Women In the Director’s Chair (WIDC) Select This Year’s Eight Director Participants For Story & Leadership Program


Women In the Director’s Chair (WIDC) Select This Year’s Eight Director Participants For Story & Leadership Program

Following the launch of its collaboration with Canada Screens, to curate a new women-director-focused VOD Channel, Women In the Director’s Chair (WIDC) organizers are pleased to announce the eight Canadian women directors who will attend the 20th anniversary session of the highly acclaimed script development and director mentoring program WIDC: Story & Leadership.

Over the coming months, these eight directors-to-watch will develop their fiction feature films and web series projects, working with an ensemble of hand-picked professional (ACTRA) actors, technicians, and other industry experts in Vancouver and Whistler.

A major component of the program takes the form of an Industry Immersion at the Whistler Film Festival during the first week of December. The program culminates with each director receiving individually tailored coaching to advance her project to the next stage over the three months following face-to-face sessions.

This year’s Story & Leadership cohort include Directors Guild of Canada members Winnifred Jong developing the web series Tokens; Virginia Abramovich (Eat or Be Eaten) and Rama Rau (The Devil In Her) developing their debut features. Also developing features from Atlantic Canada, ACTRA member Shelley Thompson (Dawn, Her Father and the Tractor), Melanie Oates (Small and Scattered), Toronto-based Gloria Ui Young Kim (Debra and Mona), and Winnipeg’s Madison Thomas (Last Call). BC-based producer/director Kate Green is developing the futuristic web series NarcoLeap.

This year’s line-up of mentors includes recent DGC Lifetime Achievement Award recipient and WIDC’s inaugural mentor director, Anne Wheeler; award-winning WIDC alumnae director, Siobhan Devine whose feature The Birdwatcher bows at the Carlton Cinema, November 18, along with popular WIDC instructors, writer and Jungian expert, Dr. Carolyn Mamchur, screen-writer / story consultant Linda Coffey (These Arms of Mine), actor and filmmaker, Lori Triolo (Cold Squad), casting director Maureen Webb, independent producer, Lael McCall (Principia Productions), Telefilm Canada’s Lauren Davis and Harold Greenberg Fund’s John Galway. Representatives from TELUS Optik™ Local will participate in a web series roundtable and additional mentors and guests will be announced.

The eight directors will join WIDC’s alumnae network of over 200 women directors across Canada who have benefited from the work of WIDC over the last twenty years.

“WIDC quite literally changed my life,” says Director Melanie Jones. “What I found was a nurturing and supportive community of fellow filmmakers and mentors that transformed my outlook and rekindled my drive to pursue my dreams.”  Jones’ debut feature FSM premiered at last year’s Whistler Film Festival and is now in distribution with IndieCan.

Creative Women Workshops Association, The Banff Centre and ACTRA have been WIDC collaborators, and Telefilm Canada has been a major sponsor since the program’s 1997 inception. The Harold Greenberg Fund is also a major sponsor of Story & Leadership. WIDC and the Whistler Film Festival collaborate again through the WIDC WFF Industry Immersion, offering the eight director participants a chance to mingle with the industry’s top-tier players during the fest’s four-day run that includes screenings of two WIDC alumnae feature films, Sun At Midnight (dir, Kirsten Carthew) and the much-anticipated music industry doc, Melody Makers: Should Have Been There (dir, Leslie Ann Coles).


About WIDC – Founded in 1997, Women In the Director’s Chair (WIDC) is an internationally respected Canadian professional development offering, specially designed to advance the skills, careers and fiction screen projects of women directors. With 200 director alumnae across Canada, WIDC is presented with major support from Telefilm Canada, Harold Greenberg Fund, William F. White Intl., and appreciates the participation of the Canada Council for the Arts | Conseil des Arts du Canada, Actra Fraternal Benefit Society, ACTRA National, TELUS Optik Local, Creative BC, Independent Production Fund, UBCP/ACTRA, ACTRA Alberta, IATSE 669; in kind support from Tattersall Sound and Picture, Panavision Canada, SIM Digital, Clairmont Camera Film and Digital, Encore Vancouver, Technicolor Toronto, Skylab Vancouver, North Shore Studios, The Bridge Studios, Vancouver Film Studios, The Research House, Front Row Insurance, MELS; and community collaborations with 1st Weekend Club’s Canada Screens, WIFT Vancouver’s International Women In Film Festival, Female Eye Film Festival, St John’s International Women’s Film Festival, WIFT Toronto, TIFF, and the Whistler Film Festival. Contact: enquiries@widc.ca | www.widc.ca | facebook.com/widc.ca | @WIDC_ca | #WIDC

