About the 2018 Breakthrough Program


Get Hot Docs ready! This rigorous and intimate market-preparation course mentors eight emerging, high-potential producers as they get ready to successfully pitch and sell their projects at Hot Docs and beyond. Read some of their success stories here.

Meet the 2018 participants!

Alexis Wood

Alexis L Wood is a British documentary filmmaker based in Toronto who focuses on social issues and current affairs. She’s particularly interested in the topics that we don’t like to talk about as well as working with people from communities that are under or misrepresented in the mainstream media. Her work has been broadcast on the BBC, VICE and CBC and exhibited at The National Gallery of Canada. Her first documentary How Long is Indefinite? exposed the practice of detention without time limit in the UK through the stories of three migrants trapped in its immigration system. The film screened to organisations across the world and was shown at the Museum on the History of Migration in Paris. Her latest film Shades of Blackness charts the lives of five dancers starting a movement to break the taboo on shadeism by using dance performances to start an interracial dialogue challenging racism and white supremacy. This project is a creative collaboration with filmmaker Lindsey Addawoo and supported by The Toronto Arts Council. Before making documentaries, Alexis worked with refugees and marginalised communities in the UK, Egypt and Palestine. She continues this passion by making thought-provoking films that aim to encourage us to question the status quo.

Celeste Koon

Celeste Koon is a fun, adventurous, eco-conscious filmmaker. She has written, directed, and produced, a number of short narrative films which have gotten into festivals across the globe including TIFF Kids, Clermont Ferrand, and Cinekid. Through the success of my films she was commissioned to write, direct, and design, two short segments for PBS’s Sesame Street’s 44th season in 2013 where both segments got rave reviews from the show’s New York producers and from audiences upon airing. Celeste is a natural storyteller with a unique visual style. For the past nine years she balanced her time between making my own films and crewing on larger scale features and television shows in the art department as a graphic and motion graphic designer. She has been a full Director’s Guild of Canada member since graduating from Ryerson University and has worked on projects for numerous big Canadian and American production companies and broadcasters.
Growing up, Celeste was torn between becoming a filmmaker and going into environmental sciences; she chose film with the goal of making films that would allow her to share her love of the outdoors and dedication to protecting Canada’s spectacular natural landscapes.


Maya Bedward

Maya Annik Bedward is a Jamaican-Québecoise filmmaker based in Toronto. She holds an MA in International Communications from the University of Leeds and a BA in Political Science and Cinema Studies from the University of Toronto. After living in Brazil and the UK, Maya returned to Toronto where she worked on several community-engaged media projects. She has taught digital storytelling and stop-motion animation at the National Film Board of Canada and worked on The Book of Negroes miniseries with Conquering Lion Pictures. In 2005, she launched Third Culture Media with support from the Michaëlle Jean Foundation. Her films have screened at festivals across North America and Europe and sold to Air Canada and the CBC. Maya is a recipient of the CBC/WIFT-T Business of Broadcasting Mentorship and a fellow of the RIDM Talent Lab. She is currently in production on The Haircut with CBC Short Docs, and co-hosts a podcast called The Gaze  with Aisha Jamal.

Caitlin Durlak

Caitlin Durlak is an award-winning and emerging filmmaker whose non-fiction work has spanned many different mediums including web series, short film, and VR storytelling. Most recently, she produced her first feature length documentary, called Mermaids, which premiered at Hot Docs, 2017.

Daniel Froidevaux

Daniel Froidevaux is a documentary filmmaker, and video artist whose work combines a discerning cinematographic eye with a tendency towards experimentation. His most recent film, The Quiet Zone (2017), co-directed with Elisa Gonzalez, premiered at last year’s Hot Docs Festival, and will be travelling in 2018 to the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, Available Light, Victoria Film Festival and the World Film Festival in Tartu, Estonia. The Quiet Zone began as a video installation and was exhibited at Pierre François Ouellette Art Contemporain gallery in Montréal, Pleasuredome’s New Toronto Works, Channels Video Festival in Melbourne, and at the Ryerson Image Centre in Toronto. Little Castle (2012), his first short, screened at the Montréal World Film Festival, and was included in the group exhibition “Art of the Archive” at the Ryerson Image Centre. Daniel has received funding for his projects from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, the Toronto Arts Council and the NFB’s Filmmaker Assistance Programme. As a cinematographer, he has worked for Vice Media, Alibi Films, the Food Network, Headframe films, and the Scotiabank Photography Festival. Daniel holds an MFA in Documentary Media from Ryerson University.

Yasmine Mathurin

Yasmine Mathurin is a multimedia journalist and filmmaker. In 2011 she was selected to take part in the United Nation’s Fellowship Program for people of African-descent. This became the starting point for her to pursue her career in journalism and documentary film. In 2017 she was selected as the recipient of the Chorus Diverse voices scholarship to take part in Hot Docs’ Emerging Filmmaker’s lab. She is an alumni of Hot Docs’ Documentary Accelerator program (2012) and Black Women Film Canada (2017). Yasmine’s latest radio documentary for CBC’s
The Doc Project – Insufficient Funds, was well received by listeners across Canada. Her first short film Kinsi’s Corner was selected in 2017, by the Berlin-based publication Women Cinemakers as an emerging filmmaking talent to watch.

