Nathan Fleet held the Hamilton Film Festival’s (HFF) kick-off event from deep within the Oval Office on Oct. 4. Digital Canaries, a film studio located in downtown Hamilton, provided their White House set piece for the day’s announcement.
“[This year] we really aim to earn the ‘Hamilton’ in our title,” Fleet said as he began outlining the announcements for the festival. Hamilton was a recurring theme throughout the event.
This year’s festival will feature 150 films from over 700 submissions from around the world. Forty-seven of these films were shot in Hamilton, and over half were released by Hamilton filmmakers.
“We’ve got a lot of Hamilton-shot films this year,” said Stephen Hayes, one of the festival jurors. “There seems to be a lot of activity [in the city] over the last year or two and that’s great!”
Keeping that theme of ‘Hamilton’ in mind, the HFF will feature an entire night of short films from Hamilton teams. Other Hamilton-filmed movies will be shown throughout the festival. The HFF also provides a way for viewers interested in Hamiltonian cinema to see what movies were filmed in the city.
“On the [HFF] website, as you scroll down the schedule, you’ll find a sticker that says ‘filmed in Hamilton,’” said Fleet. “Even though a filmmaker might be based in Toronto they’ve chosen Hamilton as their place to film their movie, and we think that’s fantastic.”
While Fleet acknowledged that the HFF focuses mostly on independent film, he also announced the festival would premiere a big-name, Hamilton-made movie. Milton’s Secret was filmed in Hamilton by director Barnet Bain, and stars Donald Sutherland.
The festival will also show at least 100 Canadian films.
“This isn’t because we pushed other films aside, but the majority of our submissions actually came from Canadian filmmakers,” said Fleet. “They’re hearing about us and seeing us as a required stop on their film festival run.”
Fleet also talked about some initiatives that the HFF provides year-round in Hamilton.
“In the past, a lot of filmmakers have come into the city and contacted the festival directly,” said Fleet. “They want to know who’s the best make-up person, where [they] can rent a bath tub … they’ve come to me for that information. So, we set up something called ‘Lights, Camera, Hamilton’.”
Lights, Camera, Hamilton began as a program on Cable 14 and has become an initiative that networks cast and crew to directors.
“This is specifically for Hamilton,” said Fleet. “This is the industry we want to build.”
Other new programs for the Hamilton film industry include the newly formed ‘Canadian Film Market’. Fleet explained this was a new initiative that allows independent filmmakers who entered into the festival to sell their movies on-site. It also provides film distributors with an easy way to network with, and purchase directly from, the filmmakers at the festival itself.
“In the past, a lot of our titles have been looked at by distributors that want to acquire stuff that they’ve seen here,” said Fleet. “This is a festival of hidden gems, there are lots of films that don’t make it into bigger festivals that find their way here … and distributors have made note of that.”
The film market will run for four days at the Sheraton Hotel. It will carry both festival films and films that directors can submit just for the market.
“This is an opportunity that filmmakers have never had before in Hamilton,” said Fleet.
The market will also play host to a number of filmmaking panels and other special events.
“We have a very special fireside where we have two academy award winners who will be interviewing each other,” said Fleet. “We have Colin Chilvers, who was the academy award winner from 1978, and Colin Doncaster, who was the award winner from 2013, who will sit down and basically chat with each other.”
He also highlighted the Hamilton Film Expo.
“It’s like a regular film expo, but rather than host it in a convention centre, we’ll be doing it right here in Digital Canaries,” said Fleet.
In addition to vendors, panels, and screenings, the film expo will also act as the location for a 72-hour film jam. Ten teams will receive a number of random elements and then have72 hours to produce a film that uses those elements. Festival-goers can view these films at a special screening, and even purchase them at the Canadian Film Market.
“There’s something for everybody at the Hamilton Film Festival this year,” said Fleet.
The HFF kicks off next month on Nov. 7.