09/13/2012 11:56 EDT | Updated 11/13/2012 05:12 EST

Finally, I Have a Movie in TIFF


My very first TIFF experience also coincided with when I moved out of my parent's house. I had just moved downtown, deciding to abandon studying journalism to pursue a career in the film industry.

TIFF was upon us and I had created a show called "Stay Crispy in Milk," a five-minute series designed for the internet, before people actually watched video on the internet. My co-producer had been able to schmooze our way into the opening night party, which was a gigantic midway inside the Skydome, as it was then known. In a weird twist of events, I ended up pitching the show to Don McKellar as we sat eating hot dogs in the stands. Though "Stay Crispy in Milk" didn't ever truly see the light of day (some would say it was too ahead of its time, and now it's totally dated), I continued to talk my way into parties, hoping that one day I would be a part of the festival, instead of just a bystander at an open bar.

And this year, it's finally happened. It's an amazing feeling speaking to people and being able to answer the question "do you have something in the festival?" with a resounding YES. This isn't just another hallmark in my life; it's something I would put on a short list of important moments, alongside meeting and then marrying my wife and the birth of my daughter. My film is playing in "my own backyard."

The most amazing thing about this festival is that short films seem to be just as respected as the features they are up against. They sell out, they get reviewed and they go on to do great things. Every filmmaker wants to make a feature, but some totally skip that route.

This year, one director has achieved that milestone early on. Kate Melville's Picture Day is her first film, period. It's both inspiring and good for me as well, as one of its producers, Peter Harvey, is producing my feature, The Next Morning. This has created some good energy at the Fest -- a producer with a track record teaming up with a filmmaker who is now proving himself. And that's what shorts do. They give us an opportunity to make mistakes, learn more about filmmaking that you can't get from a book or a class, attract a fan base of other filmmakers, producers, press, and ready us for the reality of what existing in a system built on film festivals is all about.

It's actually scary and overwhelming, so I couldn't be more thrilled to have my lead actor, Julian Richings, along for the ride as well. Julian is an extremely experienced and gifted actor, but he is also the nicest and most supportive human being I've ever met. I'm sure that's a big part of why he is so successful, and makes me that much more frustrated that though people know his face (he's been in EVERYTHING), they still don't know his name.

Having a familiar face in my film and certainly boosted its exposure and I'm happy that it's working for the film.Those familiar with his work know that he is often cast in "weird" roles, which sets up a certain expectation for MY film. I think people see him on my promo materials or hear the ambitious name of my short (The Tape) and think they are getting into a story that is either supernatural, strange or horrific, and when the film turns out to be anything but, they are actually surprised. And that's the best thing a short film can do. Surprise you. It's something I hope to continue to do throughout my entire career.

Though I've been doing this for a better part of a decade, I can't help but feel I'm really starting, officially, now.