Bern Euler on building the Canadian Film Fest’s profile

The festival's executive director talks to Playback about the draw for the industry and Canadian audiences, and growing the event as a homegrown filmmaking hub.
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Canadian Film Festival executive director Bern Euler is putting the call out to the domestic industry to take a closer look at the Toronto festival.

The festival, running in its second year since its relaunch (after a three-year hiatus) Wednesday to Saturday, is growing its profile as a platform for Canadian filmmakers to exchange business intel, screen their films and build and support the industry.

For example, the festival has this year added the CFF Super Channel Screenplay Accelerator, a feature-length screenplay competition open to Canadian screenwriters, in which the winning script receives a broadcast pre-licence from Super Channel of between $30,000 to $50,000.

One of the goals of the competition is to generate interest in Canadian scripts, and accelerate the chances of the project being greenlit through production.

The runner up will have an opportunity to exchange one-on-one script notes with indie director Warren Sonoda, while the top five screenplays will be added to a so-called “It List.”

The “It List,” Euler explains, will be like Hollywood’s well-known Black List, a tally of the year’s best unproduced scripts, which was started by Tinseltown exec Leonard Franklin in 2005.

Euler says he’d like to grow the It List – the best unproduced screenplays in Canada – by an additional 10 scripts next year. The goal he says isn’t a stretch, considering in the two weeks the script competition was open for submissions, the festival received approximately 70 finished feature scripts.

For Canadian cinemagoers, the Canadian Film Festival is a chance to see what they’re missing when a homegrown film gets a limited release in only a few major cities across the country.

“This has been happening in the last decade – people really want to watch our own films. A little bit of the stigma that Canadian movies have had in the past, I think it’s washing off, finally,” Euler tells Playback. “We want to hear our own stories – it’s very important to us, it’s our culture. And it’s frustrating for us when we don’t understand why we can’t see some films at our local theatre,” he adds, speaking from the perspective of both a filmmaker and theatregoer.

Euler, needing no prompting, rattles off a list Canuck filmmakers and their credits to support the notion that homegrown films and talent are versatile (even more so with smaller budgets) and can hold court with the rest of the world.

There’s Mr. Viral screening this year, from writer-director and former ad man Alex Boothby, who previously worked as a VFX artist on films like Black Swan, Fight Club and Panic Room.

And last year’s festival opened with Thom Fitzgerald’s Cloudburst, which went on to receive various awards during its turn on the festival circuit. It also starred Kristin Booth, who had a role in Below Zero, which also screened last year. And last year’s Hit ‘N’ Strum comes from prolific stunt man Kirk Caouette, who directed, produced and composed all the music for the film.

“The goal for the CFF is to become the premiere event for filmmakers in the country,” says Euler. “This is more than just a film festival, this is also a cause. Supporting this film festival directly supports our Canadian filmmakers, our Canadian content – it just turns out to be good for everyone.”

The Canadian Film Festival kicks off today and runs through to Mar. 23, 2013.

Photo credit: Nick Kozak