A Quick Chat With Tonya Williams- ReelWorld Film Festival Founder


noun ser·en·dip·i·ty \ˌser-ən-ˈdi-pə-tē\

Coincidence, luck, fate.


My latest interview happened through a serious case of serendipity. I didn’t have a scheduled interview, and I had no idea who I was going to feature next on the blog.


While fanatically checking my phone the morning of February 10th (no reason in particular, just slightly attached to my iPhone!), I noticed an email from a rep from the ReelWorld Film Festival – (psst….it’s a film festival held in Toronto that showcases feature-length films, shorts and music videos by racially and culturally diverse filmmakers and artists). They emailed me to inform me that I was invited to attend their press junket on February 11th. I read it 2 times, closed the email, put my phone away and then did a little happy dance! Yesss! There was NO way that I was going to miss this event.


On February 11th, after work, I went home, got my outfit ready and gathered my notepad and recorder and made my way to the event.


The room was full of press snapping pics and conducting mini interviews with filmmakers, directors, writers and actors. I too, had an opportunity to sit with a few and find out more about their work.


I had brief convos with the following artists:

Jennifer Kong (Director)- Finding Samuel Lowe: From Harlem to China

Jag Parmar (Director/Writer) – Dowry

Alexander Henry (Director)- Do Somethin, Sam Asante (actor) – Do Somethin’

Thyrone Tommy- Avalanche

Elaine Poon (Director)- Entrain

Jonathan Dubsky (Director)- Nobody, Fenulla Jiwani (Writer)

Bobby Del Rio (Director)- The Long Walk

The cast of L’armoire/ The Dresser – Andy McQueen, Clara Pasieka, Alexander Wong, Hershel Blatt, Cleo Tellier, Annie Chen


They were all brimming with pride as they spoke about their work. I wanted to see all of their films, but I was only able to catch one movie.


By the end of the night, I realized that my next interview was in that room! I wanted to feature ReelWorld founder, Tonya Williams. So I got up, walked over to where she was sitting and asked if I could have a few minutes to speak with her. To my delight she said yes, and followed me back to my press table. #thankyougod!

#selfie with Tonya Williams. Yep, I was happy!


To call her lovely is an understatement. She was pleasant, sweet and friendly. Although her night was crazy busy with cameras taking her pic every 5 seconds and everyone talking at he exact same time, she sat with me for almost 20 minutes and spoke about the festival. She was completely focused on our convo and even indulged me in taking a #selfie. Thanks sooo much for being patient while I snapped a million pics!


Our convo was brief, but it was well worth it. Here’s what she had to say about the festival.


Hometown: Born in London, England grew up in Jamaica and moved to Oshawa, Canada when she was 12 years old.

Astrological Sign: Cancer

ReelWorld: Founded in 1999. The film festival is in its 15th year.

Fun Fact: Played Dr. Olivia Winters on the soap opera The Young & the Restless for over 15 years!


Why did you start the ReelWorld Film Festival?

When you reach a certain amount of success, you want to help the next generation. I wanted to create something that was long lasting. I thought my energy was better used trying to put a platform together.


I was going to festivals for years. It’s a great opportunity to meet people in the film and television industry – in front of the camera and behind it on every level. If you want to soak in information about the industry, you go to a festival.


Why did you decide to include music videos in the festival?

When people hear music videos, they think “urban, hip hop”, but we look for urban videos that are off the grid- different. Music videos are an art form too. There are a lot of Aboriginal music videos. We look for stuff that you’re not going to see on television. The idea of a film festival is to open your mind to expose you to things you didn’t know existed.


It’s been going strong for 15 years. Is it exactly what you expected?

It’s gone beyond my expectation! It’s kinda like planning a party – you don’t know who’s going to turn up or what the dynamics are going to be. I don’t look at it as “Tonya’s festival” – the main stars of the event are the filmmakers.


Will there be any changes to the festival next year? 

What I am looking for now with ReelWorld….I want to see the next generation who’s going to run the festival and take it to the next level and do something else with it. So that’s what I’m really excited about… taking the next few months…seeing if I can find who that person is. They need to understand what the past 15 years have been and how they can take it into the next 15 years.  When you create an initiative, it has to grow beyond you. It has to keep going.


This may have been my shortest interview, but it was without a doubt one of my faves. Tonya was cheerful, insanely sweet and very gracious. Although she plans to modify her role with the film festival, she assured me that she will still be very much a part of the ReelWorld film festival.


Thanks for inviting me to the press junket and for chatting with me, Tonya!


For more information on Tonya Williams and the festival, please visit the following links.


reelworld logoURL: www.reelword.cahttp://www.imdb.me/tonyawilliams

ReelWorld Festival Facebook Page: click here 

Tonya Lee Williams Offical Facebook Page: click here

Twitter: @ReelWorldFilm

Instagram: reelworld


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