Eric Bizzarri from the Future of Film Showcase

Eric Bizzarri from the Future of Film Showcase at StartWell

In this interview we sit down at StartWell’s downtown Toronto broadcast studio to hear from the CEO and co-founder of the Future of Film Showcase – a unique not-for-profit arts organisation presenting short films from Canadian Filmmakers aged 40 and younger.

Eric tells us about how the Showcase got going as a grassroots solution to getting shorts on the big screen and how it has garnered support from not only audiences and presenting partners but filmmakers themselves – some of them as young as in their pre-teens.

[expand title=”Podcast Transcript”]

Qasim Virjee 0:29
Welcome back to another installment of the start. Well, podcast, I think we’re up to number 42, or something like that. You lose track at my age of numbers, or something. This time around. I’m in studio with the one and only founder, founder, co founder, co founder, co

Eric Bizzarri 0:50
founder CEO.

Qasim Virjee 0:51
There you go CEO. So that’s why I knew he was of high importance to the organization. Eric from the future of Film Showcase FoFs

Eric Bizzarri 1:02
FoFs. That acronym hasn’t been around for a long time, by the way. Like that was only I think that started. Like I was in my kitchen once, like years ago. Yeah. And we were like talking about and my brother just like, randomly, he’s like, so it’s like Fosse. It’s like, let me call it that. I’m like, That’s stupid. Why would you say? No, it’s visual Film Showcase. Why would you say false? And then like, somebody else said in a meeting, like literally a few days later, and I was like, Do you think that’s cool? Like, yeah, I think it’s cool. I’m like, I think maybe we should do that.

Qasim Virjee 1:34
So it’s stuck.

Eric Bizzarri 1:36
FoFs foster stuck. But my brother’s listening to this. He’s, you definitely take credit. They’re usually it’s definitely yours. But I like it. Yeah. I like it because of me on.

Qasim Virjee 1:47
Yeah. It’s a pleasure, man. Yeah, it’s a pleasure. It’s funny, because I guess we’ll bring our audience up to speed a little bit on how we met, and what FoFs is all about this year, and stuff like that. But yeah, color the picture a little bit about kind of like the history. Let’s just actually let’s start with that. Let’s start with what is the history of FoFs? How did you co founded who are your co founders? What was the like, intention to get this thing going?

Eric Bizzarri 2:12
For? Sure. Yeah, I it was, I mean, it’s a very, it’s a very interesting origin story. It’s like a friend and I, his name is Sean Joshi. He is now the president of fake pictures that runs out of Los Angeles. They celebrate. They celebrate queer content, and their their slogan is to decolonize Hollywood. And so that’s what he’s doing now. But him and I were in New York, York University Film Production program for about four years. And in our first year, we’re sitting in his dorm room watching audition tapes for the very first film that he produced. And so we’re watching these tapes, and I just go like, what are where? Where are we showing this film? When it’s when it’s finished? He’s like, Oh, we’ll probably post it to YouTube or Vimeo. And no offense to anybody who does that. That’s great. It’s your publishing your film. Yeah. This,

Qasim Virjee 3:06
this will be on YouTube.

Eric Bizzarri 3:08
Great. Yeah. No, and that’s, and that’s completely fine.

Qasim Virjee 3:11
I’m not gonna win awards for this interview, unless you bring the fire my friends.

Eric Bizzarri 3:16
But, so, so that’s what he said he wanted to do, but I was like, yeah, there’s nothing wrong with that. But what, how would you want it? Like, what about showing it in front of people like showing it in the theater or having some sort of, like, live in person screening for it, because this was, you know, was the first film that he, you know, I think they had self funded and we were getting actors outside of school, and it was like a legit, you know, our first like, sort of legit production and, and he’s like, Well, what are we going to do just have like a 15 minute event for one film? And I was like, well, let’s just screen a bunch of films, like a screen a whole, you know, so let’s just create a whole bunch of film. So we went around the residence of winters College, and we’re knocking on people’s doors, like knowing they were in films like, Hey, do you gotta do you have a film? Like, who are you? Like, it doesn’t matter? Do you got to film you want to shoot in a theater? We’re collecting films, and we got almost 30 films.

Qasim Virjee 4:07
This was when What year was this?

Eric Bizzarri 4:09
i This was 2014 2014. So about eight years ago. Yeah. So we’re so we’re on the we’re on the precipice of our 10th festival nice next year, which is kind of insane. But so yeah, we were like knocking on doors. We gathered all these films. They were films, from filmmakers at York. At formerly known as Ryerson. Humber

Qasim Virjee 4:34
there, what’s Ryerson called now?

