Industry › Talent Development › Filmmaker Lab
TIFF Filmmaker Lab is a talent development programme that takes place during the Toronto International Film Festival in September.
Each year, 20 Canadian and international directors receive an exceptional professional development experience, and an introduction to the global community of filmmaking. Over a five-day period, participants have the opportunity to interact with and learn from internationally acclaimed filmmakers and guests.
Fellowships generously sponsored by Share Her Journey and For the Love of Film donors ensure that programme participants are given additional financial support to help them fulfill their creative vision.
Zhannat Alshanova (1987) was born and raised in Kazakhstan. In autumn 2021, she received the UK Exceptional Talent Visa and moved to London. Her work has been shown at numerous international film festivals (Cannes, Sundance, TIFF, Locarno), screened at prestigious institutions such as Barbican Centre (UK), Tate Modern (UK), The Asian Film Archive (Singapore), and featured on various platforms such as Vimeo Staff Pick, Short of the Week, NOWNESS Asia, Kinoscope, and Argos. She is currently developing several feature projects. A Winner is Seen at the Start (France/Kazakhstan) is supported by Hubert Bals Script and Development Fund, Region Sud co-production development fund, BoostNL, EWA award, and Pop-up Film Residency. Mother Tongue (France/Kazakhstan) is supported by the ARTE development award. Present Perfect will be Zhannat’s first English-language film. Alshanova holds an MA degree in Filmmaking from the London Film School, and she is also a Berlinale Talents alumni. She is a member of Directors UK and European Women’s Audiovisual Network.
A graduate of UQÀM, Nadine Gomez completed a Master’s degree in communications where she started to work on urban issues. The Horse Palace (2012), her first documentary, observes the transformations of a city and the memory it carries. In 2015, she was awarded the first Regards sur Montréal grant with which she directed Métro, a short essay that takes a fresh look at the city’s underground network and its unique and imposing architecture. Her feature film, Exarcheia, The Chanting of Birds (2018), a nocturnal and philosophical stroll in a mythical neighborhood of Athens, Greece, was launched in National Competition at the RIDM and presented at the Thessaloniki’s International Documentary Film Festival. Nadine creates and develops several projects, including the podcast J'aime Hydro le balado 2019, and is sitting, since 2018, on the Board of the Conseil des arts de Montréal as President of the Cinema Committee.
Sis Gurdal is an award-winning writer, director, and producer from Turkey. Gurdal studied International Politics and Film Studies at King’s College London. Following her graduation, she worked on numerous short films and produced campaigns for brands including Prada, Zara, and Vogue USA. Gurdal is an alumna of Cine Qua Non Lab, Doha Film Institute’s Hezayah Screenwriting Lab, and TIFF Filmmaker Lab. Her short film, Postcards from The Orient, screened at the BAFTA qualifying Aesthetica Film Festival and won multiple awards. She is currently developing her first feature film, A Quiet Summer.
Jayden Rathsam Hua is an Asian Australian filmmaker and AFTRS Master’s graduate known for producing and directing The Key of B (Best Documentary at Lightworks Film Festival and Spotlight Filmmakers Gold Award at Atlanta International Documentary Film Festival); producing The Caretakers (commissioned by SCCI and AFTRS); and writing and directing the short films Come to Northwood (Judge’s Choice at Lightworks FF), Survey (Best Script at 24/7 Youth FF), and SUSHI NOH (Official Selection: Encounters FF, Brooklyn Horror FF, NY Horror FF, Maniatic FF, Lund Fantastic FF, Atlanta International Film Festival, Seattle International Film Festival, Tel Aviv International Student Film Festival, Sydney Film Festival, Melbourne International Film Festival, Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival, Palm Springs International Shortsfest, HorrorHound Festival Ohio, and HollyShorts Festival). His work emphasizes the modernization of myth and folklore in the horror genre, focusing on East Asian creative conventions. Currently, he is developing his debut feature film, MATRIARCH, with funding from Screen NSW.
