Hospice Waterloo Region (HWR) is excited to launch its 2nd annual short-film contest – You Only Die Once: #YODOContest — in partnership with the Grand River Film Festival (GRFF)

We were thrilled to receive submissions from a variety of talented, local filmmakers. The winning films, judged by a group of five judges, will be announced on March 25th, and will be screened at this year’s GRFF.

Our judges bring passion and creative expertise to the process. This team is taking on the tough task of choosing the top two films that demonstrate how we can use short film as a catalyst to conversation about death, dying and grief. As an organization, HWR is  thrilled to have such a great team as they share an enthusiasm for the power of film to start conversations and bring such diverse lenses and talent to the process.  

The Five Judges

Michael Clark from GRFF

Michael R. Clark

Chair of the Programming Committee, Grand River Film Festival

Michael, a library professional brings a passion for film grown through his involvement with film festivals across Ontario and his current role as the Chair of programming for the GRFF. When I say eclectic, Michael also brings a perfect Kermit the Frog impression to the talent gathered around the table or zoom screen.

I, as well as GRFF, champion the development of local filmmakers in their art and process. Every filmmaker started out somewhere, and we are happy to give them the exposure.

Sheli O'Connor, Hospice Waterloo Region

Sheli O’Connor

Director of Community Engagement and Partnerships, Hospice Waterloo Region

Sheli O’Connor is privileged to round out this great team. She considers herself a creative junky, and loves the opportunity to find new and creative ways to address a community challenge. This film festival definitely fits the bill. While she confesses to being a little over the top about coffee and cycling, she would have to say that she gets a greater adrenalin rush from the creative outcomes of community collaboration.

Having the opportunity to collaborate and learn from the Grand River Film Festival is a gift as I believe art, in its various forms, can be THE CATALYST for great conversation.  I am excited to work with our community to create short films that can reach our audiences emotionally to stimulate  conversations about death , dying and grief.

Tony #YODOContest

Tony Smith

Turning passion into a career, Tony has been a part of the film and entertainment industry for almost 2 decades

Tony, a self-proclaimed “adrenaline junky,” brings his love of collaboration and film projects to the mix. He caught our eye not only because of his own filmmaking expertise but also because of his enthusiasm and certainty that a film festival was a great way to open up this discussion! Did I mention that he also loves being a dad and I hope that means he is a great multi-tasker. 

I think it’s a topic we don’t discuss enough in today’s world, much less doing a film festival on it.

Heather Steinmann

Heather Steinmann

Client Services Support, Hospice Waterloo Region

Our fourth judge, Heather, may also be able to use her skills as a registered social worker to seek consensus and ensure all voices are heard at the table! Heather, born and raised in Waterloo Region, was a student working with HWR when she took the lead in bringing this contest to fruition. She also must take credit for coming up with the media savvy contest name: YODO – You Only Die Once. She did such a great job that she has stayed on to work with us at HWR. She shares a love of movies with many of us and we welcome her young adult lens to the task of reviewing these short films.

I started working with Hospice Waterloo Region when I began my Social Work placement with Sheli last year. The #YODO Contest was one of my main projects during that placement and so I’ve been involved with this from the beginning! In October, I started working with Hospice full-time and I’m so grateful that I have the opportunity to continue my work on the contest and see it through!

Heather Steinmann, Hospice Waterloo Region

Sandra Muir

Marketing Consultant, Platypus Marketing and Communications

Sandra has been working with Hospice Waterloo Region since 2019 as a marketing and social media consultant, and has helped to support the promotion of the #YODOContest since its inception in 2020. This year, she is excited and honoured to be part of the judging panel, and is passionate about films and filmmaking. As a journalism student at Ryerson University, her group’s documentary “Kim’s Choice” won a TVO Telefest Award. And while her main focus now is on helping businesses and organizations see marketing success, she loves to attend film festivals, and is always thinking about potential future documentary films.

Filmmaking and storytelling have the power to help us learn, come together, and heal. I look forward to seeing how this year’s winning films help to do that around this important topic.

Coming up next

There you have it — a creative, passionate and unique team of judges for  HWR’s 2nd-annual short film collaboration with GRFF. We look forward to bringing their keen eye, practiced film critique, artistic talent and passion for these conversations to the selection of our top “shorts” (industry lingo) to the #YODOContest short film competition.

We are so impressed by both the filmmakers’ creativity and their ability to grasp death as a part of living. Their plans for their short films are diverse and incorporate a variety of creative methods including poetry, animation and story to open up the conversation about death dying and grief. We have no doubt the creative calibre will be outstanding and our judges will have a tough time selecting the top two films.

A reminder that the winning films (first place and second place) will be announced on March 25th, and screened at GRFF the week of May 9th. Stay tuned!

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