Published on December 3rd, 2015 | by Biz Books
The Biz Interview: Anita Adams
As the founder of First Weekend Club, Anita Adams has created a successful platform for Canadians to discover and appreciate films made by each other. If you’ve attended one of the many First Weekend Club screenings in Vancouver and Toronto, you’ve seen her enthusiasm for Canadian films by the variety and quality of the films she has supported.
The newest initiative from Anita Adams is Canada Screens, a VOD service that is specifically for Canadian films.
We wanted to learn more about Anita Adams, the story of First Weekend Club, and the inside scoop on Canada Screens.
Can you start by sharing a bit more about you and what you’re involved with right now?
Well, I’m a wife and mother of two teenagers with a passion for Canadian film. When I started First Weekend Club over 12 years ago it was meant to be just a little hobby that I did on the side. It quickly became all consuming. This past April we launched a VOD service exclusively for Canadian films called CanadaScreens.ca. It’s been equal parts frustrating and really exciting as we worked hard to launch this service. I’m loving it now and really excited about the direction we are taking it in to help some more of the truly indie Canadian films find a home online.
How did you first become involved in the film industry?
I got my start in the film industry as an actor. I mostly did commercials, had a small recurring role on The Dead Zone and did a few bit parts here and there. At the time, it was my biggest dream to be an actor. Interestingly, pursuing this dream is what lead me to discover some great Canadian films and ultimately propelled me into launching First Weekend Club, which I firmly believe is exactly what I was meant to do.
First Weekend Club is one of your most notable projects. How did it get started and how has it made a difference in the industry?
It started after I took my mom to see a Vancouver made film The Rhino Brothers, which starred one of my favourite local actors Gabrielle Rose. I called my mom up and told he we had to go see this film and we should get there really early because it’s opening night and the theatre will likely be packed. By the time the film started to roll, there was me, my mom and 4 other people in the audience. I couldn’t believe it! Here’s a great film, shot in Vancouver, starring a complete Vancouver cast and there was practically no one in the theatre. I walked away determined to do something that would make a difference.
The first film we supported was Punch, by Guy Bennett. We organized a Q&A with the filmmakers and some of the cast and just beat the drum hard and loud about this films opening night. It sold out. That felt pretty good.
Over the years we’ve had a number of great successes and some disappointments. French Canadian films seem to do the worst here in Vancouver, which is so unfortunate because there are so many great ones. There are a lot of films that have gone on to have long extended runs, and I believe our work through First Weekend Club has made a difference, but I also believe that we are only one cog in a very busy wheel and many elements need to be in place for a film to have success. I’m proud of the role we play in that though.
One of your newest projects is the launch of the Canada Screens VOD streaming service. What were your goals in launching this and what can Canadian film supporters expect from it?
Most Canadian films only open in a small handful of cities – some only open in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal – and most films only open on one screen per city. So there are so many people in Canada that simply do not have an opportunity to see Canadian films.
CanadaScreens.ca is our response to this problem, which makes Canadian films accessible to anyone in Canada, anytime. Some films on CanadaScreens.ca, not all, are also available to the world. I hope to expand our service so we can bring more films to the global market.
Currently, we have many of our industry’s highest profile films on CanadaScreens.ca. We intentionally selected these films and worked with our curator recommendations to drive awareness about the service. Our next phase, is to more actively solicit the smaller independent Canadian films. These may be by first time feature length filmmakers, or filmmakers who are making films without big budgets. There are many gems out there worthy of attention and we want to help those smaller films find a home online.
From your standpoint, what is the current state of the Canadian film industry?
After a whirlwind festival experience at both TIFF and VIFF, I walked away from these festivals truly inspired by what I saw on screen – and I only go to see Canadian films. Our country is producing some amazing films that will be recognized and appreciated around the world. So all politics and funding issues aside – that’s a whole different discussion – I believe the Canadian film industry is stronger than ever. We are producing more and more great content. With all of the American productions that are coming up north due to our low dollar, we are also expanding our professional base and getting more skilled workers. It’s an exciting time for the domestic industry. The job remains to get more people out to see our films!
Who are some of the emerging Canadian filmmakers that you are excited about right now?
I’m really excited about a couple of young guys, including Kyle Rideout whose first feature Eadweard is rolling out in theatres. Kyle directed and co-wrote this film with Josh Epstein, who is also the film’s producer and a long time First Weekend Club member – I love being able to support filmmakers who have also been so supportive of others through the club.
I’m also excited about the four young guys who formed North Country Cinema, a director-driven media arts collective. Earlier this year they put out their first feature film called The Valley Below, and at VIFF their second feature premiered, O’Brazen Age. Both really fantastic films. The original four who formed this collective include Kyle Thomas, Alexander Carson, Cameron MacGowan and Nicholas Martin.
These are names I’m certain we’ll hear again and again.
What are a few of your favourite Canadian films from the past and present?
C.R.A.Z.Y. by Jean Marc Vallée has been a long standing favourite.
Saint Ralph by Michael McGowan.
The F Word and It’s All Gone Pete Tong both by Michael Dowse. He also did Goon, the hockey movie that had me clutching my stomach in laughter.
Sex After Kids by Jeremy Lalonde.
My Internship in Canada by Philippe Falardeau – this film opened in theatres this October. He also did two other personal favourites, Monsuir Lazhar and It’s Not Me I Swear.
I could go on … there are so many I really love.
What would your advice be to aspiring filmmakers in Canada?
Chase your dreams and find a way to make it happen. Don’t wait for everything to be perfect. Pick up a camera and just get out and do it. It’s easier than ever to make films. It’s hard to make a good film, but that typically only comes after a lot of practice. So go make your film now.
What books have been influential to you in your career?
Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway, by Susan Jeffers. I think so many people don’t chase after their dreams because they are afraid of failure, rejection, or maybe even success. I liked this book because it basically said it’s OK, normal to be afraid, but don’t let that stop you from moving forward. It’s become a bit of a personal mantra for me and I’m actually starting to be more comfortable being uncomfortable.
Where can we go to find out more about you, First Weekend Club, and Canada Screens?
We have a newsletter for both so if you are interested in finding out about new films opening in theatres, getting access to some comp tickets through our numerous contests, and participating in some cool events for a films opening weekend, subscribe to our FWC newsletter.
For those interested in discovering some great films from the comfort of your home environment, sign up for our VOD newsletter here. Subscribers receive some great complimentary offerings throughout the year as well. There is no cost to join either group.
Our thanks to Anita Adams for speaking with us!