While the Winnipeg Film Group is known for a lot of things in the outside world (and these things are reflected upon in more detail in Andrew Burke’s essay on The WFG at 40 featured in this program book), it is also rather well known internally for the amount of arguing that has consistently gone on, over the course of years and decades, even as the individual filmmakers involved in the arguing change.
When I found these quotes featured in the Winnipeg Free Press in 1999, on the occasion of the WFG’s 25th anniversary, it comforted me to know that arguing has actually always been part of the magic from the very beginning.
As I’ve travelled across the country over the years visiting different film production centres, I’ve come to understand that internal arguing – for better or worse – is an extremely common trait among them. This struggle is created because the central impetus that precipitates the need for these centres is largely logistical: a proportionally significant number of filmmakers in need of resources live in a similar geographic area. While this creates a viable need, there are very real differences that exist among these filmmakers, which includes the more obvious things, such as the genres and forms they work in, and the less visible things, such as the ways in which some personalities just don’t mix well.
Reflecting Light, a forum intended to reflect on the impact and future of the film production centre system as it enters the 40th anniversary of its beginnings, is timely. The year 2015 will be a landmark for the entire independent media arts sector across the country – including for traditionally film and video centres. This is because the arts funding system that has served as the often-invisible backbone of this system from the very beginning, is itself in the process of radically changing across the country.
Federally, the Canada Council for the Arts last year placed a significant number of media arts organizations on Fair Notice (a warning provided to organizations that they need to improve if they wish to continue receiving funding in the future), and many others received widely variable results. Some organizations received significant cuts and no equipment funding for the first time in their histories, while others received significant increases. Importantly, regional production centres are no longer seen as a given need in their communities.
The lesser-known reality of production centres is that the work they achieve and the resources they are able to provide their communities, has more to do with the policies set by the major arts funders than it has to do with the will of any individual local filmmaking community. This is because production centres generally survive almost solely on arts council support and other public funding; they have been less effective in comparison to their presentation organization siblings at developing greater community awareness for the importance of their work and at fundraising.
On the occasion of the Winnipeg Film Group’s 40th anniversary, we invite our colleagues and peers from across the country to consider (or argue about, if preferred…) why the film production centre system was created in the first place and how it needs to evolve to remain relevant in the future, in light of the significant changes looming before it.