Canadian author Malcolm Gladwell writes that every idea has a “Tipping Point”, and that ideas can spread like viruses. Gladwell hypothesizes that everything from rumours to crime rates to sudden increases in shoe sales will have a tipping point, a moment of critical mass or a threshold where those ideas converge and take off. For the Whistler film community that tipping point was late fall 2001, when Shauna Hardy Mishaw and Kasi Lubin started the Whistler Film Festival.
Showcasing 13 Canadian films in what was then a one-screen town, the inaugural Whistler Film Festival drew an audience of over 1300 viewers. That small fest ignited something in Whistler however, as just five months later the World Ski & Snowboard Festival introduced the 72-Hour Filmmaker Showdown–a contest of run-and-gun guerrilla film making. Six months after that Heavy Hitting Films held the first B-Grade HorrorFest, another local-talent incubator. The tipping point tipped that year and suddenly Whistler was a movie town.
The next year Shauna added more films and an industry forum and by 2004 the WFF had expanded sufficiently to hire a programming director and entice larger sponsors. “We got more defined,” Shauna explains, “and decided what we wanted to do was establish Whistler as a destination to connect business and film.”
Now, just days away from the opening curtain of its 14th birthday the Whistler Film Festival boasts 87 films from 18 countries and is respected industry wide as a champion of Canadian cinema and a festival that perfectly nails the mix of business and pleasure.
LEFT: Shauna Hardy.
“The festival is short and sweet,” Shauna says, adding that the idea has been to keep the Whistler Film Festival smaller, more intimate and more industry-focused than other Canadian festivals like Toronto or Vancouver. “You watch films after skiing and it’s laid back and intimate. Everything is close together and we have top people from Canada, LA, even China coming here to meet and do business but also to connect with the audience and each other. It’s a great way to showcase the industry in BC.”
It’s also a lot of fun. Whistler locals voted the fest “Best Arts and Cultural Event” in 2013 and this year there’s a lot of buzz about the caliber of films coming to town. “It’s about adding character to Whistler,“ Shauna explains. She first arrived in Whistler for “just a weekend” back in 1991 and moved up the next week. Now married with two children, she’s also acted as executive producer for 22 local short films under the Whistler Stories program, giving many Sea to Sky filmmakers (including Insider editor Feet Banks and WFF regular Peter Harvey), their first paid directing gigs.
“We know we have great characters here,” Shauna says, “and it’s cool to bring people to this special town. The Whistler community is very unique and generous and there is a relentless can-do spirit. That is how we were able to get the Olympics and with that same spirit and the right global partners we can become one of the preeminent film festivals on the planet.”
Almost a decade and half in, the Whistler Film Festival also has a new home base, and a cutting-edge digital projector, in the newly renovated Rainbow Theatre. “If we want to be one of the best fests in the world we need this technology,” Shauna says. As the Whistler Film Festival’s reputation grows, perhaps this is another of those Tipping Point years. Or maybe not, but in any case, it will be a heck of a show.
The Whistler Film Festival runs December 3-7 2014 and is going to be the best one yet. Get tickets, accommodations and more info at Whistler.com