August 2015-Coming this fall to a (small) screen near you!

retro-tv-231x300I know it has been a while since my last post (summer break?) but there has been a good reason. Back in May I was about to report about a general good experience at Hot Docs but no official next step for the film. Then I received an email from a contact at CBC who was interested!! I didn’t want to announce anything until it was official (and quite honestly was afraid to jinx it!) but I am now happy to say that the paperwork is signed, the insurance has been acquired, closed captioning is being typed, and the deal is a go! So coming this fall “In The Spotlight” will be on rotation for three years with the CBC Documentary Channel!  This is a dream come true for a hardworking Toronto gal trying to get a break! Thank you again to everyone who has been supportive of the film and have listened to me blab on about it for the past nine years. This has been a remarkable lesson in perseverance for me and I have learned that truly good things do come to those who wait :) Stay tuned for the air date, I’ll post as soon as I know.

In other news, I am still hoping for a public screening later this year and could really use your help: word of mouth is the best way to build an audience and distribution opportunities for independent films! Please take a moment to post my blog/trailer/film website on your Facebook page, twitter, and tell your friends and family! I would also really appreciate it if you would click “like” on the film’s Facebook page and follow the film on Twitter. Thank you for your support!


April 2015-Festival season is in the air

DVD Test

An event I look forward to each year is coming up next week: Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival. In The Spotlight didn’t make it into the official screening program but the festival is still full of opportunities for my film and I plan to embrace each one!

My homework over the past few weeks was to burn several DVD copies of my film (which of course came hand-in-hand with 65-minute testing sessions) as well as design and order updated business cards (to include the film’s Twitter and Facebook accounts). All films submitted to the festival have the option to be in the onsite video library and I of course chose yes! This puts the film in the hands of all programmers, broadcasters, and other distributers/buyers who are attending the 10-day festival in Toronto. My homework on this end was to design and order a few posters as well as a stack of postcards to have handy in the video library.

This will be my first time attending the festival with a finished feature documentary under my belt and I am excited to see what happens! I felt like a broken record saying “I’m still working on it” for so many years :) As much as I love attending screenings of the great documentaries available, being both entertained and inspired, this year I am focusing my energy on marketing, learning and networking. I will still attend screenings but I know in the past it has become quite draining trying to do everything.

I signed up for Distribution Rendezvous where I have requested meetings with folks who may be interested in the life of my film in various ways. New for me this year, I will partake in the Festival Strategy Lab, International Co-Production Day, and a workshop on seeking private investment. Other sessions I am looking forward to include Cinematography & Storytelling, Legal Surgery for Docs, Impact Docs & Philanthropy, Doc Writing, and my favourite panel “My First Doc.” I will also check out close-up sessions with Vimeo, CBC, TVO, Canon, Bell Fund and Netflix, to name a few.

A nice bonus to my Conference and Networking pass is entry to the opening night film and party which feels like a bit of a reunion catching up with friends I bump into each year as well as the lovely festival staff. It is also a nice way to kick off the festival at the gorgeous renovated Bloor Cinema and unite with fellow doc lovers and makers.

Hot Docs, here I come!


February 2015-Now what?

social media class

Jaimy our instructor (far left) and the brave souls who shared our webcams during class.

At one point my goal was to raise money to help finance the film. That is still a need (and you are more than welcome to here!) but I have realized that I need to shift my focus onto building my audience and creating an interest for my film. Then when I have a date for the premiere screening (coming in 2015!) there will already be some buzz and interest (hopefully!)

But how do you keep an audience engaged when there is no news to tell?

One thing they don’t tell you about crowdfunding is that it is really not about the money but about the engagement with your audience. If you can afford a big budget and expensive gear but no one comes to watch your film, what is the point? From January-February I took an online class with Raindance Toronto that focused on Social Media and Online Marketing for Filmmakers. I logged in from home and communicated via webcam with our instructor and fellow classmates residing all over the work (including Chicago and Tokyo). Not only did I expand my filmmaker network, but also I learned some valuable skills (and was very motivated!) to build my online presence. I now have a Facebook and Twitter page for my film with a schedule to regularly post content each week. Recently I formed a small marketing team (you will meet them soon) which is the most exciting part for me as it is much easier to stay on top of deadlines when others are involved :)

My plan includes posts with mental health news/facts, film status updates, TBT (Throw Back Thursday with behind the scenes photos from production), monthly blog updates to the film website, documentary/female filmmaker news, a shout out to my favourite documentaries, as well as real time updates from workshops, networking events and professional development sessions I continue to attend.

Filmmaking is not a hobby for me, it is a profession that I truly enjoy and is very important to me. I am hoping that my experience in promoting this film will help me tap into an audience that will be interested in my work for years to come. I am in this for the long run.

