Totally Indie Day

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Community Partner
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Detailing how indie creators guide their ambitious projects from the page to the screen, Totally Indie Day offers the next generation of filmmakers insights into how to employ both vision and resourcefulness. The one-day conference is an opportunity to share stories, gain insights, and learn more about the art and business of cinema.

In 2021, the conference was livestreamed on VIFF Connect, with audiences invited to connect with fellow emerging filmmakers and participate in virtual networking sessions.

Take a look back at Totally Indie Day 2021

Join us for a behind-the-scenes look at the the making of Portraits From a Fire, the debut feature of Tŝilhqot’in filmmaker Trevor Mack. The film tells the story of a teenage boy on a reserve who fights through distorting realities as a family secret unravels. The film’s director, producer, cinematographer, and editor will share their experiences about the development, financing, and production of the feature, plus the importance of partnering the film’s key creatives with Indigenous talent.

Session Participants

Raised within the Tŝilhqot’in community in British Columbia’s interior, Trevor Mack’s film work is based on the nourishment of the next generations of the Tŝilhqot’in Nation. His fictional and documentary film projects range from intimate personal portraits of his people’s history (Clouds of Autumn, ʔEtsu) to nation-bridging panoramas (In the Valley of Wild Horses, Ts’eman Teʔosh) that the Tŝilhqot’in National Government include in their ongoing negotiations over hunting, fishing, and land rights with the Province of British Columbia and Government of Canada. Trevor’s latest film, Portraits From a Fire, will screen at VIFF 2021.


Kaayla Whachell is a cinematographer currently living on the unceded territory of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations (Vancouver, Canada). She is a graduate of the University of British Columbia’s Film Production Program and was accepted into the Vancouver International Film Festival Mentorship Program in 2019. As a woman of mixed descent (Okinawan, Czech, Metis), she strives to produce a diverse film set where all people can thrive and create. Kaayla is the cinematographer on Trevor Mack’s debut feature, Portraits From a Fire.

Award-winning filmmaker Kate Kroll is passionate about storytelling and underground subcultures.

She produced and/or directed the short dramas Shin-chi’s Canoe and Shi-shi-etko, the feature documentaries Path of Pilgrims and No Fun City, and the Canada Council/NFB experimental film Rangwang: Burning for Freedom.

In 2019, Kate produced the Telefilm feature, Portraits from a Fire. She is in development on a horror comedy, Red Wings, and a documentary about Canadian women’s wrestling legend Luna Vachon. Kate spent 2020 line producing five films at Reel One Entertainment and currently, she’s a line producer with Screen Siren Pictures.

Elad Tzadok is an award-winning editor and director who was born and raised in Israel. He co-founded Scopitone Films and is an alumnus of the 2018 TIFF Filmmaker Lab. Recent work includes editing All Joking Aside (2020), Broil (2020), The Shipment (2018), and She Who Must Burn (2015), as well as Hayashi Studio (2019), which he also produced, and both seasons of the webseries The Drive. Tzadok’s directorial work includes the short Run (2015), and the upcoming A Short Film About Wrath and Requiem Terezin. His feature documentary Unarchived is currently in production for the NFB.

Rylan Friday is multi-faceted filmmaker and curator from Cote First Nation, Saskatchewan. His focus is to bring honest representations to the LGBTQ2+ & Indigenous communities. He recently produced Trevor Mack’s debut feature Portraits From a Fire and implemented a peer to peer youth mentorship. 
Recently, he became the first openly gay Indigenous filmmaker to spearhead the 2020 iteration of the VIFF’s Catalyst Mentorship Program and curated the highly success #Indigeneity series for Reel Causes. His short This Bright Flash has screened at VIFF, FTQFF and in Mexico City. His other works include The Sound of You Collapsing & Musk. and Terror/Forming.


Tyler Hagan is a Michif and Canadian filmmaker based on unceded territory of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) nations in Vancouver, B.C. His producing credits include the feature Never Steady, Never Still, The Body Remembers When The World Broke Open; and the three short films: No Words Came Down, Jimbo and Never Steady, Never Still. The Body Remembers When The World Broke Open premiered at the Berlinale and was picked up for distribution by Ava Duvernay’s ARRAY. Never Steady, Never Still was nominated for 8 CSA Awards, and won 3 awards from the Vancouver Film Critics’ Circle.

Award-winning director Jim Cummings (Thunder Road, The Wolf of Snow Hollow) is a multi-hyphenate, having worked pretty much every job one can on a film set. He is an expert on crowdfunding and self-distribution, collaborative approaches to team building, and employing great DIY strategies to getting an indie film off the ground. His latest film, The Beta Test, co-written/co-directed with PJ McCabe, is a comedy thriller about the packaging fight between the agencies and the Writers Guild of America.

