$10,000 DRIFF ‘incubator’ prize awarded to drama produced by Whitby filmmaker


Published April 4, 2024 at 11:37 am


The team behind a short film about the drama surrounding a young man facing deportation has earned a little coin to finish the project after winning the Durham Region International Film Festival (DRIFF) Emerging Filmmaker Incubator contest.

Mitchell Jaramillo, who grew up in Whitby (Father Leo Austin Catholic Hich School grad) and Siddharth Sharma of Toronto-based Hold the Sauce Films, and their short film ‘Unfamily’ was the winning submission in its $10,000 incubator contest.

The Emerging Filmmaker Incubator will provide producer Jaramillo and writer/director Sharma and their team with $10,000 cash, mentoring and in-kind services to produce their film and have it screened at DRIFF from October 24 to 26.

“We’re incredibly grateful to everyone at DRIFF for this opportunity. This film started as a personal project, but quickly turned into a universally resonant story we believe people from all walks of life will appreciate,” said Jaramillo. “We started Hold the Sauce Films last year to create our own opportunities as actors, so bringing to life a film of this scale is a huge milestone for us. With DRIFF’s generous support, we are confident this film will be our best work to date.”

Unfamily is a drama about a young man who is facing deportation and seeks refuge with his estranged half-brother while supporting his disabled mother. Nostalgic dreams of a warm, familial home quickly give way to the harsh reality of a struggling employment agency, his fight to stay in the country and to get over his internal struggles.

The film explores themes of family, sacrifice, and the pursuit of a better life, highlighting the complexities of immigrant experiences. The film poignantly captures the challenges faced by those seeking a place to call home, and the fragile nature of the connections that sustain them.

“We want to explore extreme chaos and deep stillness, which reflects the uncertainty most international students face. The chaotic nature of the story demands handheld/fast paced camera work inspired by the works of the Safdie Brothers, such as ‘Good Time’. And it’s through longer, more patient sequences inspired by Paul Thomas Anderson’s, ‘The Master’, where we’ll capture the profound stillness,” Jaramillo explained.

Siddarth Sharma and Mitchell Jaramillo of Hold the Sauce Films

Mitchell Jaramillo attended both elementary school and high school in Whitby and still calls Whitby home. As a Toronto-based producer/actor and co-founder of Hold the Sauce Films, his creative team brought five productions to life in their first  year with a passion for storytelling dedicated to independent filmmaking and crafting captivating performances.

Jaramillo is known for short films such as Where Love Once Was (currently in port-production), The Other Side and 17 Steps as a producer and Hold Your Hand and Wexford Plaza as an actor. Sharma has a decade in the acting business, with credits in The Way Home TV series and Children Ruin Everything, among others.

“The selection committee was extremely impressed with the incredible range of themes and approaches in this year’s submissions, as well as the diversity of the applicants and the creativity of the submissions right across the board” says Peter Findlay, a filmmaker on the selection committee and member of DRIFF’s Board of Directors. ‘Unfamily’ stood out for us both for Mitch and Sid’s dynamic partnership, and for bringing us a story that dramatically explores the challenges and precarity facing newcomers to Canada. We think this is a film that will speak to anyone who has run up against the system, and specifically to Durham’s large and growing immigrant communities whose stories often don’t get told.”

The Emerging Filmmaker Incubator is presented by DRIFF with the cash prize sponsored by Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nations, Shaftesbury, Film Durham and DRIFF. The winner also receives mentoring from industry experts and a filmmaking equipment loan courtesy of William F. White International Inc., as well as in-kind audio post-production services from SoundLab and access to ACTRA Toronto’s Low Budget Guideline program.

indurham's Editorial Standards and Policies advertising