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That’s a Wrap on Get Reel 2023

by | Aug 10, 2023

A group of filmmakers sit in director chairs in front of a blue cinema screen that says 'Get Reel Film Fest' brought to you by Stella's Place.

As the credits rolled and the curtains closed, the impacts of the Get Reel Film Festival were palpable. Once again, our week-long event used the power of film to spark vital conversations about mental health, weaving together threads of community, awareness and compassion. 

This year, Get Reel served to shed light on the complexities of mental health challenges, but also to unite a community of compassionate individuals including artists, sponsors, volunteers. In addition to $21,000 raised for this year’s film scholarship program, we raised an impressive $37,000 that was invested back into our mental health services at Stella’s Place. 

Join us as we reflect on the festival’s highlights, its ripple effect across the community and beyond, and its potential to build connections while dismantling mental health stigma.

The crowd in the ITFF theatre on opening night.

Image by Daniel Fast

Monday: Opening Night at TIFF

As a part of our mission to uplift emerging filmmakers, we launched an Emerging Artist Scholarship Program in 2022. With the generous support of Zurich Insurance Group, The Delaney Foundation and LiUNA Local 183, we were able to offer our scholarships again this year. Three teams were awarded $7,000 each to create a short film about mental health, and after over six months of hard work, we screened them for the very first time on Opening Night of Get Reel at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

3 photos side by side of people on the red carpet at our opening night.
Images by Daniel Fast

The energy was high on opening night;  our wonderful volunteers from Scotiabank checked everyone in, and the filmmakers, friends, families, Stella’s Place participants, sponsors and community members all walked our red carpet prior to the screenings. 

The three scholarship films – a comedy about insomnia, an animation about a Canadian immigrant’s relationship with her cultural identity, and a drama about a woman separated from her family and struggling with PTSD after fleeing the war in Ukraine – all screened back to back.

The 3 film posters side by side. From left to right: On the Line, How'd You Sleep and Nool.

“As a former participant at Stella’s Place, this project felt like a full circle moment. Our last short was a few years ago, and I was starting to fear that I would never make anything again, which is just a very commonly felt anxiety among artists. This opportunity renewed my faith in my creative process.” – Spencer Glassman, Emerging Artist Scholar and Director fo ‘How’d You Sleep?’

Following the screenings, the Scholarship Filmmakers were invited onto the stage for a panel discussion, moderated by former Emerging Artist Scholars, Emmanuel Teji and Andrea Nirmala Widjajanto.

A photo of Andrea with a quote that reads "When I got the grant, I was at a really low point in my life. Getting the grant and creating the film made me a better filmmaker. I came out of it with more confidence and it helped my mental health. It was a pat on the back, it was validation that someone sees you. It’s really nice to see the scholarship happening again this year. If there’s a chance that this scholarship continues to grow, then I hope it can give a positive impact to more filmmakers who get this opportunity. It's a really good one.” –Andrea Nirmala Widjajanto

Charlotte Lytle, producer for How’d You Sleep expressed the importance of mental health support, as well as support for filmmakers.

A photo of Charlotte with a quote that reads "An organization like Stella's Place is available to all of us, and that’s really incredible. Hearing everyone speak about what [Stella's Place] is, where they're located and how accessible it truly is, it's lovely to hear. We're surprised at times about what we experience; every day is different, we're met with different sides of ourselves. It's nice to know that there are resources in this city. It doesn't matter what you're experiencing, you can just walk in."

Tuesday & Wednesday:
Mental Health and Filmmaking Workshops

This year, the addition of engaging workshops facilitated deeper exploration of mental health and filmmaking. On Tuesday, our wonderful Stella’s Place team members Charlotte and Husna led a Narrative Therapy and Storytelling workshop. They shared the therapeutic power of story-telling, and provided a safe and nurturing space for individuals to share their personal narratives, empowering them to embrace their unique experiences and perspectives. 

