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The Laura Hillier Story movie poster

Driving Change: Sheridan Documentary Filmmakers Win Big

Oct 25, 2018
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Bachelor of Film and Television students at Sheridan College are emerging as artistic leaders at the forefront of impactful storytelling, receiving notable success and recognition for their inspiring documentary directorial work.

Fourth-year student Sarah Gonyea has won numerous awards for her film A Voice For Change: The Laura Hillier Story, including the first prize at TVO’s lauded Short Doc Contest 2018. The film details the legacy of Gonyea’s close friend Laura Hillier, who died of acute myeloid leukemia at the age of 18 while awaiting a stem cell transplant. The touching film explores the gaps in the healthcare system and Hillier’s fight to ensure future patients do not have to endure the pain she went through.

"This is a documentary very close to my heart, as Laura and I started this film together in high school, before she passed," says Gonyea. "Unfortunately, she became too ill to continue working on it. With help from my peers at Sheridan, we were able to complete it for her. It was so rewarding to see other students, who hadn’t even met Laura, rally together to complete this film. Her story touches everyone.”

Winners were selected by a jury that included award-winning filmmakers. The film was also selected for the People’s Choice Award through an online vote. In addition, the film has won Best Short Documentary at RedLine International Film Festival, CineMuskoka and AltFF Alternative Film Festival. Gonyea has since been recognized as a Fearless Creator at Toronto New Wave for her work, and she continues to receive substantial praise from industry partners.

“We are thrilled to see that the films created by our students continue to win awards and bring much-deserved recognition to our talented students,” says Michael Kennedy, Bachelor of Film and Television program coordinator. “A Voice For Change is an emotional and inspiring documentary made with passion and sensitivity by Sarah Gonyea and her team. The creativity and maturity of this award-winning film demonstrates the students' ability to successfully apply a broad range of skills and indicates that they have a promising future in the professional media landscape.”

Gonyea’s documentary, which has kept the topic of transplant waiting lists at the forefront of healthcare discussions in Canada, is not the only film making waves.

Nebula, a film directed by recent Sheridan graduate Anders Gatten, recently took home the Best Student Film award at the Golden Door Film Festival, an independent showcase that takes place every year in New Jersey. The short documentary details the passion and talent of an artist living with autism. 

The cutting-edge Bachelor of Film and Television program, now in its fifth year, provides students with hands-on, real-world experience backed by theoretical learning in all aspects of the ever-evolving industry. 
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