Eric Bizzarri 4:35
At the Toronto Metropolitan University, which I think they’re gonna get confused with the University of Toronto. You don’t I mean, yeah, University of Toronto than Toronto metropolitan kind of, I don’t mean it kind of similar. So we got we got films from schools across the country. We screen them at so I worked at the AMC theater and Vaughn went to my GM I’m like, How would you feel about giving us a fee? And he’s like, Yeah, sure. And I had this whole pitch planned. I plan like, you did the work. I did the work. And he’s just like, Yeah, no worries. A week before the event, he calls me. And this is how I find out we got theater. He calls me and he goes, Hey, so I got some bad news. I’m like, oh, shit is the screening. He’s like, no, no, you’re fine. We’re just shutting down five days after your screening. So he’s like, like, the whole cinema was good goal. Cinema. Gutted. Yeah. So I worked on that very last day. I remember as soon as the clock struck eight, like, all the managers, everyone came out and just like, completely tore the place apart. Like, I still I still have that image, in my mind is really, really fascinating. But But anyway, so they were shutting down. So he gave us everything. He didn’t care. He gave us the theater he gave us gave, you know, people were buying concessions. It was a whole thing. But after that, we went to a bar. And with only the intention of having it be that one year we showed the film. That’s it, we did our thing, right. And one guy, you know, and it’s funny, I reconnected with him, like for the first time in December since that day, the whistler Film Festival. But that’s another story. So so we were sitting at the bar, and we were like, We were underage at this bar, just like in the same Plaza. And we’re like, tricky, and he’s like, how do you guys have drinks? Also, are you going to do this again next year? And we’re like, no, like, this is now like, what are we? What are you talking about? He’s like, I think he should he’s like, I think you have sorry, was there a name for this festival that first year we had called it? I think we had called it the future of Film Festival, or like the showcase of future like something like, make sure it was in there. So this feature was in there somehow. But our logo was a spiral. Like paint. It was like this red paint that was just like in a spiral this? I don’t think anybody has seen that logo, aside from like,

Qasim Virjee 6:45
from people can’t google it?

Eric Bizzarri 6:48
Don’t Google it? Because they’ve, you might thought maybe it might pop up somewhere in the dark web. Oh, I’ve tried deleting.

Qasim Virjee 6:57
Now the logo for your illegal arms. Do

Eric Bizzarri 6:59
you search it? No, that’s fine. But yeah, cuz we just we just put something into quickly. And so he was like, You should do this again next year. But he’s like, actually curate a programmer. You know, we didn’t go into too much detail. But the next year, we just so we ended up opening up submissions on Filmfreeway. I think submissions were were free. So we got like, over 1000 was submissions from around. Well, he was there was no

Qasim Virjee 7:27
there was still it’s like that much content from creators coming out of school. Right? For the most part. Yes, because it was first time filmmaker 3030

Eric Bizzarri 7:34
mm younger. Yeah. So you had filmmakers, like internationally everybody submitting I’m like, oh my god, we cannot we got to we got to somehow streamline this or like, you know what, we should just make this Canadian. Yeah, we should just make this Canadian filmmakers and and do it that way. And people were paying the submission fee anyway, so there weren’t really losing anything by not getting in so we could sort of make that adjustment as we were collecting. And so we had Canadian festival in our Canadian filmmakers. 13 younger, we did it at the Fox Theater in Toronto, we got about three quarters of the theater sold out. I think tickets were like $5 each. And that was really just to help, you know, break even on the theater rental. But even still, we ended up putting in a lot of our own money because we printed posters, we printed tickets, we you know, I didn’t get any merch, like shirts or anything at the time. But the venue rental costs what it what it did. And the former owner of that theater was just like, you guys should do this again. And it’s almost like everybody. Wow, it’s like you don’t know what you’re doing. Right. And so you’re doing a good thing. The year after that, because I worked. I worked at a Cineplex at the time and I just sort of thought I’m like, what if we brought this to Cineplex? What if we pitch them and you know, me working at sunrise had absolutely nothing to do with that partnership, but like, I was able to, at least, you know, ask them about and they’re like, Yeah, my GM was like, Yeah, sure. Let me just let me give you this guy’s content and good luck in getting in touch with them. And and we got in touch with the VP like the Senior VP and I think like the marketing director, and we just sort of sat down in Cineplex his head office they have like their own food, like their own like food court for the employees. They have like their own popcorn and their own their own like it’s anything any food you see at a Cineplex theater, but like elevated, oh, yeah, it was great, like real butter, like, like real butter. So you we go into this place, the water is free, the water and sparkling waters free to like start Well, exactly. So we sat at this, we sat in front of these two guys, we pitched the festival, and they just we had a whole proposal. Again, pitch PowerPoint, the whole thing. There’s just XML Yeah, yeah, but Alright, let’s do it. Now we’re just like, like, seriously, they’re like, Yeah, let’s do it. But they gave us the Canada Square theater, yogic Magazine. then. Okay, so that theater one. Yeah, so that theater was like they sort of gave that test as like a starter pack. Like, let’s see how much you can bring in.

