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.

Meet the 2015 participants!


Ashley Brook has been working in the documentary industry in various capacities for over six years, assisting in the production of shows for broadcasters including the CBC, NFB, HBO, Shaw Media, National Geographic and the Discovery Channel. Ashley started her career in 2009 as a researcher on the theatrical documentary Revolution (Rob Stewart, 2012). She then changed course and became an editing apprentice to acclaimed Canadian doc editor Nick Hector, working on the David Suzuki documentary Force of Nature (Sturla Gunnarsson, 2010). For the next two years she worked for Associated Producers Ltd. as the assistant editor on several shows, including: Age of Anxiety (CBC, 2012) and Tales from the Organ Trade (HBO, 2013). In 2013, she became the production coordinator on an AP doc series for Discovery Science. In the meantime she has worked as a freelance editor and independent producer. Most recently, she produced, co-directed and edited The Director (2014), a short documentary about an undertaker, which has been shown at multiple festivals.

Ashley holds a B.A. in Communication Studies from Wilfrid Laurier University (’09), a Post-Graduate Diploma in Post-Production (major in Picture Editing) from Humber College, and a Post-Graduate Certificate in Documentary Filmmaking from Seneca College.


Janine Heath is a screen-based producer who combines her expertise in all aspects of media production with a knack for delivering quality storytelling to global audiences. Janine is the producer of the films Transforming Gender (CBC Doc Zone) and Life After Digital (TVO docstudio), POV documentaries by Marc de Guerre, which were completed in 2014.

Janine began her producing career in fictional storytelling with Frog Pond, a 35mm mini feature created by Bradley Walsh. Frog Pond screened at TIFF and launched the career of Canadian actor Alex House (The Safety of Objects, Harlan County War). Janine has been a freelancer since the mid 2000s when she began to work with Shaftesbury Films, first as Production Manager, and later as Line Producer for Shaftesbury Factual.

In 2010, Janine became the Production Manager on the acclaimed feature documentary Stories We Tell, directed by Academy Award nominated Sarah Polley. Stories We Tell was named Canada’s Best Film of 2012, garnering the top prize given by The Toronto Film Critics Association. Between these engagements, Janine’s spirit for documentary filmmaking led her to line producing roles on over 25 hours of television and feature films for Canadian and International screens.

Janine continues to collaborate with filmmakers and visionary thinkers to produce creative non-fiction. In 2014 she founded Lost Forest Media with David Spowart. Their first independent project, Beyond the Limit, is in post-production. Currently Janine is developing the feature documentary Within the Game, an intimate film about the emotional relationships of people who have discovered each other in World of Warcraft.

Julia Morgan

Julia Morgan is a Toronto-based writer and documentary filmmaker who focuses on stories with a distinct point of view and an emphasis on emotional truth. Over the past decade, she has been involved with producing a number of documentaries, which has taken her into the elite ‘speedcubing’ subculture of the World Rubik’s cube championships; the love story of a couple who both live with Asperger’s Syndrome; and the exuberant late-night bar scene that birthed the Toronto lindy hop dance movement.

Morgan led one of five Canadian teams invited to pitch in 2011 at Co-Pro 13: The Israel Documentary Screen Market for the feature-length doc Transfixed. She was the recreation coordinator on Storyline Entertainment’s Real Inglorious Bastards (2014 Canadian Screen Award winner, Best History Program), which aired on History Television. She was awarded a 2012 Documentary Organization of Canada/documentary channel Giving Voice mentorship for emerging producers and was shortlisted for a DELUXE/Women in Film and Television post-production mentorship that same year. In 2012, she directed her first doc short, an official selection at the exDox Cologne Experimental Documentary Festival, which screened twice in India.

She is currently directing an animated short executive produced by Ed Barreveld. Undeniably Young is the story of Nora Young, a force of nature and multi-sport athlete, who breaks into the wacky, dangerous and wildly popular world of men’s Six-Day bike racing in 1936.

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Janine Fung is an award-winning producer, director and writer based in Toronto. Her past dramatic short films are critically acclaimed: Leftovers (1994), which Fung wrote about a mother, a turkey, a knife and a misunderstanding, and 4AM (2011), a powerful story about life in Belmont, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Her first feature documentary, La Gaita, the story of the Lara Brothers, was the winner of the Peoples Choice Award: Best Documentary Film and the Special Jury Mention Award at the Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival in 2012. La Gaita was broadcast nationally in Trinidad on Channel TV4 and Gayelle TV.

