Category Archives: Winnipeg

Celebrate Two Anniversaries With Manitoba Shorts At Moving Images Exhibit

There are two anniversaries being celebrated at the University of Winnipeg this year, and what better way to have a party than to hold an exhibition of short films made by current and former staff and students at its own art gallery.

Moving Images is taking place at the University of Winnipeg’s Gallery 1C03 in honour of the University’s 50th anniversary of its charter and the Gallery’s 30th anniversary of its opening. The event is on between January 12 and February 18, 2017, and includes panel discussions, a collage exhibition and short film screenings. A total of 23 shorts will be presented and are organized into five different cinematic themes:

  • To Make a Prairie (January 12 – 21)
  • The Personal is Political (January 23 – 28)
  • The Haunted Cinema (January 30 – February 4)
  • Women’s Pictures, Women’s Lives (February 6 – 11)
  • Funny Haha and Funny Peculiar (February 13 – 18)

Among the list of Manitoba filmmakers whose short films will be screened include Guy Maddin, Danishka Esterhazy, Danielle Sturk, and Mike Maryniuk. Also featured will be CBC Short Film Face Off winners from 2015, BJ Verot and Brad Crawford.

Check out the details on all of the screenings: www.uwinnipeg.ca/art-gallery/programming/2016-17/moving-images-screening-programs.html

 

Photo credit: Ernest Mayer
Photo credit: Ernest Mayer

Moving Images is co-curated by Jennifer Gibson, Gallery 1C03 director and curator, and Alison Gillmor, art historian and film critic. Short Film Fan reached out to Jennifer and Alison to learn more about the shorts being screened at this fascinating exhibition:

Short Film Fan: Why were these five particular themes chosen for Moving Images?

JG & AG: They came about rather organically; we found that particular approaches and ideas were being dealt with by multiple artists and so we found ourselves grouping those works together. That being said, there are no hard and fast rules in terms of which films are part of specific themes or programs. A number of them – Shimby Zegeye-Gebrehiwot’s yaya/ayat, to give one example – could be screened in multiple programs.

SFF: How difficult was it for you to choose the final list of shorts to be screened at the exhibit?

JG & AG: It was very challenging. Winnipeg has such a rich community of artists. There are many more fabulous works that we would have liked to include. If we had more funding, we would have been able to present even more films.

SFF: Will there be an opportunity to meet any of the featured filmmakers?

JG & AG: Yes! Guy Maddin and a number of the other artists were at the opening reception last week and Guy spoke with his colleague Evan Johnson on Thursday evening about archival influences in their on-line film project Séances.

There will be two more opportunities to hear filmmakers discuss their work. University of Winnipeg English Studies professor Andrew Burke will moderate a discussion on cinematic experimentalism with artists Mike Maryniuk, Sol Nagler and Rhayne Vermette on Monday, January 30 at 7:00 p.m. in UW’s Eckhardt-Gramatté Hall.

On Thursday, February 9 at 7:00 p.m. the University’s Chair in the History of Indigenous Arts in North America Julie Nagam will lead a discussion with artists Danishka Esterhazy, Freya Bjorg Olafson and two members of The Ephemerals collective, Jaimie Isaac and Jenny Western. That event also takes place in Eckhardt-Gramatté Hall.

SFF: Are there any plans for the Moving Images exhibition to return next year?

JG & AG: Moving Images is a special project that has been organized in honour of Gallery 1C03’s 30th anniversary and the University of Winnipeg’s 50th anniversary to celebrate the talent of the University community – all of the artists are alumni, current or former students, and current or former faculty and instructors. We did not envision it as an annual project but there are certainly plenty more fantastic works that could be screened. It’s a great idea to consider a follow-up.

SFF: What do you hope the audience will take away from this exhibition?

JG & AG: We’re hoping that people will get some sense of the depth and range of artists’ films in Manitoba, not just with established names like Guy Maddin, but also among a younger generation often working with pop culture references and experimental techniques, and often referencing urgent social and political issues. There are a lot of artists using film and video in innovative and personal ways.

 

Complementing the Moving Images event is an exhibition of Guy Maddin’s collages and the presentation of his Seances project with Evan and Galen Johnson. This work is also on view January 12 to February 18, and can be seen in the University of Winnipeg Library’s Hamilton Galleria space. A downloadable pdf publication related to Moving Images is also in the works and will be made available online toward the middle or end of February. Please check back at Gallery 1C03’s website: www.uwinnipeg.ca/art-gallery.

