Interview with Festival Director Gabor Pertic (Breakthroughs Film Festival)

Now in its 5th amazing year, the Breakthroughs Film Festival is the only festival in Canada devoted exclusively to short films by New Generation women filmmakers. We show films in any and every genre made by talented young artists from all over the world. 

Breakthroughs Film Festival also features a panel discussion with the participating directors, giving the audience a chance to learn more about what these amazing women can do!

Get to know Festival Director Gabor Pertic:

Matthew Toffolo: What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

Gabor Pertic: In an industry where women still struggle to get their work seen and heard, Breakthroughs provides an opportunity for new generation female filmmakers to have their films programmed and brought to a big screen. The films and filmmakers we showcase are often times just entering the film industry, which is a crowded, intimidating space to begin with. It can be quite difficult to get your work noticed by a festival or play to an audience, so we’re providing a place where one of our main goals is to give voice to these emerging talents.

Matthew: What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival this year (2016)?

Gabor: Audiences are going to be able to see a curated selection of creative, fresh visions from young female filmmakers. It’s an opportunity to see original content from names you may have not seen on a marquee just yet. It becomes a discovery moment for any audience member, an opportunity to see an incredibly talented group of women at a stage when their art is taking shape and rising.

Matthew: What are the qualifications for the selected films?

Gabor: The basic guidelines for any submitted film to Breakthroughs is that it’s directed by a female between the ages of 18-30 and the film runtime sits under 20 minutes. There is an abundance of filmmakers that fit within these parameters who are looking for places to get their film seen. Be it fictional narratives, documentaries, or anything that falls in more of an experimental group, Breakthroughs aims to highlight local and international short films that offer up a mix of these film forms.

Matthew: Do you think that some films really don’t get a fair shake from film festivals? And if so, why?

Gabor: Film programming is a multilayered process, one that has many factors to consider within any given festival. Like Breakthroughs, there are many festivals that work on highlighting more specific programming, be it with regard to content, region, style, and/or theme. Certain top-tier festivals can be ambitious goals for any filmmaker looking to premiere their film but in an incredibly large and competitive space, it may be hard to get noticed. At the end of the day, film festivals strive to showcase the best group of films in any given year that fit with the festival’s specific mandates and artistic direction. It’s just a matter of finding the right partnership between the film and the festival.

Matthew: What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

Gabor: We all are here because we have a passion for film and we believe that women are making some of the most interesting work out there. We see the daily struggles of female filmmakers not getting the attention or respect they deserve and we hope to be able to provide a change in that narrative, to put the next generation of talented women front and center.

Matthew: How has the festival changed since its inception?

Gabor: One of the biggest changes the festival has undergone was that it opened up to international submissions. Breakthroughs started out only showcasing local Canadian work but we now are actively able to showcase a global perspective and we continue to grow on this worldview, seeking films from every continent.

Matthew: Where do you see the festival by 2020?

Gabor: We are currently right in the middle of a cultural landscape where there are daily discussions being had of women within the film space. Breakthroughs wants to maintain this conversation by working hard to improve upon a consistently unbalanced system. In the next few years, we can only hope that things start to progressive positively and that our festival has contributed in some way to showcasing why it is essential to give a platform for female filmmakers. We aim to be both a voice for these women and a destination for all those who support them.

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

Gabor: This would be a great moment to just write The Double Life of Veronique or Meshes of the Afternoon but if we’re talking pure statistical numbers, I should be honest and say there are a few others that outrank them in terms of views. I’ve certainly made my way through a number of formats of When Harry Met Sally… through VHS to DVD to Streaming. Nora Ephron’s script is magical and it’s been a comfort and touchstone at different parts of my life. But, if some biographer where ever to comb through my life in detail, they would uncover that when Space Jam came to video in 1997, there was a six-month window where I easily watched it over a dozen times… This answer went real fast from incredible achievements in the cinematic artform to Michael Jordan playing basketball with Bugs Bunny. Which, I suppose, is a different kind of art all around…

Matthew: In one sentence, what makes a great film?

Gabor: Not sure if I can narrow it down to one sentence, so I’ll just say that a great film is one worth watching.

Matthew: How is the film scene in your city?

Gabor: Toronto is an absolutely incredible city for film. Within any given week, you can go see a film at one of the many festivals the city has to offer, and on your way there, have to walk around a film shoot happening live on one of the streets downtown. People here are filmmakers and film lovers, and more often than not, the answer to the question “hey, do you want to go see a movie?” is “yes”.



Executive Director: Gabor Pertic
 attended the University of Toronto as a Specialist in Cinema Studies, graduating with an Honours B.A. After working as a film critic in Toronto, he transitioned into the world of film festival programming. For several years, he worked in the programming department of the Toronto International Film Festival, four of those years working as Programming Associate to TIFF Director & CEO Piers Handling. In addition to TIFF, Gabor has been continuously working and programming for North America’s largest documentary-exclusive film festival Hot Docs. Over the last decade, Gabor has had the privilege of curating a diverse, international selection of films for Toronto audiences.


Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

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.

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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.