Zarrar Kahn is an award-winning Canadian-Pakistani writer, director, and producer. He is an alumnus of the Locarno Filmmakers Academy, Open Doors Locarno, Asian Film Academy, and Director’s Lab program at the Canadian Film Centre. His works have been screened and awarded in more than 70+ film festivals worldwide, including TIFF, Locarno, and BFI London. Kahn is currently in post-production on his debut feature film, In Flames. The project won the Motion Picture Association Asia-Pacific First Prize award at Asian Film Academy 2019, and was selected for Berlinale Talent Project Market 2020 and Frontières Buyers Showcase program at Cannes 2022. The feature film is also a recipient of Locarno Open Doors Screenwriting Fellowship and is being supported by Telefilm’s 2020 Talent to Watch program and the Canada Arts Council.
Aaron Lucas is an Australian writer-director based between Sydney and Berlin. He makes films that fuse the surreal with the everyday to tell stories with heart in unconventional ways. He first trained as an actor at the University of Wollongong, Australia. Surrounded by ambitious budding actors, Lucas began directing theatre with his peers. After university, Aaron sidestepped into making films with his actor friends, directing short films The Clique (2018), Free Therapy (2019 Munich Film Awards Best Short Film), Mary (2022) and music videos for “Flight to Dubai’s Graduation” (2017), “Born Mild’s Poison” (2021), and “Fool For Lovin” (2021). His independent pilot for Privileged won best comedy at SeriesFest in 2021 and Stareable LA 2022. More recently, his mid-length animated documentary I’ll Be Frank that explores his Jewish German heritage is set to have its world premiere at Flickers’ Rhode Island International Film Festival 2022.
Beginning in film and television in Wellington during the 90s, Miki Magasiva directed award-winning commercials in 2003, launching him into a prominent commercial directing career. His visually striking, coming-of-age short film Rites of Courage, about a Samoan boy going through the traditional tattoo ceremony, represented Australia at Afest’s Film Section. His short film Uso (2006), a comedy on friendship, won the Digital Dream Award at HIFF and was nominated for Best Script at the NZ Television Film Awards. Sina & Tuna, his chilling horror short film that retells the Pacific legend of the coconut, screened at imagineNATIVE and HIFF. Magasiva was lead director for The Panthers, the first-ever New Zealand drama series to screen at the Toronto International Film Festival. It was also screened at HIFF. Alongside other Indigenous directors, Magasiva contributed his short to We Are Still Here, the powerful feature film anthology. We Are Still Here opened SIFF and will screen at this TIFF.
Isabelle Mecattaf is a French Lebanese filmmaker based in New York City. She studied English Literature and Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania, after which she worked on independent and studio productions.
Currently finishing her MFA in Filmmaking at NYU Tisch, Isabelle has worked on projects in Beirut, New York, Paris, and Los Angeles. Titles include Sweet Thing by Alexandre Rockwell (Crystal Bear at Berlinale 2020, Critics’ Choice at Tribeca Film Festival 2021), Plaisir by Molly Gillis (SXSW 2021 premiere, Aspen Shortsfest 2021 Youth Jury Award), and more.
Her most recent short film Beity (2021) was officially selected to TIFF, Aspen, and Hollyshorts (where it won an award), among others. It was purchased by The New Yorker and is streaming on their online platform.
Araya Mengesha is an Ethiopian Eritrean, Toronto-born-and-raised actor-filmmaker. His work is motivated by the intersectional narratives of first-generation diaspora across the globe. Selected acting for TV and film: Nobody (Universal Pictures), Anne with an E (CBC/Netflix), Tiny Pretty Things (Netflix), Shoot the Messenger (CBC/WGN), Mystery Hunters (YTV/Discovery Kids), Run This Town (SXSW), Jean of the Joneses (TIFF), and Nurse.Fighter.Boy (TIFF). Mengesha co-directed, wrote, produced, and starred in the short film DEFUND (World Premiere TIFF/Vimeo Staff Pick) and directed, wrote, produced and starred in A Day for Love (Greetings From Isolation short film collection). In development: debut feature film The Section, based on his short work TEF (CFC).
