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The BITS Horror Lab is a development program focused on facilitating business and production opportunities for genre (horror, sci-fi, action, thriller) scripted projects and shorts films by traditionally underrepresented BIPOC, women, and LGBTQ+ Canadian filmmakers and content creators. The Horror Lab will support 12 short-form film concepts or web series in development with the intention of moving these concepts into a feature film or a web series project.

This program is less aimed at mentorship and more about access to business development. Accepted participants will meet with top industry professionals during the Blood in the Snow Film Festival from November 20 to 25, 2023. Participants and industry professionals will follow up on projects and initiatives in early 2023. Horror Lab participants will have scheduled workshops with established industry professionals focusing on developing their projects. All participants will also have access to the Deadly Exposure Industry Market during the festival.

We are thrilled to announce the incredible filmmakers that were selected to participate in the 2023 Horror Development Lab:

Lu Asfaha & Fonna Seidu

Lu Asfaha is an award-winning Toronto filmmaker whose films cross genres to externalize the internal. In 2022 she was a resident of the CFC°«s Norman Jewison Film Program Director°«s Lab, where she wrote and directed short body horror SIGHT. It went on to premiere at the Fantasia International Film Festival in 2023. The East African-Canadian comedy web series VIRGINS! premiered on CBC Gem in 2023, of which Lu directed the episodes °»God°«s Plan,°… °»In My Feelings,°… and °»Worst Behaviour.°… Prior to that her short horror film FRESH MEAT screened at festivals across North America from Inside Out to BronzeLens. It then went on to broadcast nationally on CBC°«s Canadian Reflections before winning Best Canadian Short at Regent Park Film Festival. Lu was BlueCat Screenplay°«s 2022 Feature Winner, and took home their Fellini Award for best international script for her upcoming feature film debut THEY ECHO. She was previously a Hot Docs Film Festival Doc Accelerator Fellow, a Netflix-Banff Diversity of Voices pitch participant, a ScreenCraft finalist, and won the RBC Emerging Director Award at Regent Park Film Festival in 2019. Lu°«s passion for make-believe pushes her tell the best story she can, every time.

Snail Mail Media is an independent production company specializing in commercially viable, character-driven projects. SMM has produced over 30 short-form projects including CSA award winning project, BEING BLACK IN TORONTO, CBC°«s web-series VIRGINS!, and multi-award winning short, PROMISE ME. SMM°«s long-form development slate includes YO, WE°«RE DYING, a Telefilm supported feature, LET°«S DO THIS, a queer comedy heist supported by the Harold Greenberg Fund and Ontario Creates, additionally THEY ECHO, in collaboration with Defar Media was awarded first time in 25 years of BlueCat Screenplay Competition°«s history, a script has won both Best Feature Screenplay and the Fellini Award to the best international script, and recieved Telefilm Development Funding. Snail Mail Media outsources production management services including ERIN'S GUIDE TO KISSING GIRLS, movie of the week THE HOLIDAY SWAP, the 1/2 Hour CITY TV documentary series called BLACK COMMUNITY MIXTAPES and a doc feature with Elevation Pictures about LILITH FAIR.

Sonya Chwyl & Anik Desmarais-Spencer

Sonya is a filmmaker and video editor based in Victoria, BC. Together with collaborator Anik Desmarais-Spencer, they have produced, co-written and co-directed four award-winning short films that have screened at festivals around the world, including their first short, Baby Teeth, which won Outstanding BC Film at Short Circuit Pacific Rim Film Festival. Together, Sonya and Anik seek to explore difficult subjects using dark humour and absurdity grounded in reality. Sonya first developed an interest in visual storytelling as a teenager in the early 2000s, co-opting the family PC to make videos set to My Chemical Romance songs on Windows Movie Maker. Today, Sonya has been the lead editor on a variety of short- and long-form projects, including three feature-length documentaries. Their work is informed by a background in improvisational theatre and a lifelong love of storytelling.

