TIFF Filmmaker Lab is a talent development programme that takes place during the Toronto International Film Festival in September.
Each year, 20 Canadian and international directors receive an exceptional professional development experience, and an introduction to the global community of filmmaking. Over a five-day period, participants have the opportunity to interact with and learn from internationally acclaimed filmmakers and guests.
Fellowships generously supported by Every Story and Share Her Journey donors ensure that programme participants are given additional financial support to help them fulfill their creative vision.
Marja Bål Nango is a film director, scriptwriter and producer. She studied directing at Nordland College of Art and Film and Film Producing at International Sámi Film Institute/Sámi University. Additionally, she studied scriptwriting at ISFI X Alma X Netflix Writing Academy. She has made several award-winning shorts, including her latest short film The Tongues, which won best international short film at Palm Springs Shortfest 2020, best director at Rhode Island Film Festival in 2020, and was an academy-qualifying Best Live Action Short at ImagineNative Film Festival in 2020. At the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, she was named this year’s Merata Mita fellow, with her feature film Guođoheaddji / The Herder for a year-long support. She is developing Guođoheaddji / The Herder through Sundance Screenwriters Lab 2022.
Alfie Barker is a writer-director born in Leeds, UK. His work and approach to story focuses on displacement of communities and empowering real people in the process. His short Hanging On was long-listed for a BIFA, shortlisted for a Grierson Award, premiered at TIFF in 2021, screened at BFI London Film Festival, and won both Best British Short and the UK Audience Award at Encounters. Barker is a previous BFI Future Film Award winner and a Sundance Ignite Finalist. He is developing his debut feature project in France, on Le Groupe Ouest’s - LIM: Less Is More.
In her country of origin, Romania, Luiza Cocora worked as an award-winning actor in theatre and in cinema, in the films of the new Romanian wave. After emigrating to Canada, she studied Film Production at Concordia University in Montreal and started a career as a filmmaker. Luiza has directed two short films: Remaining Lives (TIFF ’15) and If This Isn't Love (TIFF ’18). She is currently in the process of applying for production grants for her first feature film, which was financed at the writing stage by SODEC, Telefilm, and Harold Greenberg. Cocora is also working on a new feature film, a psychological suspense which is in the early stage of writing. At the same time, Cocora continues to work in theatre as an actor, author, and stage director.
Tyler Mckenzie Evans is a Black-Canadian director and screenwriter. During his childhood, to escape the mundanity of the suburbs, he would go to the theatres weekly, which is where he discovered his love for storytelling. Evans has made several short films. His latest, Diaspora, is a social thriller film about gentrification that premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2022. It went on to screen at Palm Springs Shortfest and numerous film festivals worldwide. Evans’ main goal is to create original and captivating stories centred around Black people and people of colour. He is currently developing a feature adaptation of Diaspora.
Rudolf Fitzgerald Leonard is a director, screenwriter, and producer based in Berlin. After completing his studies at the Victorian College of the Arts School of Film & Television, Fitzgerald Leonard’s graduate short film Kin would receive the Emerging Australian Filmmaker Award at the Melbourne International Film Festival. His award-winning short films have screened at numerous international film festivals, including the Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes, the Toronto International Film Festival, the Busan International Short Film Festival, and Palm Springs International ShortFest. Fitzgerald Leonard is currently developing his debut feature film Replica, which was recently selected to be presented at the TIFF Filmmaker Lab and the impACT Lab at the Cannes Film Festival.
Nell Hensey is a Filipino-Irish writer-director from the west of Ireland. She is a passionate filmmaker with a keen interest in female-centric narratives, coming-of-age themes, and stories that explore “outsider” identities. Hensey has written and directed work supported by Screen Ireland, Virgin Media Television, RTÉ, The Arts Council of Ireland, and more. Her latest short film, Good Chips, premiered at the 2023 Dublin International Film Festival and was the first in Irish cinema to depict a majority Asian cast. Hensey has just wrapped production on Falling For The Life Of Alex Whelan, a half-hour limited TV drama based on a short story by Yan Ge. Nell is the Co-Founder and Creative Director of Pure Divilment Pictures and curates a range of TV and film projects across the company’s slate. Hensey is currently writing and directing a number of projects that are in development, both with Pure Divilment and other companies.