In my next post I will reveal my marketing plan for 2015-2017. So if I were you, I would join the Facebook and Twitter page ASAP as to not miss any of the exciting news to come :)

Thanks for reading and your support so far!


December 2014-The Film is Done (for real this time)

thats all folks

My film is done! These four words sound great but boy was it a lot of work back in December to get there. I thought it would be a breeze once the Colour Correction and Sound Edit was done. I neglected to predict the somewhat painful process of burning and screening 10+ DVD copies over two weeks with a busy work schedule and prepping for Christmas. These were DVD copies I would submit to film festivals for possible programming so they had to be perfect :) One little glitch could cost you a slot.  Sixty-four minute sessions with my eyes glued to the screen. If I looked away for a second to grab my drink I would rewind in case I missed a potential bug. Not quite the cozy movie night I would have preferred.

Needless to say, with a lack of sleep I got it done and successfully submitted to Hot Docs (Toronto), DOXA (Vancouver) and Tribeca (New York). I should hear back in March 2015 if I get in……

Literally the day after completing I became brutally sick.  I had aches and pains all over and had no energy. I had to take a few days off work and slept a lot. It was like my body said: “No More! I need a break!”  It took about two weeks to fully recover. And yes, I had my flu shot ;)

Perhaps the timing of finishing the film was just right as I had a very enjoyable and relaxing Christmas break with family and friends with a great sense of accomplishment. Now I have the exciting journey ahead in 2015 as I move from editing to marketing and distribution. Stay tuned!



October 27, 2014-Colour Grade is A+


So the picture lock stage was a great accomplishment,  but there are two following crucial phases in post production.  I’m really glad to have my talented friend Patrick Hodgson on board to work his magic in both areas: colour correction and post sound.  Most people are aware of sound mixing but don’t know the benefit of a great colour grading.  My last experience working with a colourist was when I Directed/Produced a Public Service Announcement with Anxiety Canada.  Colourists have the skills and software to quickly add subtle tweaks that adds a whole new level of professionalism to a film (remember that crappy looking footage on the “deleted scenes” portion of a DVD?).  Since I will be submitting my film to festivals and broadcasters, I want to make sure to have a competitive top-grade look.  My film was shot over five years and all but one scene were shot on the same Sony HD camera.  But there were a few scenes that had lighting inconsistencies, generally dark locations, or the camera operator didn’t get a chance to white balance.  Sometimes this happens due to the run&gun nature of documentary shooting, especially when I found myself as a one-person crew :)

After sending Patrick a scary long email with notes (that I think I articulated quite well being 1am during the work week….) he made the updates and we had a meeting on Monday to review. I’m happy to say that everything looks great!  They are mostly subtle changes but the film as a whole looks much better.  I’m really happy with the end result.  Patrick also re-created my opening title sequence that looks fabulous so he for sure went above and beyond a typical colour correction.  Next up-sound!  My next festival deadline is a week tomorrow (True/False Film Festival) so we are planning to have the sound mix completed a few days prior to allow my review (and hopefully not 4 pages of notes haha).  The end is near!


October 4, 2014-The End of an Era


Fantastic news-after many years of work and a lot of detailed crossing of T’s and dotting of I’s over the past few months, I am happy to announce that I have reached picture lock!  What a satisfying and lovely feeling :)  I am very happy with the current edit so the extra time to tweak since my IDFA submission was well worth it.

Timing is everything with a documentary.  When I started following Earla’s story she was in the peak of her media attention.  Eight years later the film feels like it is ready to go out into the world.  Now that this chapter of editing is done, I have put the film in good hands for the Sound Mixing & Colour Correction.  Next up: I’ll be submitting to more film festivals.  I’ll be starting with True False, Tribeca, and Hot Docs-the latter of which would be my dream come true :)  Sadly this also means that more expenses are on the horizon….what a coincidence that I have just updated my contribute page with all the details in case you are interested to join the cause!  Any amount would be very much appreciated, and a wonderful present for my 31st Birthday coming up on Oct.26….Timing really is everything :)




August 2, 2014-First Festival Submission!

It is always good to have a schedule and plan well ahead for deadlines especially while in post-production.  This way you have a safety net to put out any last minute fires.

Unfortunately, I took an extra week polishing the picture edit, and transferring files to a hard drive for my post editor took another 42 hours.  By the time I dropped off the files on Monday morning, this gave my friend Patrick until Friday to work his magic.  Not quite the two weeks I initially planned to give him!  We decided to do the best we could for this deadline and then schedule some additional time afterwards for any minor tweaking.  I dropped off the files on my way to work and mentioned that I hope we meet the deadline.  He calmly told me that we’d get it done.  And we did!  After a few evening meetings and a drop in around 2am on Friday, the sound edit and colour correction were done!  Kudos to Patrick for running with my crazy schedule and pulling a very long day on Thursday.  I was able to review the discs and then dropped them off at the post office by lunch time.  This submission is for the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) held in late November.  If I end up getting in this will inspire a short Europe trip, as I would love to see my Hot Docs friend and need to visit some friends in Germany!

