The docSHIFT Incubator at CFC Media Lab

A specialized four-day mentorship program held in Jan/Feb 2011, the incubator was designed to help six high potential creators take their interactive documentary project ideas to the next level. Participants were selected during the docSHIFT Institute jury process. Incubator sessions focused on idea refinement, audience clarification, and business planning.

The lead  mentors were Romeo Candido, Online Producer at Much Music, Anita Lee, Producer at the National Film Board, and Ana Serrano, Director of the CFC Media Lab. The  invited experts were Priam Givord, Creator – NewYork Exit NewYork; Tessa Sproule, Executive in Charge of Digital Programming - Factual, Arts & Entertainment and Documentaries at CBC; Joseph Wilson; Meagan Durlak, Partner at Matte Black; & Pearl Chen, Research & Technology Manager at CFC Media Lab.

Congratulations to the participants, whose names and projects-in-development are listed below.


Samara Chadwick

Image from The What Will We Be ProjectWe’ve all heard it: today’s young adults are breed unlike any other. We’re digital, uprooted, and hesitant to settle down. We are caught in the awkward space between antiquated traditions and the lure of new possibilities. And although we have so many options, these come with the bane of so many questions: Which city to settle in? Which career to commit to? Which cause to champion? Which dream to follow, and which to abandon?

Born from an unconventional Master’s thesis and developed with the help of an economist and a programmer, the WHAT WILL WE BE project animates these questions, and many others, into enticing interactive visuals. The answers, submitted by thousands of 20-35 year-olds across Canada, will instantly grow into colourful animated flocks, swarming to illustrate trends and trepidations of our quirky generation. The project, simple, beautiful, and ever-changing, will allow us, the first digital generation, to position ourselves with relation to thousands of others in the greater picture of our so-called adult lives.

Director Bio

Director, editor, and aspiring interactivista, Samara Chadwick most recently worked with Philip Groening Filmproduktion in Berlin, and Parabola Films in Montreal. She is currently associate programmer for HotDocs and is putting together the docSHIFT FIELD GUIDE and INDEX of interactive documentaries.


Liz Marshall

The Ghosts in Our Machine Image

THE GHOSTS IN OUR MACHINE  is a cross platform documentary that poses the moral question: are non human animals property to be owned and used by humans or are they sensient beings deserving of human rights?

Animals are hidden within the shadows of our highly mechanized urban world...

Directed & Written by Liz Marshall
Produced by Nina Beveridge & Liz Marshall
Featuring Interactive Art Directors Paul Shoebridge & Michael Simons of The


Nicole McKechnie

Nicole McKechnie has been in the business of making television for over 10 years. With a focus on reality and edutainment TV for tweens and teens, she has her finger on the pop culture pulse. Her strengths are in making learning fun through fully integrated multi-platform programs – v-blogs, chats and forums, SMS contesting, live streamed performances, and multiplayer games, Nicole has helped conceive and implement rich programming for the wired-youth of today. Some of her credits include: creator, producer and director of several music specials for YTV and Edge TV; producer and director of seven seasons of Girlz TV, a magazine show for young girls that aired on YTV and Discovery Kids Canada; producer director of YTV’s Saturday morning cartoon block, Crunch. She has also had the pleasure of working on the highly acclaimed YTV shows Prank Patrol, The Next Star, The Adrenaline Project and SciQ, which also aired on Discovery Kids Canada and The Smithsonian Network in the States.


Robin McKenna

The Ayahuasca Conversation is an interactive documentary project created in parallel with the feature-length documentary The Jungle Prescription (now in post-production), about the visionary Amazonian medicine ayahuasca.  Responding to the most common question about the ayahuasca experience (“What is it like?”), the Conversation is an intimate, interactive piece: combining user-generated confessions with evocative audiovisual material. 

The project works something like an evolving answering machine for the ayahuasca experience. Users enter a layered environment of shadows and vines in soft focus evoking a nocturnal jungle. As looped scenes from the world of ayahuasca emerge from and recede into the darkness, we hear an audio mix of up to 25 recorded voices, layered with an original soundscape.  A subtle animation of particles and text is generated  from the audio in real-time: a semi-transparent layer drifting over the video player and across the screen. Users are invited to record their own ayahuasca experience (or their fears about it) in three sentences (audio or text). The thoughts and secrets they record are then integrated into the looping soundscape.

This project will act as a widespread calling card, a first step creating interest and building audience for a larger project: The Ayahuasca Compendium.  Users follow an organic interface of branching vines, sprouting sequenced video scenes.  As the user chooses branches of sequences, their decisions are accompanied by changes in the background and ambient sound - through a garden of evolving interlocked storylines in the intimate, cinematic style of the film itself.

