Surreal Experiences of a First Time Filmmaker

The following is written by Unsung Voices Filmmaker, Althea Balmes (who also won the WIFT-T Award at Reel Asian for Suman Ladies).

As I write this, I’m on the College streetcar on my way to The Royal to catch The Mirror Never Lies.

What can I say? It has been a jam-packed and eventful week, with too many movies to watch and great Industry Series events to attend and it really kept this girl on the go. What has this week been like? After the Opening Gala some of us from Unsung Voices were mulling at how surreal it has been for us. Just a few months ago, we’ve never made any films and now we were all excitedly anticipating our own premiere.

All the while, Arthur was encouraging us as first time filmmakers to catch as many Industry Series events as we could at the Festival. Am I glad that I went! Participating in the Industry Series was probably the most mind opening, encouraging and the most interesting thing about the festival for a first timer like me. With my own short movie, “Suman Ladies”, exploring Filipino food and the Filipino diaspora here in Toronto, I was lucky to be able to participate in the Food for Thought panel.

I’ll admit that I was a tad bit worried being in the same panel along with some serious foodie and professionals in movie making and in culinary creation. It was clear that Richard, Yung & Olivia are passionate about their work but I immediately discovered that they are also the incredibly humble and down to earth food lovers type. Soon enough with our moderator, we were all happily chatting away with each other and the audience, cracking jokes and talking about everything from our own culture, amazing fruits, dal puri, suman and Filipino cuisine, our food’s history, food politics, to what amazing things we can see in our own Toronto backyard and mouth watering food movies.

Our panel ended with Yung graciously offering a taste of rambutan to everyone at the event. There was nothing to worry about after all. Later while I stayed on for the Speed Dating, I encountered people who were there telling me that they really liked the panel and equally gushing about food. How awesome to hear their own food stories!

I stayed for the Speed Dating to see what the reality of the industry was really like and what good advice these seasoned industry veterans could give to a young first timer like me. I got a variety of sage advice from one telling me to get as much experience and network as much as possible, another one said to be smart in how you distribute your movie to gain the most revenue. Another told me that food docs generally do well in film festival and to contact him to see the potential of my film. Cool. I was sort of dubious at first at this Speed Dating thing because, what can you possibly accomplish in 10 minutes with a total stranger? Apparently a lot, as long as you have a question and a goal; I learned so many things. Equally nice was being able to talk to other attendees and finding out about them. Overall, advice one accomplished: networking. I’m really glad I went.

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