We are thrilled to be partnering with the Director’s Guild of Canada to bring Visionaries to St. John’s. Featured talent behind some of the Festival’s most anticipated films and other guest industry leaders join for candid, fun and inspiring conversations.
As part of CBC’s The Filmmakers roadshow, we welcome Amanda Parris to host this special event, which will stream on CBC and CBC GEM.
Featuring Rama Rau (Honey Bee), Nicole Dorsey (Black Conflux), Melanie Oates (Body & Bones) and Helen Shaver.
By day, Amanda Parris writes a weekly column for CBC Arts, hosts three CBC television series (CBC Arts: Exhibitionists, The Filmmakers and From the Vaults), and is the radio host of Marvin's Room on CBC Music. By night, she writes stories for the stage and screen. In Amanda’s past lives she was an educator who wrote arts-based curriculum, attended numerous acting auditions, and dreamed of opening a school that Blue Ivy Carter would attend. Over the course of her career, Amanda has worn a variety of hats, working as an educator, a researcher, an actor and a community organizer. She is the co-founder of the award-winning alternative education organization Lost Lyrics, and worked with The Remix Project and the Manifesto Festival. She is a frequently requested speaker who has delivered keynotes at numerous summits and festivals, including U.N. conferences around the world. Parris completed her Honours B.A. degree in Political Science and Women’s Studies at York University and her M.A. degree in Sociology of Education at the University of Toronto. She was a playwright in residence at Cahoots Theatre and Alameda Theatre and studied writing and acting at b current, anitafrika dub theatre and The Lee Strasberg Institute of Film and Theatre.
Born in St. Thomas Ontario, the fifth of six daughters, Helen began acting in high school. Her first role in Elaine May's Not Enough Rope garnered Best Actress awards and a scholarship to the Banff School of Fine Arts. From age 5 to 13 Helen had had rheumatic fever and spent a lot of time confined to bed in the hospital. Her imagination flourished. It was her way out. In the work on stage it finally found expression and affirmation. One thing led to another and in 1977 after receiving the Best Actress Award when In Praise of Older Women debuted at TIFF, Hollywood responded and she began her international work.
The original Amityville Horror was her first studio film, followed by Larry Gelbart's United States for CBS. Over the years, Helen flowed between film and television, embodying memorable characters in Peckinpah's Osterman’s Weekend, Bochco's Hill Street Blues, Martin Scorsese's Amazing Stores and Colour of Money, Schlesinger's The Believers, The Land Before Time, and The Craft, to name but a few. She originated Neil Simon's critically acclaimed Jake’s Women opposite Alan Alda, on Broadway in 1991.
Desert Hearts was a watershed in Helen's life, both professionally and personally.
Donna Dietch was the first female director she'd ever worked with. As they say, 'If you can't see it, you can't be it.' Helen credits Donna not only for directing/producing this important, beautiful, groundbreaking film but also for her inspirational trailblazing. Steve Smith, the key grip, and Helen fell in love while making Desert Hearts. Their son Mackenzie is 31 now and their love story continues.
In 1997, Helen took her understanding of storytelling, character and the power of the frame, and began building a second career as a director. She's received multiple nominations and awards for both acting and directing - CSA, Etrogg, Genie, Gemini, DGC, Ace, Emmy, Theatre World Award, Bronze Leopard, and the Win Award. In 2000, Helen's first film, Summer’s End (Showtime), garnered multiple Emmy nominations including Best Director, Writer and Actor. Both James Earl Jones and the film took home statues. Summer’s End went on to win the Best Picture Award at the Chicago Film Festival.
In the ensuing years, Helen has directed multiple episodes of Vikings, Orphan Black, Person of Interest, Law and Order: SVU, The Unit, Travellers, 13 Reasons Why, Anne with an E and Sneaky Pete, to name a few. Most recently Helen has completed Snowpiercer for TNT and Westworld for HBO. Currently Helen is in post production on her first theatrical feature Happy Place, written by Pamela Sinha and produced by Sienna Films.
Rama Rau is a Canadian Screen Award nominated writer-director whose works feature strong female roles. Well known for her daring choice of subject matter and ability to interest funders in her unique directorial voice, Rau has paved a path for herself, moving between fiction and documentary. Rau's debut fiction feature Honey Bee just garnered the EDA Best Film Award at the Whistler Film Festival. Rau was selected for the Toronto International Film Festival's Irving Avrich Award for 2018. She has been the shadow director on Murdoch Mysteries and has just finished The Daughter Tree. She has made a name for herself as being a pioneer in employing all-female crews on her film League of Exotique Dancers which was Opening Night film at Hot Docs in 2016 to rave reviews. Rau is also the winner of the TIFF Pitch This! first ever Honorable Mention for Unwanted. Her short Aftermath played at the Cannes Film Festival's Court Metrages. Rama has been profiled as one of Canada's Top Ten Women Filmmakers, winning awards like the EDA Best Film Award, the Hot Docs Don Haig Award, the Stuttgart Best Director Award and the Golden Panda for Best Director. A PhD in English Drama and Literature from the University of Madras, India, Rau is an alumna of the Women in the Director's Chair program (WIDC) and of the Judith Weston & Joan Scheckel Director's Labs, and is a member of the Alliance of Women Directors and the Director's Guild of Canada.
Born in Mississauga Ontario, Nicole grew up in Burlington before moving to Toronto to attend Ryerson University’s film production program where she obtained her BFA. She’s worked extensively as a commercial and narrative director. Her debut feature, Black Conflux (2019), held its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film took part in the WIDC Story Program and was a finalist in Francis Ford Coppola’s Screenplay Contest. Dorsey also directed Arlo Alone (2016) through Canadian broadcaster Bell Media; the short premiered in competition at the Atlanta Film Festival and was a Vimeo Staff Pick and A&E Best Film Winner. With a strong penchant for character-driven material, Dorsey aims to present a realist portrayal of the human condition.
Melanie Oates is a Writer, Director and Producer from St. John’s, Newfoundland. She’s a winner of the Percy Janes First Novel Award, and has written, directed, and produced five short films. She was also the Costume Designer for the feature films Cast No Shadow and Closet Monster. In 2016 she was chosen as one of eight female directors from across Canada to be a participant in the prestigious Women in the Director's Chair Story & Leadership Program. In 2017, she launched season one of a digital comedy series The Manor. Melanie was also chosen to be part of the 2019 Canadian Academy of Film & Television's Director Apprenticeship Program. Her first feature film, Body & Bones, premiered at the 2019 FIN Atlantic Film Festival.