These LGBTQ filmmakers want to make Winnipeg 'a beacon for CanCon'
'In Winnipeg, I can make a movie with 50 bucks and some sandwiches from my mom'
Reel Pride has been bringing queer art to Winnipeg for 32 years. Run by a volunteer board, the festival initially focused exclusively on film but has gradually grown to include visual and media art as well. But despite its diverse offerings, it's often been missing a key element: local artists. It's a problem the programming team has been working to remedy recently, actively courting queer Winnipeggers to submit their works.
Although he's a queer filmmaker who's lived in Winnipeg most of his life, Scott Fitzpatrick never considered sending his work to Reel Pride before now. This year, he has two works on offer: "FAG," an animation created by running film through a laser printer, and "Zombie Pt. 1," a one-take Super 8 film composed of found footage from YouTube, originally made for the 2016 WNDX Festival.
Fitzpatrick's work is experimental and rarely screens at queer events — a nod to the fact many LGBT film festivals are prioritizing big budget narrative works. Historically, queer and experimental filmmaking are deeply intertwined, so this shift ignores the roots of these events and of queer filmmaking itself. As a queer artist making experimental work, he's happy to see Reel Pride including these kinds of projects
"I don't make a lot of work with recognizable queer content, so I don't usually think of those festivals as venues for me," he says. "'FAG' is a bit of an exception, and I had sent it to a lot of gay festivals but had no luck, so I gave up. Reel Pride is the first gay festival that's programmed it, so it will be nice to see it play here."
Julie Epp only began making films a year and a half ago. A Winnipeg native, she spent a few years in Toronto studying art therapy before returning to her home turf six years ago. Her Reel Pride offering, "As We Are," captures a family at a turning point as one member searches for the courage to be themselves. Created as part of the Winnipeg Film Group's 48 Hour Film Contest, the delicately crafted piece took home awards for cinematography, direction and best film overall.
Though she's new to the craft, Epp has been churning out work since she took her first introductory course in 2015. While "As We Are" addresses queerness head on, her overall approach to filmmaking is less about sexuality and gender identity, and more about specific experiences she thinks need more attention.
"For me, making films really comes from wanting to share stories that aren't otherwise being told," she says. "Whether it's marginalized communities or voices that need to be brought to light, I want every film I make to really being saying something and have an impact in the world."
In Winnipeg, I can make a movie with 50 bucks and some sandwiches from my mom. And that's not something you can do just anywhere.- Amanda Kindzierski, filmmaker
Amanda Kindzierski also came to filmmaking later in life. After working for many years as an account manager at various large companies, the death of a high school friend got her questioning her life. She realized she was destined for something more than crunching numbers and churning out reports. She wanted to tell stories.
"Raising the Bar" is a quirky comedy following two assistant managers at a gay karaoke bar trying to figure out who to fire in order to save money. Like Fitzpatrick and Epp, she's a lifelong Winnipegger with no plans to leave, though she'd like the rest of the country to give her hometown film scene a second look.
"I've always wondered why Winnipeg isn't better known as a film city," she says. "We have so many talented people the movie industry hasn't recognized yet and I feel like we could really become a beacon for CanCon creation. It's also a great place to make work because the community is so supportive and willing to help you out. In Winnipeg, I can make a movie with 50 bucks and some sandwiches from my mom. And that's not something you can do just anywhere."
Reel Pride Film Festival. October 16-21, Winnipeg. reelpride.org