University of Toronto

Innis Alumni & Friends

Brett Hendrie

Class of 2001 – BA, Innis, CSI

Brett Hendrie is the Executive Director of Hot Docs. Since joining the organization in 2001, Hendrie has helped develop the Hot Docs festival as a calendar event for local audiences and industry professionals. He has also co-programmed the festival’s international spotlight competitions focusing on docs from Brazil, Japan, France, South Africa, Israel and the Netherlands. He is a 2012 Arbor Award Recipient.

In a few words, please outline your career path.

I have been with Hot Docs since 2001, in various roles, until 2013 when I was appointed Executive Director. Before Hot Docs, I worked at the Toronto International Film Festival and held various jobs in the banking and financial sector.

What is the best way for students and new graduates to become involved in the film festival industry?

Volunteering at the events is a great way to meet people and learn what each festival is all about. However, my main advice is to determine what area of film festivals you are most passionate about and contribute your energies there. Festivals are looking for specialists who can help them with fundraising, marketing, operations, and programming. You can determine what areas are most interesting to you by trying to have one-on-one meetings with senior people at the festivals you are most interested in; come prepared with smart questions about what you genuinely want to know about. Once you figure out which entry point is most appealing, focus your energies there. Fair warning: everyone wants to be a programmer!

How do you see film festivals evolving within the next 5 years?

Festivals will always be a place where people physically come together to watch films – but the onus is on festivals now to differentiate that experience from what people can get the rest of the year in multiplexes and at home. With more and more independent and international film content available through multiple platforms (online, mobile, etc.), festivals are becoming more important than ever as curatorial voices that help to shape our collective attention and the communal discussion around films. I think leading festivals will increase their focus on the live-event aspects of screenings (i.e. filmmaker and star Q&As, special live performances, etc.) while simultaneously lending their expertise and brand to digital platforms to help people ‘discover’ films.

Do you have any advice you would like to share with those interested in submitting their films into a festival?

There has been a lot written online that is useful here – read IndieWire’s various guides and articles on this topic. I would say having a clear strategy of what you want to achieve from festival screenings is the most important – it will help you decide which festivals to apply to, in what order, and where to focus your energies. There are no inside tricks or gimmicks to being accepted into a festival, other than making a great film and hoping the programmers’ share your vision. Otherwise, read festivals’ submissions guidelines carefully and make sure you follow instructions properly.

What is the most important lesson you have learned during your career?

Finding a great mentor is important and cultivating that relationship. Otherwise: hang a lantern on your problems, which is to say, learn from and widely admit your mistakes. People respect and ultimately will be more impressed by your ability to make improvements on performance, instead of trying to hide from the issue.

What is your favourite memory from your time spent at Innis College?

Living at Innis Residence was wonderful. I have vivid and wonderful memories of the usual antics from first-year. I recall clearly meeting my roommates on the first-day of moving into Residence. I have stayed close friends with them all – we were so lucky to become such a tight group.

Do you have any advice you would like to share with current Innis students?

The extracurricular world at U of T is so rich. Find something you are passionate about and get involved by volunteering your time. Many of the clubs, committees and events will provide you practical experiences that will compliment your studies in unexpected ways.  I was involved with planning the College’s Frosh Weeks, which in retrospect provided great prep work that helped when it came to planning a film festival. You might be surprised at the number of similarities.

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