© Christopher Vaughan photo
Mandy Leith stands in front of her ‘Get on the Doc Bus’ during a stop in Stephenville last week.
Mandy Leith is on a mission to get people talking about documentaries and to help improve local communities.
She has been making films for 25 years and is the founder of Open Cinema, a festival that screens thought-provoking films and related open forum discussions at café style venues in British Columbia.
“Documentaries build communities,” she said. “The production and exhibition of the work by local filmmakers help people to get to know their community and learn about problems being faced at the local level.”
Wanting to connect those in the documentary industry while helping raise awareness about these films, she decided to travel across Canada in a bus to talk about the successes and challenges of documentary screenings as a tool for community engagement.
She started her “Get on the Doc Bus” tour in B.C. on June 1 and arrived in Stephenville on Aug. 19. She hopes to make it to St. John’s and start her return trip home by the end of the month.
“The documentary industry in this country is rapidly changing, like many other digital industries,” said Ms. Leith. “The audience demand for these films are rising, but funding is declining. We need to find ways to fund filmmakers’ work and get their work out to audiences.”
She’s travelled so far to 26 communities and had more than 100 meetings with stakeholders – including filmmakers, cinema owners, festival organizers and community groups.
It’s her aim to then create a network of these and other people who can get in touch with each other and start conversations on how to solve various problems and concerns.
Linda Conway is a documentary filmmaker who runs the “Docs on the Bay” festival in Stephenville each year. She was excited to meet Ms. Leith and expand her list of contacts.
“I’m looking forward to being part of a network that exchanges information on films and filmmaking,” she said. “Being able to be in contact with somebody who has similar issues to mine is something we definitely need here in Canada.”
For more information on Ms. Leith’s “Get on the Doc Bus” tour, visit www.getonthedocbus.com.