When the curtain opens on the Windsor International Film Festival on Friday, Nov. 1, the University of Windsor will be there.
In fact, UWindsor has been there all along, says executive director Vincent Georgie: “It’s a special relationship.”
Students at the Odette School of Business earn course credit for helping to put on the annual festival. Georgie, director of UWindsor’s School of Creative Arts (SoCA), teaches the event marketing course, commonly referred to as “the WIFF course.”
Students conduct market research for the festival, work as promoters, handle logistics during the festival, and do analytics to make the festival better from year to year.
“WIFF is a tremendous learning opportunity,” said Georgie.
Students in the MBA program also work at WIFF. With UWindsor’s focus on experiential learning — giving students the chance to learn through doing — the festival is a perfect fit, Georgie said.
Through the years, nearly 3,000 students have had a role in WIFF’s success. Now that they’re no longer behind the scenes organizing the event, many of those former students maintain ties to the festival, buying tickets as patrons or working as volunteers.
Coursework is but one way in which the festival and the university are inextricably intertwined.
SoCA students in the arts management course intern with the festival, as do students in other programs. The festival hires music students to perform at events.
And this year, in a completely new endeavour, students in the Visual Arts in the Built Environment program have turned the alley near the Capitol Theatre that runs from University Avenue to Chatham Street into a whimsical homage to the festival. There will be lights strung between the buildings and the walls feature colourful murals that visitors can pose with.
“It’s going to be an amazing alley,” Georgie enthused.
A team of 30 people works year-round to make the festival happen. Most, including Georgie (MBA 2014) and managing director Hayden Freker (BComm 2015, MBA 2018), are UWindsor alumni. Georgie said he has polled that corps of volunteers and found that among them, they hold 45 UWindsor degrees from a range of disciplines.
During the festival itself, it takes another 200 volunteers to put on the show. That’s where the University of Windsor Alumni Association comes in.
“Many alumni volunteer with WIFF during the festival, and throughout the year as members of the board,” said Patti Lauzon, acting director of alumni relations and advancement. “WIFF also regularly features films written, produced, directed, or starring UWindsor graduates.”
Celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, WIFF began as a 3½-day event. In 2019, for the first time, it will run 10 days. Find more information, including a complete schedule of screenings, on the festival website.
The Humanities Research Group is a sponsor of a series of free workshops through the festival, with presentations covering documentary filmmaking, cinematography, directing, independent distribution, and entering the business. Find a list of speakers, times, and locations on the event website.