The 15th Edition of ‘Canada’s Coolest Film Festival’ Wraps

The 15th anniversary celebration of the Whistler Film Festival wrapped Sunday night, living up to its title as ‘Canada’s coolest film fest’ by hosting more premieres, filmmakers, industry executives, and celebrities than ever before, including unique experiences from films, music and parties to high adrenaline races.

The Whistler Film Festival’s Pandora Audience Award went to British-American romantic drama "Carol," directed by Todd Haynes from the screenplay by Phyllis Nagy (Variety 10 Screenwriters to Watch class of 2014) starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, which received its Canadian premiere at Whistler. The Wff Audience Award runner-ups were "The Legend of Barney Thomson," character-actor Robert Carlyle's first theatrical feature and directorial debut, which received its North American premiere at the festival, followed by Ricardo Trogi’s mid-life crisis dramedy, Quebec film "Le Mirage," the highest grossing and most popular Canadian film of the year so far. The Wff Audience Award is a non-cash prize presented to the highest-rated film as voted by the audience.

Paul Gratton, Director of Programming had this to say about this year’s event: "We were very fortunate to open this year's fest with the Canadian premiere of "Carol," a film we are convinced will be a major contender in this year's awards season race. The festival took off from there, with many sold out screenings, packed and newsworthy industry sessions, and over 450 guests who made a point of trekking out to beautiful Whistler to support their films and talk business with the high-level movers and shakers also in attendance. 2015 represented another step forward towards making Wff the coolest festival in the world. Can't wait 'til next year.”

Total attendance for this year’s fest was 13,233 attendees (a 18% increase over 11,273 in 2014) . This included 7,740 film-screening attendees and 3,533 special event attendees (Signature Series, Music Café, ShortWork Showcase, R-Rated Party, Awards Brunch, L’Oreal Men Expert Bobsleigh Race and Celebrity Challenge Ski Race), in addition to 2,530 Summit attendees. Several of the feature films were at or near capacity, including: "Born to be Blue," "Chasing Bansky," "Forsaken," "How to Plan and Orgy in a Small Town," "Legend,""Legend of Barney Thomson," "Numb," "The Lady in the Van," "the Steps," and "Trumbo."

Designed to facilitate international alliances and financial partnerships, Wff’s industry Summit program presented 30 interactive sessions that addressed a range of issues affecting the film, television, and digital media industry. Overall Summit attendance was at 86% capacity with 2,530 attendees (a 13% increase over 2,231 in 2014) including 855 delegates (on par with 2014). The Whistler Summit directly connects to Wff’s slate of project development programs designed to provide creative and business immersion experiences for 42 Canadian artists including its Feature Project Lab, Praxis Screenwriters Lab, Aboriginal Filmmaker Fellowship, and Music Café. 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

204 scheduled meetings (a 10% increase over 186 in 2014) 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.

Film met music when Morning Show, one of the ten-featured BC artists from Wff’s Music Café, performed the live score for "He Hated Pigeons." Wff’s Music Café, which expanded to include two showcases over two days and featured five music supervisors, was well received with several deals in the works and over 526 guests in attendance.

Toronto’s first-time feature director Jamie M. Dagg’s "River" dominated Whistler prize-giving, winning for best Canadian feature, Best Director and Best Screenplay in the Borsos Competition for Best Canadian Feature presented by the Directors Guild of Canada – British Columbia. The jury also awarded French-Canadian actor Paul Savoie with Best Performance in a Borsos Film for his performance in "The Diary of an Old Man," as well as provided honorable mention for Rossif Sutherland’s work in "River" and Laura Abramsen’s roles in "Basic human Needs" and "The Sabbatical." Lastly, Best Cinematography in a Borsos Film, presented by I.A.T.S.E. Local 669, went to cinematographer Dylan Macleod for "He Hated Pigeons," directed by Ingrid Veninger. The Borsos Jury was comprised of three accomplished film industry artists that included the highly versatile director and screenwriter and WFF15 Alumni Carl Bessai ("Rehearsal), beloved actor and director Marc-André Grondin , and award-winning producer extraordinaire, Kim McCraw.

