Filmmaking offers hope

photo by Nigel Dickson, courtesy of Leslie-Ann Coles

This year the second annual Young Filmmaker Development Workshop has given a group of east end students an opportunity to direct and showcase a series of their own experimental short films.

The films will be showcased March 27 to 30 at the sixth annual Female Eye Film Festival under the direction of its founder Leslie-Ann Coles.

“All of these students did a workshop with us where they learned how to operate a camera, they picked their lenses, they came up with the idea of their film, and they had one day to shoot,” says Coles, a Scarborough native.

She has partnered up with other FeFF alumni directors to mentor at-risk youth from various alternative schools in the east end of the GTA as well as the Second Base Youth Shelter at Kennedy Road and Eglinton Avenue.

“There were [students] that were very confident going in and there were others that were not too sure that they could do it,” says Coles. “They were all really great.”

She worked specifically with Alyssa Thiel from Seed Alternative School on the production of August Fall and Brittney Robinson of East York Alternative High School on the film How High. Coles said that these girls were extremely enthusiastic about the processes of filmmaking and she hopes they walk away with “a sense of fulfillment.”

“I think that Scarborough is great in that it’s such a diverse, multicultural community that should be celebrated,” says Coles, who grew up in the Markham Road and Lawrence Avenue region. “We actually are doing outreach in the Scarborough vicinity this year through these workshops.”

Coles’ versatility in many areas of the arts has led her to write, produce, and star in her own film that since then has been opening all kinds of doors for her. Entitled In the Refrigerator, the film went on to claim the title for Best Filmmaker in the 2001 Bare Bones International Film Festival along with several other awards.

“The Female Eye started with a handful of films directed by women who I had met and who had been with me winning awards as well for their films,” she says. “It was to provide a showcase for women directors who really are a minority along directors working in film and television even today.”

Coles was inspired to start the FeFF, which gives women an opportunity to write and direct their own films, when she met with other female directors at previous festivals.

“My hope is that the Female Eye draws more audiences,” she says. The festival is also a great opportunity for at-risk youth to get a taste of filmmaking.

The student films will be showcased this Saturday during the Female Eye Film Festival at 3pm at the Canada Square Cinemas. Information about the festival can be found online at