Hot Docs

Spring Flowers

Spring is finally here! And of course Hot Docs came and went...when it rains it pours, and I sadly only got to see two films at this year's festival. It's the name of the documentary game, and so I look forward to next year. A plant that didn't do very well last year is back with beautiful purple flowers, to my surprise and delight. Here are some photos with others from the Riverside hood.

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


Today was a breather day, and actually the longest DOC U day.  I decided to take the evening off to catch up on some work, so this worked out quite well. It started off with a 9am screening of Monica and David, a lovely film about a couple, each who have down-syndrome, who decide to get married and live their lives together.  The film focuses on their relationship, their families, and issues around their independence.  Filmmaker, Alexandra Codina, stopped by to chat with us about getting that film made, and also on personal documentaries in general, which I found really fascinating.  There are so many different approaches to documentary filmmaking, but I've always gravitated towards the personal one and so her talk was very enlightening and included great advice on making films with family members as subjects.

Afterwards we had a break, and being on a caffeine-fueled high, I began furiously checking my emails and realizing that my life, that I put on hold for this DOC U and incredible Hot Docs experience, was now demanding attention.  I've been very lucky this week, however, in that I've been able to put a lot of time aside for the festival.  However, I decided to take this day a bit easier, as there are still two days of the festival left for me.

Then it was off to Kickstart!  A three-part panel on filmmaking.  The panels were great and the speakers were so engaging on their particular topic.  The panel was divided into three parts: Funding, Making, and Selling (a film).  The Making part was really neat since the filmmakers from the much-buzzed Marwencol and also the Mark film were there.  I'm hoping to see those films at the Doc Shop before the festival's end.  The Doc Shop is an accessible archive for Hot Docs delegates of (almost) all the films submitted to Hot Docs.  It's a convenient way for buyers and distributers, or curious folks, to check out films they may have missed or won't be able to see at the festival.

Hot Docs is proving to be more and more amazing, and I'm realizing that, even though it may cost a good many pennies to purchase, acquiring a Delegate pass is so worth it.  Especially for the ability to contact and meet with filmmakers, buyers, distributers, directors, producers, broadcasters etc...  I can't imagine how many sales or deals are made over these few days (hopefully alot).

Okay, off to bed with me.  Tomorrow, we're visited TDF (The Documentary Forum).  It's an intensive pitching forum, and not many are privy to watch the pitch teams in action, so I'm very excited.  HOT DOCS WOO!

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.


I'm about to head off to get tickets to films and thus the short post, but I'll elaborate later. Yesterday was a day for docs and docs only for me!

Saw Anne Perry-Interiors, preceded by the short Notes on the Other.  Both films were based on authors, and provided a glimpse into their private lives.  I really loved Notes on the Other.  It was actually my favourite of the day, I think.  It was simple but beautiful, with a concise message that had great depth to it.  I keep repeating the, "I am he. I am he." phrase that was littered throughout.  I think I'm beginning to understand why people gravitate towards Hemingway so much.

Ran to catch Bhutto, which was a great film.  Tons of information though, which seemed overwhelming at times.  But overall very good film!  Her life was extraordinary and the film definitely captured that.

Rushed on over to catch Life With Murder.  Another great film---definitely raises a lot of issues, not just in terms of documentary filmmaking but also the issues the film raised itself.  This film seemed to come from a different perspective than expected with these kinds of "investigative" stories.  And although I couldn't stay for the Q&A, the subjects were actually there at the theatre which was great and I applaud their courage.

Biked on over to The Bloor Cinema to catch 1991: The Year Punk Broke.  Made it, with time to get popcorn! Firstly, I thought this was a documentary on punk, not a tour doc.  Secondly, I'm not a punk fan and know nothing about Sonic Youth.  Thirdly, I thought this film was new (lol see #1).  Silly me, not reading the Hot Docs program book properly. Despite that, the film was really awesome and is a reminder that docs come in all shapes and sizes, and don't have to adhere to any formula.  I forget that from time to time.  1991 breaks the rules, both in content and in form.  I loved Damian Abraham's (from Fucked Up) enthusiastic introduction to the film, as he explained it really influenced him.

Okay, off now!  More to come, especially thoughts on Hot Docs "etiquette" as told through the "precious" filmgoers who feel the need to express every annoyance around them which just comes off as idiocy really.  But they don't know that, which makes it more fun for me when I do a secret Liz Lemon eye roll. Oh brother.

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?