The show will go on! The THIRD ACTion Film Festival

Photo by THIRD ACTion Film Festival

A good movie is a lot like a well-lived life.

There’s a strong beginning with the hope of a happy ending, with maybe some conflicts thrown in along the way but every conflict ends up helping our leading men and women learn about what’s important.

For the Calgary THIRD ACTion Film Festival, their third act was beset by conflicts before it had even begun: namely, how to host an entire film festival dedicated to celebrating ageing and older adults in the midst of a massive international pandemic.

But just like the stars we see on the silver screen, the festival has managed to turn the head on a last minute conflict to earn a much happier twist ending, long before the credits start to roll.

“I am so excited,” said Mitzi Murray, executive director and secretary of the board that operates THIRD ACTion. “As painful as COVID has been, there have been a lot of silver linings.”

It was always the intention of the festival to bring the experience — a multitude of films celebrating and telling the stories of older adults, alongside panels and Q+A events with the filmmakers themselves — to a wider audience across Canada.

With the advent of the COVID pandemic, these plans were accelerated as the possibilities for a wider audience became realized.

“The software we’re going to be using online with this ‘new normal’ allows us to have a smaller live audience inside a theatre, do our live introductions, stream the movie and then offer a live Q and A,” Murray explained. “We definitely don’t want to be similar to Netflix, to just stream video for an extended period.

“We’re a film festival… we’re replicating the experience as best we can online.”

The decision to go online was made after a period of surveying audience- and festival-goers in July, where the festival asked potential participants — many of themselves older adults, and therefore a priority population when it comes to COVID safety — what precautions would be required for them to feel comfortable with attendance.

“Our audience is predominantly 56 and up, so their requests were very detailed with high levels of precaution,” Murray said. “So we made the decision to go online.”

Going online comes with its own challenges and pitfalls, but Murray said she’s confident and embracing the possibilities wholeheartedly.

“The stereotype of older adults not being tech-savvy is just that, a stereotype,” she said. “They are becoming incredibly tech-savvy and we need to start marketing towards them.”

In addition to having a broadcast of the various film introductions and after-show Q and As, Murray said the organization is taking care to be extremely adaptable and accessible.

“All our films will be subtitled or closed captioned as we’re trying to work towards being as accessible as possible., engaging with the disability community at this time.”

“We’ve been changing since the very first festival and only heading into festival number three, so we’re far from a steady state,” Mitzi said. “We’re still implementing and learning with each festival how to make it better.”

And so, with a bit of hard work, remaining adaptable in the face of adversity and some ingenuity, the festival is going into its own third act with the story headed towards a happy ending by the time the credits roll.

The festival runs from October 23 to 25. Tickets, passes and the line-up of films will be made available mid-to-late September, with more information available on

Making the best of your movie experience

“Just because you’re stuck at home or choose to view at home, doesn’t mean it can’t be an event,” said Mitzi Murray of the THIRD ACTion Film Festival. “It’s an event and we wanted to bring the audience together, not just the act of turning on the TV.”

Here are some tips straight from the festival itself to turn your home film watching into a theatre level experience, engaging all of the senses.


The screen is the most important part. If you don’t have one, you can’t watch the films. The big thing is lighting around your viewing area. If the room has windows, consider dark-out curtains or hanging a heavy blanket. Remove all reflections as best you can.


There is nothing worse than not know what is going on. If you are on a computer or tablet make sure you have some good headphones or earbuds ready to go. If you are watching on a TV make sure your volume is in working order through whichever streaming service or device you are using (ie. apple TV box or HDMI cable from your computer to your TV). How close is your laundry room? Maybe hold off on the laundry during showtime. Boisterous dog or hungry cat? Make sure they have been fed and the dog been out for a pee before showtime.


What does your seating arrangement look like? Shuffle that La-z-boy recliner into a better location in the room. Grab your self some pillows. Make sure you remember your favorite blanket to snuggle into since it will be the end of October.


It’s all about the popcorn! Even if you don’t want to eat it, just having the smell in your viewing space will get you into the right mood. Always under-cook your popcorn. Burnt popcorn smell just doesn’t work, and is very hard to get rid of it last minute.


Make sure you have your favorite movie treats ready to go. If purchased a few days earlier, hide them until showtime. You don’t want anyone partaking early, and leaving your snack bucket empty. How about ordering in? Since you are at home you can bring in whatever you want to your personal theater.