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Doc Ignite: Weengushk Film Institute Edition

The Doc Ignite program exists to reach under-served filmmaking communities across Canada. During 2018, the Hot Docs industry team has crossed the country from Whitehorse, Yukon, to Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

Our latest workshop stayed closer to home. When we learned that a cohort of students from the Weengushk Film Institute would be visiting Toronto, we jumped at the chance to help them make some key industry connections.

A film and television training centre based on Manitoulin Island, Weengushk is dedicated to unlocking the creative potential of Indigenous youth. Enlisting the support of TIFF, the NFB, imagineNATIVE, and the Documentary Organization of Canada, we put together a Doc Ignite curriculum designed to strengthen the students' industry networks, and to lay the foundations for long-term learning.

Hosted at the TIFF Bell Lightbox Learning Studio, the day began with a welcome session that introduced the students to representatives from each of the day's core partners, followed by an intimate conversation with filmmakers Devery Jacobs and Karen Chapman. During the discussion, Devery and Karen presented their short films Rae and Lessons Injustice, respectively, and shared their insights on their creative processes, which, in both cases, involved marshalling modest budgets and tight timelines to translate intensely personal stories into engrossing, politically charged cinematic experiences.

Over a mouth-watering Mexican spread at Milagro Cantinas, the students then mingled with guest decision makers from CBC, Corus Entertainment, Bell Media, Cineflix, Telefilm Canada, Ouat Media, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Canadian Film Centre before returning to the Learning Studio for an afternoon of pitch training and story workshops.

Among the key takeaways from the pitching lab, the students were encouraged to:

  • Clearly define the format of the project, and how that format serves their storytelling goals.
  • Explain their personal connections to the subject matter, and why they are best positioned to tell the story in question.
  • Tailor their pitches to their audience and to ask questions that will help draw those to whom you are pitching into the story you are seeking to tell.
  • Have a clearly defined ask, whether that be for funding, resources, or some other form of support.

We closed out the day with a workshop session where the students were divided into small groups for face-to-face conversations with decision makers working in their formats of choice. At the end of the session, both the students and decision makers alike shared their key learnings, exemplifying the spirit of collaboration that characterized the day.

Doc Ignite continues to expand across Canada and internationally, and can be scaled up or down according to the needs of filmmakers. If your local documentary organization is interested in having Doc Ignite in your home town, reach out to the Hot Docs Industry team.

Julian Carrington
Hot Docs Industry Programmer

Next Stop: Doc Ignite is heading to Manitoba for All Access (Jan 14-17) to teach filmmakers how to take their local story, make it universal, and give it global reach.


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