Qasim Virjee 10:08
They do that with a few different film festivals, right like they will. I feel like I went to South Asian Film Festival there once at Kennett

Eric Bizzarri 10:14
square. Yeah, so it’s since Yeah, I wouldn’t I wouldn’t I believe that because they use that theater that the way that that theater stayed open was because they had film festivals coming in and a lot of Event Rentals. So that’s, you know, they gave us that theater. But then the third year kind of flopped. It was like just over 100 people, maybe a little less than that in terms of attendees or in terms of attendance. So we had about, we showcase 10 filmmakers, films were great. We had I remember at the time, we I can’t remember for the life of me how we found this critic, but this critic came in. And she was like, Yeah, your the whole festival experience is about like, three stars, like three, because you guys could do a little better. You can like expand a little bit more. And then she left and we kind of were like, Oh, well, maybe this is like you know, but then filmmakers were coming up to us are like, my film and a theater was incredible, right? My film in front of this community was incredible. Some people had and I forgot to mention, like, in our second year, we had a 14 year old girl play her film at the festival. So one minute film about time travel using Toronto’s transit system. And the film was incredible. Her first time ever screening the dad she’s the washroom dad came up to me in tears like, you’ve made her dream come true. You’re like, this is the first time she screamed anything outside of our house anywhere. And so constantly filmmakers were coming up to us like, this is great. This is great. You should keep doing this. Even the guy that approached us in the bar in the first year was a filmmaker. So when we had this critic come to us and she was like, it was kind of okay, tennis was okay, we sort of got a little we were like a little you know, defeated and

Qasim Virjee 11:53
emotionally. You’re in the eye. Yeah. Cuz it was like, yeah, we’re just doing this for love. Why are you hating? Exactly, yeah, it’s tough.

Eric Bizzarri 12:02
Yeah. And so we went back to Cineplex and we said, you know, these were numbers, these were this was the attendance and they’re like, they’re like, what, you guys right? Yeah, you’re at the Cineplex. Yeah, Kennett square. You’re gonna gluten. You know what? Let’s give you the Scotiabank next year. I think that’ll and we’re just like, the Scotiabank? Yeah. So

Qasim Virjee 12:20
for people outside of Toronto that are listening or watching Yeah, what’s the relevance in the geography explain why that is different

Eric Bizzarri 12:27
than Yeah, so so young and Eglinton is more uptown. It’s a little outside of the city Canada Square was located directly across from the Cineplex Yonge and Eglinton which is their lighting stream theater. Right. And so bringing us to Canada Square was sort of an experiment. Then Scotiabank is the most populated theater in the entire province at least and one of one in like one of the most popular theaters or within Canada. Yeah, for Cineplex.

Qasim Virjee 12:58
Yeah, like for anyone who’s never been there. It’s kind of I guess, now you’d say it’s very similar to a suburban brand new like multiplex theater in terms of the the show value when you walk it, it’s like big, they have

Eric Bizzarri 13:11
premieres there they have Canadian premieres for huge films like The Matrix movies, some of the Fast Furious movie like, like all of the big Hollywood films that ever have had Toronto premieres have had it at Scotiabank. And so this jump to Scotiabank was very, very unexpected. Like I couldn’t, I couldn’t even I couldn’t imagine. And they sort of laughed it off and like Well, that’s what you got 100 People at because you’re at Canada Square you go to Scotiabank, there’s, it’s more populated and have more people there. We go to Scotiabank, the next year we sell up.

Qasim Virjee 13:45
Wow was selling a 200 seat auditorium. Okay, here, well, the fifth

Eric Bizzarri 13:49
year they upgrade us to I think about 250 between 250 and 300. We sell out six year they upgrade us to a near 400 seat theater, we sell out. And we’re just we’re just right. And things are just as naturally are just rising like, you know, like we’re now selling tickets. We’re no longer we’re gathering more sponsors. We’re no longer putting our own money into the thing. And I remember that like you know, in our fourth year you know we were on the walkie and Nicole at the time she was because the way it was like our first year started as like a three person festivals Nishant and another guy Christoph then our second year it was like four or five and then an AR 30 It just kept growing and growing this like small group of people all from York University volunteers, I’m guessing for the most part. Absolutely. We would I mean, we would provide some honorariums later on but for the most part, all volunteer so selling out I remember getting that walkie like being on the walk in and Nicole being like, there’s 15 tickets left and lace. What? Because not everybody, I mean it was like 630 It started seven people were still filing in so we didn’t know what it was. And she’s like there’s five tickets left. Have like 15 and then like, five and then I was like, it was it was just a remarkable thing. And it’s just a testament to what can happen when you truly manifest something. And looking back on that now it’s like, it’s crazy. Because now, so like, now we’re so much larger than than I would have ever imagined. Because then going into 2019, we had, you know, just over like about 400 in that theater, and then we had about 500 at the after party come out, because people who didn’t attend the screenings also just came in the after party. And then you know, we’re on the rise, and then COVID happened. And so then it’s kind of like, how much longer do we really want to keep doing this live? How much longer can we really sustain something that is a good idea, and it’s, and it’s helped so many filmmakers, and we were able even to get, for those who don’t know, like a DCP is something like it’s a very high quality. It’s it’s what every film, I think they’re starting to phase it out now, but it’s what every film delivered to a theater is delivered in the DCP. It’s so we finally got that

