HOT DOCS! Day 9 (the last day for me)

Well!  This blog post is coming a few days after the end of Hot Docs (for me at least) as I needed about two days to recover from all the activity, and seemingly getting sick twice (what was THAT all about anyway?). Day 9 started off with the DOC U group gathering together at our base camp, with Robin Smith from KinoSmith joining us!  It was very beneficial to have a local distributer come talk to us, as he was very honest about the industry and his experiences but also gave some great advice in terms of the filmmaker's rights (protecting them!) and what generally happens in distribution.

Then we had about an hour to discuss the Hot Docs experience and suggest any solutions for any issues we may have had with anything that went on.  In all honesty there wasn't much I would change, and I feel like my actual experience in DOC U soared past my expectations.  I feel very confident about heading into the documentary industry, and that I can lean more on the "artistic" side, that it doesn't have to be all about the industry or business.  At least for personal projects that may be more festival focused.  Now, whether or not I can make a living....that's another story. :D  No, just kidding.  Kind of.

I biked home to beat the thunderstorm and then took a cab due to the downpour to The Windsor Arms Hotel for the Hot Docs Party!  It was pretty fun, although I think more dancing would have been awesome.

I have to start reminding myself that I need to pay for my coffee and alcohol from this point forward.  :D  Thank you Hot Docs!!!


I'm writing this blog from a computer in the Delegate Lounge at the Rogers Industry Centre (U of T campus).  The festival is winding down but there's definitely many people still buzzing about here.  The Rogers Industry Centre houses all of the main industry panels, the Doc Shop, and more (plus free coffee and David's Tea!!!!!!).Day 8 was probably one of my favourite days at Hot Docs.

It began with a TDF visit at the Royal Conservatory of Music.  TDF (The Documentary Forum) is an event where people with projects apply to pitch in front of a large panel (I think about 20-30 people) made up of all the heavy-hitting documentary industry players.  It makes up a wide-range of platforms and broadcasters/networks/etc.. including CBC, CBC radio, PBS, TVO, NHK (Japan), Sundance Channel, and so many more.  The production teams are selected and have a short amount of time to pitch their project, and also express what they're looking for (pre-sale, 30% funding, etc..).  The industry members interested in the project will express so, and those who are called upon for their opinion, who are not interested, express so as well.  It ranges from, "We'd love to talk more" to "Send us a rough cut" (which seems like code for passing, but there's hope down the road).  Every pitch was pretty successful, and I was impressed by how positive an experience TDF seemed to be for.  It'd definitely good for putting your project out there and getting honest opinions from key industry people about their interest.  I had built up TDF as an intimidating and scary experience, but it wasn't at all and I'm glad to have been able to witness it.

Then it was off to the Victoria College chapel to visit a panel on The Poetics of Online Documentary.  It was interesting, and featured people who worked on interactive components to films or television projects, or online documentary.  It's definitely the direction the industry is going, but I feel like so many details are still up in the air.  I think next year this panel will be even more enlightening, and who knows where we'll be next year in terms of the online world and documentary.

The DOC U group gathered back at our base camp and had a chance to essentially pitch and workshop our project with Gerry Flahive, Bob Culbert, and Michael Claydon.  We got into groups, and my group was with Michael Claydon, and commissioning editor at CBC for Doc Zone.  I knew my film was more festival oriented, as my next project will be another personal documentary, but it was really interested to hear what a television-oriented industry member thought about my project.  The advice was really great and I found Michael to be extremely supportive of all our ideas, handing us some great constructive criticism that I know I'll definitely use and keep in mind.

I was pretty exhausted after this day but went to the Rooftop screening event, featuring The Parking Lot Movie.  The film was awesome!!!  I definitely recommend it.  And the fact that we watched it on a rooftop parking lot....GOLD.  The film was hilarious, but also opened up contemplative discussion on the service industry, and the effects it has had on our society.

Afterwards, I went off to bed in a bittersweet state, knowing Friday would be my last day in DOC U at Hot Docs, but excited as I feel like this week has really motivated me and I can't wait to get back to my film and other projects. :D

HOT DOCS! Day 5 and 6

The days are started to blur together, and I'm sadly started to see less and less films everyday.  I think my energy is starting to wear down from insane to logical, which is good because otherwise I'd wear myself out!