After graduating high school, German Argentinean Sophia Mocorrea trained as a media designer for image and sound and subsequently worked as an assistant director for renowned film and television productions. During her directing studies at the Film University Babelsberg Konrad Wolf, she received national and international scholarships for her intercultural research. Her short film Matadoras was screened at the Uppsala Shortfilm Festival, Vienna Shorts, Premier Plans d’Angers, and the New Directors Film Festival, among others, and received several awards. She is currently developing her first feature film Marriage by Abduction, a concept with which she won the Talent Village Award in Les Arcs Industry Village 2021. Her new short film El Secuestro de la Novia is currently in post-production.
Carol Nguyen is a Vietnamese Canadian filmmaker, born and raised in Toronto, now based in Montreal. Her films often explore the subjects of cultural identity, silence, and memory. Her last film, No Crying at the Dinner Table, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and had its international premiere at IDFA 2019, where she was additionally invited as the Opening Night speaker. In 2020, No Crying also received the Jury Prize for Short Documentary at SXSW. Nguyen is a 2018 Sundance Ignite fellow and a TIFF Share Her Journey ambassador. Recently, her project The Visitors was selected for the IDFA Project Space 2022, a development, and her newest short Nanitic is set to premiere at TIFF 2022. Today, Nguyen is writing and directing several projects, including two feature films as well as an animated short.
Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Olive Nwosu is a 2020 BAFTA-Pigott Scholar, Alex Sichel Fellow at Columbia University School of the Arts, an African Promises director selected by the Institut Français, and a 2022 Sundance Screenwriting Fellow.
Nwosu has written and directed two award-winning short films: Troublemaker, awarded a 2020 NBR Student Award and now streaming on the Criterion Channel, and Egúngún (Masquerade), which screened at TIFF 2021 and Sundance 2022, and was nominated for Best British Short Film at the British Independent Film Awards.
Nwosu is currently developing two feature film projects with Film4 and the BBC. Her work is informed by the intersectional nature of her life across multiple continents and identities. Her mission is to tell urgent, cinematic, African-centred stories.
Naishe Nyamubaya is a Zimbabwean Egyptian filmmaker, driven on bringing African stories to the global audience. His 2019 short film, Mum, I Need Oil For My Car was selected for numerous festivals, being a semi-finalist at the Pan African Film and Arts Festival and a finalist at the ASA International Humanitarian Festival. His second film, Taming Kara (2019), was selected at the Chicago International Film Festival, and his last short film, Four Walls and a Roof (2021), won best diaspora film at the European Film Festival in Zimbabwe. He completed his Master’s degree in Motion Picture in 2021 and currently works as a screenwriter for ETV in South Africa.
Chimbo Chebere (The Hyena’s Song), his first feature film project, won the jury prize for development at the Red Sea International Film Festival in 2021, and was selected for Cinefondation’s L’atelier at the Cannes Film Festival 2022.
Melanie Oates is a writer, director, and producer from Fermeuse, Newfoundland. She’s a winner of the Percy Janes First Novel Award, and has written, directed, and produced five short films and a digital comedy series. She was also the costume designer for the feature films Cast No Shadow and Closet Monster.
Selected for prestigious programs across Canada, Oates participated in Women in the Director’s Chair Story & Leadership Program and the Canadian Academy’s Directors Program, where she trained in television directing.
Her first feature film Body & Bones (produced by Chris Hatcher and Chara Pictures) was selected to be part of Borsos Competition at the 2019 Whistler Film Festival, and was released in fall 2020. Her second feature film, Sweet Angel Baby, will be produced in fall 2023.