A young adult wearing a striped shirt and glasses sits in a discussion circle at the Get Reel Film Fest Filmmaker Workshop

Image by Emily Jarrett

On Wednesday, we joined the TIFF Community Impact Team to deliver a filmmaking workshop and networking event back at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. Scholarship Filmmakers shared tangible creative skills with the emerging artists in attendance, before we moved into a dynamic “musical chairs” style networking event with industry professionals, including Malachi Ellis (Diaspora, TIFF 2022), Alicia K. Harris (only light will touch us, Netflix, Reel Canada), Christopher Yip (Streams Flow From a River, Cannes Series) Lauren Saarimaki (Purple Waves) and Leonard Chan (Kim’s Convenience).

A group photo of the industry guests at our filmmaking workshop. A dozen people are standing in front of a projector screen, smiling for the camera.

Photo by Emily Jarrett.
From left to right, back row: Alicia K. Harris, Lauren Saarimaki, Spencer Glassman, Leonard Chan, Christopher Yip, Emmanuel Teji.
From left to right, front row: Tara Dorey, Andrea Nirmala Widjajanto, Malachi Ellis, Hoda Ali and Alex Sawatzky

Thursday: Closing Night at Hot Docs

Closing night of Get Reel Film Fest place at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema, and included four powerful mental health documentaries touching on grief, intergenerational trauma, anti-black racism and gun violence. We were joined by a celebrity special guest, Julien Christian Lutz, or Director X, known for his work producing music videos for Drake, Rihanna, the Weeknd and Rosalia. Director X also co-founded the organization Operation Prefrontal Cortex (OPC), which seeks to address community and mass violence through mindfulness and meditation.


A male-presenting person of colour standing on a stage, speaking into a microphone. Behind is a big cinema screen with purple, green and orange colours, it says "Get Reel Film Fest, presented by Stella's Place."

Image by Daniel Fast

Following the screenings, OPC founders, Sara Basso, Danell Adams and Director X took to the stage for a panel with Stella’s Place team member Asante Haughton. Director X led a guided meditation for the audience, which served as a powerful reminder of the significance of self-care and mental well-being, and was a beautiful way to wrap up a night of heavy programming.

A group of people sit in director's chairs on stage for a panel discussion, infront of a blue cinema screen

Image by Daniel Fast

Friday: Filmmaker Celebration at Stella’s Place

To close out the festival, we invited all of the filmmakers who were involved for an evening of celebration at Stella’s Place. We screened four films that were selected for our Impact Awards, followed by an opportunity to connect over food and drinks. We delivered awards to the filmmakers and ended with a few words about the impact of the festival. It was a lovely way to wrap up the 2023 Get Reel Film Fest, surrounded by community and having open and honest conversations about mental health.

Looking Ahead

We would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to everyone who made this year’s Get Reel Film Fest a resounding success. To the filmmakers, whose poignant storytelling evoked empathy and understanding; and to the audiences, whose unwavering support and engagement brought life to the festival’s mission.

“We were pass holders so had access to all events, including the virtual ones. The live opening event was joyous and full of fascinating films, and discussions by the panelists. I enjoyed two of the films there very much. Subsequently, I attended/watched most of the others, and was particularly moved by “No Crying at the Dinner Table”. ’twas also really nice to be able to view these online, as well.”

–Festival Attendee

A group of people pose in front of a step and repeat background that says Stella's Place and Get Reel Film Festival

Image by Daniel Fast

With thanks to our supporters

It’s only with the help of our wonderful, passionate and committed supporters that we are able to keep offering this important event. We are deeply grateful to Zurich Insurance Group, Telefilm Canada, LiUNA Local 183, The Delaney Family Foundation, HotDocs, Norah and Paul Oulahan, Sony and the Toronto Arts Council for Making Get Reel Film Fest possible. 

We are also grateful to our dedicated volunteers from Scotiabank and Turner Fleischer, who helped us to deliver all our in-person events without a hitch. Thank you to our in-kind sponsors, the Annex Hotel, Ripley’s Aquarium and Eva’s Print Shop.

Together, through Get Reel and our work at Stella’s Place, we are laying the foundation for a brighter future, where mental health is destigmatized and lived-experiences are respected and celebrated.

As we bid farewell to this year’s festivities, we eagerly look ahead to the next edition, with even more groundbreaking films, profound discussions, and a strengthened sense of community.

If you are interested in getting involved in Get Reel Film Fest 2024, please get in touch by sending an email to getreel@stellasplace.ca.