The 2014 ReelWorld Film Festival showcases 70% Canadian content, and presents films from around the world. 79 films and videos will be screened April 2 to 6, 2014 in Toronto and April 11 to 13, 2014 in Markham. Now in its 14th year, ReelWorld continues to grow not only in screening great films, but in cultivating the strongest professional development for emerging artists. Renowned actor, director and producer, Tonya Williams, is founder and executive director of ReelWorld.
What were your reasons for creating ReelWorld?
As a black actress I knew first hand how difficult it was to start and build a career in the entertainment industry. I wanted to start an initiative that could help ALL emerging racially diverse people who are trying to get into film/tv, as directors, producers, screenwriters, crew, production executives, actors and also people who wanted to train and work in the non-profit arts world–as in running a film festival.
Do those reasons still resonate with you today?
Yes, even more. The industry has changed so much since the inception of ReelWorld, but racially diverse individuals are still having trouble getting into the more senior positions that are able to greenlight and shape the content. Each year thousands more emerging talent come into the market place, and they need to be kept up to date on funding and distribution changes.
What are the greatest challenges you confront in your experience as founder and executive director?
It’s definitely getting funding. So many arts initiatives are out there and the pot of funding gets smaller and smaller each year. Maintaining the partnership we have now and building new ones is a daily challenge.
What are the greatest rewards you derive from your experience as founder and executive director?
I love seeing how much impact these filmmakers get at being in ReelWorld and attending ReelWorld. I love to watch their careers grow and how they sustain themselves in this challenging industry. They inspire me.
As the festival has grown, how have you felt its impact?
Yes, it’s always exciting for us at ReelWorld to see how over the past 14 years we’ve helped people. Many of the filmmakers who got there start through ReelWorld and continue to support us, have been great ambassadors for us.
As a both an actor and executive director of a film festival your perspective on the state of Canadian film is unique and valuable. How has the industry evolved since ReelWorld’s inception?
When I started my career in 1976 actors mostly waited for their agents to call and send them to auditions. It’s so different now. Actors are very involved in the creation of those projects. Many of them produce and direct. Things are not as segregated as they were. Many artists now work in many sectors of the industry.
What are you most excited about for this upcoming festival?
The programming. I think it’s the strongest we have ever had, and I look forward to audiences discovering the great talent that is out there.
If you were stuck in an elevator with someone who never heard of ReelWorld, what would you want to tell them?
That they should attend the festival, and watch great talent they might not have heard of; that more than 70% of our content is Canadian; that ReelWorld is not just about films–there’s a strong industry development component, and they should take the time to discover all of us.
* Photo of Tonya Williams courtesy of Renee Farias
* RW Award Winner Dawn Wilkinson, Suzie Mukherjee
* RW Indie Film Lounge, Awaovieyi Agie, Danny Glover, Richard Leacock
* Deepa Mehta, RW Industry Film Series
~ Check out the ReelWorld Film Festival at www.reelworld.ca ~