Karimah Zakia Issa is a Montreal-born, London and Toronto-based filmmaker whose work is centred around crafting stories that dive into themes of overcoming and succumbing to social expectations, how self worth is built and broken, and the dark truths that live within us all. Her narrative short Scaring Women At Night (TIFF, VIFF, FNC ’22), adapted from the short story written by Ace Clamber, follows Ash, a young trans man grappling with his new dynamic with women. Most recently, she’s had the pleasure of directing a micro-interview series on eight female founders for Porsche. In development with arts council funding is 4 NAMES, a short film exploring the close to home realities of modern day sex trafficking based on the life events of two-time JUNO-nominated recording artist, STORRY. Alongside her co-writer Ace Clamber, she’s developing her first feature about a son’s journey reconnecting with his estranged father online. This project will be further explored during the 2023 TIFF Filmmaker Lab.
Eric Janvier is a multi-hyphenate filmmaker who has found space in both the narrative and documentary fields. He trained at the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles, California. Upon graduation, he worked on the award-winning pilot episode of APTN’s Blackstone in a mentorship role. Janvier was the producer of the imagineNATIVE award-winning short film Gods Acre, which went on to screen at numerous festivals across the globe. He co-produced a campaign in partnership with Marvel and Avengers: Endgame that appeared both online and in Times Square. Janvier also wrote and directed Reserved, which was broadcast on the CBC’s Short Film Face Off. He most recently produced the upcoming feature film Hey Viktor!, a spiritual sequel to Smoke Signals. Janvier has written several TV pilots and was a finalist for the TIFF–CBC Films Screenwriter Award in 2017, the Netflix-BANFF Diversity of Voices Initiative, and the WarnerMedia Access Festivals initiative at TIFF.
Nyasha Kadandara is an award-winning pan-African director and cinematographer who tells stories that traverse the continent and reflect alternative voices. She is always looking to experiment with new forms of storytelling ranging from virtual reality to podcasting to fiction and non-fiction work. Her work has been showcased at numerous festivals, including Sheffield DocFest, SxSW, and DOC NYC. More recently, Kadandara has been developing her first fiction feature, Come Sunrise, We Shall Rule, and is in production with the independent documentary Matabeleland, both set in her native country, Zimbabwe. Currently, with her love for all things sports, she is following the Copper Queens as they debut at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Matt Kazman is a filmmaker from Toronto who currently lives in LA. His work focuses on dark and uncomfortable subject matter with a dryly comedic and emotional approach. His short films have screened at festivals around the world ― including the Sundance Film Festival ― and won awards at the Seattle International Film Festival, IFFBoston, Sarasota Film Festival, and Lower East Side Film Festival. His work has also received numerous Vimeo Staff Picks, has been featured on Short of the Week, and was selected as a Finalist for the Student Academy Awards. In addition, he has directed shows for MTV and Snapchat, and commercials for REI, Postmates, Amazon, Toyota, Sephora, and Intel, among many others.
Ana Lazarevic was born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. She holds a MFA in Film from Columbia University. Her debut feature The Game had a World Premiere at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival. Her short, The Runner, premiered at the New York Film Festival. She is a Gotham and Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Emerging Visions Fellow, a graduate of Black Factory Cinema’s workshop with Abbas Kiarostami in Cuba, and a Panavision New Filmmaker grant recipient. The Game received development funds from Film Center Serbia, was the official selection of Agora Crossroads Coproduction and Works in Progress in Thessaloniki, and garnered 15 awards at film festivals worldwide including Best Narrative Feature (Bendfilm Festival), Best Film (Obnova), Best International Narrative (Willifest), and Best Low-Budget Feature (Paris Independent Film Festival). Lazarevic is currently in early development on her sophomore feature The Woman Who Became a Cat, a feminist horror film.
