Giving small communities a window to the world through film

Posted by Drake, May 29, 2015
SWIFF team

Ravi Srinivasan is a Toronto-based Programming Associate for TIFF. Seeking to inspire youth to get involved in filmmaking, he plans to do this by bringing the film industry home to Sarnia. By focusing on artist engagement, youth participation, community enrichment and evolving diversity, Ravi has hopes that SWIFF will create a unique and exciting cinematic experience for the community of Sarnia-Lambton while opening its doors to other visitors.

The South Western International Film Festival (SWIFF) is an international event held every first weekend in November that will establish Sarnia-Lambton as a cultural hub for Southwestern Ontario. SWIFF will also offer professional training by some of the country’s most talented artists. Workshops in producing, screenwriting, documentary filmmaking and acting will host workshop leaders that include writer/director Charles Officer (Nurse.Fighter.Boy, Rookie Blue ), actor Greg Calderone (This Movie is Broken, Being Erica), writer/director Jordan Canning (We Were Wolves) and producer Will Woods (In Return).

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your history in the film industry

My name is Ravi Srinivasan, I'm a Programming Associate for The Toronto International Film Festival. I work for senior programmer Steve Gravestock, helping bring films from the Philippines, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Iceland and Canada to the festival. Part of my role as Programming Associate is to watch at least 25 feature length films a week and critique them. It's not as fun as it sounds! But it's a great feeling when you find that "diamond in the rough". I started out in the film industry by working for the Feature Film Production Company New Real Films. I specifically chose a small company like New Real to do my internship because I knew I would be given the opportunity to work independently and I would learn different aspects of the business faster. From there, I took on a role with the national touring film festival, REEL CANADA and from there I took on the role with TIFF and I've been there the last three years.

Why did you want to bring a film festival to Sarnia? Did you have any concerns about the reception towards SWIFF?

I'm bringing The South Western International Film Festival to Sarnia because I think there is a growing thirst for art and culture in this region. They have a brand new gorgeous art gallery, an incredible, classic theatre and it's perfectly situated between Detroit, Michigan and Toronto. I also want to give opportunities to young people of the community who have a desire to get into film, an opportunity that wasn't there for me when I was young.

The reception has been incredible. Word of mouth has spread fast. I learned a lot from my mentors at TIFF and REEL CANADA, if you're going to release a product or a brand, you have to build the buzz really far in advance. You have to be prepared and anticipate what's going to come next.

What makes SWIFF unique from any other film festivals?

SWIFF is unique because not only are we bringing entertaining and thought provoking films, we're also going to educate and train our community to not just be consumers of culture but also creators of culture. We're doing this by offering film making, producing and performance based workshops by current, working Canadian artists today. Artists like Charles Officer, Jordan Canning, William Woods and Greg Calderone.

What does the success of SWIFF mean to you?

The success of SWIFF will mean that hard work pays off and that we're doing something to positively change the makeup and mindset of an entire city.

What do you hope the community can take away or learn from SWIFF?

I hope the films that we program will give a smaller community like Sarnia a window to the world. I hope that it will allow people to appreciate the kind of stories that I appreciate and also open their minds to different perspectives on film, sexuality, gender and racial acceptance.

Where do you see SWIFF in the next couple of years?

I see SWIFF as being a cultural draw to Sarnia. People will actually travel to Sarnia to see these films and filmmakers for the first time in the region. I eventually see SWIFF creating a film industry in Sarnia where filmmakers will come to the region and use the vast and diverse landscape as a backdrop for their stories.

Posted in: Art