Fred Lee | April 2012
Photos by Joshua McVeity
Having just wrapped The Company You Keep, a reported $20 million feature film starring and directed by Robert Redford, Brightlight Picture’s Shawn Williamson and Stephen Hegyes rolled out the white carpet for one of Whistler’s biggest galas. As part of the five-day, 80-film Whistler Film Festival (WFF)—which Williamson also chairs—movie buffs, aspiring actors, emerging filmmakers and industry insiders gathered at Jack Evrensel’s Araxi Restaurant in the heart of Whistler Village for the production company’s annual Hollywood North hootenanny.
Williamson—along with festival co-founder Shauna Hardy Mishaw and Artistic Director Stacey Donan—welcomed several hundred luminaries to the swish celluloid celebration, considered the festival’s hottest invitation. Guests rubbed elbows and kibitzed with some of today’s brightest film talents who made their way up the Sea to Sky highway for fresh powder and intriguing films. It was the best party for star gazing—among the celebrities at the Brightlight bash were Academy Award nominee Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road), actor/writer Jay Baruchel (Almost Famous), actresses Lana Parilla (Once Upon a Time) and Sarah Gadon (A Dangerous Method) and actors Lachlan Munro (Scary Movie) and Donal Logue (Blade).
Directors and producers were also well represented. Among those spotted were Jason Reitman (Young Adult), Randall Cole (388 Arletta Avenue), Jean Marc Vallee (Café de Flore), Kris Elgstrand and Dylan Akio Smith (Doppelganger Paul), Phillippe Falardeau (Monsieur Lazhar), Christopher Petty (Marilyn), Jacob Tierney (The Trotsky), Shirley Vercruysse (Waydowntown) and Yang Zi (The Sorcerer and the White Snake). Other notables included newly elected Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, Telefilm Canada’s Marlie Oden, North Shore Studio’s Peter Leitch and Variety’s Steven Gaydos.
Along with the lights and cameras there was plenty of action. Williamson and festival organizers had much to celebrate at the toney tipple-fest—first, it was WFF’s new partnership with Variety, the bible of the movie industry. Gaydos—a filmmaker and executive editor of Variety—was there because the magazine has added Whistler to its prestigious roster of about 30 festivals it promotes annually, an impressive list that includes TIFF (the Toronto International Film Festival), Sundance and Cannes. This power play with the high-profile publication catapults the burgeoning festival onto the world stage.
Secondly, on the heels of the festival’s screening of the North American premiere of The Sorcerer and the White Snake by Hong Kong director Tony Ching, Williamson announced a new China-Canada agreement. The first of its kind, a script competition— managed by WFF—will help Canadian filmmakers gain access to China’s huge movie market.
WFF—along with Telefilm Canada—will work with China Film Group, China’s largest and most influential state-run film company, on the initiative. The program will see Canadian scriptwriters work with Chinese studios on fully funded productions that will cross over into both China’s domestic and international film markets. The script competition will highlight WFF as a destination for anyone wanting to do film business with China.
The eleventh edition of the festival concluded with Keyhole—a film directed by Winnipeg’s Guy Maddin—winning the coveted Borsos Competition for Best Canadian Feature. Besting five others, the award, named after the late Canadian filmmaker Phillip Borsos, carries with it a $15,000 cash prize. Honouring rising directors bringing either their first or second feature film to the big screen, the New Voices International Feature Competition saw a cash award of $10,000 presented to Mexico’s Kyzza Terrazas for Machete Language. Richard Boyce’s Rainforest won Best Mountain Culture Film while Ben Addelman’s Kivalina v. Exxon took Best Documentary.
Image 3- Oscar Nominee Michael Shannon and Joshua McVeity