Posted on July 22, 2018

Shorts Programmer Brennan Tilley has returned from a stop in at the Halifax Independent Filmmakers Festival as a Visiting Programmer. For five years now, HIFF has bought programmers from some of the world's most prestigious festivals to Halifax to meet with local filmmakers and watch their shorts, allowing Atlantic Canadians a unique opportunity to connect with film festival programmers from around the country and the world.  

Here's what Brennan had to say about the experience:

At the Programmer Initiative session, I spoke with a dozen filmmakers in a rotating "speed dating" format. Each filmmaker was given five-minutes to speak with each visiting programmer about anything from films currently screening to future projects, creative processes, approaches to festival submission, and favourite movies. One of my favourite parts of the job is helping filmmakers find out how to get their films seen, so this was incredibly rewarding!

Next up were two Atlantic Auteurs shorts programs. Each was a selection of 10+ shorts from 2017-2018 which included a well-attended Q&A. HIFF and the Atlantic Filmmakers Cooperative (AFCOOP) are tapping into and fostering a tremendously supportive filmmaking community, and it seemed to me that everyone enjoyed watching their fellow artists succeed. It was great to feel as though I were a part of that community for a few days and have meaningful conversations with participants about what they want to do with their work.

AFCOOP's Analogue Artist In Residence Lindsay McIntyre followed a screening of her film HER SILENT LIFE with an analogue film performance. Her handling of the film strips and loops, and use of seven projectors, was unlike anything I had seen before. Another visiting artist was Matthew Rankin; there was a retrospective of his work followed by a Q&A on Friday, and on Saturday he hosted a Masterclass at the AFCOOP office. I have been a fan of his work for a while, and hearing him speak made me reconnect with my appreciation for the earnestness in filmmaking that he demonstrates. He dives headlong into the banal to make it extraordinary. 

(Q&A with Matthew Rankin)

On Saturday the visiting programmers screened favourite shorts from our respective festivals.  This included AFTER LIFE, the winner of Best Documentary Short at 2017 Calgary International Film Festival.  After the screening the programmers discussed our festivals. The audience questions were on topics such as what we look for in selections, opportunities for audience and filmmaker engagement, diversity of programming and submission tips.

All in all it was an invigorating experience and I look forward to opportunities to remain connected with the people I met and return to this festival another year. I truly hope I get the chance to return.

If you're looking forward to more shorts this year, check out our list of Shorts Programming in our full Festival Guide for 2018!


Brennan became involved with the Calgary International Film Festival in 2004 as a previewer, and subsequently joined the Calgary Underground Film Festival as a Programmer in 2008 (where he has been Lead Programmer and Operations Manager since 2012).  In the same year, he was Operations Coordinator for Calgary Film's Doc Soup Series and assumed the role of Shorts Programmer in 2015. In Brennan’s tenure as Shorts Programmer, the festival has gained Academy Award qualifying status and experienced a surge in submissions and attendance by Canadian shorts filmmakers. Brennan recently completed a four-year stint as President of the Calgary Cinematheque and has chaired the Cinematheque’s Programming Committee for six seasons. Brennan currently serves as Associate Vice-President, Marketing and Sponsorship for Project Managament Institute South Alberta Chapter. He has also worked with ArtCity, FairyTales International Queer Film Festival, and TELUS Spark.

Photo by HIFF photographer Monika Gajewski

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