About Whistler Film Festival – The Whistler Film Festival Society is a charitable cultural organization dedicated to furthering the art of film by providing programs that focus on the discovery, development and promotion of new talent culminating with a must attend festival for artists, industry and audiences in Whistler. Find out more at whistlerfilmfestival.com

WIDC 2016: STORY & LEADERSHIP PROGRAM DIRECTORS (in alphabetical order)

Virginia Abramovich is an award winning filmmaker with over a decade of professional film experience. A graduate of the Norman Jewison’s Canadian Film Centre, Virginia has directed and produced six short films, as well as television, commercial and educational works. Her films have been seen in major festivals worldwide and have been nationally broadcast on CBC, IFC and Bravo. Virginia has directed the television series Playdate for Family Jr., produced by Sinking Ship Productions, and Opie’s Home for Marble Media, airing on TVO. She is also developing a number of projects including her feature film Eat or Be Eaten, which was selected as a runner up for the Praxis Script Writing Competition and has received both Ontario and Toronto Arts Council production grants. Virginia is based in Toronto, ON.

Vancouver-based Kate Green has a passion for producing and directing fiction, non-fiction and high action reality. From directing to producing, Kate has worked on numerous television programs including W Network’s Shannon & Sophie Story, CBC’s Keeping Canada Alive, W Network’s Game of Homes, CBC’s Still Standing, HGTV’s Urban Suburban, and Strangers in Danger for Fuel TV, a subsidiary of FOX TV in the USA. In 2012, Kate produced a short drama thriller Shadowplay, which received a nomination for Best Short Drama at the 2013 Yorkton Film Festival and Leo Awards. Kate’s most recent film, a short documentary called, Not A Stranger, is making the festival rounds to great success and recently won Audience Choice Award at the Vancouver Short Film Festival. Kate’s independent production company KGP Films produces provocative and innovative factual and dramatic television series, documentaries, and feature films. Kate is an alumna of the WIDC CAM, Vancouver.

Winnifred Jong was born and raised in Toronto. Having infamously talked her way into attending the Cannes Film Festival in France, Winnifred returned to Toronto and studied film production at Ryerson University. She won a National Apprenticeship Award through the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television upon graduation with her lyrical documentary, The Story of Sam. For the past twenty years, she has worked as a script supervisor on acclaimed feature films and television series. Her second unit directing credits include Flashpoint, Played and more recently, X Company. Her debut short film The Offer was an official Selection of the Atlantic Film Festival, Cinefest Sudbury, Hamilton Film Festival, Toronto International Short Film Festival, TIFF Short Cuts Program Fall 2015, Cinequest San Jose, Sonoma International Film Festival, the Female Eye Film Festival, and was nominated for a DGC Award. In summer 2016 she shot her second short, Milk, which she penned. She is a member of the DGC and WIFT-T and an alumna of the WIDC CAM, Toronto.

Born in Seoul, Korea, and based in Toronto, ON, Gloria Ui Young Kim comes from a long line of media makers. With a degree in English Lit at U of T, she worked as a journalist at Maclean’s. She attended Ryerson: Image Arts and the 2008 Canadian Film Centre’s Director’s Lab. Her short film, Rock Garden: A Love Story, described by Atom Egoyan as “absolutely beautiful”, has won numerous prizes including the CBC Canadian Reflections Award. Her CBC film, The Auction, premiered at the 2010 Sprockets TIFF, and won Best Short Film, the Audience Choice Award: 2012 WIFT Short Film Showcase and Children’s Jury Prize: Seattle Film Festival for Children, and is now part of the John VanDuzer Film Collection at TIFF BellLightbox. Her other works have won numerous Golds, at the Bessies, the Marketing Awards, One Club; her OAC-commissioned work, Why Do I Dance… has had over 800,000 views on Youtube since April, 2012; she was in the 2009 TIFF Talent Lab; is a mentor for youth (Female Eye Film Festival, Reel Asian Film Festival, Hot Docs). She has recently directed the Ontario Arts Council’s 50th Anniversary film, Live, Love Art…, which won Best Interview Film at PR Daily Video Awards. Her debut feature script, Debra and Mona won the 2013 Telefilm New Voices Award. Gloria is an alumna of the WIDC CAM, Toronto.

