#ReelAsian22: A Recap of the Reel Ideas Industry Conference

Photography by Michael Tjioe

From November 8 – 16, The Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival celebrated it’s twenty-second of showcasing contemporary Asian films and videos from East, South and Southeast Asian artists in Canada and around the world

A big part of the festival is the Reel Ideas program, an industry conference that aims to provide opportunities between emerging talent and  established filmmakers.

A common piece of advice that resonated throughout the entire conference was:

Do Your Research.

  • Research the people you pitch to.
  • Become knowledgeable about the industry.
  • Learn as much as you can about your subject, first as a gradual process to build that relationship and rapport.
  • Complete in-depth reviews of your audience.

The importance of research and preparedness was reinforced by multiple panelists because it amplified the outcomes for success.

The morning kicked off with Elevate Your Pitch, an informative panel about pitching to investors and production companies with seasoned professionals in the industry. Romeo Candido, senior producer for CBC Arts and  CBC Arts: Exhibitionists moderated the discussion with Melanie Hadley, Executive in Charge of Production for CBC Drama,  and Michael Steinberg, Senior Account Manager of TV, Motion, Picture Group at National Bank.

Melanie Hadley spoke about the importance of staying connected to gatekeepers in the industry. “Keep all the access points/gatekeepers and contacts that you know (especially if you leave and return back into the industry), those people are important to connect with” she said.

Michael Steinberg expanded the conversation by sharing his experience of content creators pitching to financial sponsors, advising the audience about the importance of preparation.

“The secret is being prepared and structuring storytelling. It is about being able to paint that picture to the audience and convey your project concisely.” – Michael Steinberg

Filmmaker and correspondent of CBC Arts, April Aliermo, moderated another panel called ReMappings,. with Ashley Duong, a Montreal-based film director and multimedia storyteller, and Sun-Kyung Yi, the Program Coordinator for Seneca College’s Documentary Filmmaking Institute (DFI) that explored various aspects of documentary filmmaking and the fragile way of forming a story that is authentic to a subject.

The discussion delved into issues of intimacy and the filmmaker-subject relationship:“If you are an aspiring or emerging documentary filmmaker, tell the story that touches you on a personal and intimate level. Look in your own backyard,” according to Sun-Kyung Yi.

Duong added, “one skill filmmakers don’t intentionally train themselves on is listening and helping people feel heard.”

“Before you start a project, during research and development that person or community are experts of their story because they live it. By the time you are done the story, you will become an expert because you are sharing their story,” added Sun-Kyung Yi.

The afternoon finished with a vibrant conversation between Sherren Lee, an award-winning Director born in Taiwan, bred in Montreal and currently located in Toronto, and Sook Yin Lee, a Canadian broadcaster, musician, filmmaker, and actress. Lee is famously known from her stint as a MuchMusic VJ, and has been a host on CBC Radio since 2002. Lee’s conversation dealt with finding creative freedom on her own terms, the ins and outs of making decisions, having regrets and living with intentionality.

Lee asked the audience, “what are you curious about? And create the space where you can ruminate this question then explore it.”

That sense of curiosity has driven Lee’s work and life, and she spoke important words about growth as a filmmaker through experience, “at the end of life, we aren’t looking at our diplomas, we are looking at life experiences.”

On another panel, actor and filmmaker Farah Merani, moderated a panel about being an influencer and creating an impact using digital platforms. The conversation between Merani, photographer Alexia Fernando and Jessica Prois, former executive of HuffPost Asian Voices addresses important themes of being an online influencer.

Prois spoke about the importance of getting any press or attention, “getting on a small blog (or any type of media/press attention) is good because more press attention makes you more credible.”

In an online world that is saturated with voices, Fernando reminded the audience of the importance of using a variety of mediums.

“The [virtual social media] tools are there, use that to leverage your voice. Use that online platform but also have another platform that isn’t online. Reconnect with traditional mediums,” she said.

The conference was enriching and educational for anyone spanning the industries of film, television, marketing, public relations, accounting, and beyond. Future iterations of the Reel Ideas conference will only grow from here.

The Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival is a unique showcase of contemporary Asian cinema and work from the Asian diaspora. Works include films and videos by East, South and Southeast Asian artists in Canada, the U.S., Asia and all over the world. As Canada’s largest Asian film festival, Reel Asian provides a public forum for Asian media artists and their work, and fuels the growing appreciation for Asian cinema in Canada. Check out other images from the festival.