Anik is a film writer and director, collaborating with her creative partner Sonya since 2018. Together, they've brought four unique films to life, storytelling through a feminist and queer lens. Anik writes about issues and themes that are dear to her, often putting an exaggerated spin on them to provoke thought and challenge norms. Beyond the world of film, she works with children, focusing on improving accessible family services. Her work aims to inspire change and entertain while addressing important topics, both on and off the screen.

Jaden Curtis & Mariah Owen

Jaden Curtis is a gay Toronto-based screenwriter and director with a keen interest in dark comedy and the humour in tragedy. He studied theatre and playwriting at York University where he discovered the kinds of stories he°«s drawn to - bittersweet endings, damaged people, and a mix of absurd and slice-of-life comedy. He has written, directed, and produced three short films: The Last Lettucefest (Official Selection at the 2021 TIGLFF in Tampa Bay), Sleeping Dogs, and The Pros and Cons of Killing Yourself (Official Selection at the 2023 Hamilton Film Festival). He is the co-creator of online sketch series Ran & Jaden (partially developed with CBC Gem) and has recently signed a shopping agreement for a half-hour comedy series he created. He has also worked on-set in various Art Department roles and in production offices of all sizes. Insert something witty and self-deprecating here to finish off this bio.

Mariah Owen is an award-winning, multi-hyphenate actor, creator and filmmaker and founder of Webby-honoree production company GTE Productions. She is one of the youngest producers in the game, starting her company at just 21 years old. She's had films play at some of today's top festivals; SXSW, Sitges, Cannes & can be found on Amazon, Apple. CBC Gem & more.

Rylan Friday

Rylan Friday (Saulteaux Ojibway/Plains Cree/MŹęĪtis) is a multidisciplinary award-winning director, curator, writer, and producer from Cote First Nation, Saskatchewan. With a passion for honest discourse surrounding LGBTQ2+ and Indigenous representation while drawing inspiration from art-house cinema, Rylan infuses a sense of surrealism into his work while maintaining grounded realism to deliver authentic performances. Rylan produced, "Portraits From a Fire," which earned him the Kevin Tierney Emerging Producer Award at the CMPA Indie Screen Awards during Prime Time Ottawa 2022, as well as the Leo Award for Best Motion Picture. Rylan has directed the critically acclaimed short "Terror/Forming," which has screened at numerous film festivals such as the VIFF, PDXFF, Fantastic Fest, VHSFF, MŹęßoriland, and imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival. It has won the Best Short Horror Film award at the 2023 London Independent Film Festival and Best BC Short out of Vancouver Horror Show. Currently Rylan is developing the feature film follow-up, Terror/Rising, his other works include °»The Sound of You Collapsing°… & °»Musk.°….

Brenna Goodwin-McCabe

Brenna Goodwin-McCabe is a versatile writer and director with a keen interest in media adaptation. In 2019, she was awarded a prestigious Social Sciences and Humanities Research grant for her thesis on Mary Shelley and Guillermo del Toro, which she completed for her Masters of English degree at the University of British Columbia. Her writing on science fiction, fantasy, and horror cinema has been presented at McGill, Dalhousie, and the University of British Columbia. Brenna established Hearth Pictures in 2020 with her first horror short, "Half Full" (2021), followed by "The Still" (2022). "Half Full" won honourable mention the Vancouver Badass Film Festival (2022), and "The Still" premiered at the Toronto Indie Horror Festival (2022). She went on to write, direct, and executive produce the surreal horror short "I Can't Go On" (2023) with the Crazy8s organization. Brenna has also published 160 articles on film analysis through her blog (

Constance Hilton & Tricia Black

Constance Hilton is an award winning emerging director with over a decade of industry experience working as a boom operator. Her first short film, Mute (2019) was awarded Best Thriller at the Imagine This Women°«s Film Festival and enjoyed a festival run of eighteen selections, including the Blood In The Snow Film Festival (2021). Her follow up short comedy, The Good Word (2023), recently premiered at the Regina International Film Festival & Awards. A lifetime lover of visual storytelling, she enjoys exploring the darker side of human interactions and all manner of genre film. Having discovered a passion for advancing labour rights and equity in the Canadian film industry, Constance has also served as VP Sound on the Executive Board of NABET 700-M UNIFOR, the Ontario union of film, television and new media technicians, since 2018.

