Paris Roger, the Executive Director and Founder of First Take International Student Film Festival was promoting Canadian films at the Cannes International Film Festival for several years, when he realized that there was no real venue or there was a lack of venue’s for students in film schools to promote their work or even get their films seen in general.
So in 1999 Paris set off to create a film festival called “The National Film Student Competition” in Canada. With this in mind the first festival happen in March of 2000, and was hosted at the Steam Whistle brewer just south of the CN Tower in downtown Toronto.
The festival was also at the Comfort Inn for a day of speakers, to which was a great success. We screened 12 films, and had 6 guest speakers talking about everything from film history, to current forms of what was then a new format called “Digital Film”, to current practices with seasoned producers. I want to mention that we had a great time at our opening and closing parties, which were held at Steam Whistle, as well as the Platinum downtown, (they closed the following year).
In 2001 the festival was renamed First Take International Student Film Festival and instead of just giving a festival to Canadian students, we opened the festival on a global scene, and by all accounts was a great success yet again. We screened 24 films, had 5 panels, and there was films from 5 different counties. And yes our parties were great and over flowed with a few sponsors and students and our small team.
In 2002, we expanded the festival yet again and screened 43 films from 10 different countries, 4 panels, 2 workshops, and a few parties too. The festival had been growing and doubling in size every year.
The festival which started in 2000 and was 3 days, in 2001, and 2002 4 days.
In 2003, with a small army of volunteers, aprox. 30, we started well into getting the festival off the ground yet again, but the great blackout of 2003 happened and it happened the week before our festival was to get going. So we cancelled the festival, and started to work towards 2004.
In 2004, we expanded the festival yet again, and had 6 days of film festival fury, and screened 54 films from 12 different countries, had 4 workshops, opening and closing parties, and a lot of fun doing so.
In 2005 we expanded once again, and screened 63 films, had a few workshops, a couple of parties, and something that I new was coming, which was a 14 yr old with a feature film, that’s right! A high school student with a feature film at the ripe old age of 14!
In 2005 we excepted high schools films as well, and we changed our format once again. We son realized that there are only 500 film schools in North America, (Canada and the United States), and about 45,000 high schools.
With the likes of myspace.com, and youtube.com, a new generation was starting earlier and earlier to pick up a camera and start shooting making their own videos and posting them on-line. So we wanted to get into the action and changed the festival to include younger students, from 14 – 24.
In 2006 we screened 64 films, in 3 days over 3 months. This was a scaled back version, but we wanted to have the festival and keep it alive, and we did.