Mentors Pave the Way at CFC

The Canadian Film Centre's mentoring program is explained through John Walker's successful documentary "A Drummer's Dream."

TORONTO — Sharpening pitches for industry execs that can propel careers forward is a big part of Canadian Film Centre content incubators. Oscar-nominated filmmaker Larry Weinstein, senior creative counselor for the CFC/National Film Board of Canada’s feature documentary lab, says the
center’s think tank atmosphere is the key to it all.

“If you can hone your idea with 20 different mentors, there’s something so great about that. It gives filmmakers confidence,” Weinstein said.

Montreal filmmaker Yung Chan, who participated in the inaugural CFC/NFC documentary lab, saw his pitch for The Fruit Hunters, a 90-minute film about the world trade in exotic fruit, earn the top $40,000 pitch prize at the Toronto Documentary Forum.

That was before Chan shot his documentary in HD and 3D and had director Wim Wenders as a creative consultant.

Fellow filmmaker John Walker used the CFC/NFB doc lab to develop A Drummer’s Dream, a film about seven of the world’s master drummers making and teaching music together on a Canadian nature reserve.

Walker, an accomplished doc director/cinematographer, had a specific goal in mind: to develop a documentary that would appeal to a theatrical audience beyond drumming enthusiasts.

So the CFC brought in mentor Fernando Trueba, the Spanish filmmaker whose 2000 film Calle 54 about Latin jazz went beyond musician personalities to showcase the music.

“There’s a strong Latin component to this film (Calle 54). It was a theatrical music documentary. So I said I’d love to meet Fernando,” Walker recalls.

Trueba was recruited to mentor Walker for Drummer’s Dream, and he also received input from Wenders, whose Buena Vista Social Club in 1999 about Cuban music proved widely accessible.

Walker said Trueba proved as humble as he was generous with his ideas.

“I’m a more experienced doc maker than him (Trueba), he’s only done a couple,” he notes. “But the ability to sit down with your peers and interact in a very
creative and intense environment, across the table, connecting, eating lunch together and talking creatively about film — that’s something increasingly difficult to do elsewhere.”

Eventually, Drummer’s Dream was voted the second-most popular documentary by audiences at the 2010 Hot Docs Festival. Now Walker and Trueba, also known for his 1992 best foreign language Oscar-winner Belle Epoque, are planning to make more films together.

“Fernando and I are great friends,” Walker said. “We spent time together after the CFC lab. We met at Cannes, and it’s an ongoing relationship.”