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.

Applications are now closed for the 2015 Breakthrough Program. 

Andrew Moir

At the age of twenty Andrew Moir broke out into the documentary scene with his first short film Uprooted, which told the story of a farmer who had given up his crop forever. Uprooted premiered at Hot Docs before screening at other festivals. He returned to Hot Docs last spring with his new highly personal documentary Just As I Remember, which has since won many awards and screened in festivals around the world. The film tells the story of a young father living with ALS and Andrew has spoken on CBC Radio, CH and various other news outlets about the disease as a result of the film’s success.

The young filmmaker also works in fiction as a producer and assistant director. He has crewed on various independent film sets in the Toronto area. Upon graduating from Ryerson University he started his production company Moir Movies Entertainment and has produced music videos and the Bravo!FACT short Paranormal Radio. He continues to work with young, ambitious filmmakers. Andrew’s body of work in documentary is defined by first‐person narration and a deep affection for his childhood roots in rural Ontario. He is a member of the Documentary Organization of Canada, Canadian Media Producer’s Association and the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television.

Elaisha Stokes

Elaisha Stokes is a freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker from Toronto, Canada. In 2013 she was named one of Elle Magazine’s emerging Canadian Documentary Filmmakers to watch. Her work has been supported by the Nation Institute for Investigative Reporting, the Ontario Arts Council and the Patsy Pulitzer Fellowship for Documentary Filmmaking. Her films have aired nationally and her freelance video journalism appears regularly in the New York Times and Monocle Magazine. Her most recent film, Faile Street, follows the plight of a group of tenants in the South Bronx as they struggle to gain control of their foreclosed building. Faile Street was honoured with a Columbia‐DuPont Award for emerging student work and broadcast nationally on LinkTV in the United States. Her short film Red Knots; Flying on the Edge documented the plight of an endangered arctic shore bird and one scientists quest to save it. Red Knots screened at film festival across North America, including the Planet in Focus Film Festival in Toronto. Elaisha holds a Masters degree in Documentary Filmmaking from Columbia University and a Masters in Media Production from Ryerson University.

Erin McMichael

Erin McMichael is a Toronto-based filmmaker holding a Master of Fine Arts in Documentary Media from Ryerson University.  Her intimate documentary portraits explore the relationship between sexual traumas, shame and pageantry.  In July of 2011 her thesis film outlining shunning practices among Jehovah’s Witnesses screened independently at the Universitat de Barcelona. How They See Me (Without Seeing Me) also screened at the University of Toronto later that same year, followed by an interdisciplinary faculty panel discussion spanning: Anthropology, Religion Studies and Theology.  Recently, she received a grant from the National Film Board of Canada for her current project concerning Canada’s Emmy award-winning costume designer and renowned SCTV dancer, Juul Haalmeyer.

Louie Palu

Louie Palu is an award winning documentary photographer whose work has appeared in publications and exhibitions internationally. He has been awarded numerous accolades including a Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting Grant and a Bernard L. Schwartz Fellowship with the New America Foundation to cover the drug war in Mexico.

Louie’s work has been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Al Jazeera, PBS Newshour, BBC. CBC, Sunday Times and many others. His work is in many museum collections and has been exhibited worldwide including at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery and National Gallery of Canada. Louie is best known for his long-term projects, which includes a 12-year project on mining communities in Canada, an ongoing project on the prison at Guantanamo Bay and a 5-year project on Kandahar, Afghanistan. His frontline video work from Kandahar has been broadcast widely and is currently being developed into a feature length documentary film titled The Durrani Kings.

Ngozi Paul

Ngozi Paul is an award-winning Canadian actress and producer of film, television and transmedia projects. Ngozi is best known for creating, producing and starring in the award winning television series ‘da Kink in My Hair. This top-rated sitcom has been broadcast in over a dozen countries and garnered multiple nominations and awards, including the Gold Medal Ribbon award for best scripted series and numerous Gemini awards. Ngozi was also a member of the original creative team behind Canada’s first black sitcom, Lord Have Mercy!, which was nominated for two Gemini Awards including best comedic series.

In addition to being a recent graduate of the prestigious Canadian Film Center Producers Lab, Ngozi was selected by Women in View as a Creative Leader for 2012-13. This inaugural initiative is geared towards advancing accomplished women in television, film and the digital sector. During the program Ngozi was mentored by Jamila Hunter, an ABC Senior Executive, and was guided through a behind the scenes look at pilot season at a major US network. Ngozi is also a recent graduate of the world-renowned Stratford Festival Conservatory for Classical Theatre.

Ngozi has been called “a strong force, using her artistic voice to push boundaries” (24 News). With a focus on creating stories that celebrate the diversity of the human experience and appeal to a global audience, she continues to raise the bar by seeking innovative ways to create, distribute and tell provocative stories that are commercially successful. Finding the sweet spot where artistic merit, passion and commercial viability intersect, Ngozika Productions is looking forward to new ways of reaching, entertaining and engaging audiences.