I decided not to see some films today that I had planned to see since we had an early morning.  At DOC U, we were visited by director Kevin McMahon (of films like Waterlife) and later by Life With Murder producer Deborah Parks.  Both were amazing and gave terrific insight into the industry.

We rushed off to The Devil Operation screening, preceded by the short We Are. I loved We Are, short but sweet, and the narration was what I think was a poem being whispered, which added a great effect.  It was a good film but there were some choices in it that I didn't particularly like.  It was the one film I've seen so far that had an obvious slant, but in a good way of course since it's based on a community in Peru who is protesting a mining company.  However, I reminded myself that the filmmaker is part activist as well, who we learned later (on Day 6) had no formal filmmaking training.  Her film definitely stands on its own, and it highlights some extremely important issues, so overall it was very good!

I then went home and changed since it was so humid!  I'm not complaining, but the heavy jeans were doing me in.  What is with the wind in Toronto though?!  Non-stop wind, everyday.  It's terrible for biking.

I headed on over to Regretters, with the short Nobody Passes Perfectly.  Both were amazing films.  The short was a beautiful and moving film on trans-men, told through intimate conversations between friends, with brief glimpses into their lives.  The longer film, Regretters, deserves huge applause!  The film was touching but also had some great funny moments.  It's a conversation between two men, both who underwent sex-change operations to become women but regretted it.  One changed back, and the other is about to.  The discussion they have is so wonderful and I immensely enjoyed this film.  I cannot say enough about both of them.  Regretters will be at the Inside Out film festival this year, that takes place in Toronto from May 20-30).

Then off to join Nicole at Congo in Four Acts.  It was really great, featuring four unique films that focus on different stories from areas in Congo.  One film is about a maternity ward at a hospital, another film is about the living conditions of some people in a particular village I unfortunately don't remember the name of, another focused on a police woman dealing with local issues but especially crimes against women, and the last featured a grandmother and grandchild struggling and working so immensely hard to survive.  The producer was at the screening and mentioned that Congo has no film school, and so he works with people to educate them on film and documentary, and so these four films were put together and have done really well.

I was going to rush to see The Parking Lot Movie but knew I had an early morning and decided to go home, which was a good decision especially since seeing Congo in Four Acts, a film that begs for after-discussion.


DOC U started off later in the day, which left me some time to garden with Matt! (pics coming soon!).  We were visited by Stephanie Boyd, the director of The Devil Operation, and she gave some great insight into being an activist and making films (especially, as I mentioned above, since she had no formal film training).

Next we were visited by the crew from Life With Murder, John Kastner (director), John Westheuser (DOP), and Greg West (editor).  They were a wonderful example of collaborations gone right, and have worked with each other for many years.  Their talk revealed many interesting things about making this particular film that I found myself appreciating it more than I had previously.  I underestimated how much information John Kastner ended up being privileged to, although it was not by accident as he is a skilled director.

Off I ran to the film 12th & Delaware, from the filmmakers who brought us Jesus Camp (which I still haven't seen!).  It was a film reveals through its verite style that tension that exists when a pro-life center opens its doors directly across from an abortion center.  I thought the film was really well done.  A few Hot Docs ago I went to see an abortion themed film, and it was so horribly slanted by the end that I walked out in disgust.  12 & Delaware let the subjects speak for themselves and depicted the issues fairly without being sensational.  It was a very moving film even though it did bring some heaviness to the day.

So off I went home so chill for a bit, decided whether or not I would try to see Marwencol (with Peter in Radioland) and then The People vs. George Lucas or not.  I decided against it knowing that we have an early start on Wednesday, but made a quick stopover to my 2nd Hot Docs party at Steam Whistle!

I couldn't get over the smell of the brewery thought...phew!  But they had free Steam Whistle and POUTINE!  Made the whole trip worth it, especially since I forgot my bike lock keys (D'oh!).  Thank you Jules for stowing my bike in your car!

Off to watch LOST now....I hear it's a heavy episode.  Oh yeah, television.  I remember you.


