Live Concert at the Subaru Stage at Blue Mountain Village. Photo by Brian Hunt.


 by Cara Williams

The making of the Blue Mountain Film Festival is a story that’s part blockbuster, part fairytale. It’s a narrative about how leaders and a passionate community came together to launch a film festival poised to become an entertainment landmark. 

The origin story of the Blue Mountain Film Festival begins with a cast of characters: Patti Kendall, Dan Skelton, and Marni Moreau. Patti, a marketing whiz at the Blue Mountain Village Association, is the mastermind behind some of the area’s most celebrated events, including the innovative Guitar Trail, which transformed the village into a hub of creativity and excitement. Dan Skelton, President of Blue Mountain Resort and a lifelong film aficionado, has long recognized the resort’s potential as the perfect backdrop for the next Hollywood blockbuster. This vision led him to assign Marni Moreau, a production liaison, with the mission of attracting film and TV productions to the region. Together, the trio’s shared vision and collaborative efforts laid the foundation for an exciting new initiative. Their pivotal step was seeking advice from Canadian film producer Dan Bekerman, who advised them that starting a film festival would be the key to drawing the attention of the filmmaking community to Blue Mountain. 

Uniting their shared vision and enthusiasm for cinema, the stage was set for the launch of the Blue Mountain Film Festival—a concept destined to allure filmmakers and cinephiles alike to this scenic locale. With the combined powers of the Village Association and the Resort, they began crafting an event like no other. But how do you curate a festival that’s part audience delight and part industry mixer? Cue Helen du Toit, an artistic director with an enviable Rolodex and a penchant for great cinema. Despite having lived in California for over a decade, she found herself seduced by the magic of the Blue Mountains, and the prospect of contributing her expertise to a boutique international film festival in South Georgian Bay appealed to her. She brought the vision, the contacts, and the expertise. 

“A shared experience of watching great international films onscreen—then discussing it with the filmmaker or other audience members—is a much richer experience than streaming at home,” said Helen. “Great cinema has the power to build bridges, expand minds, and create strong community bonds. It’s certainly enriched my life, and I’m delighted that our audiences are responding so enthusiastically.” 

2023 Opening Night Film Screening of Two Many Chefs. Photo by Captured by Kirsten. 

The Blue Mountain Film Festival wasn’t intended to be a pop-up event; rather, it was a meticulously planned extravaganza that required the whole village (and then some) to come to life. From government bodies to local volunteers, everyone pitched in. The pandemic loomed large as a potential plot twist, but the team’s resolve was stronger. With innovative solutions and a dash of optimism, they transformed challenges into opportunities. 

Significant support for the festival was rallied through the formation of an Advisory Committee, swiftly put together and led by Dan Bekerman. This committee, bolstered by the extensive industry contacts of both Helen du Toit and Bekerman, became a veritable “who’s who” in Canadian film and television production. As the search for sponsors began, fortune favoured their efforts. The Town of The Blue Mountains’ council, recognizing film production as a crucial element of their economic development strategy, identified the festival as an ideal investment opportunity. With a unified effort, the team worked diligently to secure the necessary funding. Helen tapped into her network to bring onboard private donors and secure a few government grants, while Patti garnered support from various levels of government, ensuring a solid financial foundation for the festival’s successful launch. 

Following the successful fundraising, James King, a seasoned Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) veteran and renowned Tech Director for film festivals, was brought on board. King and his team skillfully converted the two largest ballrooms at the Village Conference Centre into premier screening rooms, assembling a dedicated team of projectionists for the task. The Conference Centre’s main atrium was ingeniously repurposed as a welcoming space for attendees to mingle, enjoy snacks, and sip wine between films. Approximately 60 local volunteers, all passionate about cinema, were recruited and trained to guide and assist guests throughout the festival. 

Left to right; BMFM Artistic Director, Helen Du Toit; Star of Slash/Back, Tasiana Shirley; Canadian Director of Slash/Back, Nyla Innuksuk; Anishinaabe/Ashkenazi artist and BMFM Advisory Committee Member, Tamara Podemski. Photo by Brian Hunt. 

Julian Taylor Band performing at the 2022 Closing Night Boots, Beers and Black Tie Gala. Photo by Brian Hunt. 

The festival debuted with a splash on June 1st, 2022, presenting 25 international and Canadian films over five days, complemented by concerts, parties, and even a creative forum for the film industry to rub shoulders and share ideas. Following the festival’s cinematic showcases, the team also orchestrated a three-day Creative Forum for the film industry, further enriching the event’s offerings. The forum featured panel discussions, masterclasses, and a location tour, highlighted by a mountaintop party with views over Georgian Bay, with nearly all attending filmmakers promising to return the next year. 

The festival’s success story reads like a hit sequel—in its first year, it not only won hearts but also awards, setting the stage for an even bigger and better second act, with over 90% of attendees expressing their intent to return and advocate for the festival. This enthusiasm translated into tangible results by 2023, as attendance doubled, significantly benefiting local businesses and earning the festival critical acclaim and the Award for Best New Festival or Event in Ontario. 

So, what’s the takeaway from this cinematic journey? It’s that with a vision, collaboration, and a little bit of movie magic, anything is possible. The Blue Mountain Film Festival is a testament to the power of film to bring people together, spark conversations, and celebrate the art of storytelling. And as for the future, the script is still being written, but one thing’s for sure: the best is yet to come. Don’t miss the 2024 Blue Mountain Film + Media Festival, May 30 – June 2. E 

Film schedule and tickets available at