By Prachi Kamble
VANCOUVER — When Zia Marashi pitched the idea of a monthly webisode festival to his film school as a way to keep out-of-work filmmakers engaged and connected, he probably didn’t think it would evolve into the phenomenon it has become today. Since its conception VanChan has grown by leaps and bounds. It is run by Marashi, a self-described “writer, actor, director, and producer all rolled into one,” programming director Kristyn Stilling, and more than 20 volunteers at any given time.
“My vision was to encourage a gathering of film students, alumni, and faculty,” says Marashi. “As of now VanChan has over 100 videos shared on the website and YouTube page which were started a little over a year ago.” The reception from the city’s film community has been overwhelmingly positive. “VanChan now gets regular brand recognition among the filmmakers around the city.”
“There’s this idea that Canada doesn’t make TV and film as good as Hollywood, but good Canadian films do exist,” Marashi insists. “They just have trouble finding their way to you.”
VanChan receives hundreds of submissions each month from all over the world which a jury sifts through to come up with ten shorts that stand out. These are judged by the five winners of the previous month, who pick five new Web Series Pilots. A monthly live audience then chooses a winner at a fun evening featuring drinks, dance, and networking.
What does it take to win over a live audience screening? “I imagine a mixture of good storytelling, a well-made production, mingling at the event and, most importantly, having as many friends (who will vote for their show) to attend the screening as possible,” explains Marashi.
VanChan has fostered the imaginations of some of Vancouver’s brightest talents and many webisodes have been widely loved by the film community. My Imaginary Ex-Girlfriend, for example, is a hit comedy about a man’s inability to find happiness in the real world. Animations are also part of the cinematic spread. Food Flix is “considered our best,” Marashi says. “It is super popular, super funny, and super well-made.”
Marashi hopes VanChan will continue to surpass his expectations. “It is my dream to turn VanChan into a free admission event that rewards our filmmakers with financial prizes,” he says. “We want to make it a Vancouver tourist attraction that people from all around the world visit Vancouver to experience!”
Learn more about VanChan at vanchan.ca.BC, British Columbia, short film, VanChan, web series, Zia Marashi