Bringing the Inside Out
All photos by Skylan Hill
Since 2007, The Ottawa LGBT Film Festival has been the talk of the town. Now in its eighth year in Ottawa, the festival is among the top five LGBT film fests in Canada. Its aim is to showcase the best and most diverse films by, for and of interest to LGBT communities.
The festival is the brainchild of Inside Out, a non-profit registered charity that works to challenge attitudes and change lives through film created by LGBT folks of all ages, races and abilities. We had the opportunity to speak with the former Executive Director of Inside Out, Scott Ferguson. Our interview was conducted a few days before Ferguson stepped down from his role with Inside Out.
The LGBT Film Fest will be coming to Ottawa from October 22 to the 25. Ottawa Life examines the work that Inside Out does, the power of cinema, and the successes and challenges the non-profit has faced.
OLM: What is Inside Out?
Ferguson: Inside Out is a registered Canadian Charity that exists to challenge attitudes and change lives through the transformative power of film.
In 2015 we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the organization and its primary initiative, the Toronto LGBT Film Festival. The Toronto Festival attracts more than 35,000 audience members to 11 days of film screenings and events. In 2007, Inside Out expanded its scope of operations and began presenting the Ottawa LGBT Film Festival.
OLM: How does Inside Out benefit the community?
Ferguson: Inside Out creates a safe, welcoming space for the LGBT community to come together and experience film that reflects their lives, histories and experiences. [Inside Out] provide access to films from around the world that receive limited exposure outside of festivals and create opportunities for audiences, filmmakers and film professionals to engage in discussion and debate. Inside Out is a place to be entertained, to be educated, to be challenged and to be inspired. [Inside Out] engages the diversity of our communities to ensure that more marginalized segments have a voice and are represented in our programming. Inside Out also benefits the general population, especially those interested in film, raising awareness and fostering acceptance of LGBT issues.
OLM: What are some Festival events happening in Ottawa?
Ferguson: It will feature 17 film programs highlighting the best films of the past year from Canada and around the world.
The program includes feature narratives and documentaries as well as two programs of short films. 14 screenings will be presented at the Bytowne Cinema and an additional three programs will screen at SAW Gallery. As well, the Festival will feature two parties, our Opening Night Reception at the Bourbon Room from 6pm to 8pm, prior to the screening of The Girl King and we are partnering with Queer Mafia for the third year to present Oh My Jam, at Club Babylon on Saturday night from 10pm to 2am.
OLM: What is Inside Out hoping to achieve?
Ferguson: [The festival] is really hoping to engage the community and give them a venue to experience queer film, together. Cinema has the power to move people and elicit a wide range of emotions and we feel that sharing that experience is what makes seeing film at a Festival so unique. We also want to raise awareness of queer film and the filmmakers who are putting their creative vision up on the big screen for everyone to see. Making art can be a very isolating experience so once it is finished, it is important for the work to be seen by as many people as possible and for the filmmakers to experience an audience reaction and engage in discussion about the film and its themes.
OLM: What are some films that are being shown this fest that you are looking forward to most?
Ferguson: All of them! There is something for everyone at this year’s Festival, including informative documentaries, relationship dramas, amazing foreign language films that give insight into queer life around the globe and more avant-garde provocative work.
OLM: What have been Inside Out’s most notable successes?
Ferguson: [Inside Out] has continued to grow and expand our operations and activities in response to demand from new and existing audiences. [The organization] is constantly looking to improve how we present LGBT film to our audiences. During my time as Executive Director, the organization has grown from only having one fulltime employee to have a year-round staff of seven, our operating budget has increased from $300,000 to almost $1.5 million and [Inside Out] has raised its visibility year-round providing audiences with access to queer film as well as supporting artists to create new work.
OLM: What have been some challenges faced?
Ferguson: [The] biggest challenge is ensuring we have the human and financial resources to do the things we want to do. We have no shortage of ideas and are committed to providing greater opportunities for our communities to see great queer film. As a non-profit arts organization, it is always a struggle to generate the revenue needed to put on our Festivals. This is especially true in Ottawa where we are fortunate to have the support of our audience, LGBT community partners and key sponsors like our Presenting Sponsor, RBC Royal Bank and our Silver Sponsor the Public Service Alliance of Canada but in order to continuing to grow in the Capital Region, we need additional support from corporations, government funders and individuals.
OLM: How can folks become involved with the festival?
Ferguson: Everything you need to know is at insideout.ca. You can sign up to be a volunteer during the Festival, learn about the entire Festival program, buy tickets for film screenings and support the organization by making a tax-deductible donation.