Creator Bios

Jeronimo Mazarrasa is a writer and user experience consultant with extensive knowledge of the world of Ayahuasca.  He has scripted and produced a number of documentary projects, and worked as interface designer for mobile and web video for clients including Canal+, MTV, Tele5, and The Movie Channel.

Robin McKenna is a filmmaker/cinematographer who began making short, creative docs with La Course destination monde. Her film The Great War Experience won the Founder’s Award at Yorkton Film Festival; her camera credits include City of Borders (Berlinale 2009). She directs series and documentaries for networks like CBC, MTV, Oxygen and History.

Mark Ellam was cinematographer/associate director of Rip! A Remix Manifesto with Eyesteelfilm. His unique vision helped create a host of award-winning films, including Allan King’s Empz 4 Life, Peter Raymont’s A Promise to the Dead, and The Take by Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein. His first film, The Eclipse of Radio B92, aired on the BBC.


Kalli Paakspuu

Moment of Contact ImageBenjamin West’s painting, “Death of General Wolfe” (1771), will be the site of a new media experience where mythologies and virtual histories blend and branch into 32 short non-linear films in a geneology of the origins of Canada. The painting will become a 3D animation portal with hot links to character stories. This picture was controversial and became 'probably the most famous' History painting. Redcoats stood motionless beneath a grey sky while Highland pipers dirged. Wolfe's passing in the painting illustrates his part in the taking of Quebec in 1759 and made him the icon of Britain's victory in the Seven Years War. Only three or four men were witness to Wolfe’s death and yet the painting features twelve men. Hot links on the various characters in the painting are match cuts into domestic and historical scenes connected to the French Indian Wars. At dawn 7,000 men had appeared on Abraham Martin’s field (the Plains of Abraham), a thousand yards from the citadel's walls. Lt. Henry Browne holding the flag was an actual witness. The person in the green coat is Sir William Johnson (Mohawk name of W-re i-ya-ge 'Chief of Affairs'), the partner of Molly Brant (Konwatsi'tsiaienni) – an influential Mohawk elder and older sister of Joseph Brant (Thayendanegen). Johnson attempted to establish a middle ground of compromise between Indian Country and the Anglo-American colonies. Sunday teas, political intrigues and family relations, are juxtaposed with Joseph Brant’s Latin classes in a tumultuous North America in transition. This painting earned Benjamin West the title of History Painter to King George III – the first to hold this position. (See Iconic - The Death of General Wolfe Royal Ontario Museum (

Creator Bio:

Kalli Paakspuu is a Genie-winning filmmaker, writer, educator and new media artist and alumni of the Canadian Film Centre’s Interactive Art and Entertainment programme. She co-created an interactive new media experience, “World Without Water” with Tahir Mahmood and Suzette Araujo exhibited at CODE Live at the Cultural Olympiad in Vancouver in February, 2010. (and see YouTube’s IAEP World Without Water)
Writer  Ariadna Ochrymovych is an independent producer/director in documentary and dramatic production for over 25 years. Credits include the award-winning NFB series “The Feminization of Poverty”. Most recently she produced the website as part of her documentary on the Ukrainian Famine/Genocide of 1932-33.


Min Sook Lee

Toronto has a new mayor, Rob Ford. Divisive, controversial and bombastic - city politics has taken the velvet gloves off.  FORDVILLE.CA will be both a gaming site and a portal through which users can access city hall and get involved in local politics.  The game will allow the user to play 'city councillor for a week' and to learn the in's and out's of how to win votes at council chambers. As the viewer plays the game, along the way, they will be invited to actually participate in the real game underway at city hall. You can collect points by winning votes in council chambers and making stuff happen in the 'fictional' city. But the most exciting part is that there will be portals in the game that are direct pathways to reality, the real city hall. And in order to play to win, the user will have to actually show up at City Hall, make deputations and engage in the real-life political process. So for example, they can score mega points if they actually succeed in getting a meeting with their local city councillor. If they attend a sub-committee meeting on the city budget they get extra brownie points, and if they bring a friend, even more points.

The site will track votes at city hall, councillor profiles and ward issues. Users can plug in their name, address and their own ward profile will pop up and they will be able to get a picture of how votes at city hall impact their lives personally and directly.  In essence FORDVILLE is an interactive game that will encourage participatory democracy.

Director Bio:

Min Sook Lee is an award winning filmmaker based in Toronto.  Her credits include: the sitcom 'She's the Mayor' and the documentaries Tiger Spirit, My Toxic Baby, Hogtown and El Contrato.