Current projects in development include The 1st Time Project, a multiplatform documentary which showcases women across several continents sharing intimate stories about their first sexual experiences. Having directed and produced a BRAVOfact! short film on the subject in 2011. In June 2013  The 1st Time Project launched the concept to the public with 1st Contact a start studded event at Toronto’s Virgin Mod Club, the next steps for  The 1st Time Project include an interactive website, a one-off documentary film and live performances based on the compelling real life stories that were uncovered by daughters interviewing their mothers for the production. Ngozi is also developing The Emancipation of Ms. Lovely, a new play about a young black woman’s journey of self-discovery to be co-produced as part of bcurrents afteROCK series in 2014. Emancipation is also being developed into a feature film through the Canadian Film Centre’s Producers Lab. Ngozika Productions is currently developing new television series with specific focus on culturally diverse stories. Fiercely committed to social change through art, Ngozi is proud to be a Plan Canada ‘Because I am a Girl’ Ambassador as well as a member of the Stephen Lewis Foundation Arts Committee.

Sherien Barsoum

Sherien Barsoum is an award-winning filmmaker with more than a decade of experience producing meaningful content for film, television and the web. Former head of video production with Premier’s Office, Sherien led an exclusive team of videographers, editors and designers as they told Ontario’s stories through the eyes of its citizens. Her first feature film, Colour Me has screened for thousands across North America and was selected as part of TIFF’s Music, Magic Clash: Voices of the African Diaspora program. Sherien was a national reporter for CTS and worked as a producer for CTV, SunTV and Rogers. A journalism graduate from Ryerson University, she also holds a Documentary Filmmaking Institute certificate from Seneca’s School of Communication Arts.

stephanie brown

Stephanie Brown has worked in the television and film industry in various capacities for over a decade. Graduating from Communications Studies and Sociology at Concordia University in 2004, she has worked with Cineflix Productions, Muse Entertainment, Apartment 11, the National Film Board of Canada. She has worked as a freelance producer and volunteered in the field of human rights video and film production in Thailand and Burma. She co-created All Our Relations (6 x 30) with Ralph Brown for APTN, aired in the fall of 2013.

She created and produced an independent project entitled End of the Line, a 3-part web series on resistance to the Northern Gateway Pipeline project, and produced a web series for The Tyee entitled The Enduring Coast. Stephanie was a Cinematographer and Production Manager for Kitohcikew One Who Makes Music for APTN, that won Best Music Television Show at the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards. In addition the show was an official selection of the Yorkton Film Festival.

Most recently Stephanie worked as Series Producer on Qanurli? Season 3 & 4 (26 x 30) for APTN with Inuit Broadcasting Corporation in Iqaluit, Nunavut. She also worked as the Toronto-based Producer on a documentary feature on Drake the musician (yet to be released by Believe Media NYC/LA). Stephanie is also a bilingual, Métis Canadian.

Stephanie Weimar

Stephanie Weimar was born in Germany in 1979 and immigrated to Canada in 2003. She studied film and video art at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University in Halifax. During her studies Stephanie’s short films and video installations screened at multiple festivals and galleries across Canada and abroad. Since then Stephanie’s work has taken her all over Canada, from the east coast to the Arctic.

From 2006-2009 she moved to Inuvik, Northwest Territories, where she directed, shot and edited episodes for the documentary series suaanganOur Strength and uumatimninFrom The Heart for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. While in Inuvik Stephanie also directed, shot and edited the documentary amaamak (Mothers) following the lives of three teenage Inuit moms. The film was nominated for Best Documentary at the 2010 Winnipeg Aboriginal Film Festival. In 2010 her experimental documentary Region Around The Heart opened the Montreal HTMlles Festival of Media Art and Digital Culture.

Stephanie currently works as a freelance director and researcher in Toronto, Montreal and Berlin. Most recently she returned to the Central Arctic to research, co-direct and shoot the 6-part documentary series Watchers of the North for APTN. Stephanie just finished her first feature documentary My Brother’s Vows with Bunbury Films and Florianfilm for Arte. The film is an intimate portrayal of her brother as he struggles to decide whether or not to become a Catholic missionary priest. My Brother’s Vows had its premiere at Dok Leipzig 2013 and is currently screening at festivals around the world.

Besides developing her next projects Stephanie currently works as a researcher and writer for The Polar Sea, a 10-part documentary series for ARTE. She is also the co-director for the online part of the project: the world’s first interactive 360 degrees video documentary. The Polar Sea is about climate change in the Arctic.

What people are saying:

“The program fast-tracked me to making contacts within the industry that would have taken me years to establish/make.”


“Practicing my pitch throughout the program, both with fellow participants and decision makers, honed my project idea while maintaining my vision: from the focus of the story to the visual treatment. I sharpened the skills needed to sell my project in today’s marketplace.”


“The program gave me the opportunity to meet with commissioning editors and key decision makers. These introductions provided through the program are invaluable and offer up an opportunity that not many filmmakers receive. Being able to introduce yourself and your projects to decision makers within a personalized and relatively focused environment dedicated to the program participants was fantastic.”

Featured Past Program Participants

The project that Nadia Tavazzani brought to the Program, Michael, Shannon, Michael, Shannon, John was officially offered a pre-license for both broadcast and digital media at Hot Docs. Nadia also received project support from the CMF POV Fund and the Rogers Documentary Fund.

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 is made possible with the generous
support of its founding sponsor, the Ontario Media Development Corporation.