Her films have screened internationally in NYC, Los Angeles, Berlin Paris, Helsinki, London, Toronto, Vancouver, Frankfurt, Montreal, Munich, Trinidad, Toulouse and Hong Kong, to mention a few. Janine wrote and directed her first dramatic feature, The Doctors Daughter or The Secret and the Lie, which premiered in San Francisco, joining the Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival Circuit. It went on to screen in nine more cities world wide: Los Angeles, Munich, Frankfurt, Berlin, Cologne, Atlanta, Toronto, Port of Spain Trinidad and Croatia.

Janine was recently invited to represent Trinidad at the Rio Loco Cultural Festival in Toulouse France in 2013. She’s currently in post-production for her short documentary, Becoming The Blue. Fung is also completing two feature dramatic screenplays, which she received scriptwriting development funding for.


Nicolas Kleiman is an award-winning photographer and filmmaker. Born in Argentina, Nicolas has spent most of his professional life in Canada. His latest film, WHY Horror?, about the psychology behind why we love to be scared, was commissioned by Super Channel and played in several festivals, including Sitges International Fest, Paris International Fantastic Film Fest and Toronto After Dark.

He’s directed several music videos, as well as the music documentary Kazak: The Making of Avraga, a look at Canadian-desi band Kazak as they record and promote their first album. The documentary was broadcasted around the world. He’s also produced and edited the feature length documentary film, Greenwich Village: Music that Defined a Generation, narrated by Academy Award winner Susan Sarandon. Reviewed by the New York Times, the documentary was broadcasted by PBS and CBC.

In 2012, Nicolas directed the web-series Girls Night Out. He was also a creative director in an advertising agency, manager at a sound studio and has edited more than 180 short films. Currently, Nicolas is developing the script for a horror-comedy feature film and research several documentaries.


Shasha Nakhai is a filmmaker based out of Toronto with Compy Films. Her award-winning short films–including The Sugar Bowl (2011), Joe (2012) and Unsinkable (2012)–have screened at festivals worldwide, including the DC Shorts, LA Shorts, Atlanta, Aesthetica and Aljazeera Film Festivals. Her work has been commissioned and supported by Bravo, the Toronto, Ontario & Canada Arts Councils, and the Reel Asian International Film Festival. They have aired on TV in the United States and Europe, and been released on iTunes.

Having graduated from Ryerson University’s Broadcast Journalism program, she has completed stints with Summerhill Entertainment, CBC Radio, CKLN FM and Africa Independent Television. Working under Storyline Entertainment producers Ed Barreveld and Lisa Valencia-Svensson, she has also had the chance to work on award-winning documentaries such as The World Before Her and Herman’s House. She was recently selected to participate in WIFT’s Ubisoft Toronto Producer Mentorship, and will be pitching two feature docs and one virtual reality project at this year’s Hot Docs.

Shasha was born in the Philippines, grew up in Nigeria and came to Canada as an international student in 2003.


A graduate of York University (BFA: Film), Gibson participated in the Berlinale Talent Campus (’05) and TIFF’s Talent Lab (’06). In 2012, he was selected for the inaugural producer’s initiative, TIFF STUDIO.

Selected credits include the acclaimed short drama, Hogtown Blues (’04, TIFF), co-directing Doctors With Borders (’05) and producing Whose Rights Anyway? (’05). In 2007 he was nominated for the Lindalee Tracey Award at Hot Docs. In 2009, Gibson produced A Place Called Los Pereyra, which premiered at IDFA and screened extensively in Latin America and Canada. Most recently, he produced A Tomb with a View (TIFF, 2014), also presented TIFF’s Pitch This!

Through his company, Midnight Lamp Films, Gibson produces diverse, original projects. Current films include The Future’s Past (Dir: Ryan J. Noth, Exec-Producer: Ed Barreveld), supported by Shaw-Media Hot Docs Development Fund; and Gibson’s feature-directing debut, The Stairs, an intimate portrait of resilience in the face of addiction and poverty (Executive Producer: Alan Zweig).

Gibson continues to work extensively for non-profit community health agencies and arts organizations, for which he has created multi-year video projects and partnered on outreach programs for at-risk and vulnerable populations. To his great enjoyment, he also created video content for three of Ross Petty’s annual children’s pantomimes (2008-2010), which included Scott Thompson reprising his Kids in the Hall character, The Queen. Gibson also wrote the award-winning play Obedience (2000), and his film criticism has been featured in Cinema Scope. He lives in Toronto.


Jesse McCracken is Toronto-based director and cinematographer. He has been in the Hot Docs Film Festival twice: as the cinematographer on the short Chance Encounters (2011) and with his directorial debut short, Steve (2014). He works primarily in documentary and fiction, and is currently directing and shooting his feature documentary debut, Motel, with hopes to release it in 2016.

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

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.