Inside Out is celebrating 28 years presenting the best in LGBTQ cinema by challenging narratives and changing lives through its promotion. The film festival is a home for LGBTQ filmmakers and a haven for its audiences. Inside Out Toronto runs May 24-June 3 with its festival hub centrally located in the heart of the Entertainment District. Catch festival fever at the TIFF Bell Lightbox or hang at the Bell Media Festival Lounge located inside Artscape Sandbox. With opening night around the corner, we spoke with Executive Director, Andria Wilson to get the deets on this year’s festival and to hear what it takes for her and the Inside Out team to put it together.
In speaking with Andria, it is clear she is designed to champion LGBTQ stories with articulate, passion-filled responses to every burning question from what to expect during this year’s festival to the intricacies of forming Inside Out’s strategic vision. She is made for this job. With early involvement in performing arts and events, Andria realized her strongest talent was collaborating with artists to make things happen. She went on to be the co-founder of OUTeast, Atlantic Canada’s Queer Film Festival and later served as the Festival Producer of the TD Halifax Jazz Festival, establishing her ongoing trajectory to create new opportunities for art.
Andria first recalls opening the festival in spring 2017, standing on stage speaking to the audience about her dedication to supporting filmmakers at all levels of development before pausing to look at the crowd and the director of programming, Andrew Murphy, and it all felt real. Those faces staring back at her are the ones who have supported her, Inside Out and Toronto for so many years.
During our conversation, the only pause she took was to deeply consider what films to recommend. “There is a wonderful American film that premiered at Sundance called Skate Kitchen” says Andria. “It is a feature film inspired by an Instagram account, but it is so much more than this.” The film tells the story of young skate-women and the community and power they create. Andria admits the film “may go under the radar, but it is a can’t-miss.” She proudly explains how the film is nominated the new Inside Out RE:Focus Fund a, $25,000 reward for innovation where films are nominated “specifically for an innovative approach and authentic representation on both sides of the camera.”
The new fund is made possible through Inside Out’s new partnership with Telefilm’s Talent to Watch program by recognizing authentic representation. Andria believes Inside Out can “be apart of this change in seeing all identities reflected, in a way that gives us hope” it’s “not just about trauma but about joy… it’s about telling all stories.”
“I take so much from creating opportunities for filmmakers and seeing this impact.” – Andria Wilson
Andria is passionate. She makes this clear through her emphasis on finding points of connection between industry and community to make others aware of the ways LGBTQ makers contribute to producing the media everybody consumes. “I am very excited about the film playing at the Women’s Gala, Half the Picture.” The film is highlighting the role of women filmmakers and their industry reputation.
This brings into question the film selection process in the first place. For a festival so dependent on representation how does Andria ensure Inside Out is showing the right stories? For Inside Out this is a large never-ending responsibility. Andria explains for a film to make the cut the process boils down to a committee of programmers and pre-screening committees who review all film submissions. With more than 1000 film entries in a given year, the team is tasked with making the tough decision of selecting roughly 130 films each year to reflect Inside Out’s vision in progressing LGBTQ art generation.
Representation does not end at film selection and continues through to all Inside Out initiatives by believing everyone deserves to see themselves reflected in storytelling. Sharing diverse identities with audiences means a greater chance of finding new, inspired voices and stories where filmmakers are telling their lived experiences. By championing this, Andria has a large responsibility to lobby and advocate for all levels of government. She is inserting Inside Out into all relevant conversations affecting the policy impacting its audiences and filmmakers. She is an advocate, support system, collaborator and boss championing the art she loves.
The Inside Out strategic approach “speaks to the work we do in Toronto and internationally, as we travel to other festivals and collaborate on new opportunities for future work” Andria explains Inside Out is growing to “be the home for LGBTQ filmmakers internationally.” The Inside Out perspective is informed by stakeholder interviews comprised of audiences, filmmakers and those involved with the festival over the last 28 years. By hearing this feedback, Andria got a clear sense of how Inside Out is perceived. Through working in tandem with the lived experiences of Inside Outboard members and staff, the three-year strategic plan is shaping the progressive influence Inside Out holds in the city, province, country and world.
By sharing diverse identities with audiences, Inside Out is improving the chances of finding new, inspired voices and stories for telling authentic, lived experiences. For Andria, her job is about “seeing the growth and opportunities for filmmakers.” She believes “it is the reason why folks choose to work in this corner of the industry” where people “can come from having a powerful experience in this cinema, in understanding their identity and coming out happy to work in a space providing this for others.” Andria has been able to see filmmakers at Inside Out events transition to bigger international stages. These instances are rewarding, a full realization on the impact Inside Out has in elevating the discourse of LGBTQ narratives.