a film projector
Teaching & Learning Alumni Community

A Willy-Wonka-golden-ticket hands-on learning opportunity for film students

28 March 2024
  1. U of R Home
  2. Stories
  3. 2024 Stories
  4. March
  5. A Willy-Wonka-golden-ticket hands-on learning opportunity for film students

Sandwiched somewhere between the 40th Sundance Film Festival this past January, the upcoming 77th Cannes Film Festival in May, and the 49th Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in September, is the University of Regina’s very own 35th Living Skies Student Film Festival from April 4-6. 

For nine film-production majors at the U of R, organizing the 2024 edition of The Living Skies International Student Film Festival was a Willy-Wonka-golden-ticket opportunity to do something that many students never get the chance to do. 

According to fourth-year film student Graydon Eskowich, this hands-on learning experience is an educational dream that takes him one-step closer to his professional aspirations. 

“I didn’t prepare myself for how huge the Living Skies Festival really is. From connecting with special guests to professional organizations like the National Film Board of Canada, it brings into focus the scope of what we get to be doing. It’s very cool, I really love doing this,” says Eskowich. 

I can’t wait to see the audience reaction. The 40 films are absolutely amazing. To think film students roughly our age achieved this calibre of work blows me away.  Jana Rutten, U of R fourth-year Film Production major and festival coordinator

Grit to Glory    

While running a film festival is incredibly rewarding, it also involves a little elbow grease, and a lot of downright challenging hard work. Learning new skills by doing – or experiential learning – is key to every U of R student experience. Together, the students work as festival coordinators planning, budgeting, and calling for student submissions from around the world. Michael Rollo, Associate Professor and Head of the U of R Film Department, is there to provide guidance, if and when needed, but the goal is to see students – as a production team – run every aspect of the festival on their own.   

a group of people watching a film
Film festival fanatics in their element at U of R’s Living Skies Student Film Festival. Photo Credit: The Living Skies Student Film Festival

Jana Rutten, a fourth-year film student and festival coordinator says organizing the festival taught her how to build relationships with sponsors, which is something she has never done before. While film school can often focus on the camera and directing being involved in the Living Skies Film Festival is giving her a unique set of new skills, including production management and coordinating large-scale events – which she knows she’ll make use of as part of her career. And, although putting together an international film festival is a lot of work, Rutten says she can always rely on previous student-festival coordinators-turned-grads from the past 34 iterations of the festival to advise and commiserate. 

Getting from 1K to 40 screenings 

Imagine having to pick just 40 films to screen at the festival from more than 1,000 submissions from over 100 countries. A massive challenge – and another hands-on learning experience – for the students. To assess the films fairly, they decided to create a blind screening system where they removed all attached information from the submissions to watch the films without bias. In the end, the works selected to be featured at this year's festival span the genres of documentary, fiction, animation, and experimental film. 

“I can’t wait to see the audience reaction,” says Rutten. “The 40 films are absolutely amazing. To think film students roughly our age achieved this calibre of work blows me away.”   

At the festival, a jury of professional Canadian filmmakers will judge the films selected from around the world. Just like a professional film festival, the winning filmmakers are rewarded for their efforts, taking home an award and prize money, to celebrate their filmmaking excellence.

award trophies on a shelf
The awards are lined up and ready to celebrate filmmaking excellence. Photo Credit: The Living Skies Student Film Festival

Special guests 

A highlight of the film festival is the special guests invited to screen their films and share their knowledge in public workshops. 

U of R alumni, Janine Windolph, is the Director of Indigenous Arts at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and a Writer in Residency for the University of Manitoba. She is this year's recipient of the Department of Film's Distinguished Alumni Award. At the festival, Windolph will screen her films, Our Maternal Home (Regina Premiere) and Stories Are in Our Bones (2020) 

“It’s a great way to celebrate a filmmaker from Regina,” says Eskowich. “It feels like a homecoming to premiere her new film at the Artesian; it is so exciting.”  

By extending the film festival to other venues, Eskowich says they aim to create community relationships, engage new audiences, and strengthen support for film in Saskatchewan.   

“Our special guest films are proof that you can become a very talented filmmaker in Saskatchewan post-graduation. The film industry in Saskatchewan is there—even in uncertain times,” says Rutten. 

Adding to the lineup of special guests is industry professional Jay Robertson, a seasoned property master – including six seasons of Corner Gas – whose workshop will explore the world of being a property master in the film and television industry, and Regina-based filmmaker Aaron Sinclair, with a workshop on micro-budget filmmaking and a deep dive into film distribution.

a person tending to a large popcorn machine
What’s a film festival without the buttery popcorn? Photo Credit: The Living Skies Student Film Festival

Coming to theatres near you  

“These films are genuinely incredible and the film festival is a way to celebrate talented filmmakers. It's a celebration of what students can do in film if given the opportunity,” says Eskowich.  

Support these talented student filmmakers from both Saskatchewan and across the world by viewing the film screenings and participating in the various workshops. All screenings and workshops are free to the public.

From page to screen, or anywhere in between, start your filmmaking journey with the U of R’s Film Department.

The Living Skies Student Film Festival will feature films from U of R film students: Amy Hameluck, Matthew Hood, Pantea Kiani, Jett Kowalchuk, Giovana Nabarrete, and Kodiak Reinson.

Banner photo credit: Living Skies Student Film Festival

About the University of Regina

2024 marks our 50th anniversary as an independent University (although our roots as Regina College date back more than a century!). As we celebrate our past, we work towards a future that is as limitless as the prairie horizon. We support the health and well-being of our 16,700 students and provide them with hands-on learning opportunities to develop career-ready graduates. Our research enterprise has grown to include 21 research centres and 12 Canada Research Chairs and brings in more than $51.2 million in funding annually. Our campuses are on Treaties 4 and 6 - the territories of the nêhiyawak, Anihšināpēk, Dakota, Lakota, and Nakoda peoples, and the homeland of the Michif/Métis nation. We seek to grow our relationships with Indigenous communities to build a more inclusive future.

Let’s go far, together.

Film Festival Info

For more information like screening times, locations, and workshop details, check out the Living Skies Student Film Festival website.

Janine Windolph

Did you know in 2019 Janine won an ACAA award for Distinguished Professional Achievement? Read more about it and her work in Degrees Magazine.