Durham Region showcases technique and ambition with its second annual film festival

 It’s opening night at Regent Theatre and excited film lovers are finding their seats. On their way into the theatre room they get their photographs taken as though they were stars of the films showing. Upstairs, amateur filmmakers talk amongst each other, to reporters and event organizers, sharing their passion for the craft. While TIFF is taking place in downtown Toronto, a different type of film festival is taking place in downtown Oshawa.


Excited film lovers excited for opening film at Durham Region’s film festival.

 The Durham Region Film Festival (DRFF) is still a fairly new competition for the region. It is only the second year the event has taken place, but the festival committee and Durham Region Economic Development are hoping for many more in the future.

 Greg Murphy, dean of the School of Media, Art and Design at Durham College, is also a member of the festival committee. He explains what separates this festival from others, such as TIFF, is a focus on the making of films.

 “What we hope, in five years or ten years, is that people will recognize us as the filmmakers film festival,” says Murphy. “When you look at TIFF, it’s the audience’s film festival. In Cannes, it’s the industry film festival. It’s the industry insiders. We want to be known as the filmmaker’s film festival. The people who are the technical people, the ones behind the scenes. We want them to come and help us show people how films are made.”

 The three-day festival includes a filmmaking event at the Docville Wild West Movie Set in Newcastle. Participants with no prior experience are shown how to shoot and edit a film in a period of six hours, which is then shown at a screening later in the evening.

 The festival showcases films from all over the world. Fifty-three films were shown from 18 different countries. However, there is also opportunity for local filmmakers to show their work.

 Colin Burwell is the founder of Empty Cup media, a video/photo company in Oshawa. In addition to running the company, Burwell and his wife, Carla Sinclair, are also filmmakers. The couple submitted two films to the festival.

 “I’m a big local film advocate. I’m really trying to make the film scene in Durham Region stand up,” says Burwell. “And so when the festival opened up submissions to local creators, I knew I had to stand up and submit some of my work. And try to make people know that there are already filmmakers here in Durham.”

 With Carla serving as director, and Burwell as videographer with colleague Nicolette Ross, the team won two awards at the festival. Their documentary ‘By Accident’ won both Best Documentary short, and Best Regional Film. The Best Regional Film in particular award came with a $1,000 prize, in addition to the trophy and certificate portfolio that is given with every award.


Event organizer Stephanie Herrera (right) introduces filmmakers Steve “Doc” Holiday (left) and Peter Speziale. 

Offering advice to young filmmakers, Burwell stresses the importance of networking, and making yourself available.

 “Meet people. To be successful in the media business, you need to have friends. Be ambitious. Those people need to see you are thirsty to do essentially whatever, to say yes to opportunities.”

 The DRFF took place from September 16-18.

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Toby is a second-year journalism student at Durham College. He enjoys writing about entertainment, with a focus on on movies and music. Toby can be heard on Riot Radio as one of the hosts of Talkalypse Now. He hopes to work at an entertainment or music magazine in the future.