If you’re in the Winnipeg area in January and February, you can catch the shorts screenings at Gallery 1C03 Monday to Friday, 12:00 – 4:00 p.m. and on Saturdays, 1:00 – 4:00 p.m. Admission to the shorts, panel discussions and collage exhibit is free and open to the public. Both venues are wheelchair accessible locations.

Happy anniversary, University of Winnipeg and Gallery 1C03! Thanks for making Canadian short films a part of your celebration.

Hey, short film fans: if you happen to catch a short or two that you really liked, let us know! Send a Tweet out to @1c03 and to @shortfilmfan. Or, post a comment below.

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‘This River’ (2016) Examines One Local Organization’s Drive For Answers And Change

In a few weeks, 2016 will come to a close. Soon, we will all have the opportunity to look back and assess the kind of year that 2016 was. For some, it was a year of joy and happiness. For others, 2016 was a year marked by sorrow and suffering. It was also a year that perhaps marked a turning point for Canada’s Indigenous people. Through media reports in 2016, Canadians learned more about the harsh and distressing reality that faces Canada’s Indigenous community as they grapple with the issue of their missing and murdered women.  We learned that this problem has been plaguing the Indigenous community for decades and that an inquiry into the matter was long overdue. In August, the federal government finally announced the establishment of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls with five commissioners leading the inquiry. While this commission painstakingly looks for answers to this disturbing problem, one organization in Winnipeg, MB has taken upon itself to find some of their own answers.

In the 19-minute short NFB documentary, This River (2016), we are introduced to the volunteer-run group ‘Drag the Red’; its purpose is to search the Red River for traces of missing Indigenous women and men. Written and directed by Katherena Vermette and Erika MacPherson, we follow two volunteers of ‘Drag the Red’ during one of their searches of the river. We listen as one of the volunteers, Kyle Kematch, explains his own personal reason why he takes part in these searches. Katherena narrates during parts of the film, but also reveals a personal tragedy of her own. Watch the full documentary below:

This River is an impactful and moving short documentary. Through the revelations made by Kyle and Katherena, the audience got a deeper understanding of this problem that has overwhelmed Canada’s Indigenous community. It must have been very difficult for Kyle and Katherena to share such recollections on film. But, by doing so, it showed their courage and strength. You can also hear from both of them a mixture of determination and hope. The scenes at river level were stunning, yet haunting.  This River teaches us that the need and drive for change is out there and that ‘Drag the Red’ is a perfect example of this. This River is a must-see film and is available at the NFB website for downloading.

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Always ‘Make The Film You Want To Make’: Spotlight On BJ Verot

When we come up with an idea for something, two things can happen. Either we criticize, over-think and shelve the idea, or we embrace it, give it some serious thought and bring the idea to fruition. In the case of BJ Verot, director and producer at Strata Studios in Winnipeg, MB, he and Brad Crawford (who co-directed and produced the film with BJ) chose the latter path with the hilarious short film, Loss of Contact.

Loss of Contact, about a champion racewalker who drops out of a race due to an injury, was a runaway success for BJ and Brad lately. This past February, Loss of Contact earned the duo a Windy Award in the Director: Short Fiction category from the Winnipeg Film Group. Last October, the film helped BJ and Brad win a $45,000 film production prize package in front of a national audience on the CBC-TV show, Short Film Face Off.

Short Film Fan caught up with BJ Verot during his very hectic schedule and he shared some of his thoughts about the television show appearance, the idea behind Loss of Contact and his career in filmmaking.

 

Short Film Fan: First of all, congratulations go to you and Brad on winning last year’s CBC Short Film Face Off contest with Loss of Contact.  What was it like being, competing and winning on the show?

