imagineNATIVE’s Short Documentary Pitch Competition

October 20, 10:15AM - 11:15AM
TIFF Bell Lightbox, Cinema 4

Come experience the excitement of this annual live-pitch competition, where three pre-selected and trained Canadian Indigenous pitch teams try to impress a jury of high-level industry professionals. Prepared pitches are put to the test when a “wild card” project from the audience is pitched to steal the show (and prize!). Don’t miss this! Prizes include $4,500 cash and over $3,000 in-kind production and networking prizes.

Presented by:


With support from:


Deborah Day

CEO & Chief Strategist

Deb is an award-winning television and film director and producer with over 20 years in the entertainment industry. Using her finely-tuned communication, strategic and creative thinking skills, Deb works with talent, entrepreneurs, businesses, production companies, distributors and broadcasters to create effective digital and social media strategies and content to engage customers, clients and audiences online. Recent projects include tremendously successful campaigns for Corner Gas: The Movie, Saving Hope, Rookie Blue, Remedy, Max & Shred and Mohawk Girls.

Innovate By Day’s growth and accomplishments are evidence of Deb’s ability to empower her team, to manage multiple stakeholders (sometimes with different agendas) on a wide variety of projects and budget ranges. As a strategist and producer, Deb leads the strategic vision for Innovate By Day and its clients. Deb and her team strive to forge new opportunities while remaining true to the distinctive look, feel and voice of the project at hand.

Deb’s passion for storytelling and directly engaging with audiences, combined with her talent for listening, analyzing and connecting, has made her a highly sought-after speaker, trainer and moderator. She has appeared at the Atlantic Film Festival Music and Images Conference, Women in Film and Television (WIFT) Career Accelerator, OMDC Digital Dialogue Series, and has led training sessions for talent, clients, TIFF KIDS, Bell Media Producer Accelerator Lab, National Screen Institute, ImagineNATIVE festival, and Merging Media (Vancouver 2012, 2013). From leading small, intensive workshops to addressing larger conference audiences as an individual speaker, panelist or moderator, Deb loves to engage people in conversation and expand possibilities. Deb is an active mentor, working with emerging talent and people in transition. She has mentored people through the Canadian Women in Communications Mentorship Program and the CMPA’s Screen-based Media Production Program.


Alethea Arnaquq-Baril

Alethea Arnaquq-Baril (Inuk) is an award-winning filmmaker from the Canadian Arctic, where her production company, Unikkaat Studios, is based. She is known for her award-winning works Tunniit: Retracing the Lines of Inuit Tattoos, Inuit High Kick, Lumaajuuq: The Blind Boy and the Loon, and the animated short Sloth. She was an executive producer on Miranda de Pencier’s award-winning Throat Song and co-produced both Arctic Defenders, a feature documentary by John Walker, and, with White Pine Pictures, the feature documentary Experimental Eskimos. Most recently, Alethea directed Aviliaq: Entwined as part of imagineNATIVE’s second Embargo Collective.

Shane Smith

Shane Smith is Director of Programming at Hot Docs, North America's largest Festival and Market for documentary film.

Smith previously worked at the Toronto International Film Festival as director of Special Projects, and director of Public Programs.

Prior to TIFF he was Executive Producer, In-Flight Entertainment, Spafax, overseeing all entertainment on Air Canada, Director of Programming at Channel Zero Inc, Director CFC Worldwide Short Film Festival, Short Film Programmer for Sundance Film Festival, Programmer for Inside Out LGBT Film Festival.

Smith has served on juries, or participated on panels at festivals and events around the world including Sundance, Cannes, Sheffield Doc Fest, DocNYC, Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, Guadalajara International Film Festival, Sao Paulo and Rio Short Film Festivals, Encounters Film Festival Bristol and Bangkok International Film Festival.

He is not the guy from Vice.

Adam Shamoon - Director, DOC Institute

Adam Shamoon joined the Toronto Chapter of the Documentary Organization of Canada in 2012. He is the founding director of the DOC Institute, an initiative of the chapter, which provides a hub for nonfiction professionals to learn business skills, hone their craft and make industry connections. In this role Adam has overseen all inaugural Institute programming, which includes intensive creative labs, rigorous producer mentorship programs, and connecting documentaries with under-served communities. In addition, Adam has spearheaded the annual DOC Institute Honours, which recognize the community of professionals working in the Canadian documentary field.   

Prior to this, Adam worked in documentary production in Canada and the United States. He has designed and managed large-scale outreach campaigns for both theatrical and community screenings for linear documentary projects and their digital counterparts. Adam has also used films as outreach and engagement tools for issue-based non-profit organizations. 

Lesley Birchard

Executive in Charge of Production, CBC Docs

Lesley Birchard is Executive in Charge of Programming for CBC Docs' new digital documentary strand Short Docs.  Currently, Lesley is commissioning short point-of-view docs from emerging Indigenous documentary filmmakers.

Lesley also oversees production on a number of other CBC Unscripted television and digital series and specials, including the Canadian Screen Award winning comedy series Still Standing and performing arts documentary Balletlujah with k.d. lang.

She's thrilled that two of CBC's first Short Docs - Tshiuetin and Four Faces of the Moon - will be featured at ImagineNative 2016

Nadia Gaudet Burnstick

Manager of Programming, Central Region, APTN

Nadia Gaudet Burnstick’s life-long passion for storytelling began through music, as a songwriter and composer, most recently nominated in two categories at the 2016 Canadian Folk Music Awards.  Her artistic background lead her to produce and manage a variety of live events through which she branched out into the Film & Television industry in 2006, accumulating experience working as Production Manager, Production Coordinator and Set Photographer on various Documentary, Music & Variety and Television series filmed across Canada. 

Nadia first joined the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) in 2014 as Programming Coordinator for the Central Region.  She is very proud of her Francophone-Métis heritage, and is grateful for her new role as Manager of Programming for the Central Region at APTN, where she is able to work with Aboriginal Producers who share her passion to celebrate Indigenous culture, and who find innovative and authentic ways to share their inspiring stories. 

Ursula Lawson

Manager, Programs & Development, National Screen Institute (NSI)

Ursula has been with NSI since 2004 and is a manager of programs and development, working on many of NSI’s courses.

As program manager of NSI New Voices and co-manager of NSI Aboriginal Documentary, she has been instrumental in helping NSI develop and deliver culturally sensitive film and television training to emerging Indigenous film and content creators.

In 2013 Ursula was honoured to receive the YMCA-YWCA Women of Distinction Circle of Inspiration award along with colleagues Lisa Meeches and Melissa Kajpust for their contribution to the NSI New Voices course.

Ursula previously managed the NSI Aboriginal Journalism pilot program; coordinated NSI Global Marketing, NSI Totally Television, NSI Aboriginal Cultural Trade Initiative and NSI Pitch to Win! She is also secretary of the NSI Board of Directors.

Prior to working at the National Screen Institute, Ursula held management positions in both the hospitality and healthcare industries.

Ursula can be found in her kitchen for 48 hours straight preparing intricate meals for her friends and family with the assistance of loud music, a few cocktails and some choice swear words … she considers it a labour of love.