I have now scheduled myself a week sanity break before I jump back on board.  Next deadline is early October.  Maybe a birthday present to myself will be to finalize my film :)


July 24, 2014-Chocolate, Pepsi, and Late Nights

I feel like I am back in Film School where we would spend many late nights in the basement at Humber editing away with caffeine and sugar to keep us alert.  It seems that my peak editing timeslot is still from 9am-2am when I suddenly have a channel of energy and concentration.

I did a late night session Tuesday where I was supposed to be polishing things here and there but it happened again and I came across footage I didn’t know existed and knew where it would fit perfectly.  I spent most of the day Wednesday batch digitizing.  I am trying really hard to not make any more changes.  Must meet my deadline!  (I am writing this post as I am digitizing footage, so yes, I am still being productive) :)

My first Film Festival deadline that I want to make is a week from Friday so I am working away to make picture lock to get the files to my Sound Editor in time.  The festival is IDFA (International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam) and is one of the largest Documentary Market Festivals in the world.  This would be an amazing opportunity to participate in, as buyers, sales agents, distributors and festival programmers will be in attendance.

I am hoping that this will be the first of a few festivals I am planning to submit to.  I am also considering Tribeca (NYC) and of course Hot Docs in Toronto, which was one of my goals from the beginning :)




July 8, 2014-When will your film be finished?

This is a question I have been answering for the past 8 years.  As I mentioned, production for In The Spotlight began in January 2006 and continued into 2009.  It is now 2014 and I’m still working on it.  I now understand when I hear Directors say it took them 10 years to make a film.  During my journey there were more than a few instances where I was close to giving up.  I learned the hard way that documentary filmmaking is a long process with many highs and lows.  I would have crew confirmed and gear rented only to have interview shoots canceled at the last minute. I applied to several funding options and participated in pitch sessions and was rejected each time.  I found it hard to dedicate time to editing around my work and social schedule.  It became very much an on-again off-again project.  Making my film a priority was difficult as no one else came on board and I doubted if anyone would want to watch it.  A part of each documentary comes to life in the cutting room so this would be a daunting task.  During production I was blessed with friends who worked for meals or other favours.  When it came time to edit I knew that I wanted to find an editor as I struggled quite a bit editing my short documentary Easy As Pi.

 In April of 2010 I found myself surrounded by eager Film Students while coordinating a video team at the Hot Docs film festival.  I started rambling about my film and found an interested editor as well as willing hands to assist in logging and digitizing my 80 tapes!  The plan was to edit that summer.  When the logging took longer than expected my editor was back in school full time and no longer available.  Two more potential editors also fell through.  I believe it was Christmas break of 2011 when I took matters into my own hands during a 2 week break and attempted to edit my film.  I was successful in cutting together several interesting sequences but struggled at putting them together as a whole.  I knew I needed fresh eyes to join the project and help me narrow my focus.  In Spring of 2012, through mutual friends, I met my editor Jordan Fisher.  Today, two years later, I can proudly say that we are putting together the finishing touches on the picture edit.





June 14, 2014-Old Friends

On Sunday afternoon I met up with a couple of old friends named Paul and Earla.  By old I am not referring to their age but that we have known each other since meeting back in 2006.

At the time I was participating in a documentary program for emerging Filmmakers at the National Film Board (NFB).  At the end of a week full of lectures and screenings we were told to pitch a short film idea about a current social issue.  Since Film School I have been keeping a list of Film ideas whenever they pop into my head.  At the time I was most interested in pursing my interest in Social Anxiety Disorder also known as Social Phobia.  For me, Filmmaking was always a way to research and ask questions about something that genuinely interested me.  While searching for subjects I simply typed “Social Anxiety Toronto” into google and was directed to Earla Dunbar’s website.  I emailed her and immediately received an excited reply that making a film would be “a dream come true” and she was excited to meet me.  I went to one of her group meetings, introduced myself, and was greeted by a bubbly, out-going and friendly short blond woman.  Nothing at all what I would have expected from someone with Social Phobia.  I met Paul, one of her group members, soon after.  I quickly learned that people are able to hide their Anxiety very well and that there is always more than meets the eye.

To make a story short, this is how my journey began in Directing/Producing my first feature film “In The Spotlight.”  I am currently in Post Production and plan to blog at least once a week to keep you up-to-date on my progress.

“Wait…you started filming in 2006 and the documentary isn’t done yet?”  In my next post I’ll discuss the challenges of editing a documentary.  Stay tuned :)