Qasim Virjee 16:04
like a burrito wrapper. Exactly. It just makes it more delicious. I don’t know what Yeah, that sounds great. Yeah, but a DCP it? Is it about a not a file format. You’re just talking about the delivery mechanism delivery. Yeah,

Eric Bizzarri 16:21
because what what happened was, in previous years, a

Qasim Virjee 16:23
fancy thumb drive,

Eric Bizzarri 16:25
a very fancy thumb drive, very expensive. So that allows for large file for large files. And it’s a high quality precise, like, film screening. So like previous years, we had films play off of an HDMI off of a laptop, and cineplexes projection room, right? 2018, we had a DCP for the very first time you look at the screen, you’re like holy shit, like, it’s, you know, and so the quality just just increased. And but anyway, so where I’m getting with this is like, we really there were a few times as anybody with a startup or with an organization has where it’s like, you know, you start to think about you start to weigh out your options. And it’s like, Should we keep doing this? Should we not keep doing this, and we seriously considered closing in 2019, and then seriously considered it again, when COVID happened, because we’re, you know, we’re a small festival, and we need we need these resources to survive. But then in 2020, you know, in March of 2020, the same week that Cineplex locked our dates, they also canceled our dates. But then a few months after that, CBC jump picked us up.

Qasim Virjee 17:25
And that was just like they called called you or they didn’t Well, so we started

Eric Bizzarri 17:29
pitching to a few networks. But I thought of CBC because CBC has attended our festival in the past they’ve sent representatives. And you know, they’ve acquired some films that we’ve programmed so I’m like, you clearly you liked the the programming of the festival, you like the content, come out and join the festival and partner with us. So we were the second festival Film Festival in Canada, to partner with a national broadcaster, to bring a festival to life. So we ended up partnering with them in August 2020. Again, in August’s, sorry, July 2021. And so we increased both the network and the capacity of the festival. The network to across Canada and capacity from a one day festival to a two week festival

Qasim Virjee 18:15
where all the content was available on the gym, which is free in Canada CPC app

Eric Bizzarri 18:21
free with with ads, so you can pay like $5 a month to get it without ads. And then yeah, and then and then it’s free. You get like an ad before like I liked this ad before.

Qasim Virjee 18:31
Shout out to Lexus shout. It’s a license. Yeah. Eric wants a car. Yeah, no, I love it. I pay for the app. And, and I get all the working moms I want to watch. It’s great. And yeah, for Canadians. I mean, that’s pretty cool. Because you’re right. It’s about ubiquity. And it’s kind of like non, even though Yeah, you say you’re paying for the app. It feels like a non commercial platform to be on in Canada for Canadians.

Eric Bizzarri 18:57
Well, it’s it’s it’s a it’s a it’s it’s an organization that specifically highlights Canadian content. And that’s what we’re about right is you know, our festival up until now has been distinctly and we ended up I mean, we ended up adjusting so used to be 30 Younger now it’s 40 younger, but our festival is distinctly Canadian filmmakers and short films by Canadian filmmakers. We have a bit of a surprise this year we might be will be adjusting that a little a little bit but it’s all in favor of Canadian filmmakers and how we can also grow the festival and so you know now we’re gearing up in 2022 We’re gearing up for a hybrid in person and virtual festivals so we did you know we did in person for six years virtual for two years. Now we’re bringing we’re like meshing that together. We have a team of just over 30 people. Well, it’s grown. We have an advisory board now. And sponsors and like you know, including our partnership with sartwell is just so incredible because like You know, in partnership, speechless your speech law partnership, partnerships, like these are so integral to small businesses and organizations in which people are giving their their all to each and every day, we, we, every day we come in and we do the work and we’re working with people that are consistently delivering and just trying new ideas. You know, and it would be, it would be stupid not to continue.

Qasim Virjee 20:30
And so for our listeners, I think let’s just explain a little bit about that context, you know, for, for how we kind of got to meet each other and what our initial dialogue was like. Yeah, from my memory, from, from what I recall, you know, FOSS was looking for a little bit of a home base, Toronto was slow for anyone outside of Canada and outside of Ontario, Toronto was pretty slow coming out of the pandemic, getting over the fear factor, we’re still obviously dealing with it all over the world. But this post pandemic reality and trying to rethink events and think about hybrid formats and stuff. Here on campus, we had been awake for some time, and people are trickling back into our doors for coworking, and meetings and events and all the other studio productions, all this stuff that we’re doing. So Eric reached out and said, Hey, we would love to work together to have a place to work, and bring our team together. So that we can actually kind of, you know, work with with each other and feel like a community again right now. Because ultimately, I mean, it’s leading up to a couple months out the event happening in person. And also Yes, again, through the gem app through Yeah,

Eric Bizzarri 21:39
so So what will happen is, we’ll have in person events and stuff still at Scotiabank, and then on the on CBC gem virtually, will be on CBC gem,

