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GEMS Whistler Film Festival market preparation mentorship program announces Rebecca Strom as 2023 Mentee   

GEMS Vancouver, in association with Whistler Film Festival (WFF), is pleased to announce Rebecca Strom is the recipient of the 2023 GEMS Whistler Film Festival Market Preparation Mentorship for her feature film, Until the Night Turns; about a sixteen-year old struggling to run her family’s farm while her father operates an illegal dog fighting ring. Exploring themes of family, desperation, and what it means to be free, Until the Night Turns is based on true events, telling the story of a girl trapped by her father’s greed and cruelty in the shadows of a society willing to turn a blind eye to the darkness of animal abuse. Strom’s mentor will be award-winning filmmaker Karen Lam.

“As an emerging writer exploring sensitive themes, I’m grateful to GEMS for the support and opportunity to participate in the 2023 GEMS Whistler Film Festival Market Preparation Program,” says Strom. “Learning how best to pitch confronting subject matter will be invaluable for further elevating and advancing this deeply personal project. Important stories are often difficult to tell, and can certainly be challenging to market, so I believe this mentorship will be a significant stepping stone on the road from script to screen.”

A BC-based multidisciplinary creative, Strom has worked in front of and behind the camera within Vancouver’s film industry for nearly 15 years. She is currently co-developing a 10-episode digital series titled Dandyland with support from Telus StoryHive, slated for release on Optik TV in summer 2024. Select credits include writing Before MARS, the 30-minute prequel film for Ron Howard’s MARS series, produced for the National Geographic Channel, co-writing the short Wanderlust for Lipton Iced Tea, and writing the romantic whimsical zombie film, BITE, which received a Spotlight Award at the Atlanta Horror Film Festival. With an emphasis on female-led stories, Strom’s work often explores topics of mental health, trauma, identity, vulnerability, and coming-of-age.

In Until the Night Turns, self-sufficient and introverted, sixteen-year-old Kia spends most of her days looking after her elderly grandfather and caring for the animals on her family’s rundown farm, including thirteen pit bulls, chained to the ground. Secretly skipping school to work at a local mechanic shop, Kia is intent on saving enough money to find a way out of the grim reality that has become her life. As her father delves deep into the world of illegal dogfighting, their already strained relationship grows increasingly complicated and violent.

Strom will receive an industry pass to attend the Whistler Film Festival and Summit from November 29 – December 3, as well as personal coaching sessions with Karen Lam prior to the festival. The private coaching sessions will prepare Strom to pitch her project during one-on-one meetings at the WFF Content Summit.

Karen Lam has worked full-time in the film and television industry since 2000. Starting her career as a producer and entertainment lawyer, Lam has since written and directed nine short films, three music videos, series directed a true-crime documentary series for Investigation Discovery (US), a web series Mythos created for TELUS, and four feature-length films — Stained, Evangeline and The Curse of Willow Song, which premiered at the Vancouver International Film Festival. In 2021, Lam directed the seventh instalment in the Bring It On cheerleading franchise, a Halloween horror special titled Bring It On: Cheer Or Die. Lam’s latest project is a surrealistic sci-fi short film, ALT-X shot almost entirely on a virtual production stage and will be released on the festival circuit in fall 2023.

This year, the program received 37 submissions, with Shaelyn Johnston, Laura Arboleda, and Helene Taylor serving on the mentorship jury.

​​Shaelyn Johnston is an award-winning Ojibwe and Irish-Canadian writer from Vancouver, BC. She is a recipient of the Governor General’s History Award for her short story, Anishinaabemowin, which she is adapting into a short film set to go into production this fall. She is also a 2023 Whistler Screenwriters Lab participant, sits on the board of GEMS, and recently completed her MFA in Creative Writing at UBC.

Laura Arboleda is a Colombian filmmaker and programmer currently based in “Vancouver”. Her documentary practice explores shared memories and spaces through a process-based experimental approach. She is committed to advocating for equity and representation in the film industry through her programming work at the Vancouver International Film Festival, DOXA, GEMS, and Vancouver Short Film Festival.

Helene Taylor, a West Coast Canadian screenwriter, specializes in IP with underdog protagonists inspired by her blue-collar upbringing. Selected for the 2022 GEMS/WFF Market Mentorship Program and 2022 Pacific Screenwriters WFF/Storyroom Program, she blends genres from comedy to grounded sci-fi through female perspectives, reflecting unconventional bonds and systemic issues. A background in unscripted production/story editing (winning a CCTA) and decades in the film industry, she worked in New York while studying to be a playwright/screenwriter at UCB, LAByrinth, and Atlantic Theater Companies. Taylor’s experience spans above and below-the-line roles, such as on the procedural series’ Mercy, Nurse Jackie, and Prime Suspect.

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