Tricia Black is a multi-award winning actor, comedian, writer and songwriter. They hold two Canadian Screen Award°«s for their performances in the indie web series Band Ladies and the hit animation Summer Memories. Tricia is an alumna of The Second City, and the Creative Director for Tweed & Company Theatre. They hold two Canadian Comedy Awards for Best Live Production, A Sketch Comedy Extravaganza Eleganza and Best Ensemble, She The People. They have appeared in Baroness Von Sketch (CBC), What We Do In The Shadows (FX), Z-O-M B-I-E-S 3 (Disney) and Bad Behind Bars: Jodi Arias (Lifetime/Cineflix), Summer Memories (Aircraft Pictures), Dear David: The Haunting of Adam Ellis (Lionsgate/Buzzfeed) and Pretty Hard Cases (CBC).

Jessica Landry

Jessica Landry is a screenwriter, director, and Bram Stoker Award-winning author. Her projects have been developed through TIFF°«s inaugural Series Accelerator (GHOSTS OF LAKELAND, limited drama series, 2022), NSI°«s Series Incubator (GHOSTS OF LAKELAND, 2021-2022), the CFC/Netflix Project Development Accelerator (CATASTROPHE QUEENS, horror/comedy series, 2021), and Whistler Film Festival°«s Screenwriters Lab (MY ONLY SUNSHINE, horror feature, 2020). Jessica has several optioned projects in active development, including WE SHALL BE MONSTERS, a docuseries about women in horror; BODY COUNT, a slasher feature; and THE NIGHT BELONGS TO US, a feature adaptation of her Shirley Jackson Award-nominated novelette. She°«s written several MOWs, including LIST OF A LIFETIME, which was nominated for a Critics°« Choice Award, as well as co-wrote the Rockie-nominated feature documentary, TRUE STORY; wrote and directed several episodes of APTN's factual series, 7TH GEN; and wrote and directed several of her own short films that are currently on their festival run.

Samantha MacAdam

Named "One to Watch" by PLAYBACK, Sam MacAdam is a Guyanese-Canadian film director and award-winning screenwriter. Sam's career started in film editing, a skill she now expertly wields as a filmmaker. Her diverse portfolio spans from gripping thriller/horrors to bold comedies. She's gained recognition from the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television's Warner Bros. Director Initiative and the Toronto International Film Festival's Big Pitch Event. Some career highlights include her comedic short film "Prom Night," which she also wrote, premiering at Just for Laughs and ranking as a top 5 finalist in Kevin Hart's LOL EAT MY SHORTS Showcase. She's directed on the new comedy series "Shelved" under Showrunner Anthony Q. Farrell (The Office) and wrote the story for "The Nut Job 3," an animated film franchise starring Will Arnett. Sam's upcoming projects include a feature horror film and an indie dark coming-of-age comedy. Explore more of her work at

Vanessa Magic

Vanessa Magic is a writer/director whose work centers on loneliness and grief, viewed through an Afrofuturist and Afrosurrealist lens. She is an alumni of The Warner Media Discovery Access x Canadian Academy Writers Program '22 and Women In the Director's Chair '23. Vanessa has created short films like "Oneironautic," (Victoria Film Festival '21 and Reelworld Film Festival' 21). Her short film, "The Absurdity Of The Black Female Experience," was selected for the Brooklyn Film Festival '23, where she won the Audience Choice Award for Best Experimental. Her most recent film "The Future Above Us" was shown at the Cannes Court MŹęĪtrage Short Film Market through Telefilm's Not short on Talent Program and was selected at '23 Reelworld Film Festival. Inspired by her dreams, Vanessa aims to create magical worlds with Black female protagonists. She eagerly embraces the opportunity to craft unique narratives that connect her to the cosmic realm.