Based in St John’s NL, Melanie Oates is writer, director, producer of five shorts, and winner of the Percy Janes First Novel Award. Her films include: Get Out, Distance, Bait, There You Are, and most recently, Ida, Here and There through Telefilm Canada and NIFCO’s Picture Start program. In 2014 she co-founded Carrie at Heart Productions Ltd with Jess Anderson. She recently finished season one of a digital comedy series The Manor and is developing her first feature Small and Scattered. Melanie is an alumna of the WIDC CAM, St John’s.

Rama Rau is an award-winning screenwriter, director and producer for the international marketplace. Trained in Mumbai, India, her documentary on aging burlesque dancers, League of Exotic Dancers, opened to acclaim at Hot Docs, North America’s largest documentary festival in 2016. It has blazed a festival run around the world, delighting audiences and playing to packed houses. Her previous documentary No Place to Hide won Audience Awards in 2015 and her 2010 film, The Market, about the underground trade in human organs was nominated for two Canadian Screen Awards, screening at more than 30 prestigious festivals across the world. On the fiction side, Rau’s moving short film Aftermath, on the 2008 terror attack in Mumbai, premiered in Cannes at the 2012 Short Film Corner. Rau has won the Hot Docs Don Haig Award, the Stuttgart Best Director Award for Documentary, the Golden Panda for Best Director and the Tom Shoebridge Screenwriting Award; and the Filmmaker of the Year award by the Toronto Business Forum. Rau is a member of the Alliance of Women Directors (AWD) in Los Angeles, a member of the Directors Guild and Writers Guild of Canada. A PhD in English Drama and Literature from the University of Madras, India, Rau is presently adapting a real life story for her narrative feature debut, The Devil In Her. Rau is based in Toronto, ON.

Madison Thomas is a filmmaker from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Being raised in a Metis household, storytelling was a huge part of her childhood. Madison found the natural extension into filmmaking in high school and has worked at honing her craft since. Her first film, Worlds On Fire was selected for the 2009 Winnipeg Aboriginal Film Festival and was nominated for Best Youth Talent. Madison has studied filmmaking at the University of Winnipeg receiving her Bachelor of Arts in 2012. In 2011 she was accepted into Prague Film School’s summer program; the first Canadian to attend in five years and the first Canadian Indigenous person to ever be accepted into the program. Her short film, Bound, written and produced while studying in Prague, earned her a Best Director nomination. While she pursues her career as a writer and director, Madison also plans to continue gaining experience in all areas of filmmaking. Her first feature film, This Is Why We Fight, a gritty post-apocalyptic set in Winnipeg, premiered at LA’s Indiefest in 2013 and won an award of excellence. The film enjoyed its Canadian theatrical premiere in Madison’s hometown and the film’s setting Winnipeg. In the fall of 2014 Madison competed on CBC’s “Short Film Faceoff”; among the youngest filmmakers to appear on the show. Madison has partnered with Canadian Cinematographer Andrew Luczenczyn and together they work under the company Prairie Kid Productions. Madison is developing her second feature, Last Call.

Shelley Thompson trained as an actor at RADA (UK), and recently at the Canadian Film Centre in the Screenwriting Lab. Shelley grew up in Calgary, lived for years in London and Toronto, and now calls Nova Scotia home. Her work in theatre included: The National Theatre (UK), Adelphi and Whitehall Theatres, (West End), The Shaw Festival, The Neptune, The Globe, and many more. Television includes the role of Barb Lahey on Trailer Park Boys over eleven seasons, and six seasons as Rita (lead), in ITV’s Mike and Angelo. Playwriting includes: A Kind of Faith (2004 – an Acadian odyssey), Leaving Wonderland (2015), and Belinda the Bicycle Witch, Bluenose Billy and Lost and Found for children. Screenwriting and direction includes the short film Dawg (2015), which has won accolades in family film festivals across North America. Bats (August 2016) premiered at the Atlantic Film Festival 2016. She was one of four screenwriters chosen by the AFF to develop and pitch new screenplays (For Bonnie’s Benefit) during the festival. Her feature Leaving Wonderland is being developed by NL’s Wreckhouse Productions, and her feature Dawn, Her Dad and the Tractor has been supported by the Canada Council. Thompson is based in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.