Chandler Levack grew up in Burlington, Ontario, and lives in Toronto, where she studied cinema at the University of Toronto and screenwriting at the Canadian Film Centre. She began her career as music and film critic, writing for SPIN, The Village Voice, and Maisonneuve. In 2017, Chandler's debut short film We Forgot to Break Up premiered at TIFF, went on to play SXSW, and won the “Best Canadian Short Film” prize at the Whistler Film Festival. In 2022, Levack released her debut feature I Like Movies, funded by Telefilm Canada’s Talent to Watch program. It premiered at TIFF and has since won prizes at festivals around the world and was selected for Canada’s Top Ten. She is currently developing her second feature, Anglophone, based on her experiences navigating Montreal's indie-rock scene in the early 2010s as a young female music writer, which will shoot in Montreal summer 2024 with Zapruder Films.
Carlo Francisco Manatad is a Filipino film director and editor. He is a graduate of the University of the Philippines Film Institute. His short films have screened at numerous local and international film festivals. Junilyn Has, his first short film, premiered at the Locarno Film Festival under the Pardi di Domani Section in 2015. Jodilerks Dela Cruz, Employee of the Month was selected in competition at the 56th Semaine de la Critique - Cannes. Baga’t Diri Tuhay Tat Pamahungpahung (The Imminent Immanent) premiered in competition at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival. Whether the Weather is Fine, his first feature film, premiered at the 2021 Locarno Film Festival and screened at TIFF 2021. Manatad is an alumnus of the Asian Film Academy, Berlinale Talents, Tokyo Talents, and the Locarno Filmmakers Academy. Brilliant Melody is his second feature film.
Adeyemi Michael is a multi-award winning filmmaker. An NFTS Directing graduate, he was a Broadcast Hotshot (2014) with his breakout film Sodiq, winning Grierson (2013) and Al Jazerra (2014) awards, premiering at Sheffield Doc Fest. His fantasy film Entitled played BFI London, LSFF, and won Best Short at the Screen Nation Awards and Best Debut Director at Edinburgh TV Fest (2019). A Hot Docs Blue Ice Fellow/Durban Film Mart alumni, he directed BBC1’s Murder On the Streets (2018). Michael collaborated with Netflix curating a living collection called Black British Stories in 2020. His sci-fi film The Future Isn't What It Used To Be (2021) was nominated at TIFF, BlackStar, Chicago IFF. Other shorts include Dark Matter, and Photographer in Focus: Aida Muluneh (Nowness). In 2023, he directed BBC/Netflix’s Champion and Amazon’s Anansi Boys. He's currently directing drama for Disney & Nat Geo’s WWII series Hidden Heroes while in development on two feature films: Ibeji (BBCFilms), a supernatural fantasy; and Emi (Film4), a supernatural sci-fi.
Ougie Pak is a writer and filmmaker whose work has screened in leading film festivals worldwide including Rotterdam, Los Angeles, Tribeca, and Busan. His recent narrative feature, Clytaemnestra, was selected as one of the Best Movies of 2022 in several year-end lists including The New Yorker magazine and MUBI. It was hailed by film critic Richard Brody as “an accomplished, impressive, stylistically sophisticated film,” and by Devika Girish of The New York Times as a “salacious and cynical behind-the-scenes story, in which directing and acting emerge as tyrannical power plays.” Clytaemnestra is currently available through the global curated streaming service MUBI. Pak’s debut mid-length narrative feature, Sunrise/Sunset, was picked as a Top 50 American Film of 2019 by Filmmaker Magazine, and was praised as “quite affecting” by Artforum, and “a bittersweet romantic escapade worth taking” by Hammer to Nail. It is currently available through the distributor Grasshopper. Pak earned his BA in English Literature from U.C. Berkeley and attended the Korean Film Council’s Academy of Film Arts, the South Korean government’s national film school. He is an Associate Professor at Emerson College, where he teaches screenwriting and directing in the Visual and Media Arts Department.