Maude Michaud

Maude Michaud is a Montreal-based writer-director whose body of work includes over a dozen critically acclaimed short films which have played festivals around the world. Her debut feature film Dys- (released as At The Door) had its World Premiere at the 2014 Fantasia International Film Festival where it won the Audience Award for Best Canadian Feature before snagging other audience awards and nominations on the festival circuit. She has since contributed to half a dozen anthology film projects and is currently in development on her second feature film Wild Side, produced by SlyKid (Turbo Kid). As a writer, she won second place of the 2018 Stage 32 Annual TV Writing Contest with her original TV pilot script Whipped. As a filmmaker, she focuses her work on genre projects that explore identity, mental health, interpersonal relationships and the horror of normality. Her latest short film, The Monster Inside My Head, uses the horror genre to represent her personal struggle with Tourette Syndrome.

Ava Maria Safai & Nicco Graham

Ava Maria Safai is a Canadian-Iranian artist hailing from Vancouver, Canada. Ava Maria is a Dean's List graduate from UBC's BFA in Acting program and the current artistic director of The Harlequin Theatre Society. She is also an accomplished musician and singer-songwriter with over 40 original songs in her catalogue. Recent direction/artistic leadership credits include: ZIP (Crazy8s & The Harlequin Theatre Society; first standing ovation in Crazy8s history), I Killed Maddie Forbes, Hamlet and INHUMAN/E (The Harlequin Theatre Society), The Girl Next Door (Painted Fern Productions). Recent performance credits include: I Killed Maddie Forbes (The Harlequin Theatre Society), King Lear (Promethean Theatre), INHUMAN/E (The Harlequin Theatre Society), Barefoot in Nightgown by Candlelight, The New Margo (Seeing Things Collective), and Revolt, She Said. Revolt Again. (UBC Theatre & Film). She is the proud recipient of many awards, including the Don S. Williams Grant and the Evelyn Jasiulko Harden Scholarship in Theatre.

Nicco is a Filipino-Canadian actor interested in telling inclusive stories, with a special focus on multiracial folk who live in a world divided by colour. Over the next few months, he will be rehearsing and developing re-imagined classical theatre alongside some of his classmates. In addition, Nicco also has an immense passion for Film & TV, and will be actively pursuing work in this field in hopes of one day becoming an Asian Marvel superhero. Past work includes: ZIP (Crazy8s x The Harlequin Theatre Society; Lead Producer); Faking It, INHUMAN/E, I Killed Maddie Forbes, Hamlet (The Harlequin Theatre Society; Producer & Actor).

Heyishi Zhang

Heyishi Zhang (she/her) is an award winning filmmaker interested in telling chaotic and complex stories about subjects beyond the margins. Her most notable project is Gay Mean Girls Seasons 1 + 2, an autofictional digital series she created/directed. Both seasons premiered at TIFF Next Wave, and was distributed by Shaftesbury and Revry. Season 2 won a Golden Sheaf Award at Yorkton Film Festival, °»Best Drama°… at Stareable LA, along with +20 other nominations. The project originated from her viral short film (same title, 2015) with over 4 million views online. Heyishi is a Telefilm Talent to Watch recipient, and worked on CTV's Shelved. Her work has been showcased on Global TV, Elle Canada, Rookie Mag, SheDoesTheCity, Leste, and more. Heyishi attended Toronto Metropolitan University°«s Film Studies program, where she co-founded and was the president of the TMU Alliance of Women Filmmakers.


March 1, 2023
Applications open

October 1, 2023
Final Application deadline.

October 15, 2023
Notification date to know if you were accepted.

November 20-25, 2023
Horror Development Lab in downtown Toronto. Three days of development and three days of intensive Deadly Exposure events (including panels and round tables). Your pass to the lab will also include a screening pass to all the films in the evenings.

January-March 2023
A series of one-on-one meetings (online) with your assigned Industry Lead for followup.


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