VideoNew documentary focuses on driving force behind Winnipeg film scene
Posted by Andrea Ratuski, SCENE Producer | Tuesday May 14, 2013
Greg Klymkiw and Guy Maddin (supplied by Ryan McKenna)
He was like Guy but more uncensored. I thought he was a real character. He kind of fascinated me. He was provoking.
—Ryan McKenna, filmmaker
"You can take the boy out of Winnipeg, but you can't take Winnipeg out
of the boy," says former Winnipeg film producer Greg Klymkiw.
iconoclastic subversive producer and distributor is himself the subject
of a film, Survival Lessons: The Greg Klymkiw Story.
was a major figure in the Winnipeg film industry in the 1980s. He
produced three films with Guy Maddin, his former roommate, and three
with John Paizs. A talented and persuasive marketer, he was a key player
in putting Winnipeg films on the global map as head of
distribution and marketing at the Winnipeg Film Group.
brought him in to promote all these weird, wacky Winnipeg films and he
was really successful at doing that," says the film's creator, Ryan McKenna, also a former Winnipegger.
"My goal was to apply everything I knew about the real movie business to these really off-the-wall, off-beat films," Klymkiw explains. "That became the big mandate of all my marketing activities - at the
local level, at the national level, and - the most fun - the
international level. For a good time there Winnipeg was on the map as
this hotbed of this new wave of filmmaking. Prairie post-modernism -
Europeans loved stuff like that."
Prairie post-modernism describes films that referenced the past, but were highly original. But Klymkiw points out that they were also "rooted in certain qualities that were indigenous to life in Winnipeg, growing up in Winnipeg - the whole notion of what Winnipeg was to us."
McKenna says Klymkiw was at the heart of a movement that, ultimately, mythologized the city. "That became the style for a decade or so in
Winnipeg. Everyone was trying to imitate that. It became the dominant
style and Greg was the one who was at the centre of it because he was
the distributor of all these films and often the producer as well. He
was the head force."
McKenna says Klymkiw was instrumental in launching Maddin's career. He points out that when the Toronto International Film Festival rejected Tales from Gimli Hospital, Klymkiw went to Toronto and put on a full campaign to launch it, successfully. He was also instrumental in convincing Telefilm Canada to fund Maddin's highly experimental Archangel.
Greg Klymkiw at work (courtesy Winnipeg Film Group)
McKenna didn't meet Klymkiw until 2008. "I thought he was extremely intelligent like Guy, but he seemed a lot more raw and cruder. He was like Guy but more uncensored. I thought he was a real character. He kind of fascinated me. He was provoking."
How does Klymkiw feel about having a movie made about him? "I have to say it was pretty bizarre when Ryan first approached me about it. Was I flattered? Of course! This brilliant young filmmaker from Winnipeg who I admire is going to make a movie kind of about me. It was a really magical experience."
Klymkiw still has fond memories of growing up in Winnipeg. "Winnipeg means everything to me. Yet what was happening was that every time I went back to Winnipeg, everything I loved about Winnipeg was slowly being decimated. What Winnipeg means to me is a wonderful place that is now a Winnipeg of my mind, the Winnipeg of my memories, the Winnipeg that I knew and loved more than anything else. Even a certain element of decrepitude was a-okay in my books."
Now living in Toronto, Klymkiw spent 13 years with the Canadian Film Centre and is now concentrating on journalism. He writes for a number of magazines and publishes lively, provocative and highly opinionated reviews on his blog.
"That's his tone," says McKenna. "He's been like that his whole career. You'd think he'd grow out of his enfant terrible stage or bad boy way of behaving, but no."
Survival Lessons: The Greg Klymkiw Story plays at Cinematheque on Wednesday, May 15 at 7:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. Ryan McKenna and Greg Klymkiw will be on hand to introduce the film.