the WIDC BANFF Fellowship Award. Made possible through a long-standing partnership with the BANFF World Media Festival (where WIDC was originally launched in 1996), this fellowship award is designed to provide the WIDC alumna with the opportunity to network and pitch her / their projects at the world-class BANFF World Media Festival (June 11 to 14, 2023). Gray also just received Telefilm Canada regional feature film funding for her eco-drama SEND THE RAIN, to be co-directed with Kaayla Whachell.
Giselle Miller is the 2023 recipient of the WIDC Advantage Award for her ultra-low budget debut feature film, SWEET PLANTAIN. The prize includes a one-year mentorship and a spot at WIDC Story & Leadership for Miller, plus WIDC’s Industry partner nomination for the 2023 Telefilm Canada Talent to Watch program.
Being developed through her company Orange Rose Productions, Miller’s feature-length script Sweet Plantain is a drama about the interconnected lives of a group of black Canadian women navigating challenges with their families, friendships and romantic partnerships. It is an intimate film that touches on themes of love, grief, mental health, and loneliness.
“One of the reasons I became a filmmaker was to centre Black female voices in front of and behind the camera, and tell the types of stories that I wasn’t seeing on screen,” says Giselle Miller. “My goal is to reflect complex, nuanced images of Black people to the world, and the WIDC Advantage Award offers me a great leg-up towards developing and getting my debut feature film made.”
“It is an honour to champion writer/directors like Giselle Miller whose naturally drawn characters and poetic storytelling, and Hayley Gray whose slate of projects soundly resonate with social and climate change,” says WIDC Co-creator/Producer, Dr. Carol Whiteman. “Both promise to make important impacts on the canon of motion picture storytelling in Canada and around the world.”
Since its launch in 1996, WIDC has delivered specialized programs and worked with an array of sponsors, industry professionals and community collaborators like the Banff World Media Festival to help level the playing field for Canadian women and non-binary content creators. WIDC alumnae have gone on to direct thousands of hours of quality screen entertainment including more than 100 feature-length films (over 60% of these women-directed feature films have been funded by Telefilm Canada), and earn hundreds of awards and nominations annually. Both WIDC award winners will be at BANFF 2023 pitching their projects.
WIDC 2023-2024 PROGRAMS & DEADLINES:
ABOUT THE RECIPIENTS
GISELLE MILLER is a Jamaican-Canadian writer, actor and filmmaker living on the unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples, also known as Vancouver BC. Five of her feature-length screenplays have placed as quarter finalists in competitions in the United States and her most recent screenplay THE GREAT BLACK NORTH was a semi-finalist in the Vancouver International Women in Film Festival screenplay competition. After completing an MFA in Creative Writing at UBC, she went on to write, produce and direct twelve short films and two seasons of the Leo Award-nominated web series YOUNG, BLACK AND SINGLE, that follows black millennials as they navigate romance in Vancouver. Giselle also received a Leo Award-nomination for her performance in the series. In 2023, Giselle released her second web series BIG PEOPLE TINGZ, and her short stage play THE SPIRIT HAS TEETH was selected for the Or Festival and presented at the Jericho Arts Centre. Giselle is an alumna of BIPOC TV & Film Showrunner Bootcamp, VIFF Catalyst Mentorship Program, Women In the Director’s Chair Career Advancement Module, VFS Certificate in Film Production, European Film Market Fiction Toolbox Program, Netflix-Banff Diversity Of Voices Initiative and is a participant in the 2023 Whistler Screenwriters Lab. Her productions have been featured in the Women of African Descent Film Festival, the Roma Shorts Film Festival, and the Reel Q: Pittsburgh LGBTQ+ Film Festival. Giselle is the founder of Orange Rose Productions, a company that focuses on telling stories from black communities. Giselle is also in development on the short film, HUMMINGBIRD IN HEAT, a hybrid poetry and narrative project about a black college student struggling with mental illness; and the web series, NOVELETTE IS TRYING, a comedy about a black woman’s struggle to stay in the increasingly expensive city of Vancouver, being developed with funding from the Independent Production Fund.
HAYLEY GRAY is a Vancouver-based writer and director (DGC). Hayley has written and directed scripted, unscripted, and commercial work. Her films have won awards at festivals around the world, and aired on Telus Optik, the Knowledge Network, CBC and Air Canada. Hayley’s documentary: HAYASHI STUDIO investigates the hidden history of BC, as documented by a Japanese-Canadian photography studio. Her NFB-produced feature documentary UNARCHIVED premiered at VIFF 2022 and is nominated for two Leo Awards. It examines how to make erased histories as researchable and accessible as the dominant historical record. Her narrative short film SEND THE RAIN speaks to the devastating results of British Columbia’s Wildfires. It premiered August 2022 on CBC, won the Golden Egg at the Reykjavik International FIlm Festival and won the DGC Award for Best Short Drama. A graduate of Dalhousie University, Vancouver Film School, and alumna of Women In the Director’s Chair (WIDC), Hayley is the 2023 WIIDC BANFF Fellowship award winner for the slate of projects she has in development, including the feature length version of SEND THE RAIN, a comedy television series, and a feature doc called INTIMACY, unpacking the long-needed role of Intimacy Coordinators in the film industry.
Founded in 1996/97, Women In the Director’s Chair (WIDC) has been offering professional development and specially designed initiatives to advance the careers and fiction screen projects of women and non-binary directors for over 27 years, with 330+ director alumnae across Canada, all earning hundreds of awards and nominations for their work. Co-created by representatives of ACTRA, GEMS Vancouver (formerly Women In Film and Television Vancouver), and theBanff Centre for Arts and Creativity(which was its home venue for 19 years), WIDC is presented with major support from Telefilm Canada, including the participation of Creative BC, UBCP/ACTRA, Actra Fraternal Benefit Society, ACTRA National, Independent Production Fund. WIDC also acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.
WIDC Community Collaborations include Directors Guild of Canada, GEMFest Vancouver (formerly Vancouver International Women in Film Festival), Female Eye Film Festival, St John’s International Women’s Film Festival, Reelworld Film Festival and Institute, Crazy 8’s, TIFF Share Her Journey, VIFF, Whistler Film Festival, and the BANFF World Media Festival.
WIDC Feature Film Award, valued at over $200,000 in kind services and rentals, has most recently been supported by William F. White International Inc., Panavision Canada, Keslow Camera, Sim, Company3, Encore VFX, Kalos Studios, MELS, Post-Moderne, Elemental Post Production, North Shore Studios, The Bridge Studios, Vancouver Film Studios, The Research House Clearance Services Inc., Champ and Pepper, Walter Lighting & Grip, Front Row Insurance Brokers Inc., Descriptive Video Works, EP Canada, Portable Electric, National Captioning Canada, Power of Babel, and Line 21.