Qasim Virjee 21:51
and we’re talking about doing the closing events. Yeah. So

Eric Bizzarri 21:55
yes, I’m not sure how much I can I can

Qasim Virjee 21:58
reveal Yeah, you’re the CEO, or you make the make the law I lay

Eric Bizzarri 22:03
down the law. Yeah. So So in person, and in person events, add, of course start well, studios, as well as, as well as Scotiabank. And then, sort of coupling that amongst the 10 days with virtual screenings of just the films on CBC jam. So people will sort of so there’s a little bit of a festival map happening here, because we have a few different locations now. And like even Accra, like we’re having a, like a casting panel and workshop that we’re bringing back and have that with with Accra, Toronto, and so like, we have a few different locations now. And again, like each partnership that we have, and every you know, like I don’t even want to consider a sponsor, but I always consider it a partnership. Because we always want to make sure that whomever we’re working with, it’s mutually beneficial, and we’re bringing our audiences together. That’s what we did. You know, Cineplex wanted to get young people back in the seats of movie theaters, they understand that there is a slow decline of this next generation going to the cinema to watch things rather than torrenting it or streaming it, right. So bringing both of our resources together, their space our audiences combined. You know, bringing more Canadian content to CBC gem, you know, making more people aware of this beautiful co working space that you have here in this community. Thank you, you’re building. And so what I remember from our conversation, and this is something that no other person I’ve really spoken to has is like, you’re like, you know, we like we brought out a deck and obviously we like forget the deck, forget the sponsors, just who are you? What do you need? And how can we sort of make this work? And I was like, This guy’s like this guy. No, but like, seriously, like you understood from the get go, you’re like, you know, this, these guys have something at the start, they have something to to show, you know, let’s let’s remove all that all the verbiage and all that and all that and let’s just talk strategy and talk about how this could work for us. Yeah,

Qasim Virjee 24:00
it’s part of the ethos of the company, my company. Yeah, like, you know, in the startup bent, and a lot of our audience are from that community or entrepreneurs and tech startups particularly. Um, you know, I’m always saying that people that there’s this kind of like problem, I think it’s a North American problem, particularly. But we get into this, like packaging mode, everything needs to be packaged and packaged really well to be understood. And then when it goes, also, to your point, about the cinemas having a tough time, you know, filling seats, a lot of it is is kind of like pseudonymity people feel like because of the way it’s marketed. That experiences are translatable, like a film can be watched on your phone. Well, yeah, it can. But it’s not the same experience.

Eric Bizzarri 24:45
What it is is like a screen and obviously there are so many different versions in which you can see a film I think recently, Avatar two, it’s like they’re announcing like, I think eight or 10 different ways you could watch the movie and In 24, frames, 2d 24 frames, 3d 48 frames, it’s just like, you know, so So the plethora of options that people have now to watch films is enormous. Sure, fine. But you don’t get that sense of community. And that sense of that that cathartic feeling and emotional resonance of like, you know, experiencing something in a with a group of people collective viewing experience. And what if we did that for short films, short films that wouldn’t, might not otherwise be seen, right? If not on the national scale, we’re providing them and it’s and it start, well, that’s helping engage those communities. Right. And, and we haven’t even really begun because it’s only like, it’s only it’s only May, and we still have another month, month and a half, until the event, we haven’t even, you know, brought out the full team here yet. Like we’re still, you know, settling in and getting going. But that excites me, like I remember, you know, last year, I had an I was working with new people, some of whom I still have not met, okay, that only a set, let’s say, worked for the 2021 festival. You know, and some who, like, you know, still aren’t working, like aren’t working with us this year. But it’s sort of like I just like, I can’t wait to meet you, you know, like, our accessibility director works in Ottawa. I can’t wait to, to meet her finally. Right. And, you know, she’ll be traveling to Toronto for the festival. But, but aside from that, you know, I had our admin team, we had not met in person for seven months, you know, just working virtually then meeting in person, I felt he was meeting celebrities, right? So I was like, Oh, my God, like, you just been in, you know, and I think that’s so interesting, like, mooches moving aside from the festival, and Starbuck, for a second, it’s just like, in general, like, the way we’ve been communicating over the last two years, and just virtual, yeah, some of it like some, you know, we don’t really know what the person looks like in in person in in flash just being there.

Qasim Virjee 26:56
I mean, this is a weird thing, right? This is the weird, weird thing about packaging. I call it that. I mean, it could be 5 million different descriptors that you could use, but the idea that, like, when you have a linear narrative to something, you know, like a way to interface with a person content, whatever it is. And you rely on the means of communication, you rely on that method of communication, because it’s like, it’s owned, it’s in your hands. It’s digital, it’s on or off, you know, you feel like relationships become on demand all that stuff. Yeah, there’s so much stripped out of the experience. And and yeah, so it’s a really interesting thing to come out of this pandemic, start living through the next few months of bringing people together in person to produce an in person event. Yeah. And then hopefully, something you know, that we can collaborate on. Post event, of course, is this idea of also community making amongst the filmmaker community. Of course, we’re in Toronto. So we’ll be talking about people here that make films and how they can create a peer group, because it’s interesting. I mean, like, what is your experience, talking to filmmakers that show at the festival about that kind of feeling of showing to their peers? You know, like everyone presenting is presenting for the first time, right?

