Membership Spotlight : Elizabeth Yake

Membership Spotlight: Elizabeth Yake

In 1996 dramatic and documentary film producer Elizabeth Yake hit a snag. Her latest project, Shoemaker, a drama directed by Colleen Murphy and produced during her time at the Canadian Film Centre, was having issues finding its audience.

“I really loved the film and it was a fantastic experience but we found when we released the film that it was a bit soft, it was a bit sentimental and it was at a time where people were making hip films. We didn't make a hip film; we made a little emotional journey with really fantastic actors,” Yake recalls.

When the film decided to accept an invitation to Mannheim Film Festival in Germany a year after its première at TIFF something clicked. It picked up four awards including the audience prize. With the momentum she picked up at the festival, she shopped her next project, Desire, a psychological thriller. She came back home with a German co-producer, a deal with German broadcaster ZDF, and $1.5 million to bring it to life.

That experience opened up her eyes to the value of international co-productions and the benefits of bringing together Canadian and international talent, something which still remains at the heart of her latest production company, True West Films, based in Salt Spring Island, BC.

“When you make an international co-production a lot of the structure is financial but another part of the structure is creative,” notes Yake,  “[These] creative possibilities make your film hopefully bigger and accessible to more audiences, and really that's the goal of every filmmaker.”

Yake’s 2015 documentary Hadwin’s Judgement, directed by Sasha Snow, combined teams in Canada and the UK.  The end result is a hybrid documentary-drama, pairing a careful reenactment of Grant Hadwin’s journey by actor Douglas Champman, with a strong documentary spine: a careful chronicle of interviews and recollections by those that knew him. 

After premièring in the World Showcase at Hot Docs that year, the film earned 2016 Canadian Screen Awards nominations for Best Feature Documentary and for Best Cinematography in a Feature Documentary.

Returning to the director's chair

Although the vast majority of Yake’s work has seen her in the producer’s chair, her next project, The Board Game Movie -- a documentary diving into the quirky world of tabletop games -- has her in the director's seat, collaborating this time with producers in Los Angeles, Germany and Vancouver.

While it has been a struggle not to get wrapped up too much in the production details, Yake’s goal for this project is to take more time to enjoy the more directly creative aspects of filmmaking that had been her draw to the industry when she first studied film as 
student in Toronto.

“I've been thinking a lot about women and directing and it’s obviously a very timely issue ... that's where I started and I want to go back there.”

For more information on Yake's and her work, visit

This membership profile was published in August 2016.

DOC HST Number: 13173 9245 RT 0001