Gladstone Hotel Film Festival

Why the Gladstone Hotel is launching a film festival

Toronto is home to dozens and dozens (and dozens) of film festivals. According to the Toronto Film Festival Association, our city hosts more than 75 fests a year, more than any other city in the world. But Stephanie Hooker, co-founder of Tom Glass Pictures, hopes that Torontonians have room in their hearts and schedules for one more. Hooker is the organizer behind the first annual Gladstone Hotel Film Festival, a showcase of short films by up-and-coming Toronto-area filmmakers, which is taking place on August 27.

The idea for the festival came to Hooker, who is also a part-time server at the Gladstone, at the hotel's quarterly staff meeting. There, the Gladstone announced that it would host and help promote a "staff picks" night - an evening for employees to bring in their favourite bands or artists. Hooker proposed a film festival, the higher-ups accepted, and she promptly began soliciting submissions.

As a 22-year-old film producer, Hooker knows how important it is to network with the industry's seasoned vets, but also how incredibly difficult this can be. "I find that a lot of filmmaking opportunities are segregated," she says. "It's people who are very established networking with other established people." So the goal of her festival is to give new filmmakers that much needed networking opportunity. To do this, she's reached out to the Canadian film community.

Of the more than 80 films submitted, five have been chosen by a jury of filmmakers and actors to be screened at the festival and each will be presented with a special award handed out by an established member of the industry. After the films are screened, filmmakers, presenters and festival-goers are all invited to the Gladstone's Melody Bar to mingle.

Hooker was surprised by just how easy it was to get the film industry involved with her fest. "We have a very welcoming community," she says. "Filmmakers in Toronto are really willing to reach out a hand and help you, especially filmmakers who are established," she says. Hooker's also managed to find sponsors for all of the awards (Long & McQuade presents the Outstanding Sound Design Award, TIFF presents the Outstanding Cinematography Award, Solo Bace presents the Outstanding Principal Performance Award, PS Production Services presents the Outstanding Direction Award, The Gladstone Award for strongest in all categories).

Though the first annual Gladstone Film Festival is still days away, Hooker's already planning for future fests. "I want people to see the films here and [think], my film could stand up with these. I want it to be a challenge for people to come back next year with a good product," she says. "I don't want just handycam, you and your mom in the backyard."

Audiences can expect more than just glorified family videos at the Gladstone Film Festival. Hooker's excited to introduce Torontonians to films by some of the best in the city - and, in turn, introduce those filmmakers to some of the best in the industry.

The Gladstone Film Festival takes place August 27 in The Gladstone Hotel Ballroom. Screenings start at 6:30 pm. Admission is $5 at the door.

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