Other Whistler award winners included "Last Harvest" by first-time female director Hui (Jane) Wang that won the World Documentary Award presented by with honorable mention for Brian D. Johnson’s "Al Purdy Was Here." The Best Mountain Culture Film presented by Whistler Blackcomb went to Anthony Bonello’s "Eclipse." The Canadian ShortWork Award went to "Withheld" directed by Johnathan Sousa, with an honorable mention to Amanda Strong and Bracken Hanuse Corlett’s Mia’. The International ShortWork Award was awarded to "Dissonance" by Germany filmmaker Till Nowak, with Langara College’s Canadian ShortWork Award for Best Screenplay given to Jem Garrard’s "The World Who Came to Dinner." Emily Carr University of Art and Design’s Lawrence Lam won the ShortWork Student Award presented by Capilano University Film Centre for "The Blue Jet," and Maja Aro won the Mppia Short Film Award for "Hoods" presented by Mppia and Creative BC, which consists of a $15,000 cash award plus up to $100,000 in services. The Alliance of Women Film Journalists (Awfj) Eda Awards gave Best Female-Directed Narrative Feature to Valerie Weiss’ "A Light Beneath Their Feet," Best Female-Directed Documentary to Hui (Jane) Wang’s "Last Harvest," with a special mention for Brian D. Johnson’s "Al Purdy Was Here." In addition, Céline Devaux’s "Sunday Lunch" took home the Best Female-Directed Short Award.

Receiving Wff’s Trailblazer Award and Tribute presented by Pandora, British-born Canadian actor, film producer, and film director Kiefer Sutherland discussed his extensive acting career spanning film, stage and television, with CTV Film Critic Jim Gordon , followed by the Western Canadian Premiere of his latest film, "Forsaken." Scottish-born Robert Carlyle , one of the most recognizable actors today, graced the Festival’s red carpet at this year’s Spotlight event as Wff’s Maverick Award honoree and sat down with Jim Gordon to discuss his bold choices that have led to the creation of some of the most dynamic, memorable, and beloved characters of our time before the North American Premiere of his directorial debut, "The Legend the Barny Thomson." One of Canada's hardest working and most accomplished character actors, Bruce Greenwood was the recipient of Wff’s Career Achievement Award, at the World Premiere of his latest film "Rehearsal," directed by admired Wff Alumni Carl Bessai.

The Whistler Film Festival proudly hosted the Variety 10 Screenwriters to Watch for the fourth consecutive year hosted by Variety Vice President and Executive Editor, Steven Gaydos . This year’s slate of screenwriters in attendance included Bryan Sipe ("Demolition"), John Scott III ("Maggie"), Meg LeFauve ("Inside Out"), Mike Le ("Patient Zero"), and Emma Donoghue ("Room"), who also delivered a Master Class for the Wff Praxis Screenwriters Lab participants.

To top it all off, Lauren Lee Smith ("How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town"), Jakob Davies ("The Birdwatcher"), Taylor Russell and Rustin Gresiuk ("Suspension") were recognized as Wff’s Rising Stars sponsored by Ubcp/Actra at this year’s Keynote Filmmaker Luncheon presented by Pacific Northwest Pictures, and all had films premiering at the fest.

Over 400 guests attended the fest with other notable talent in attendance with films premiering at the fest including: actor Rossif Sutherland ("River"), director Jon Cassar ("Forsaken"), actor Callum Keith Rennie ("Born to Be Blue"), director/writer Sandy Wilson ("My American Cousin), actors Aleks Paunovic, Stefanie von Pfetten, Marie Avgeropoulos and Colin Cunningham ("Numb"), actors Chelah Horsdal and Alex Zahara ("Patterson's Wager"), actor Sage Brocklebank ("Suspension"), actors Gabrielle Rose and Camille Sullivan ("The Birdwatcher"), actor Rebecca Dalton ("The Colossal Failure of the Modern Relationship"), actor Paul Savoie ("The Diary of an Old Man"), director and founder of the Toronto Film Critics Association Brian D. Johnson ("Al Purdy Was Here"), director and co-founder of World Elephant Day Patricia Sims and co-director Michael Clark ("When Elephants Were Young"), "The Steps" director Andrew Currie and actor Steven McCarthy , and award-winning directors Philippe Lesage ("The Demons") and Ricardo Trogi ("The Miracle"). Veteran director Bruce McDonald attended as a mentor of the Wff Praxis Screenwriters Lab, as well as Canadian actress, writer, filmmaker, comedian, and social activist Mary Walsh , who participated in the Women In The Director’s Chair program and got a standing ovation as Wff’s Keynote Speaker at the Filmmaker Luncheon.
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