Lydia Rui (she/they) is an award-winning Chinese Australian writer-director based in the UK. She is a 2022 NFTS MA Directing Fiction graduate, with support from Screen Australia Enterprise and the Ian Potter Cultural Trust. She grew up between mainland China, Hong Kong, Australia, and Singapore, moving between different familial structures before graduating with a BFA in Film & TV from NYU Tisch School of the Arts. She went on to be the videographer for Beyoncé’s Mrs. Carter World Tour. They have recently been selected for the Torino Script Lab 2023 for their film Counting Cards with My Father, and are in development with Pulse Films on their feature The Island (working title). Their short films as writer-director have screened at Oscar and BAFTA-qualifying festivals such as Tribeca Film Festival, Melbourne International Film Festival, Rhode Island International Film Festival, and Flickerfest International Short Film Festival, and been Vimeo Staff Picked.
Eva Thomas is a director, writer, and producer. She recently directed episodes for CBC’s Still Standing and wrote for CTV’s comedy series Shelved, CBC Gem’s Zarqa, the CTV/APTN series Acting Good, and the upcoming Crave/APTN series Don’t Even. Thomas completed the BIPOC TV & FILM Showrunners’ Bootcamp and the Women in the Director’s Chair Career Advancement Module. She was also part of the Indigenous Producer Delegation at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival. As an Associate Producer, Thomas contributed to the feature film Night Raiders, directed by Danis Goulet. She also worked as a Director’s Assistant on Darlene Naponse’s Stellar and Director Shadow on Gail Maurice’s ROSIE. Thomas directed her short film, Redlights, and is currently developing a feature film script based on it, supported by Telefilm and the Indigenous Screen Office. Most recently, she served as Executive Producer for Kaniehtiio Horn’s feature film directorial debut, Seeds.
Kurt Walker is a filmmaker from Vancouver, BC. He makes movies concerned with place, time, and connection. In 2014, his debut feature film Hit 2 Pass won Doclisboa’s Universidade Lusíada Award for Best International Competition Feature-Length Film award. Guy Maddin called his most recent film, I Thought the World of You, “A truly beautiful lyrical essay.” Walker currently resides in Toronto, where he is developing his next feature film project.
Haya Waseem is a Pakistani-Canadian director, raised in Switzerland and living in Brooklyn. Waseem’s debut feature, Quickening, premiered to critical acclaim at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2021. Her Work with Cancer campaign for Publicis Groupe won the Grand Prix for Good at the Cannes Lions in 2023. Waseem is currently developing her second feature.
Aziz Zoromba is a Egyptian-Canadian writer, director, and producer. Growing up between two distinct countries and cultures, Zoromba’s films primarily focus on the themes of ethno-cultural identity, assimilation, and multigenerational trauma through diverse cinematic genres. He is a graduate of Montreal’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema and an alumni of the 2019 Sundance Ignite fellowship. Faraway (2020), his debut documentary short, has screened at more than 30 film festivals around the world and has been selected as Vimeo’s Staff Pick’s Best of the Year (2022). His latest live action short, Simo (2022), won the Best Canadian Short Film Award at TIFF, had its international premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in addition to its European premiere at the 73rd Berlinale (Generation). Furthermore, the film was the recipient of the prestigious Denis Villeneuve’s favourite short film award at the 19th “Prends Ça Court Gala” and the winner of the 2023 Canadian Screen Award for the best live-action short. Additionally, Zoromba co-produced the highly acclaimed short documentary No Crying at the Dinner Table (Carol Nguyen, 2019). He is currently developing his first feature film in addition to a short animated documentary.