DocFest Stratford reaches out to its community

Film and TV producer Craig Thompson started DocFest Stratford in 2008 as a way to bring documentaries to his community, Stratford, Ontario - a town devoid of art house theaters and with few opportunities to see non-fiction films. It was also a way to give back to that community by giving young people access to the tools to make their first films.
October 22, 2009

In its second year, DocFest Stratford aims to bring a further appreciation of documentary film to a community that typically has phenomenal access to theater and other arts, and is indeed world renowned for its yearly theater festival. ‘Our area of Southern Ontario is underserved by documentaries, and yet the region has an appetite for it,’ says film and TV producer Craig Thompson, creator of the festival. ‘There’s a real cultural awareness and interest in the world around us in Stratford and it makes sense.’

But Thompson, a documentary film and non-fiction program-maker who has also worked with the Banff World Television Festival and headed up the World Congress of History Producers, started the DocFest not only to give people access to more docs, but also to give the youth in the region more access to the tools to make them.

Thompson says the money made during the festival will be used to build a media lab for high school kids from across Southern Ontario, allowing them to get involved in the processes of making digital media, film and television. ‘A lot of the schools in our area are what we would call ‘have-not schools,” he says. ‘They don’t have the money to buy edit suites and cameras. That’s the real reason we’re doing the festival.’

During the festival there will be a workshop section, or what Thompson is calling a ‘bootcamp,’ titled ‘No Boundaries’ that will give approximately 200 students access to 24 Final Cut Pro editing stations and 24 cameras in order to make a short film from start to finish in one day.

The festival takes place in one venue (the Avon Theatre) so there is only room for a small number of films over its four-day run, from October 22nd to the 25th. This year’s edition is opening with a film that connects back to the aforementioned Stratford Festival through its subject. William Shatner’s Gonzo Ballet, winner of the best documentary award at the Marbella International Film Festival, will kick off the proceedings with an appearance from the actor, who began his career as a Shakespearean actor at the theater festival. Other films in the program include Cat Ladies, Experimental Eskimos, The Cove, Hair India and more Shatner with How William Shatner Changed the World.

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.