Reel Canada launches Uniting the Nation Through Film

The travelling film festival has launched a new fundraising drive aimed at greatly expanding the number of students it reaches in schools.

Reel Canada has launched its ninth season, and with it, a new initiative to bring even larger youth audience to Canadian film.

Reel Canada is a program designed to boost awareness of Canadian films by bringing the film festival experience to students, introducing them to homegrown films and filmmakers through screenings of Canadian features, docs and animated films to students across the country.

On Monday, the program’s organizers launched Uniting the Nation Through Film, a new fundraising campaign targeting the Canadian film and TV industry. The campaign is aimed at increasing Reel Canada’s reach, broadening the number of students from its current 40,000 to 100,000 students by 2017. The campaign goal is to reach Reel Canada’s operating budget of $200,000 for the 2013-2014 season.

“We’ve grown exponentially with incredible results in the last eight years with a presence in dozens of communities across seven provinces,” said Reel Canada artistic director Sharon Corder in a statement. “But if we can reach 100,000 students annually, we know this would have a serious impact on the way Canadians celebrate our own stories.”

The campaign launched with $70,000 in pledges already in the bag, from eOne and industry organizations including the CMPA, DGC Ontario, ACTRA and the WGC. Also backing the campaign upfront are prodcos Firsttake Entertainment and A71, William F. White, Flashpoint screenwriters-producers Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern, Mad Men‘s Semi Chellas, Played‘s Greg Nelson and Serendipity Point Films owner and producer Robert Lantos.

“Reel Canada is a bold assertion that our movies matter. We are more than just a spillover market for Hollywood blockbusters. And when we make that assertion to new audiences – high school students,  new Canadians – we bypass Hollywood completely and build the foundation for a healthy domestic audience invested in our own stories,” said Lantos in his own statement.

Scotiabank has come on board as a sponsor this year, contributing $75,000, plus an additional $25,000 in in-kind support towards website development and expansion of the program’s online resources for teachers and students, bolstering the program’s growth plans.

Earlier this week, students from the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) program in the GTA attended screenings of Canadian films Away from Her, Breakaway and Iron Road at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. Part of Reel Canada’s Welcome to Canada program for ESL students, the students met and practiced their English with actors Wendy Crewson (Away from Her) and Vinay Virmani (Breakaway), and Iron Road producer Anne Tait following the screenings.

Reel Canada, founded in 2005 by Jack Blum and Sharon Corder, is hosting student screening events across the country through to May 2014.