After missing talhotblond tonight, I decided to post as closely to today's events as possible, rather than a full day later.  So many things happen at Hot Docs that I'm already finding it tough to remember all the details of everything I've experienced.  And it's only been 4 days of festival goodness! The Delegate Badge

Firstly, THE DELEGATE BADGE IS AWESOME.  Since I'm trying to fit in as many films as humanely possible (adding a bike to the equation make this a bit easier to do), I really am trying my best to get to the screenings somewhat in advance, thinking I would need to secure a place in the box office line, then the ticket holders line, and failing all of that, the....shudder...rush line.  I've been going to TIFF more than Hot Docs, and I'm all too familiar with the rush line.

Hot Docs=Awesome

But Hot Docs has a totally different atmosphere than TIFF--dare I say more fun and easygoing?  There's more this push to see films that you're interested in, rather than being the first one to see the next hot flick (which is the theme at TIFF).  Not that there's anything wrong with that.  Seeing a big film at Hot Docs means also being privy to a Q&A (normally) with the director and possibly some crew and subjects.  With TIFF it's the same thing.  However, I realized after watching Linda Linda Linda, a Japanese film at TIFF, that watching those great but lesser known films can really be rewarding.  I loved that film and tried finding it afterwards, with no luck.  I'm really thankful I got to see it.


This morning we had the welcome and brunch as part of Hot Docs' DOC U program.  It was great meeting everyone and hearing about their fascinating backgrounds.  Dan is our awesome coordinator and Jeremy Gans is our mentor--both being with us every step of the way this week.  If the amazing brunch at Langolino is any indication, this week is going to be tremendous.

Made in India

I originally had no intention of seeing this film, but after seeing it hyped on, I decided to go for it.  And I'm so glad I did.  Made in India was such a great film that covered both sides of the stories so well and, I think, fairly.  The American couple was even there at the screening, and I (like at Life With Murder), applaud their courage to come to Hot Docs and stand before this audience.  It makes me think about an audience's reaction to a film--whether or not it changes with the knowledge of the subject being present (also the difference in that fact being revealed before or after the screening), and whether or not the audience becomes more cautious (especially at the Q&A) in reflecting how they truly feel on controversial issues.  I think people held back at the Life With Murder Q&A, although I left at the beginning, since we were told before the screening that the family was there.  With Made in India, the Q&A was great because it actually ended up turning towards the filmmaking process as well as the issues around and within the film.


Okay, it's only Day 4, so this might be an early conclusion, but I'm finding the short films to be wonderful.  I don't think Hot Docs would curate any awful short films of course, but perhaps ones I wouldn't necessarily enjoy.  Often I'll go see a film and it's paired with a short that I wasn't planning to really see, which is nice because it opens me up to something new and unexpected. That was the case with the Hemingway short.  I had no interest in seeing it, but I'm glad I did.

But Basin was the one short I wanted to see, and I'm kinda jealous---filmmaker David Geiss is saying many of the things I want to see in my own film, but he does it so beautifully and concisely (and in half, no, a quarter of the time).  The film opens with beautiful landscape aerial shots of an area in Alberta, full of nature, and then quickly blends the development in, with the oil sands, and then nature, and back and so forth.  Read the description for a more accurate synopsis, but what I liked about this film was that it was highlighting so many issues without really saying a word.  The only human voice is a Cree drummer, which speaks words in itself.  Probably best said by programmer Alex Rogalski, "The beauty of the images in this wordless documentary are hauntingly contrasted by the ominous soundscape."

Land, and Q&A's gone wrong but quickly righted

There were definitely tons of the filmmaker's fans in the audience tonight, as many cheered when Land's filmmaker Julian Pinder took the stage.  My friend Nicole recommended this film to me as it takes place in Nicaragua, where she stayed for many months, and would, as she said, put into perspective her experience there.

I'm admittedly not very good with reviewing films.  I think most films are awesome, unless they're boring, but I chalk that up to me just not being engaged with the film itself in the way someone else might be.  That being said, I thought this film was well done.  Shot in kind of a verite, almost sometimes sloppy, kind of way with many subjects on both sides of the condo/resort development debate.  I liked how the filmmaker let the subjects tell their stories and allow the viewer some freedom in deciding what side they were on.  There was an obvious slant, but I think in all the film definitely sparked discussion on the issues pertaining to development itself, in any country, but also what's going on in Nicaragua in particular.

