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Journey to filmmaking

I graduated from Art school in 1985, excited about building a visual arts practice in photography. But I sadly had to give this practice up because of the toxicity of darkroom chemicals. I went on to study film, theatre and creative writing and in 1989, my one-act play Swinging was produced at the Black Hole Theatre and the Winnipeg Fringe Festival. The next year I joined the Winnipeg Film Group, curious to see how I could blend my photo-based practice with the writing skills I was developing.

In 1990, there was an active spirit of collaboration at the WFG; people helping each other on their projects, learning from each other and, in the process, getting a few films made. I applied for the WFG’s First Film Fund to make my first film The Piano Lesson (1993).  It took me two years to complete because I needed to learn what to do at every step of the way.  Editing was still done on a flatbed at that time. What I remember is spending hours looking for lost frames (the size of a thumbnail), losing synch and finding it again, making tons of paper edits, only to realize I had not shot that close up of that wide shot during production. In 1992, I was invited to join filmmakers working on an collaborative / omnibus film titled The Exquisite Corpse (1992), in the process making my first experimental film, Fishing story. I did it quickly, in about 2 months from concept to final film. To this day, I am grateful for the many people who took the time to help me as I was starting on this journey.

Despite their low production values, these first two first films were invited to a handful of key Canadian film festivals. This confirmation that I might have something here, gave me the courage to start applying to larger arts funders, namely the Canada Arts Council’s Explorations Grant to make Picture When (1997), and the National Screen Institute’s Drama Prize to make Motus Maestro (1996). To my delight both applications were successful. That’s when things started to heat up – and as I was juggling to make two films I was also supporting myself as a reporter for Radio-Canada. In 1997, I was invited to participate in the first edition of the Women in the Director’s Chair workshop at the Banff Centre for the Arts, and a few weeks later Motus Maestro won the MMPIA best short film award. A recruiter from the Canadian Film Centre was at the event and she invited me to apply to the Director’s Lab residency programme, becoming the first Manitoban to be accepted into the year long programme. Keeper (1998) came out of that residency experience.

When I returned to Manitoba, I began to work on a feature script titled Estelle Ma Belle.
It was a slow process – and harder than I thought it would be – but it helped me to realize that I was no longer interested in pursuing conventional dramatic work. I wanted instead to return to my visual arts practice roots and make experimental films. My film En trois-temps (2003) was made during that transition time – an unique blend of drama and experimentation.

I am grateful that most of my films  won awards, especially for the opportunity to travel with them to various national and international festivals. However, in 2003, after years of  working with the expensive and cerebral ‘filmmaking machine’, I finally gave in to a long held fascination with the idea of manipulating film images by hand. This led me to join a hand-processing film workshop at the  WFG. I was happy to get my hands dirty again, literally painting on Super 8 and 16mm film frames. I was very excited to plunge into this tactile visual arts practice, and was happier working more independently.

I made three experimental ‘film poems’ in a very short time frame, using hand-processing techniques, found footage and a painterly approach: Home Body (2007) was made as part of an artist-in-residence at the Winnipeg Film Group, Time Away (2007) was a commissioned as part of the WFG’s 30th  anniversary, and Going, going, gone (2008) was made for the Cinematheque’s 25th anniversary. In 2008, I also participated in a one-week residency at Phil Hoffman’s Film Farm, an experience that was instrumental in honing my skills and consolidating many emerging ideas.

In 2009, I put a few projects on hold as I embarked on a long-held dream to work on a graduate degree. I chose City Planning (MCP), a program that is both multi-disciplinary and design based. This choice was also guided by a desire to be of service in community development. These studies led me to work with a number of inner city social justice NGOs and arts organizations, sometimes making short videos with them to expose their socio-economic challenges and promote their mandates.

This social activism work re-ignited my passion for photography, which I could safely do now with the advent of digital photography. I joined a women’s photography collective and participated in two group shows with them as week as participating in member’s shows at Paltform Gallery and Martha street Studio in Winnipeg.

In 2017 I moved to Ottawa for work, where I continue to work on my photo-based practice.  I am also reviving some of the film projects I set aside to return to university in 2009.   I am now working on further developing this photo-based art practice. Who knows where this new  journey will take me.


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