Banff World Media Festival Boss Jenn Kuzmyk Talks International Buzz, Tackling The Big Topics & Points Of Difference

This year’s Banff World Media Festival is set to be one of the most international yet and will go beyond TV trends to address some of the globe’s biggest topics, according to Executive Director Jenn Kuzmyk.

Speaking to Deadline in the lead-up to the annual event, which takes place in-person after two years online from Sunday 12 June to Wednesday 15 June, Kuzmyk pointed to a flurry of non-North American delegates journeying to the beautiful Rockie Mountains from the likes of Netflix, Warner Bros Discovery, Amazon, the BBC and production companies based in Nigeria, France, Sweden and Korea.

“Going virtual during the pandemic has widened our reach and that’s definitely represented in the breadth of participation,” she added. “We’ve always been represented well internationally but perhaps a bit more this year.”

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She pointed to big international hits in line for the prestigious Rockie Awards such as BBC comedy Motherland, Jack Thorne’s Help and Denmark’s Kamikaze for HBO Max.

There were entries from around 45 countries for this year’s Rockies, with more than 150 jurors from a variety of nations.

The 2022 festival will be headlined by keynotes from some of the biggest names in the world of TV including Netflix Head of Global TV Bela Bajaria, Universal Studio Group Chair Pearlana Igbokwe and Participant Media CEO David Linde, along with a wealth of panels talking showrunning, distribution, kids’ content and spotlighting various networks and streamers.

Delegates are already numbering more than 1,500, which would be a record, although Kuzmyk stressed “this isn’t the biggest event in the world, we’re not Mipcom, but we like to say ‘the right people are at Banff’.”

Panel sessions will cover the likes of content trends, consolidation and “point to opportunities and pathways for future business,” but Kuzmyk added that the festival will go beyond TV topics to think about some of the biggest issues facing the world today.

To that end, a day one keynote from Lionsgate founder Frank Giustra and White House Coronavirus Response Co-Ordinator Ashish Jha will discuss the responsibility of the media to combat disinformation and misinformation.

“The festival will kick off with something that attendees can get real depth from,” added Kuzmyk. “We don’t only want to talk trends but I think at Banff we’ve always touched on issues that have a greater meaning. We want to examine the responsibility and power that we as the media have to change minds and policy around the world.”

With the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic tentatively consigned to the past, Kuzmyk has been impressed with the way in which society and the business world has “got on with it.”

In terms of the festival she has overseen for five years, she “learned that Banff is more than just a place” when it operated virtually.

“We learned about the strength of the festival [when it was virtual] and were able to facilitate thousands of meetings resulting in new shows being commissioned.”

Banff’s “point of difference” is also in diversity, added Kuzmyk, who pointed to a focus on Black and Indigenous-led companies over the past couple of years, along with the the BANFF Spark Accelerator for Women in the Business of Media, designed to address the systemic gap in gender equality and representation.

This year’s first day will kick off with a pitching session for 15 Indigenous producers to present their shows to a panel of buyers and an industry audience.

“So many festivals around the world are embracing the opportunity [to commission more diverse content] and I think we’re leading on that front,” she added. “This can only result in more interesting content and better businesses around the world.”

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