Jenna Marks - All Access Pass Blog - SJIWFF

One week and One day- a short experience I will remember for the rest of my life.

It is almost hard to find the right words. Words to really express: that give this feeling justice without sounding cliché, or forced.

After a week in St. John's I feel more grown up and sure of myself than I ever have before and I can only hope to continue this positive growth so that one day, five years from now - ten years from now, I will have grown so much more that l will consider the feeling I have now to be a minute in comparison.

I arrived in Newfoundland on Saturday October 17th. It was raining. I remember feeling so heavy. So heavy in fact, that on my first day in a new and excited place, I dropped my bags and plopped on my cloud like Quality Hotel bed and took an hour long sigh of relief. I may have wasted my first afternoon in St. John’s, but it was the most wonderful waste of time I've ever had.

My alarm went off at 7.

The sun was bright as I climbed the most beautiful hiking path I've ever been on, and I've seen some amazing hikes: Cinque Terre, Italy, The Black Forest in Germany, were cheap pleather in comparison. I sat on a rock and drew until the wet cold breeze of a storm chilled my back.

I found shelter and an amazing cod lunch at the Mallard Cottage, unaware of what I had stumbled upon. I walked in wearing my dirty wet hiking clothes. With no reservation, I can only assume I got a table out of pity.

Woman in the Director’s Chair WIDC is an organization that helps propel the careers of female directors across the country. Every year they partner with the St. John's International Woman's Film Festival (SJIWFF) to put on a weeklong workshop for four emerging filmmakers. This year I was lucky enough, through the WIFT-At All Access Pass, to be chosen as one of the participants. I couldn't have asked for a better group of women to spend a week with.

We started the workshop on the Monday. We ordered lunch and discussed our careers and what we want to achieve. It set up a comfortable and open atmosphere for the rest of the week. That night we saw Patricia Rozema's film Into the Forest. We even got to meet Patricia before the film started at a pre-red carpet exclusive event. We wore our most jazzafied attire as we conversed with sophistication about our film dreams over drinks and hors-d'oeuvres. It was a great kick off to the week. I saw Into the Forest at the Atlantic Film Festival, not a month earlier and I value watching films more than once. Watching it a second time I found freedom to truly enjoy it’s sound design and cinematography. I liked it the first time, and the second time I found out why.

The entire week was a whirlwind of growth and experiences. I learned a lot from the WIDC, not only about the industry but about myself. I also found the festival’s workshops to be extraordinarily well chosen and appropriate for the types or filmmakers in attendance.

My favorite workshop was the festival workshop because it didn't simply outline how to submit films. The women on the panel really emphasized the importance of attending the festivals, meeting people, and keeping in contact with those people. A wonderful story arose in the conversation from Ingrid Veninger. I hope she doesn't mind me sharing.

As I recall, she attended a festival in Eastern Russia. The first night she partied with some filmmakers from all over the world. As other festival goers retired for the evening, she and a few other filmmakers closed down the bar. They decided, in their new found friendship, they should make a film together! Not just a hypothetical, way off in the future kind of film, but a film they would make now, while at the festival, with the camera Ingrid had brought. Each team had the camera for a certain amount of time and they all had to use the hotel they were staying in as part of the film. I think she said they ended up with six 10 minute shorts. They compiled the short films to make a feature, with the name of the hotel as its title. The following year they were invited back, fully funded, and the feature played at festivals around the world.

I found motivation in Ingrid's story. In fact, out of all the filmmakers at the festival, I think Ingrid inspired me the most. I saw her Feature "He Hated Pigions" the following day and I was, once again, moved. The film is a feature she shot in Chile. From her own pocket, she flew herself and her crew of four, across the Americas to start the production; the funding had not yet been raised. While the film was being shot she did an Indiegogo campaign. I can't imagine the stress. I think the entire room was drenched in her gorilla style attitude as this story left her lips.

The other striking aspect of the film is that it is accompanied by a live score. The score is performed by a local artist of the city where the film is being shown. Every time it screens it has different music and a different film experience. This also means it will only ever play at festivals: never on DVD, never on broadcast. It made the screening extra special because I knew I might never get to see it again, though I hope that's not the case. It was beautiful.

I was also touched by the mentors that helped with the WIDC module. They were helpful and easy to talk to. They encouraged me to not second guess myself and to make long and short term goals. I'd like to thank those women for being an ear and a guiding voice.

The end of the festival was bitter sweet. I ate my lunch, for the forth time that week, at Mohamed Ali: a small restaurant I can only decribe as truly athentic. It has the best falafel I've eaten since a trip I took to Isreal. After the closing film I sociallized one last time with fellow filmmakers over moist vegan cupcakes with the perfect balance of sweet. I then said goodbye to the friends I had grown so close to in only a few short days. I reluctantly left the bar early as I still had packing do to.

I got up at 4am to catch my flight, in a state of disbelief. It had only been a week, yet I felt so different. I was excited to go home and get back to my life, but as a new woman. I was also scared: scared to leave a place where I had grown so much and was so productive. Scared that in my return home, to my old routine, I would lose what I had gained. Thinking back on my week I can honestly say that I've been changed. I've learned things I didn't even realize I needed to know. I realized that I have a powerful voice I should be confident in sharing. I was shown in many ways, that when an idea strikes you, to trust it and not hesitate.

"My flight is about to's been swell ladies," as we all depart to our separate corners of Canada. "I hope to see you soon."

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