Eric Bizzarri 28:16
Yeah, I mean, what we what we found as the festival has grown, is we’re, you know, we’re gathering more and more films from filmmakers who have not shown the film’s anywhere. So like, in the past, you know, obviously, people are still getting to know us and still getting to know the festival. We’re not as we weren’t necessarily, you know, the premiere destination for short films four years ago. This year, the program is almost entirely comprised of films that people in Toronto at the very least have not seen yet, which is incredible. And some of them even world premieres like no other because normally, you know, we people go through like the TRA festivals, the Sundance is the TIFs, the, you know, the Fantasia is and all that, then they then they sort of make their way down. But as a short film, people are starting to look at us and say, Oh, well, I want to premiere their first.

Qasim Virjee 29:07
I think it’s really interesting. I think the time that we’re in now for short films is fascinating, because people’s attention spans are short, you know, that idea that like, Oh, what do people call them in the industry? I think like, like in the content industry, it’s like digestible, or something.

Eric Bizzarri 29:24
Oh, yeah. Yeah. You know, like the 10 second 32nd Like digestible content or something, right? I could just, you know, scroll because if you think about it, like, you know, I was in I was in a theater. I can’t remember the movie now. And we were watching the credits were rolling up and everybody was oh, it was a it was a Marvel movie. It wasn’t it wasn’t spider it was a Eternals I think was the Eternals movie doesn’t matter, but I was in people. Everybody was still seated for the credits because of the because of the credit scene. And there was a guy in front of me that, you know, wasn’t watching the credits just on Instagram and all he was doing just swipe swipe, swipe, swipe, swipe, not why Ching, anything, it’s almost like they just like this person just needs the the dopamine, dopamine of flashy videos and photography just just just just vomiting at their face. You know? So if somebody’s doing that like and you could think alike, you know how many of us, you know, tried posting an Instagram photo on our store in the comments. That’d be well hold on, let me retake that hold that. Can we do a lot of

Qasim Virjee 30:25
scrolling? Yes, scrolling. You know what I mean? Well, absolutely is. It’s this kind of like disk commiserate was the what would be the word disk commiserate? Is that an actual word non commiserate? I’ve never heard of that word. The idea of Yeah, I mean, like, there’s basically a false match there between this kind of like, the audience reaction, right. And the engagement with the content, like they’re getting kind of more than what they engage with. Okay, is the idea. Aside from critiquing social media, I think, yeah, it’s, I think it’s kind of like whether it’s become habitual for some people, or otherwise, it’s about busier day schedules, and people hustling and bustling, or when you work exclusively online, as has happened for the first time for a lot of remote workers now, right? You know, people try to squeeze things in here and there a little bit of like entertainment, while I’m eating my lunch, before I get back on this call, whatever it is, I think people Yeah, they’re primed for this kind of short format. And it

Eric Bizzarri 31:24
was, what was interesting is that like, even like tracking back to fo fast for a second, it’s like, when we were building these virtual festivals we had, I felt like, it was like, we were starting from scratch, nothing that we’ve done before in previous years mattered anymore. It was how could we get people to watch virtually the virtual platform, entirely new territory, right. And we had some people, we had some people leave, like we had, you know, hey, this isn’t what I really signed up for, you know, in terms of the production team, in terms of Yeah, I mean, like, just as some of that some marketing, and especially because like, because we were pushing the festival now, in 2020, from May to August, people could not just extend contracts for another, you know, three, four or five months, like they couldn’t like they didn’t have the capacity for that, which is totally understandable. But we were starting from scratch, right. And so I keep bringing it back to this collective experience, because it’s like, even the guy just, you know, scrolling and swiping through on his Instagram Stories. Imagine having a room or like a cinema, or people had to sit there. And I mean, you don’t have to do anything, get

Qasim Virjee 32:27
up and leave, we’ll triple for seven people and you kind of don’t want to do that. And it was way too

Eric Bizzarri 32:31
good. At the IMAX at Scotia, you’re sitting in the middle of your, your, your fog. So, you know, having people just sit there and sit in an uncomfortable scene, sit in something comedic, you know, everybody’s watching all eyeballs are there. But we do that with short films. We do that Canadian short films, short films about weird topics, short films about hilarious topics. And we’re just so excited to get back to that again.

Qasim Virjee 32:55
Oh, yeah. No, I’m sure I’m sure people who are watching this, that have known the festival for a few years or otherwise are fans of short films will agree. I mean, I think particularly short films are always amazing to share with someone you know, they’re typically they have to pack a punch, you know, whether it’s a little twists, a little surprise, some sort of emotional response has to be a hook, it has to be a hook. And it’s always something nice to share with someone else for sure. Whereas a long form thing has five or 100 hooks, and, you know, it’s really just about kind of keeping your eyes glued to the screen as well in some way. Someday, I didn’t ask you, which might be a nice kind of like, tie together for the conversation is your festival is called The Future of festivals showcase. So what do you think, the future of sorry for the future of Film Showcase? What is the future of film? Like? What are what insights you have into what that is?

