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How to Create Community: Celebrating Our Volunteers

by | Apr 21, 2022

A banner graphic featuring the 10 jury members. There are 10 circles with their portraits inside and their name listed curved around the circles. At the top is a title that says "Get Reel Film Fest jury members" and at the bottom it says "Celebrating our volunteers, Volunteer Week 2022."

What do these 10 people have in common? 

They believe in Stella’s Place. They share a passion for film and young adult mental health. They agree that films can open up dialogue and encourage reflection in a way that little else can. 

They are the Get Reel Film Fest jury and we couldn’t be more grateful or proud of the invaluable work they have done over the past 6 months to support our community and this growing event.

The theme for this year’s volunteer week is Empathy in Action, focusing on how volunteering creates connected communities. This couldn’t be more true for our generous and talented jury members.

A dark purple graphic with a quote that says "Every time I work with Stella’s Place it’s a dream come true. I am honoured to be working alongside my fellow jurors, and look forward to continuing to work with Stella’s Place in any way I can for the rest of my career." Quote by Sarah Nicole Rowe

Putting in work

Supporting emerging artists is a major focus of the film fest, and this year we were able to offer four film grants thanks to the generosity of our title sponsor, Lori McBurney. Since the beginning of the year, jury members evaluated and assessed almost 30 detailed scholarship applications, and then went on to mentor the 4 selected recipients. In the words of filmmaker Amanda Ann-Min Wong,

“My favourite part has been seeing all the amazing work and talent that came from all the applications — so many unique ideas! And also to be able to connect with the filmmakers after their project was selected, and hearing them speak about their project with incredible vision and passion.” 

Karen Lang, whose background as a donor, occupational therapist and hobbyist filmmaker attracted her to the jury work, adds

“Reviewing the range of proposals submitted for selection was an interesting and insightful experience. I was impressed with the young filmmakers and learned so much in the process.”

Sharing Expertise

Jury members Michelle Melles and Pedro Orrego contribute vast experience and knowledge from the perspective of documentary filmmaking. Here’s Michelle speaking about the storytelling technique ‘The Hero’s Journey’ as a filmmaker and panelist at last year’s film fest:

Jury members also offer valuable advice on technical aspects, such as what file formats are needed and how to make films accessible with additions like visual descriptions. We also had conversations about telling personal stories in authentic ways that de-stigmatize mental illness. 

“These grants and support are everything to a filmmaker. I myself have been the recipient of grants/support from festivals and organizations. In this way, I wanted to give back to the community, and support other filmmakers. Having this support not only makes the art possible, it also encourages the filmmaker that their work is valid and meaningful. I hope that we can continue to create a circle of support networks for filmmakers making work about mental health, to normalize discussions around its portrayals in media and on screen,” elaborates Amanda.

Making Connections

Flourishing communities have members who feel encouraged and inspired to participate. 5 of our 10 volunteers joined the film fest jury after a debut at last year’s film fest.  Films can change lives. Lauren & Sarah screened the film Purple Waves last year and spoke about why they chose to partner with Stella’s Place:

Amanda highlights the connections she’s built through making her film and meeting other talented artists on the jury, “all of whom are dedicated and passionate about portrayals of mental health on screen.”

Time to Get Reel

Excitement is building as the date of this year’s festival draws near. Our scholarship recipients’ films will be screened at opening night on June 6, with more programming happening virtually throughout the week.

Sarah can’t wait for our 4 grant recipients to take the spotlight:

“I’m most looking forward to seeing these filmmakers “take the stage” so to speak. There is no better feeling than directly witnessing the impact your art makes, and the Get Reel Film Fest is excellent at holding and creating space for that. These filmmakers are going to have a chance to feel that feeling, and see the long lasting effects of their work in motion. I know I said it, but there truly is no better feeling.” –Sarah Nicole Rowe

When the festival ends, we know that many of us will be walking away with new perspectives, inspiration, and a feeling of shared experiences. These moments are how we build community. 

“This is a wonderful way to inform and inspire an audience. From the standpoint of Stella’s Place, it is a pivotal way to let the community know what they do and ways individuals and families who are struggling with mental health challenges can seek help,” adds Karen Lang.

None of this would have been possible without the help of our volunteers! Thank you Sarah Nicole Rowe, Lauren Saarimaki, Elisa Gores, Husna Raghe, Ava Ghods, Michelle Melles, Amanda Ann-Min Wong, Karen Lang, Ajay Gallacher and Pedro Orrego for your dedication as jury members.

It’s our hope that these connections and memories will last a lifetime.

See you at the 2022 Get Reel Film Fest.

Get your Early Bird Pass now Link to page