New fund supports LGBTQ women and non-binary filmmakers

Sponsored feature: presented by Inside Out

Inside Out’s Toronto LGBT Film Festival has developed a new resource to support women and non-binary filmmakers. The first phase of the Focus Fund, an initiative made possible by a generous $25,000 donation from Martha McCain, will provide filmmakers with travel bursaries to attend the festival.

Often, the significant travel costs associated with making the trip are far too great an economic barrier for filmmakers to enjoy the opportunity of showcasing their work and network with others in their industry.

Alyssa Lerner is a Los Angeles-based comedy writer and filmmaker who wrote the coming-of-age short film Pop Rox, which was chosen to screen at this year’s festival. While she was excited to have her film selected, she was unsure she could afford making the trip to attend in person. When her Focus Fund application was accepted, a major weight was lifted off of her shoulders knowing that she’d be able to make the 4,000-kilometre journey to share her work, meet people in her industry and build the community.

“It means so much. Living in L.A. can be really isolating because you’re at work all day or in your car driving to work for two hours,” says Lerner. “To be here has meant building a community which has always been something that’s really important to me, especially queer community.”

In addition to the travel bursary, festival programmers also connected her with members of the community who provided housing accommodation for the duration of her visit. Lerner was surprised by the overwhelming friendliness and hospitality of Toronto and is ecstatic to be meeting people who may become collaborators in the future.

According to Andria Wilson, Inside Out’s executive director, women and non-binary filmmakers face significant economic barriers in the industry. She joined the organization in 2016 after working in Atlantic Canada, where she developed the region’s first LGBT festival – an experience that has helped her understand the challenges marginalized filmmakers face in creating films and touring the festival circuit.

“We spent a lot of time looking at the current climate and status of the industry and determining how can we be the most supportive to filmmakers directly as an LGBT film festival today, in terms of providing that space and support for filmmakers who have not been represented as strongly as they should be.”

In developing the Focus Fund, Inside Out took a holistic view towards supporting filmmakers throughout the creative process. While the first phase of the fund closes the financial gap for travel costs to attend the festival, the second and third phases in the future will create access to professional development programs as well as grants to support the development and completion of film projects.

“We want to provide these points of intervention that are really important in a filmmaker’s life and a film’s life in development so that films are not getting put on the shelf or put on hold or derailed because of money, which is so often the case,” says Wilson.

Through this initiative, Inside Out aims to foster and support a diverse community of LGBT women and non-binary filmmakers from around the world by providing them with the funds necessary to advance in their careers and create films that reflect their lived experiences, in turn allowing guests to see themselves represented on screen.

“By 2020, which is our 30th anniversary, we really want to be able to look at those numbers and be proud to talk about the direct movement that’s happened in just three years.”

Learn more about Inside Out and see festival programming highlights here.

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