Interview with Wendy Markson, Founding Artistic Director for Breakthroughs Film Festival

The Breakthroughs Film Festival is the only festival in Canada devoted exclusively to short films by New Generation (18-30) female artists. We showcase films from any and every genre made by talented young women from all over the world. The title ‘Breakthroughs’ refers to the struggles emerging women artists face in an industry where they make up only 6 percent of directors, and must, in many cases, work even harder than their male counterparts to make their voices heard.

The 2015 Breakthroughs Film Festival will be held June 5-6, 2015.

For more information, please contact us at, and check out our website:

Matthew Toffolo Interviews Founding Artistic Director Wendy Markson:

Matthew: Why is the city of Toronto the perfect fit for what you’re showcasing at the festival?

Wendy: Toronto is the 4th largest city in North America and one of the most multicultural cities in the world, allowing Breakthroughs to draw on a great diversity of emerging talent. As one of the main creative hubs in Canada and host of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), one of the largest and most influential film festivals worldwide, Toronto is home to a great many established and aspiring filmmakers and always draws new talent. Toronto also houses three world-class universities and countless film college programs, which guarantees a never-ending stream of new young women emerging at various stages of their film careers. Providing filmmakers with access to a diverse and well-developed filmmaking community along with all the tools they need to develop their work, Toronto is the ideal location for a festival showcasing the work of female artists as they negotiate their positions in this traditionally male-dominated industry.

Matthew: What is the goal of your film festival?

Wendy: Breakthroughs works to provide New Generation women filmmakers with more clear opportunities by offering the only festival in Canada devoted solely to short films made by young women. By promoting submissions to our festival, we hope to encourage the work of young women who may feel challenged by the male domination of the industry, allowing them to see our festival as a stepping stone, or ‘breakthrough’, towards their future development and success as filmmakers. At the same time, we hope that attendance at the festival will raise awareness of the under-representation of women filmmakers, by showcasing to both the film and larger cultural communities the great value women bring to the table.

Matthew: How has the festival changed since is began until now?

Wendy: Breakthroughs is only entering its 4th year, and has grown a little in size each year in the number of submissions received and attendance. In the last two years, we’ve also been fortunate to receive recognition and funding from the government of Ontario. While we previously accepted submissions from Canadian applicants only, for the first time in 2015 we are accepting submissions from the international community. As we are still in the early stages of growing our organization, the possibilities are endless! Currently, we are working towards partnering with other film festivals and cultural organizations to be able to more widely promote our unique offering to the local and international community.

Matthew: How many films are you showcasing at your Film Festival this year in how many days?

Wendy: Between 15 and 20 films over 2 days.

Matthew: Can you give us a sneak peak of what to expect for the 2015 Festival?

Wendy: Each year, we select the most interesting films to screen, while aiming to showcase the great variety of talent women filmmakers bring to the industry. As in previous years, we will screen short films from a variety of genres — comedy, drama, documentary, animation, etc. This year, by opening the festival to applicants from around the world, we hope to add an international flair to the variety we’ve already been able to showcase.

Matthew: Is there going to be an overall theme for the 2015 festival?

Wendy: The overall theme of each year’s Breakthroughs Film Festival is simply, yet importantly, the inspiring talent New Generation women filmmakers are bringing to the industry.

Matthew: Where do you see your festival in 5 years?

Wendy: In 5 years, we would like to see Breakthroughs emerge as one of the go-to festivals in Toronto for New Generation female artists to develop and showcase their work, as well as for others in the film industry to discover new talent. We hope to achieve this by partnering with more widely-known festivals and cultural organizations, and by welcoming more high-profile Toronto film industry names onto our Board of Directors.

Matthew: What’s the current status of the Film Scene in Toronto?

Wendy: Toronto is North America’s third largest screen-based production centre, thanks to world-class talent in every aspect of filmmaking. We are home to over 50 film festivals and counting! The Toronto film scene owes a lot to the huge success of TIFF, which in addition to its annual film festival, also acts year-round as a hub for film discovery and appreciation. Toronto is also huge in the documentary film scene with Hot Docs, the largest documentary festival in North America. Toronto’s vibrant film scene consistently draws a high volume and variety of talent from around the world, and it’s booming.

Matthew: What film have you seen the most in your life?

Wendy: My favorite childhood film was The Sound of Music, which I watched over and over again until I could not only sing all the songs, but even recite most of the dialogue from memory! Climb Every Mountain, sisters! Great message for young women. More recently, I’ve been watching and re-watching Samsara, a sort of global travelogue showcasing some of the most beautiful, and occasionally disturbing, real sites and scenes of our diverse world. It’s breathtaking.

Matthew: What else are you passionate about besides running this festival?

Wendy: I’m passionate about mindful communication, authenticity, self-expression, and the diverse beauty of the human experience. And with all those ideals in mind, encouraging people to work together rather than against each other to build the kind of world we want to live in.

    * * * * *

Matthew Toffolo, Interviewer BIO

Filmmaker of over 20 short films and TV episodes, Matthew Toffolo is the current CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival. He had worked for the organization since its inception in 2007 serving as the Short Film Festival’s moderator during the Audience Feedback sessions.

Go to and submit your film, script, or story to the festival.

Go to and watch recent and past winning writing festival readings.

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