Strike casts shadow over Whistler


TORONTO -- Despite forecasts for sun-drenched skiing this weekend, the Whistler Film Festival will kick off Thursday with a dark cloud hanging over the prestigious resort courtesy of the U.S. writers strike.

"There's nervous apprehension as this will affect the industry," festival program director Bill Evans said Wednesday.

In addition to the usual complement of Los Angeles executives bound for the mountain retreat, Whistler also has attracted idle executives and actors attached to U.S. series that shot in Vancouver and rural British Columbia and are now in hiatus during the U.S. writers strike for lack of scripts to lens.

"There are some folks coming up who are working on 'Men in Trees' and 'Battlestar Galactica' and are taking the time off to hang out for a few days and meet with their peers and get a sense of where (the writers strike) might be heading," Evans said.

The writers-studio standoff also is likely to loom large during the industry forum, where representatives from U.S. broadcasters and distributors as well as acquisitions executives will discuss their trade and possibly lineup potential co-venture partners for their projects.

A documentary panel on Thursday will include presentations by Michael Baker, vp acquisitions and development at ThinkFilm; DOC TV president Robert Duncan; and Udy Epstein, president of Seventh Art Releasing.

Evans added that Whistler this year has invited a Chinese delegation so that U.S. and Canadian producers can possibly partner up with the Chinese on projects.

The China delegation includes Guo Shu, general manager of international affairs at leading Chinese talent agency PKU Starlight Group; Deng Meng, director of integrated management at Warner China Film HG; and Hou Li, general manager of marketing management at Cheerland Films.

Also bound for Whistler is Tiger Hu, a business consultant for Hengdian Studios, which is looking to North American producers willing to shoot projects at the giant Chinese studio facility.

The Whistler festival will kick off Thursday night with a screening of Deny Arcand's "Days of Darkness," which comes by way of Cannes and Toronto.

In all, 92 films will unspool in Whistler, including four world premieres, two Canadian premieres and 20 British Columbia premieres.

The seventh edition of the Whistler Film Festival starts Thursday and will culminate with an awards reception Sunday.