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Passionate Canadian filmmakers celebrate Yorkton's annual Film Festival

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Going as far back as 1947, Yorkton Film Festival stands as the longest continuously running film festival in North America.

The organization celebrated its 77th festival on May 23 – 25, awarding 30 Golden Sheaf Awards to Canadian filmmakers in 29 different categories.

"It's so interesting when we get emerging filmmakers and they can talk and get mentorship from filmmakers that have been in the industry for many years,” explained Randy Goulden, executive director of Yorkton Film Festival.

“They get to learn, and they also get to talk with, and network, with broadcasters and the people who commission and buy film."

The festival consisted of programmed screenings, panels, workshops – including one dedicated to AI in filmmaking – a networking luncheon, and an awards gala to end the weekend event.

The well-known Lobsterfest also occurred on the Friday night in partnership with Yorkton Lions Club.

"Yorkton is the best festival in the country in my opinion,” Valerie Creighton expressed. Creighton serves as CEO and president of Canada Media Fund.

“It’s small, it’s intimate, it’s lots of fun, and it celebrates the very best of Canada.”

Creighton added that funding Canadian filmmakers is important to help tell the stories of people across the country.

”It's critical, they are our storytellers,” she said. “They identify who we are, they break down barriers, they make you think, they make you feel, what could be better. The festival themselves are about people getting together, making partnerships, making new deals, finding money, raising money to shoot all of this stuff.”

This year, three new Golden Sheaf Awards were introduced: Best Commercial, Best Commercial in Saskatchewan, and Outstanding Colour Grading.

“The [Canadian filmmakers] are a fabulous group of people who dedicate their lives to being creative, but also telling the stories of our country,” Goulden expressed.

“We have over 300 films entered this year in the Yorkton Film Festival and it’s all about Canada and telling the stories about this country that we are so fortunate to call home.”

Filmmaker Kodiak Reinson, based in Regina, attended the festival for the first time and won the honourable Ruth Shaw Best of Saskatchewan Golden Sheaf for his film “Flickering Away.”

“I was speechless,” Reinson said laughing. “It is an honor to win something like this at the Yorkton Film Festival. I believe this is a great place to meet people within the industry and to learn from the top professionals on how to get into film in Saskatchewan, which is an amazing experience and accomplishment.”

Another recipient shared her gratitude for winning a Golden Sheaf in the category of Best Series.

Zarqa Nawaz, who produced the Canadian television sitcom Little Mosque on the Prairie for six seasons, explained that without provincial funding, her new series Zarqa would not be possible.

“Without a tax credit it’s impossible to make a television series in Saskatchewan,” Nawaz told CTV News.

“The fact that the honourable Minister Laura Ross re-injected some money back into Creative Saskatchewan made it possible to make another television series. I’m incredibly grateful to her for that.”

Since April 2023, the Government of Saskatchewan has funded approximately $12 million to productions through the Creative Saskatchewan Feature Film and Television Production Grant.

"This builds on the growth for our economy. Just about every dollar that's invested in film stays here in Saskatchewan and for every dollar, we have about a $4 return,” explained Minister Laura Ross, of parks, culture, and sport.

“This is good for the economy, but it’s an exciting time for the film industry in Saskatchewan. There are programs and projects happening all across the province, and in Regina at the Soundstage, we have a pretty exciting new project that’s taking place [at] the Volume Wall.”

Ross added the feedback the ministry has received from Canadian filmmakers has been positive.

“The way we are funding film and television today, the money goes to the producers and stays right in the province,” she said.

“I’ve had different producers and filmmakers come and say to me, this is the best way to help fund projects in Canada. We’re pretty proud of the work we’re doing.”

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