Session Participants

Jim Cummings is a Sundance and SXSW award-winning filmmaker from New Orleans. His films Thunder Road (2018) and The Wolf of Snow Hollow (2020) have been showcased and praised around the world for their comedic genre-bending aesthetics. His new film, The Beta Test (2021) is a comedy thriller about the packaging fight between the agencies and the Writers Guild of America. He lives in Los Angeles.

PJ McCabe is a writer, director, and actor from Philadelphia. His films have been showcased at Sundance, SXSW, and Fantasia Film Festivals. His most recent feature, The Beta Test, premiered at Berlinale and Tribeca in 2021. He lives with his wife and dog in Los Angeles.


Albert Shin is a Korean-Canadian filmmaker whose film In Her Place, received 7 Canadian Screen Award nominations including Best Picture, Director, and Original Screenplay, as well as the Jay Scott Prize for Emerging Artist by the Toronto Film Critics Association. His last feature, Disappearance at Clifton Hill premiered at TIFF and was released by IFC Midnight and Elevation Pictures.

Albert is also a co-founder of Timelapse Pictures, along with fellow filmmaker, Igor Drljaca. Through their banner, he’s produced many projects including Krivina, The Waiting Room, The Stone Speakers and The White Fortress. Together (2021) is his latest short film.

This networking session will consist of several Zoom breakout rooms made up of small, randomized groups of fellow Totally Indie Day attendees.

Enjoy this structured yet casual opportunity to mix and mingle with filmmakers and creatives from Vancouver and around BC! Join us ready to chat, make connections, and have fun with like minded creators and community members.

The networking session Zoom link will be shared with Totally Indie Day participants via the VIFF Connect chat on the day of the conference.

Ever driven by a film set and wonder, "who are all those people with walkie talkies?" The below-the-line (BTL) crew are involved with the day-to-day operations of getting a series made and are some of the most creative people on set! These are the folks turning the showrunners’ vision into a reality. Meet BTL talent from hit WarnerBros shows as we discuss some specific careers in the industry, their roles in a production, collaborations with departments, and opportunities for career advancement.

Session Participants

Graysen Sangster has lived, studied, and worked all over the world. After several years in design and architecture, Graysen’s love of film would bring her to Vancouver, Canada to pursue a career in the industry. Now an accomplished assistant location manager on the show Superman & Lois, she sits as the co-chair on the Directors Guild of Canada’s Diversity and Inclusion committee. Graysen is working on fulfilling her dream of writing, producing, directing, and helping build a more inclusive and diverse industry for future creators and film workers.
Photo by Chelsea Brown Photography

Maya Mani is an accomplished film and TV costume designer based out of Vancouver. She is most celebrated for her work with the super suits within the CW’s Arrowverse. Maya has always enjoyed the power of storytelling through clothing. Backed by the faith of Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim, she respects the fanbase in her design and development of the super suits within the Arrowverse. After seven seasons of designing for Arrow, Maya has moved on to Gotham City, where her most recent design credits include the successful pilot and first three seasons of Batwoman.
Photo by Colin Bentley

Roxanne Rejfek is an Australian filmmaker who relocated to Vancouver to advance her career in Film & TV. From her early days as a Production Assistant, Roxanne was fascinated with all the various career paths open to her but one particular path stood out, that of Assistant Director. The pace and organized chaos of the AD department is addictive and like nothing else. She is currently working as a 2nd Assistant Director on Superman & Lois and continues to keep working towards her ultimate goal of one day becoming a Producer.


Amanda was born in New Zealand, studied makeup design in Australia and made North America her home in 2000. The Vancouver film industry has enabled her to have a creative and prosperous career for two decades. She mastered her craft on independent film and Television and has run the Makeup Department on Warner Brothers DC’s Legends of Tomorrow for 6 Seasons. Amanda won a Leo Award in 2021 for “Best Makeup in a Dramatic Series” for her achievements. She finds inspiration in this world of organized chaos and happily passes on her wealth of knowledge with the new generation of artists.

Anand is currently working as Production Designer on DC's Legends of Tomorrow, a show about time travelling superheroes. He has a background in Interior Design and Architecture. He has worked in various positions in the art department on multiple TV shows and films including Age of Adeline, Man in the High Castle, Psych Movie 2 and others. Having worked as an Art Director extensively, Anand has an in-depth experience about the workings of the Art department, interdepartmental coordination, and what goes into bringing sets from drawing to life size sets.


Erika Kumar is the Program Manager for WarnerMedia Access to Action Canada (ATA Canada). The program provides individuals who haven’t traditionally had pathways into the entertainment industry with access to entry-level below-the-line jobs on WarnerMedia productions. With over 13 years of experience in managing direct funding programs for the creative sector in British Columbia (BC), Erika has a passion for supporting talent and developing careers. A community builder, she consistently looks for ways to leverage her relationships and in-depth knowledge of the motion picture industry to connect people with opportunities.