Mahsa Razavi is a Toronto-based filmmaker from Iran. She studied Social Sciences and Communications at the University of Tehran before moving to Canada, where she earned her MFA in Film Production from York University. Razavi has written and directed several short films that have been showcased in numerous countries across the world. Mahsa’s short films A Celebration (2019), Roj Means Sun (2016), and Ahu (2021) have been shown on CBC and at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Canadian National Screen Institute, Iranian Short Film Association Awards, Reelworld Festival, Flickers’ Rhode Island Festival, Tehran International Short Film, and used in school curricula in Canada and the US. She is currently working on her first feature film script, The River Will Carry Us, set in Toronto and funded by Canada Art Council. Razavi’s works often focus on female experience, issues of individual-community, migration narratives, loss, and belonging.
Caleb Ryan is a Black Canadian filmmaker and university film school graduate from Calgary, Alberta. He wrote, directed, and produced his entirely self-funded debut feature film Vagrant, which went on to win various national and international film festival awards including Best Emerging Filmmaker at the Portland Film Festival, Standout Feature Film Producer at the Reelworld Film Festival, and the President’s Award for Best Actor at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, among others. In addition, it garnered nominations and recognition from the Directors Guild of Canada and the Canadian Media Producers Association. Vagrant was picked up by Mongrel Media and is currently streaming on Crave, having just had its release during Black History Month of this year. He is bringing his next project titled Dem Woods to the 2022 TIFF Filmmaker Lab.
Gavin Seal’s award-winning film work has been licensed by CBC and screened at festivals such as Fantasia, Reelworld, Just for Laughs, and the Montreal International Black Film Festival. His work as a segment director for the Emmy and Canadian Screen Awards nominated TV series Interrupt this Program has taken him around the world to help give a voice to people who have been silenced.
Gavin recently won the Writers Guild of Canada Award at SODEC’s Sprint to Write Your Script Competition, and he is currently developing his first feature film.
J Stevens (they/them) is a Calgary born filmmaker. With over a decade of experience behind the camera, Stevens’ mission is to continue bringing dynamic, personal and visually captivating 2SLGBTQ+ content to the forefront. Their work has been featured at festivals such as TIFF, InsideOut, and Hollyshorts.
Stevens is the co-creator, director, and cinematographer of the high-energy mockumentary series Slo Pitch (IFC/AMC+). They recently directed for the CSA & Peabody award-winning show Sort Of (CBC/HBOMax), and two episodes of Astrid & Lilly Save the World (Crave, CTV Sci-Fi and Syfy).
Nesaru Tchaas is a writer-director who believes that cinema empowers him to multiply the act of witnessing. A multiracial Black filmmaker based in Los Angeles and New York, Tchaas is a 2021 Princess Grace Awardee in Film, and a 2021 Sundance Institute Uprise Grantee for filmmakers of colour. His short, Some Still Search, which features performances by first-time actors who are themselves targets of America’s immigration policies, premiered at TIFF (2021). It has won awards for directing, drama, independent film, and best film. His next project is White Rabbits, a narrative feature about white supremacy; in this sense, it is a film about Black life.
D.W. Waterson is an award-winning, non-binary/queer filmmaker and world-touring electronic music artist. Waterson is the creative force behind the 6 million-viewed, 40+time award-winning digital series That’s My DJ (3 seasons) — a series based on Waterson’s life as a music artist and DJ in the Toronto underground electronic scene. Waterson’s work has garnered a Canadian Screen-award nomination, won five Best Director awards as well as Noteable’s 2017 Director of the Year award. Waterson also directed the Crave Original, The D Cut, CBC Gem’s Devout + Out and multiple music videos for prominent artists. On their original tracks, Waterson has collaborated alongside and featured artists like Tanya Tagaq, Casey MQ, and Exmiranda.
Named a Resident at the 2022 TIFF Filmmaker Lab, Waterson is leading up to shoot their feature debut Backspot. Alongside directing, Waterson is also creating an original electronic soundtrack to accompany the film.