Eric Bizzarri 33:56
Well, I think like, you know, a big thing for us is even in, you know, in designing our program, and designing our program and designing the festival as a whole, it’s almost like, we hold ourselves accountable to what we feel the future of film looks like. And in this case, the future of Canadian film looks like, and we’re getting that and we’re running with it. And we like and we really hold ourselves true to that. So, you know, the future of

Qasim Virjee 34:22
isn’t just about young filmmakers, or is it about you know, emerging production technique and thematic content?

Eric Bizzarri 34:29
We’re Yeah, like we’re expanding through industry programming, including workshops, we’ll hold it at start well, where it’s like, how can we, you know, there are so many there are an influx of festivals in Toronto there. There are several several festivals, a lot of which are doing very similar things. How do we stand out? What are we doing, that people are going to our grasp onto and what our sort of mission there is, you know, supporting films, emerging Canadian filmmakers, that’s fine, but our industry programming our professional development up opportunities. What are we doing through those opportunities that are actually that actually have people learning and growing? And and teaching them more about things like the business of film and television? And how to market your films and like, through our casting workshops and our panels, like, what is it about acting? Or what is it that Canadian, or sorry, casting directors I should say, are looking for in an audition or in a self tape or whatnot. And that’s what we’re trying to do here is, you know, we’re trying to build these opportunities for our audiences. And for our filmmakers, that sort of like, you know, can come together collectively and learn something, you’re not just going to FFS and speaking on ffs In particular, you’re not just attending FFS and like, hoping to Oh, you see the screenings? Okay, let’s just go home. You know, like, I’ve been to festivals that I’ve screened at some times where, you know, you walk in, there’s like a communal sushi platter on the table, you screen you’re filming go, right, you know, there’s no use in that for me, right? It’s, it’s sometimes it’s not even always about the films, it’s really like, what could filmmakers who aren’t even screening at our festival, we only accept, like, we have a very short window. And like, you know, we’re looking at expanding that over time. You know, but we can only really accept between like, 12 to 1415 films, right, and out of the hundreds that are being submitted to us. You know, there are a lot of filmmakers whose work doesn’t get in, what are they getting out of this experience? Now? You know, why should they attend their for our festival if their films aren’t being screened? That’s why, you know, our professional development opportunities are industry programming that is constantly evolving, and like, actively engaging with people and their, you know, their abilities to learn such a thing,

Qasim Virjee 36:47
having experienced the Cannes Film Festival myself, yeah, I think like that aspect of the kind of not just like a buyer’s market or you know, that that kind of like, retail side of the industry who’s going to buy the film after it’s screened? Who’s going to pick it up quickly? You know, that aspect is entirely different than the community aspect of filmmakers getting together and celebrating film together, and filmmaking and getting to know each other. And I think you need

Eric Bizzarri 37:14
to integrate that a little bit, though, right? Because I think, like I went to, I went to York University, I have mentioned before for film production for four years, we didn’t get, in my opinion, a great deal of knowledge on the business of film and television, how to market your film, how to make that step from shorts to features, how to make this work. Sustainable film is not sustainable. Like, I mean, it can be for sure. But when you’re starting out and everything, and you’re learning how to make them, that’s all great. And I remember, you know, being like a second year student and being very excited about this entire world of creation, but at the same time, it’s like, how are you actually forging a path, a career path? How are you actually making something of yourself. And so I think it’s important to integrate that business aspect and the marketing aspect with the creative and the fun and the collective experience and all that.

Qasim Virjee 38:06
You know, a lot of that content will come from knowledge sharing, you know, it comes from that kind of peer mentorship that, yeah, that is like, great, you know, when it happens spontaneously, but also great when it happens in a format that enables people to engage, like, it’s okay to watch a YouTube video and post in the comments. But if you’re at a festival and a discussion panel, and you can go up to the people who are talking and pastor and ask them more questions and build your network, because now you have friends that you can ask these things to because you exchanged emails is great. Yeah. So it’s quite exciting that you guys are pursuing this and growing and growing the programming element of Thank you have the festival outside of just screenings, of course. Super exciting.

