For NWT producer Jen Walden, this year’s Whistler Film Festival (Dec 1-5) was more than an annual industry gathering. It was the culmination of an intensive screenwriting workshop. Walden was one of only six Canadian writers selected to participate in a WFF-hosted multi-phased script development program.
The highly-respected seven-month, Screenwriters Lab is designed to “amplify diverse voices through the development of a feature project in an intensive business and creative immersion experience.” Walden and her project (MOTHER) were selected from a record number of applications from across the country.
We caught up with Jen for her thoughts and reflections on the opportunity and her experience.
What did the opportunity to participate in this lab mean to you?
It has been a fantastic opportunity for me with so many positive outcomes.
The lab itself was incredibly intensive. Over 6 months, I worked with a group of mentors and experts to re-write, re-work and then re-write again my feature-film script.
I have learned a tremendous amount about the craft of screenwriting and am coming out of the experience with a much stronger and more polished script.
The other amazing take-away that has come from my experience is the connections that I have made with other filmmakers in the Canadian Film industry. They are individuals that, especially as a Northerner, I would not have otherwise had the chance to meet. I have no doubt that these relationships will continue to help and support me as I move forward with my filmmaking career.
In what ways do you hope this lab will help you progress as a screenwriter?
I can tell you that it already has. I have learned a lot technically about the craft of writing; about story and how to layer a story so that it has depth and clarity to capture one's imagination.
Since beginning the lab, I have also started writing a narrative television series. The process of writing has been quicker, easier and more fun as I now have more skills which allow me to dive in and enjoy the process even more.
You also attended that Whistler Film Festival?
Yes, it was the final event of our Screenwriters Lab. I was able to meet other creatives and share my projects with others. Because of the work I got to do during the lab I showed up at the festival with multiple projects I could pitch, with more confidence about my work, and I was able to make tons of great connections.
Any final thoughts?
Being an independent filmmaker is tough. Being one in an isolated part of the country is even tougher. Without the support of the NWT Film Commission, I would not have been able to access opportunities such as the Whistler Screenwriters Lab. The film commission has supported my growth as a writer and director, and I am incredibly grateful, as I can see the impact as my career continues to expand.
The Whistler Film Festival Society is a charitable, cultural organization dedicated to furthering the art and business of film by providing programs that focus on the discovery, development, and promotion of new talent culminating in the highly-respected Whistler Film Festival and Content Summit each December. Walden’s participation at this year’s Screenwriters Lab and festival was made possible thanks to sponsorship from ITI’s NWT Film Commission which is looking beyond equipment and technology to invest in the skill and capacity of NWT filmmakers and their crews.