For local filmmakers, the Bay Street Film Festival is often the only opportunity they have to connect with a homegrown audience.
"It's a stepping stone," said festival chair Kelly Saxberg, adding it's also a stepping stone for international filmmakers as the festival attracts films from around the world.
Thirty-nine films were selected for this year's lineup and some of the local fare at this year's event, which starts with a Kick-Off Gala Wednesday, include Chris Lim's Urban Infill, Jamie Warenzek's Sexual Relations 101, Lila Cano's Red Rose and Red Light from Michael Gilhooly and Ryan La Via.
The five day festival, held at the Finlandia Club, also includes films from countries as varied as Austria, Denmark, Australia, Taiwan, Mexico, Norway and Spain.
And the type of films include documentaries, shorts, animation and feature-length movies.
But what Saxberg feels makes the Bay Street Film Festival truly unique is how it connects filmmakers to an audience.
"You make these films, you're toiling in your basement ... you come out and you get to have an audience," she said.
While most filmmakers today post their work on YouTube and can get upwards of 10,000 views, it's not the same as being in the room with a live audience and seeing them react to their work.
Each session of the festival will feature at least one of the directors to speak with the audience and there will be workshops going on throughout the festival including a Master Class with Amie Williams that is free and open to the public Thursday afternoon.
People will also have a chance to meet filmmakers at The Talkies, an initiative between the festival and the Thunder Bay Public Library. Filmmakers will be available for one-on-one discussions at the Waverley Resource Library Saturday morning.
And Saxberg's film The Big Blue that chronicles Thunder Bay's Charlie Wilkins' journey across the Atlantic Ocean in a row boat will be shown at Marina Park Friday night during Movies in the Park.
A festival pass is $20; single sessions are $7 or pay what you can.
For the complete lineup and more information visit the Bay Street Film Festival website.
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