Tom Wright is a local adventure film buff who is in the backcountry with his dog Tundy or on the sharp end on Squamish granite as much as in the office.
Choosing which films will be shown at the upcoming Vancouver International Film Festival is no small feat. We sat down with Tom to gain some insight on the festival and what goes into choosing the best mountain adventure films for such discerning audience.
Ben: VIMFF is now in its 20th year, how has the film fest evolved or matured into a world class festival and where is it heading?
Tom: The festival has always existed to promote mountains sports and culture, and acts as a platform to inspire, to educate, to foster a community spirit and to introduce new people to the beauty and magnificence of the great outdoors.
The festival is always trying to play a stronger role in the outdoor communities, and in the last few years, we have started expedition and filmmaking grants that help provide a more tangible contribution.
We are always trying to support and grow new activities. For example, this year we have our first ever night dedicated to SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard) Adventures. We live in an incredible arena for exploring the coasting waters and mountains of BC, and our local athletes and adventurers are truly shaping and progressing this fledgeling sport. The night will feature presentations and talks from Squamish locals Norm Hann, Jimmy Martinello, Jon Burak, Chris Christie and JF Plouffe.
B: How did you get involved with VIMFF?
T: I’ve always been drawn to mountain films, and when I was first getting into climbing they were a major source of inspiration. So when I moved to Vancouver from England almost 8 years ago, I started volunteering for the festival and it has progressed from there.
B: What goes into curating a great line-up of films and how do you find the films?
T: VIMFF is entering its 20th year now, so we are well known amongst the community of mountain filmmakers out there. I work closely with other festivals around the world, such as Kendal in the UK and Banff in Alberta to make sure we have the best line-up available, the latest and greatest films from around the globe. We get a lot of submissions, and I have a group of around 50 people who pre-screen categories and provide detailed feedback, this helps a lot when selecting finalist films.
B: What makes an adventure film stand out to you?
T: I probably watch more than 300 adventure films a year, so to stand out the film must have something unique. Usually for me, this comes in the form of a strong narrative and characters.
The film must have a strong story, and at VIMFF we value this above having the latest RED camera and high production values (although these certainly help, and a lot of films these days tend to tick all the boxes!).
B: Do you have a favourite Squamish adventure that has or would make a good film?
T: In a mountain sport hub like Squamish, I think some of the coolest days are when we link different self-propelled adventures together. There are lots of people in town here who could combine a paddleboarding approach, with a significant climb/ski and a paraglide descent – that would be unique to the Sea to Sky!
B: Could you name a few of the must-see films at VIMFF this year?
T: There are 98 films in the festival this year – our biggest to date! There’s something for everyone.
One that impressed everyone is North of Known – which follows Gavin McClurg has he attempts to paraglide across a mountain range in Alaska – self-sufficient and fully committed, this trip embodies what adventure truly means. The visuals and filmmaking are top notch by Squamish’s very own Bryan Smith and Dave Pearson of Reel Water Productions. It’s playing at the Finale show, Saturday Feb 18th in North Vancouver.
B: What else do you do in Squamish for work and fun?
T: I moved to Squamish predominantly for the rock climbing and if it’s dry outside guaranteed you can find me somewhere hanging on the side of a cliff. I’ve tried to build a work life balance which prioritizes fun and recreation, which had led to working in the outdoor industry. I work in marketing and sales for local family owned brand, OnSight Equipment, who produce environmentally conscious adventure travel products and also help organize the Arc’teryx Squamish Climbing Academy each summer, among lots of other things!
VIMFF kicks off Friday, February 10th and runs wanderlust fueling events every night until the following Saturday, February 18th. Head over to vimff.org to check out the amazing line up of films and presenters chatting at themed event nights from climbing to mountain biking to paddleboarding and everything in between. Tickets for your adventure fix are available on-line at vimff.org or at the box office of each respective venue.