Whitby filmmaker duo wins $30,000 DRIFF incubator prize

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Published April 7, 2022 at 1:46 pm

DRIFF Incubator winner Wickiam and Marchen
Van Wickam (left) and Kyle Marchen won DRIFF's first filmmaker incubator competition. - via DRIFF.

The Durham Region International Film Festival (DRIFF) has awarded its inaugural filmmaker incubator prize to the Whitby-raised filmmaking duo of producer Van Wickaim and director Kyle Marchen for their darkly comedic short film Heap.

DRIFF is a non-profit film festival “rooted in the communities of Durham.” Through their annual festival and other initiatives, DRIFF works to encourage, educate and promote up-and-coming filmmakers from across the Region.

The festival on its way to their seventh drive-in screening of local films. However, this is the first year DRIFF has launched its Shifting the Narrative: Emerging Filmmaker Incubator competition.

Funded by Canada Council for the Arts, Film Durham and Unifor, the incubator awards $30,000 for a filmmakers next project to be screened at a drive-in. In addition to funding, winners are lent Durham College’s film equipment and are guided by film industry veterans.

The incubator “aligns with DRIFF new strategic vision which aims to foster, build, and promote a vibrant film culture in Durham Region that demonstrates inclusiveness while inspiring young filmmakers and providing them with a launch pad to success,” DRIFF said.

“We are thrilled to be able to support a local filmmaker and give them the opportunity to see their film screened at DRIFF,” Greg Murphy, Chair of DRIFF’s Board of Directors said, “This emerging initiative aligns perfectly with our new strategic vision, which focuses on community connections, learning and the development of local talent through a shared love of film.”

Submissions for the incubator were open throughout early March. Wickiam and Marchen emerged with the crown on April 6.

“Everyone involved in the selection process was extremely impressed, not just with the winner, but with all eight semi-finalists,” said Peter Findlay, a filmmaker on the selection committee and member of the DRIFF Board of Directors. “What a great crop of emerging filmmakers, and a testament to the inspired and inspiring local talent nurtured in Durham Region!”

Wickiam and Marchen both grew up in Durham Region, meeting in Whitby’s Sinclair Secondary School before undertaking the quest to Toronto to study film.

Wickiam’s filmography of eight produced shorts, three writing credits, and seven editing credits stretches back to 2014. His short documentary This Garden is Yours about two Oshawa farmers’ effort to build a community garden was previously featured in DRIFF’s 2020 festival.

The short exploring the development of the We Grow Food garden next to Oshawa’s Lakeridge Hospital is available on Youtube.

Marchen meanwhile has written and directed three shorts, one of which he also listed as cinematographer, two he edited, and two he produced.

Wickiam and Marchen worked together on those three projects; the short films Praise/A Lone Man (2018), Habitat (2020) and Sledgehammer (2021).

Their latest collaboration Heap tells the darkly comic tale of a “disturbed and disillusioned” tenant who discovers a Utopian commune in a neighbouring building. She builds a tangled web to get what she wants. Thematically the film explores issues of social hierarchy, the lack of affordable housing, and mental health.

Heap will shoot in both a rough super 16mm film look (achieved digitally) and sharp digital video to “contrast two levels of reality which seem increasingly incompatible.”

“This program not only provides a substantial opportunity for emerging filmmakers from the region, but it also signals to the next generation of filmmakers that there is a community and support system right in their own backyard,” said Wickiam, “I think that is a crucial component to elevating homegrown talent and I’m really excited to learn from this program and contribute to the Durham Region film community.”

The Shifting the Narrative drive-in, where Heap will be unveiled, and August 18, 2022 behind the Whitby Municipal Building at 575 Rossland Rd E. Two other drive-in screenings featuring different films will be held on June 16, and July 21.

The upcoming fifth DRIFF fall festival returns to Whitby from September 29 to October 1.

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