09/26/2013 01:05 EDT | Updated 09/26/2013 01:28 EDT

VIFF 2013: Spotlight On B.C. Aims To Promote Local Talent

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It may provide a veritable smorgasbord of international cinematic offerings, but this year, the Vancouver International Film Festival is also going big on B.C.

With two cash prizes adding up to $17,500, the new BC Spotlight and awards series aim to support the roots of creative talent on the festival's doorstep.

"After the rallying cry of the 'Save BC Film' movement, I really thought that this was the year for VIFF to showcase the local creative industries and our commitment to them," Jacqueline Dupuis, executive director of VIFF explains.

Dupuis says she was trying to work out how to help local filmmakers extend the life cycle of their films: "The conceit was a kind of online marketing engine that would help them build a broader fan base and allow them to be more successful going forward into theatrical screenings."

After talking to industry members, potential sponsors and festival stakeholders, what emerged was a dedicated festival section—the BC Spotlight—with two jury prizes, one for the best B.C. film screened at VIFF and another for the most promising emerging B.C. director selected for this year's festival. A B.C. industry party will help promote networking and collaboration.

The possibilities of social media have also been harnessed with a #mustseeBC campaign, which offers audience members the chance to preview trailers of the 12 BC Spotlight films, win tickets for gala screenings and vote for their choice of "must-see" film. The audience winning title will be given a special red carpet festival screening.

Dupuis is quick to note that this initiative was never about selling tickets to B.C. films: "That was never a concern," she says. "People come out gangbusters for local films, with friends, family, cast and crew..."

What it is, she insists, is a way to support local talent who often find themselves at the mercy of film festival rules and distributor pecadillos.

"Film festivals exist to make sure as many people as is humanly possible see as many films as possible, Canadian films included," she enthuses.

The problem, she says, is when Canadian festivals insist they will only screen a Canadian film if they can present it as a national premiere, as the Whistler Film Festival does, for example.

"But who loses out? The filmmakers and the audience, the two groups we need to win in that equation," Dupuis notes.

Likewise, distributors who choose one Canadian festival over another, for whatever reason, hamper a film's chances, Dupuis asserts.

"Yes, it's important for a film to get into TIFF," she says. "But it's also important that they are shown across the country, in as many festivals, and to as wide an audience as possible."

Now in her second year of working at the 32-year-old VIFF, Dupuis has done some digging into where it sits within the Canadian film industry. Locally, she acknowledges, there are some bridges to be built—some groups have taken a "wait and see" approach about this push to support B.C. film.

But in broader terms, she says VIFF has every reason to be proud of its efforts: "We have the largest Canadian film program in the world," she says.

"Since inception, VIFF has showcased over 1000 Canadian feature films and 1500 short films to an audience of over 600,000."

See the line up for this year's Must See B.C.:

VIFF 2013: Must See B.C.