In line I was discussing how I've been lucky so far at Hot Docs to escape those ridiculously pretentious Q&A's. Oddly enough, this film's Q&A became one of those awfully pretentious ones.  Drat!   But I commend the moderator/programmer for brilliantly leading the Q&A out of a potential crash and burn, hilariously summing up one person's long-winded question to a short blip of one.  Then when one man started off saying, "I just want to bring some perspective to this...." (to which I gave the 'ol Liz Lemon eye roll), she rightfully cut him off and politely said, "I'm sorry sir, if you don't have a question then we're going to give someone who does the opportunity to ask it."

I'm all for discussion, but a Q&A for me is not the same thing as a salon. And it's not really there for you to puff yourself up and reveal the many wonderful connections you have with the film and the issues surrounding it.  There's giving your question some context, which is totally fine, but I feel like when there's such a short time the audience has with the filmmaker, he or she might just appreciate if you asked a question, gee I don't know, about the film? Or about the filmmaking process?  Or about how they view the issues surrounding the film, or perhaps even what other issues they see being raised?

Q&A's have quickly become my favourite part of the screening, but also the most dreaded.  Well, tonight it looks like I'll be getting some sleep as tomorrow will be even busier!

HOT DOCS! Day 1 and 2

HOT DOCS has officially begun!!!! And I'm sick.  Hopefully it's just a one-day thing, because from here on in it's going to be go, go, go!

Thursday afternoon I rushed over to pickup my delegate badge, which will allow me access to all the Hot Docs events and parties. :D

Thursday evening I met up with some Doc U peeps and we had an awesome evening at the ROM for the Impact: A Green Gala.  The venue was beautiful!!!  Hot Docs really didn't hold back!  Aside from delicious h'or deouvres and a host bar, there was also a tequila tasting station and some kind of "green shots" area, where you got shots of beet juice and etc.. Mine was green and although it tasted good, I still have no idea what it was.

Today was a low-key day but I'm hoping to see many films tomorrow, and then Sunday is the DOC U welcome and brunch!  Can't wait, and in the meantime, check out blogs from fellow DOC U peeps.

Greg's Blog

Chris's Blog

DOC U, Hot Docs, and backyard reno

It's that time of year again!  Hot Docs is just around the corner, as is my venture into the DOC U program!  I'll be reporting my adventures everyday, and hope to see a zillion films this year!  The week is booked off! Also, housemates (and myself, but I must give them all the credit and they really put in the initiative) have undertaken a giant reno of the backyard.  It's slow as it goes, due to availability of ourselves, but I'm hoping the end of summer will yield some fantastic after photos.  I don't even have a very good before photo, but below are a few from a few weeks ago.

Last summer I blogged about composting, which failed, mainly due to lack of access to the backyard's compost, but that problem doesn't exist now so hopefully composting will begin!  Hurray!

Workin' on my thesis

I haven't been very good at posting...which only means I'm engrossed in completing my thesis film...right?  Well, kinda.  I've been steadily working, finishing the majority of my interviews in February. This Monday I'll be showing a rough cut of the film to the class....likely  a very, very rough cut.

I'm a treasurer for the DOC NOW thesis festival, so that's been eating a lot of my time.  But it's a fun experience so far, and I'm getting really excited for the festival.

And speaking of, it also means deadlines for submitting things to the thesis catalog and whatnot.  I've been digging into the archives of my recent photography of the farm to try and find something worth representing my film.  Perhaps I should have put more thought into figuring out what that one photograph would be.  I narrowed it down to two photos.

The first is very romantic, but I feel like viewing it on a website won't necessarily grab people.  It does speak more to archives and memory, but....

...I feel like this image really says it all.  Development encroaching on the farm, and I think it also fires the imagination in terms of what others kinds of issues can arise from that.

Which is a better representation of the film???  I'm not sure yet...

In other news, I'll be heading to Hot Doc's DOC U program in May!  I can excitedly announce that I've been accepted into the week-long program and will promise to blog each and every day.  I'm totally taking the entire week off to indulge in everything documentary, and immerse myself in the festival experience.  May....wait, that's when my film needs to be done right?