Thursday Thirteen - 271 - 13 Things About the Women Making Waves Conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia

by Julia Phillips Smith

1 – For all of you creative types out there who work a Clark Kent job in order to eat/buy clothes/pay for rent, you'll know how wonderful it felt for me to put all of that aside this past weekend. My husband and I attended the Women Making Waves conference, hosted by Women in Film and Television-Atlantic.

There I am above in the leopard-print jacket, bumping into author and journalist Vicki Grant on our way into the opening reception. For me, this moment is so much more than it looks. Vicki doesn't think of me as a document scanner/records management clerk. To Vicki, I'm an author whom she interviewed last month for the local Halifax paper:

Romance writers spice it up 

2 – Twenty years ago I shot my fourth year film for my Ryerson film degree. My husband Brad, standing behind me with the beard, was a lead actor in the film, having graduated from the New School of Drama in Toronto. 

3 – We didn't know it then, but we were only nine months from Brad's re-diagnosis as someone living with rapid-cycling bipolar disorder. Our new reality took me off the post-graduation track of working on low-budget or no-budget films in order to acquire screen credits. With Brad's condition, which also included intense bouts of agoraphobia, it was important that one of us maintain consistent employment, and that person was me.

That's Brad above on New Year's Eve three years ago, going through a spell of rapid cycling but determined to celebrate, nonetheless.

4 – I'd set my filmmaking dreams aside, but there were still stories inside me, demanding that I tell them. I joined Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada, learned how to write novels instead of scripts, and became friends with a group of women who shared the same hunger to see their creative dreams come true that I'd once had.


5 – One of the women in my writers' group was a producer who thought we should work together. If I could describe to you the sensation in my heart when she suggested we shoot my book trailers together... I'd thought all those dreams had been mashed and crammed into a tomb so deeply buried they would never resurface. Yet, when she said we should do a project together, my hungry little filmmaking dream shot back to life like fireworks inside my chest.

That's my friend and book trailer producer Tara MacDonald at center, and our writer friend Renee Pace attending last year's Women Making Waves conference.

6 - One of the biggest gifts that came my way from going to the Women in Film conference last year was the realization that career delay due to family care factors was commonplace. So what if the equivalent of a teenager separated me from my last film set? I was there, wasn't I? I was in the midst of pre-production on my second set of book trailers. I had my filmmaker hat back on, and it made me incredibly happy. That's me bumping into my cousin-in-law and filmmaker Stephen MacLean at a session given by director Kari Skogland.

7 – My producer Tara likes to remind me that my first time out of the gate in sixteen years scored us both awards for my first book trailer, for SAINT SANGUINUS

8 – Appearing in my book trailer as he appeared in almost all of my student films, my husband Brad did triple duty as the battlefield scavenger removing the ring, as one of the brethren pressing the bone amulet against Peredur for his ordeal, and in the second book trailer focusing on the main female character Tanwen, as the vampire lord.

By taking part in my book trailer shoots, Brad reclaimed his own dream of acting when crippling agoraphobia made even showing up on set a bit of a nightmare for him.

9 – So this year when I asked Brad if he'd like to go to Women Making Waves with me, at first he thought he wouldn't, but it didn't take long before he changed his mind and attended the conference with me.

10 –  I'm sure you can imagine how hungry Brad has become over the years for the kind of creative stimulation I've enjoyed for a decade now, belonging to my writers' group. He managed to work for nine years at Blockbuster, where he was at least surrounded by films. Yet interacting with other creative people has been limited for him.

He eagerly took in a session by actress Leah Pinsent, a great story pitching workshop by Jan Miller, a fantastic music rights clearance workshop by Elizabeth Klinck, a book-to-screen adaptation panel hosted by Vicki Grant, and a session by first feature director Gia Milani.

11 – I made sure we kept the schmoozing to a minimum over the weekend, not wanting to wear Brad out. By the final morning's brunch session and awards ceremony, Brad even managed to do a little interacting with the other people at our table.

12 – He even chatted with writer-director Lara Cassidy, whose donated pencil drawing art piece Brad successfully bid on in the silent auction.

13 – The wonderful thing about the Women Making Waves conference was knowing that every person there had a similar story to Brad's and mine. 

If there's a dormant dream lurking somewhere inside of you, I urge you to explore the idea of attending a conference where you will surround yourself with other like-minded people. Unless you're already gone from this plane of existence, your dreams still have a chance to live.

Take that leap and bring your dreams out to play.


Is there something you dream of doing? Stating your dream is a first step to bringing it to reality.

Photo by Helen Tansey

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  1. Lovely personal story to encourage others to follow their dreams no matter what their life experiences may be.

  2. Yay! You encourage me. I love that you're living your dream. Kudos on your award, too.

  3. This is inspirational, indeed. The love and dedication you've shown to both your husband and your work is truly a joy to behold. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.


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