Eric Bizzarri 38:49
Thank you. And even as, as a filmmaker, because I’m a director, and a producer, myself, and a lot of what I wrestled with, when I was younger is like, you know, and some great advice that I’ve gotten in the past is like, it’s important to show up, it’s, you know, it’s important, like, you know, to take that lunch or to take that coffee and sometimes you may not want to, you may not want to get out of bed in the morning and like I I resonate with that, like, believe me, I do, but I think there is a value to getting up and making that first step and actually, you know, going to that festival, even if you just go and just sit, you know, just sit down enough to go to any parties or whatever, but like, try to try to get there because that’s what’s going to make yourself known you know what I mean? Like sitting in front of a computer all day, you know, it’s not it’s not gonna it’s not gonna get you there like film is built it film is a business of relationships. It’s a business of relationships between people if, you know, if you’re not meeting new people and actively trying to you know, forge new connections, it’s I don’t know if it’s gonna work out in the way that it would if you did do that. And that’s why you know, Whistler. Like even for Whistler like that coming up. For me personally, it was just like, a really weird time because you know, We were going into lockdown again soon. And I, you know, I don’t know if I had really had the funds to, to make it to that festival. But you know, I ended up going, I ended up meeting, re reuniting with that guy that at the bar in our first year of FFS. He was we were at a party and he comes up to me, and he’s like, Hey, Mike, hey, he’s like, you know, me, like, do I? And he’s like, I’m, you know, I’m that guy. I was sitting at the bar, I was looking at you, you’re, you’re 18 years old, drinking this beer and this far, like, what are you doing? You gotta keep going, keep doing this. And it was very, very emotional, emotional moment. And I ended up meeting another director, and his name’s Kashif, and I ended up producing his film in Toronto in April. But that being said, it’s like, had I not gone to that festival, I would not have reunited with this guy. And he really just like, reignited that spark, you know, reignited that spark and in the festival, and, and that’s what I love about emerging creators and people coming up is like, you know, there’s this understanding that, you know, there is light above, you know, there is there is light beyond the horizon. And, you know, you can sort of, you know, pull through and continue. And if I’ve learned anything from doing this festival, it’s that it’s that in itself, right, if, you know, we were thinking of, of shutting down a few times, and it was like, but we just, we just kept going. And that being said, it’s not, it’s not just easy to say, we just kept going, because a lot of people have put, like, countless hours into this thing, and often for free. And I guess, like, you know, me sort of being in a way, like the face of this thing. And everything, there are so many people behind me that work on this thing, like it’s incredible. And an any success that I’ve ever had, personally and professionally, but also with this festival has been on the backs of people that have worked for us, and then I’ve done it, you know,

Qasim Virjee 42:00
any final notes for people that would want to, as they’ve heard this conversation or watched it, get involved with the festival, and any particular, you know, types of contribution that you guys are always looking for, or otherwise, for next year, that you’re you’ve got your eyes out, eyes open for?

Eric Bizzarri 42:17
Yeah, so I guess by the time this is released, we’ll have just put out our call for volunteers for the vessel. So every year are when we were in person, we we put out a call for volunteers and you could work on the ground in theater, you could you could be at any of our at our after party venue or any of our sort of industry industry areas. So you can go to Or you could follow us at future film show on socials. So we’re putting out a call for volunteers, their submissions for the festival, usually open in the fall. So you can keep in touch with our socials and for all of that information. And then the festival itself will be launching in June and mid June. So just stay tuned for that.

Qasim Virjee 43:04
Cool. I want to end by asking you if there any particular lessons you would tell yourself or or tips that you’d give yourself looking back at that 18 year old self 18 year old Eric getting this thing going. Now eight years on that might be useful to people that like kind of like not just producers or directors, people that want to work in the industry. But you know, anyone kind of undertaking some sort of creative project and thinking of it not as something that has legs or it was just fun for a moment. What would you say to yourself 18 year old Eric

Eric Bizzarri 43:44
I’d say take it easy. That’s what I’d say. I think when I was younger, I put a lot of pressure on specific moments, specific people. Specific sort of events that I needed to have happen. And so you know, if we had a certain sponsor that couldn’t, that couldn’t support us, or we had someone, a person I wanted to work with who couldn’t be on the team, like, you know, a lot of I would, I would, I would sort of might even blame myself. But I would I would really like, you know, there’d be a lot of stress surrounding surrounding those things. And if there was any advice that I’d really give myself is really just to just to take it day by day, and be appreciative for the present, be appreciative for who’s here now. Because at the end of the day, anything we’ve ever done, are from people who have been present with the festival in that time. You know, and it’s all it’s all journey.

Qasim Virjee 44:40
No, absolutely. And that’s the thing, right? As you get older you realize is like life can be as busy as you want it to be. But then you never take time to kind of like enjoy the process as well. Right. So

Eric Bizzarri 44:51
in the process, enjoy. Enjoy the moment, right?

Qasim Virjee 44:55
Yeah. And on that note, this moment is over. I know you’ve got you got something yet to but it was fantastic taking time to chat. Yeah, thank you for joining me on the start well podcast of course. And as things progress with the festival, maybe we’ll do a little like a vlog, you know, with you guys planning and leading up to the event or something. Yeah, that’d be that’d be cool, right? Fantastic. So stay tuned for anyone interested in the journey of producing the 2022 FoFs. And if you want any information on starting your own festival in your own country, in your own region, anything like that, Eric already dropped those links that you can fast starts Yeah, there you go. And of course, get in touch with start well through the website, and we’ll bounce messages over to these guys as you need them done. All right, wonderful. Thanks.