Monday, October 18, 2010

Planet in Focus Film Festival wraps with sold-out Industry Day

Toronto's Planet in Focus just wrapped, boasting sell-out audiences at its Industry Day of panels, pitches and networking sessions.

Industry Day took place at the Miles Nadel Jewish Community Centre last Friday amid the eleventh edition of North America's premiere environmental film festival (October 13-17).

The morning began with an overflowing Green Networking Lounge, where sudden demand forced Industry Programmer Allan Tong to increase the number of micro-meetings from seven to 10. That meant there were 10 simultaneous one-on-one meetings happening between filmmakers who signed up and industry leaders they wanted to meet. Those industry folk included the heads of Telefilm Canada, Astral's Harold Greenberg Fund, NFB, The Canadian Film Centre's NFB Feature Documentary Program, White Pine Pictures, BravoFACT, Vtape, The Toronto Arts Council and LIFT. Filmmakers pitched ideas and sought career advice.

Joan Prowse, co-producer of Eco Heroes TV/web series and Ron Mann, director of In The Wake of the Flood

Directors such as Peter Mettler (Petropolis), Ron Mann, whose In The Wake of the Flood, opened Planet in Focus, and Liz Marshall whose Water on the Table won PIF's Best Feature Documentary prize, spoke at panels later in the day.

Directors Peter Mettler and Liz Marshall

A special panel was devoted to Green Screen Toronto, a new initiative to reduce the carbon footprint of film productions, notorious to wasting everything from gasoline to plastic water bottles. Lead consultant Melissa Felder moderated the panel that included Avi Federgreen, the producer of Score: A Hockey Musical which recently opened the Toronto International Film Festival.
Green Screen's Melissa Felder and Avi Federgreen (producer, Score: A Hockey Musical)

All panels were heavily attended mostly by those who had purchased the $50 ($40 for students) Industry Pass which include the Networking Lounge, a vegetarian lunch and a licensed reception in the early evening. Filmmakers shed light on how they made their pictures and discussed the nature of today's environmental film, the role of advocacy in films, and non-traditional forms of distribution.

Director Malcolm Rogge pitching green

Industry Day climaxed with the annual Green Pitch in which six teams of filmmakers presented their eco-film ideas to a live audience and jury made up of producers from CBC's The Nature of Things with David Suzuki, TVO and the NFB. The jury was deadlocked and did not arrive at a decision for over an hour. The eventual winner was Katarina Soukup for Under The City, a documentary currently in development about vanished waterways running beneath the world's major cities.

As Industry Programmer, Allan thanks all his PIF colleagues including executive director Sarah Margolius, director of programming Kathleen Mullen, and his assistant Majid Kholdabandehlou.

Given the popularity of Industry Day, perhaps Planet in Focus will expand it next year. I'm purely speculating, but all the written feedback I received suggests this.

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