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Oakville Festivals of Film & Art is bigger and better than ever!

Oakville Festivals of Film & Art |
Oakville Festivals of Film & Art |

June 22, 2022, Oakville Festivals of Film & Art was awarded the Visit Oakville Tourism Excellence of the Year Award from the Oakville Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club of Oakville West. 

The juried committee for the 27th Annual Oakville Awards of Business Excellence granted this honour to OFFA for their quick pivot, at the onset of the pandemic, to a digital model.

Their 2021 digital festival was their largest ever, screening more than 100 films in seven days and selling close to 1,200 tickets.

Their marketing plan reached nearly four million people across Canada alone, creating awareness of the quality film screening for documentaries, shorts, web series, and features that this Oakville entity offers.

June 22 also kicked off the 2022 Oakville Film Festival. More than 500 films were submitted, and a record 114 were screened. OFFA explains that the increase was a result of being one of the first film festivals to offer digital screenings. Filmmakers from around the globe discovered the valuable exposure OFFA provides. 

“This year’s festival was a successful hybrid of both in-person screenings and digital. While movie-goers are slowly returning to the theatres and venues, there are elderly people and others who are not yet ready. We want to keep offering both options for now. The digital model also helps international filmmakers get increased exposure for their work,” Co-Founder Wendy Donnan explains.

Oakville Festivals of Film & Art |
Oakville Festivals of Film & Art |

Wendy Donnan, Judah Hernandez and Stephanie Colebrook founded OFFA in 2014. Though their roles have more distinction, the Founder of Black & White Media, Hernandez, was often seen conducting live interviews on the red carpet, as well as serving on the Board as Artistic Director and Secretary. Colebrook, Head of Product at METARIVER took care of the administrative details. As Executive Director, Co-Chair and responsible for programming, Wendy screened the numerous submissions. While a collaborative effort, the end result has been wildly successful.

Wendy Donnan's background includes directing and producing television, short films and documentaries with TVO, the Discovery Channel and the Weather Network. 

She is currently producing three documentaries, teaching the Bachelor of Film and Television program at Sheridan College, at Wilfrid Laurier University, and York University's Cinema Media Studies while finishing her PhD.

Though festivals happen throughout the year, the height of the season is from April to May. As a result, scheduling OFFA’s festival in June has been beneficial. 

Donnan partnered with to bring filmmakers out for Q&As, virtual events and screenings with Sheridan College throughout the year. They continue to curate films wherever available spaces permit. They are grateful to have worked with Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts, 5 Drive-In, Oakville Town Square and the Oakville Museum.

The festival submissions are juried by eight industry-specific judges. Ten categories receive trophies from William F. White International Inc. Donnan receives everything from film shorts by student filmmakers to seasoned creators with features, documentaries and web series.

Oakville Festivals of Film & Art |
Oakville Festivals of Film & Art |

She now tailors screenings to include virtual Q&As and discussions from filmmakers around the world. The goal is to live-stream every event in 2023, not only for international interest but for elderly people who are not entirely comfortable returning to the theatre.

OFFA has hosted many celebrity Q&As. Actor Viggo Mortensen participated virtually for his directorial debut of Falling. Donnan had the privilege of legendary producer, director, screenwriter, Ivan Reitman visiting for a special National Film Day. Director Helen Shaver and the incomparable award-winning Jayne Eastwood joined in on another occasion to discuss the beloved screen production of Ramona Quimby.

Donnan tells of screening many films that have gone on to become feature-worthy award-winning recipients. In 2022, Film by Amanda Brugel and Jonas Chernick, who co-wrote and starred in Ashgrove, won the Canadian Film Festival Awards. Coming-of-age film Drinkwater won Audience Choice Feature at the 2022 Oakville Film Festival, with well-known Canadian co-star Daniel Doheny.

As a Canadian Screen Awards qualifying festival, Donnan has screened Oscar-winning films over the years, like the The Wife in 2017. Falling received the best actor at the International Film Awards and Festival, five Canadian Screen Award nominations, and more.

This year Donnan anticipates that there will be several Oscar-nominated films from submissions currently being screened.

Many submissions have Oakville connections. Donnan predicts that Oakvillian Piers Bijovet in Falling will have a breakout year. OFFA creates special screenings for those from Oakville, as was the case for The Middle film star Alexander Oliver, and for Faran Moradi, director of Tehranto. A big Q&A event was organized for Saint Judy producers Trevor Brisbin, Marisol Brisbin, with special guest, immigration lawyer Judy Wood.

The festival works with a lot of local community partners to raise awareness about different issues. Zonta Oakville presented curated films by OFFA about human trafficking. The animated Back Home Again was presented by Bell Let’s Talk regarding mental health, and for Earth Day, there is a special screening with Halton Environmental Network.  

Those who attended the 2022 gala fundraiser during the festival in June enjoyed the sounds of Ukrainian singer/songwriter Chantal Kreviazuk, which raised more than $30,000 at the Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts for Unite with Ukraine.

OFFA gives back to the community with free screenings. National Canadian Film Day always offers free films in April for all ages.

Oakville Festivals of Film & Art |
Oakville Festivals of Film & Art |

The festival depended heavily during the pandemic on grants when sponsors withdrew at the onset, sensitive to their own financial challenges.

In 2020 OFFA received a grant to launch a film club as a revenue-generating stream. The club offers platinum and gold levels of membership only at this time until the festival has additional manpower to expand the options. The membership includes everything that is offered during the year, like Q&As, screenings, special events, a gift basket and a swag bag.

In the near term, they hope to qualify for a grant that will enable them to expand to a generic membership, offering tickets to select films and discounts.

As businesses recover, the festival is in search of sponsors, as some from the past have not survived the financial hardship of the COVID Pandemic.

Studios own screening time in the larger theatres, leaving only 1 to 1.8 percent for independent screenings. has stepped up to help fill the gap. Donnan stresses the importance of supporting theatres, as many independents are on the cusp of closing down. Live screening is important. Digital platforms will remain an option. People have adjusted their viewing habits, but one can’t replicate the magical imagery of a big screen on a tiny screen.

Donnan adds, “We’re really excited about 2023 as it is our 10th anniversary. We’ve got a new logo, launched a new look during the pandemic, and the festival is growing.”

Throughout the year, OFFA cooperates with other not-for-profit community organizations to host and showcase a range of screenings that celebrate film and its importance in the life of our community.