NSI’s Elise Swerhone looks back at Hot Docs 2015

I recently attended the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival in Toronto with eight NSI Aboriginal Documentary filmmakers.

As usual it was a great experience. I love Hot Docs not just because it’s a fabulous opportunity to see great films like Hadwin’s Judgement and Listen to Me Marlon but also because it’s also a great chance to hang out with wonderful people: filmmakers I admire, friends made over the years and, of course, the NSI students.

We start working with the NSI Aboriginal Documentary teams in February but it’s at Hot Docs that I actually get to know everyone a bit. And it’s always fun.

This year we started the week with a group dinner on Sunday evening.

Lisa Jackson, our director advisor, Michelle St. John from last year’s program, and Brendon Sawatzky, the producer advisor, joined us at Spring Rolls on Yonge for a delicious and boisterous meal. After that I went to a farewell party for the producers of The Nature of Things and Doc Zone, an equally boisterous but less joyous occasion.

The sky was blue and the sun was warm. The University of Toronto location for the industry sessions is a relaxed and congenial place to be.

This year Hot Docs erected a huge white tent which gave us, being a large group, a comfortable place to hang out and meet with people.

Throughout the week our group met with Jason Ryle and Daniel Northway-Frank from imagineNATIVE, Rachel Feldbloom-Wood and Bob Culbert from BravoFACTUAL, Michelle Van Beusekom, David Christensen and Lea Marin from the National Film Board, Jane Jankovic from TVO, Charlotte Engel newly appointed at CBC and Murray Battle from Knowledge Network.

Everyone was very generous with their time and advice. I was impressed with the students who talked about themselves and their projects with confidence. They were all very good and the big guys were impressed.

The highlight, the absolute highlight, was watching Alexandra Lazarowich and Cowboy Smithx pitch their film Cree Code Talkers to a full room and jury at the Hot Docs/BravoFACTUAL pitch competition.

They had been rehearsing all week and they rocked the room and came in first winning $30,000 to put toward the making of their film. This was Wednesday evening, a fabulous last night at Hot Docs. The next day everyone flew home and I went on to prepare for the jury for our next program, the Shaw Media Diverse TV Director course.

It was a great week.

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Students also wrote about their time at Hot Docs.

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