A young woman struggles to come to terms with a health scare as love fizzles. A troubled but optimistic man dreams of being a champion rock skipper. A tough-as-nails female teenager battles through a bitter life in the foster care system.

What do those characters have in common?

They will all appear in three future Picture Start films announced this past October during the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival.

Now in its ninth year, with over twenty films under its belt, Picture Start is a joint funding and film training program primarily funded by NIFCO and Telefilm Canada.

“Picture Start’s such a great opportunity for up-and-coming filmmakers,” says Andrea Dunne, who wrote and will direct Malignant. “Between the mentoring aspects and the funding, it really gives you a launching pad as an artist to see your vision through in a professional way.”

Skip writer and director Jenina MacGillivray agrees. “It’s an opportunity to make a longer project – a longer format short film – where you can develop story and characters in a way that really prepares you to move into a feature film project.”

“Picture Start is the perfect partner,” says Ida Here and There writer and director Melanie Oates. “She’s got the beauty and the brains. She’s an incredible, challenging whirlwind. Everyone in town wants her. I’m a lucky one.” So is Oates’ producing partner Jess Anderson.

Oates describes her film as “an inside out fairy tale” and reveals that fifteen-year-old foster child Ida is also the main character in a feature film she’s developing.

“I tend to write female leads who are imperfect, raw, and on the brink,” says Oates. “Ida encapsulates all of those qualities that stir me.”

MacGillivray’s protagonist was inspired by the coastal landscape of Newfoundland and a troubled friend who was fond of a favourite local pastime.

“I couldn’t believe how much he loved skipping rocks,” she explains. “It started to get me thinking about the philosophical meanings behind, well, rock skipping,” she explains. “Like the way you have to try to find the perfect rock and then let it go.”

“I decided to produce this film mainly because I really like the script,” says MacGillivray’s producer Tamara Segura. “This will be my first professional credit as a producer and I don’t think I would have jumped into it if I didn’t connect with the story.”

Dunne’s Malignant also draws on personal experiences with a universal resonance.

“Those moments of solitary struggle are such an important part of our stories, of what makes us who we are, but it’s not a story I’ve often seen on screen,” says Dunne. “So I wanted to share that.”

“It’s a very mature and well structured script,” beams Dunne’s producer Jackie Hynes. “I see a lot of potential in Andrea, in her work ethic, in her intuition, in how she sees the world.”

Keep your eyes and ears focused on the festival circuit later next year as these three films make their inevitable splash on the big screen.