She is currently working as an Associate Producer for CBC’s Personal Best Podcast, which will be released in February 2018.

Her work has been featured on CBC’s The Radio Doc Project, CBC News, Exclaim! Magazine and This Is World Town. She holds a Bachelors of Arts from York University (2011) and a Master of Journalism from Ryerson University (2016).

Cat Mills

Cat Mills is a documentary filmmaker based in Toronto, Canada. She holds a BFA in Film Production from UBC, is an alumni of The Golden Key International Honour Society, a fellow of the CFTPA Producers Internships program and a fellow of the documentary Channel Doc Accelerator Program. She is the producer/ host of the web series Wicked & Weird Around the World, where she explores weird festivals and competitions. She has toe wrestled, crab raced and worm charmed her way across the globe.

Cat’s 2016 film about the Toronto Repair Cafe, FIXED!, won first place in the 2016 Hot Docs Short Film Pitch competition and has been winning awards on the festival circuit.

In 2017 she was nominated for an AWFJ EDA Award. In 2017 her film, Big Men, Small Dogs, for CBC Docs, had half a million views in the first week of its release. She is the producer of the film Shelina Stand Up, also for CBC Docs, about comedian Shelina Merani. She is currently in post production on Mark and Carlos do Burlesque, a short about two Air Guitarists learning “boylesque.” Her background is in international film sales, working on titles like Twilight and Red which she did with Summit Entertainment in the UK. Cat is drawn to quirky characters and uses humour to challenge our perceptions of the world.

Josiane Blanc

Josiane is a passionate storyteller and a firm believer in the use of media as a vector of change. After studying film, journalism and television, Josiane’s versatility got her working in a wide range of positions in Canada, Europe, South America & Africa. From videographer to viral video researcher all the way to TV director, her passion for documentary filmmaking grew as quick as the number of cats video available on YouTube. Her most noticeable work to date is Amazing Teenagers, a series of short documentaries she developed & directed for TFO portraying a day in the life of youth who distinguished themselves by their exceptional projects or social involvement.

What people are saying:

“The Breakthrough program was a valuable glimpse into the professional world of documentary funding and sales.” – Marc Serpa Francoeur


“The Breakthrough program put me squarely in the middle of a talented group of filmmakers, mentors and industry leaders at just the right time.” – Sherien Barsoum


“I would never have established such a strong relationship with broadcast executives had I not been part of the program.” – Rob Lindsay

Featured Past Program Participants

During the 2016 Breakthrough Program, Lisa Rideout pitched her project Take A Walk on the WildsideThe film was awarded a BravoFACTUAL grant, went on to premiere at the 2017 Hot Docs Film Festival, and nabbed the Canadian Screen Award for Best Short Doc.

Shasha Nakhai produced Frame 394 which premiered at Hot Docs 2016 and was shortlisted for an Academy Award (Documentary Short Subject).

Stephanie Brown co-created and co-produced APTN’s All Our Relations, which celebrates the lives of Aboriginal Canadians who have achieved international success and recognition, and acted as Supervising Producer on Qanurli?, an Inuktitut language comedy show. She recently joined VICE Media as the Supervising Producer of Digital Platforms.

Rob Lindsay’s film Go-Boy!, which was brought to the Program received interest from Telefilm to be adapted into a feature film. His film, Why Horror? was licensed by Super Channel and received CMF POV funding and CMF Digital fund.

Since participating in the Mentorship Program in 2011, Aaron Hancox has continued to employ the specifics skills learned in the program for pitching and developing projects. This has helped him shepherd several projects through development as Director, Sales & Development at Markham Street Films Inc. Since the Program he has secured development financing for two projects and production financing for one project. He also continues to utilize the professional relationships with top broadcast executives, which began at Hot Docs 2011.

Elisa Paloschi’s Embracing Voices: The Woman Behind The Music of Jane Bunnett had its world premiere at NXNE Festival in 2012. Elisa was working on this film for five years, including the time she spent as an OMDC Mentorship Program participant in 2010. Elisa was recently accepted to BritDoc’s Good Pitch and received funding from Chicken & Egg for post-production on her most recent project, Driving With Selvi.

Sheona McDonald had her film When Dreams Take Flight air on documentary Channel in November 2012 and it has since gone on to be sold in various international markets including Discovery EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa). Sheona was also nominated for a Gemini award for the writing on a documentary she produced, wrote and directed called Capturing A Short Life for CBC Newsworld


The Breakthrough Program, part of the Producers Exchange, is made possible by its generous
supporter, the Ontario Media Development Corporation.