Andria Wilson was happy to learn she’d been appointed executive director of Inside Out, the largest LGBT film festival in Canada. Her girlfriend, however, was ecstatic.
“She can’t wait to get me out of the house,” Wilson says as she laughs from the Toronto home they share. “I’m kind of a workaholic so she’s happy I’m finally returning to the world of employment.”
Longtime Halifax residents, Wilson and her partner (DJ and event manager Jules Hobin), decided to pack it in and head west this summer without a clear plan.
Further opportunities for professional growth were growing thin and they had hoped that living in the Big Smoke would help them get more experiences to add to their resumés.
Initially, Wilson thought she’d freelance for a while, but when she was called about an opening at Inside Out, she jumped at the chance to apply.
Wilson says working in queer organizations is a unique experience. “What I love most is that it’s not my voice that’s being presented. It’s the voices of the artists,” she says.
“Having the opportunity to share the experiences of such a diverse group does so much internally for the people at the organization and externally for the community.”
The festival has been a critical space for queer filmmakers from Toronto and across Canada to showcase their work; however, one sector of the community hasn’t been so pleased with what’s on offer recently.
Earlier in the summer, the Toronto Queer Film Festival launched as an antidote to what some saw as the over-commercialization of Inside Out and other mainstream LGBT organizations.
It’s a conversation Wilson is sensitive to. Five years ago, she founded Halifax’s Out East Queer Film Festival. Spawned as a grassroots initiative by a politically active queer community, the event aims to share works not otherwise being screened in the city.
“There’s absolutely a place for these conversations and there’s also a place in a city like Toronto for a wide variety of organizations to present the work they feel best serves their communities,” she says. “I will say that I feel the programming at Inside Out is exceptional and there’s a lot of vision in terms of what’s been happening here.”
She’s not ready to unveil a concrete plan for what she wants to do with the festival yet, but Wilson is keen to re-envision a stronger industry component that aims to create greater opportunities for Canadian filmmakers to have their work seen, while at the same time bringing producers into the mix earlier to help projects get financed and made.
“It really excites me to think about becoming a leader in this area and actively making new work happen,” she says. “It can be hard for queer filmmakers, especially more marginalized folks, to break through in larger markets. Thinking about a specialized queer environment where we can bring industry in, is definitely a longer term thing I’d be interested in looking at once I dive into the festival.”
Wilson’s first day on the job is Oct 31, 2016; she’ll spend the next few weeks will be dedicated mainly to basic tasks — meeting with staff, going over the plans for the next year and sussing out the area’s best coffee shops.
Amid all that, she’s also excited to connect with locals to learn more about what artists and audiences need from the festival.
“I’m really interested in becoming more immersed in Toronto,” she says. “I need some time to learn, to become to part of this community and hear all of these voices. This is definitely a time for me to listen and I can’t wait to get started.”