As BC Film Commissioner and Director of Production Services, Marnie Gee leads BC’s film commission team to deliver provincial film commission services, from locations, marketing and physical production resource support to industry and community relations services. She works to sustain and grow ongoing opportunity and collaboration for the network of industry and government stakeholders who together contribute to the motion picture industry's success in BC. With more than 20 years of experience in location and production support in the industry, Marnie has worked throughout British Columbia.

Dash Shaw is a cartoonist and animator whose latest feature, Cryptozoo, premiered at Sundance to rave reviews, won the NEXT Innovator Award, and continues to receive critical acclaim. The film features the voice talents of Lake Bell, Zoe Kazan, Michael Cera, and Louisa Krause, among others. We’re excited to hear Dash share his singular process of conceiving, writing, drawing, animating, voicing, and directing his psychedelic, groovy, and dazzling animated film, Cryptozoo.

Session Participants

Dash Shaw is a cartoonist and animator. He most recently wrote and directed Cryptozoo, which premiered at and won awards at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, as well at the Berlin International Film Festival. His debut as writer-director was the animated feature My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea, which screened at the 2016 New York Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival. He’s also the cartoonist of several graphic novels, including New School, Doctors, Bottomless Belly Button, Clue: Candlestick, and Discipline. The San Francisco Film Society recently awarded him the 2021 Golden Gate Persistence of Vision Award.


Jeff Chiba Stearns is an Emmy® nominated and Webby award-winning animation and documentary filmmaker, as well as an acclaimed author and illustrator. After graduating from the Emily Carr University with a degree in Film Animation, he founded Vancouver-based boutique animation studio and publishing company Meditating Bunny Studio Inc. in 2001. Jeff’s short and feature length films such as Yellow Sticky Notes (2007), One Big Hapa Family (2020) and Mixed Match (2016) have broadcast around the world, screened in hundreds of international film festivals and garnered dozens of awards. Jeff is also the host of the upcoming animation podcast, Animation Meditation

From stories of immigration and spiritual journeys into the highlands of Harar to the drama of a young woman joining a scrap metal crew to pay for her education, our featured writers and directors have unique perspectives that speak to bigger issues. They’ve risen to the challenge of debuting their films in a disrupted marketplace, earned multiple awards, and garnered critical acclaim along the way. We’re thrilled to chat with them about their process in bringing their stories to the screen.

Session Participants

Nicole Riegel was named in Variety’s 10 Directors to Watch in 2020 for her debut feature Holler. Holler, which premiered at the 2020 Deauville Film Festival, was screened at SXSW, Toronto, Leiden, Tallinn, Nashville, Boston, and Atlanta. The film was released theatrically in June 2021 by IFC Films.

Nicole, an alum of the Sundance Feature Film Program, was named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 Faces of Independent Film. She previously adapted Soldier Girls for HBO with Julia Louis-Dreyfus executive producing, and Born on the Run for Focus Features. She is currently developing her second feature film, Dandelion.


Megan Park wrote and directed The Fallout, which premiered in narrative competition at the 2021 SXSW Film Festival. The film stars Jenna Ortega, Maddie Ziegler, Julie Bowen, Niles Fitch, and Shailene Woodley. The film was awarded the 2021 SXSW Narrative Feature Grand Jury Prize and Narrative Feature Audience Award, and Megan was the recipient of the Brightcove Illumination Award.

Jessica Beshir is a Mexican-Ethiopian filmmaker, producer and cinematographer. Her short documentary He Who Dances on Wood was selected for Hot Docs and won Best International Documentary Short at Edmonton Film Festival and the Jury Award at Anchorage International Film Festival. Hairat premiered at Sundance and was screened at IFFR and IDFA. Beshir is a recipient of the Sundance Documentary Film Program, Jerome Foundation and NYFA Fellowships. Faya dayi is her feature debut.

Nana Mensah is a Ghanaian-American writer, director, producer, and actress. She marks her directorial debut with Queen of Glory, which she also wrote, produced, and starred in. The film premiered in the U.S. Narrative Competition lineup at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival.

Her forthcoming work includes a series regular role in Netflix’s The Chair, and a reprisal of her role in the Off-Broadway play Nollywood Dreams. Mensah was a staff writer on Season 2 of HBO’s Random Acts of Flyness and is currently staff writing on Amazon’s The Power. She also co-wrote and co-starred in Season 2 of Netflix’s Bonding.


As Associate Director of Programming of the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF), Curtis manages the festival’s programming team and its activities. Leading VIFF’s Canadian film programming, he also coordinates the adjudication of nine awards. In addition to managing the festival’s scheduling, Curtis supervises the creation of all programming-related content for VIFF’s website and guide.

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