BJ Verot and Brad Crawford (Photo by Robert Short)
BJ Verot and Brad Crawford (Photo by Robert Short)

BJ Verot: It was great to be a part of the show.  We went in with tempered expectations, and were looking to meet and hang out with other filmmakers from around Canada.  It’s always a bit nerve-wracking when you’re up in the hot seat open to criticism. But, it comes with the territory.  Film is such a subjective thing, that we really weren’t sure if the panellists would be into our film. But, luckily, they really enjoyed it. In some ways, once we made it to the final round, the pressure was off.  It was up to Canada to vote, so you really can’t worry too much about how it’s going to go.  All three films in the finals were solid, so it was just going to come down to the numbers.  That being said, we did receive a HUGE amount of support through our local film industry here in Manitoba (Manitoba Film & Music, Winnipeg Film Group, On Screen Manitoba, and ACTRA Manitoba).

SFF: Where or how did you come up with the idea to produce Loss of Contact?

BJV: The idea came up when I was sliding around on my friend’s hardwood floors.  There was a mirror on the wall and I thought that the hypnotic gyrations of my hips reminded me of racewalkers who competed in the Olympics.  I couldn’t shake the idea, and by the time I got home, I already had a rough trajectory of the story arc and some of the characters that would be involved in the film.

SFF: Why did you choose filmmaking as a career path?

BJV: I didn’t choose film – film chose me (ha-ha).  When I was young, I was allowed to watch a lot of intense films such as Terminator, Jaws, Aliens, Predator, and I loved it.  As a kid, I was blown away that people could make a living making these crazy stories for people to enjoy.

SFF: What specific challenges do you face as a filmmaker when producing a short film?

BJ Verot (Photo by Robert Short)
BJ Verot (Photo by Robert Short)

BJV: Oftentimes, you have to be quite ambitious on very little money.  I guess for me personally, my biggest challenge is trying to make sure I can get the most value on the screen and finding fun ways to do so.  When I’m talking with Brad, or Andrew (another member of the Strata team) we often ask: “What is something visually inventive we can incorporate where people might say, ‘how did they do that’?” We want to impose challenges on ourselves on set so that we can continue to grow as well.  That approach feeds into the next project, and how we tackle larger, and more tricky sequences.

SFF: Do you have any new short film projects on the horizon?

BJV: I always have new short film ideas popping into my head.  The key is finding the right one to put your time and energy into.  I have a few key concepts in mind, and with the prize money we earned through Short Film Face Off, we’ll be able to really push the envelope in terms of what we’re able to do.  Comedy and science fiction are probably the two genres I enjoy the most, so I’m pretty sure the next short we pump out will fall into that spectrum.

SFF: What other film projects do you work on besides short films?

BJV: We primarily focus on film/television.  Around 2011-2013, we were heavy into documentaries.  Some of our most notable works in that field are: 100 Yen: The Japanese Arcade Experience and Scheduled Violence.  We’ve had a pretty strong shift into narrative projects since then, and we have a few major projects in development at the moment.  I can’t quite go into detail just yet, but things are on the verge of getting pretty hectic.

SFF: What are your hopes and predictions for the short film industry in Canada?

BJV: I want the short film industry to keep expanding, with new initiatives for emerging filmmakers.  It also seems that with digital distribution becoming so commonplace, it’s easier to find ways to get your project out into the world and extend its shelf life for people to enjoy.

SFF: Do you have any advice for any up-and-coming Canadian short filmmakers?

BJ Verot (Photo by Robert Short)
BJ Verot (Photo by Robert Short)

BJV: Make the film you want to make, and don’t worry too much about what people think.  A lot of people get hung up on what opinion people will have of their film, and will hold off making it until all of the conditions are perfect.  The fact of the matter is that the conditions will rarely (if ever) be perfect.  You create your own momentum based on the projects and content you create.  If you don’t take the first step, it’s increasingly more difficult to take the next one.

Focus on specific elements for a project and see if you can incorporate that into the tapestry of the film.  Want to use a Steadicam?  Consider a short project that might benefit from that cinematic style.  Remember, anyone can try to emulate another person’s style, so focus on finding your voice as a filmmaker and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.  Ultimately, if you begin to find success, it’s much sweeter if you get to do it with your own style attached to the projects you get to work on.  And finally, have fun!  I weigh a lot of my decisions moving forward on how enjoyable my time will be while working on a project.

 

We can’t wait to see which new short film idea BJ and his cohorts will bring to the big and small screens next. Whatever genre it may be, we’re sure that it will have the same quality, humour and unique style as Loss of Contact. Maybe another award-winning short is forthcoming? Only time will tell.

We wish BJ all the best of luck for the future. Follow him on Twitter to see what he’s up to!

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