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Diversity News

April 19, 2018



This will be ACTRA Manitoba’s first juried competition for a MIP (Member Initiated Production). Applicants are asked to submit a short-film script based on the theme of INTERSECTIONALITY and the winner will receive $1000, on top of their $1000 MIP grant, based on their fulfillment of the MIP guidelines. That film will be screened along with the rest of the MIPS in 2019.

The topic of INTERSECTIONALITY examines the roots of discrimination based on ethnicity, sex, gender-orientation, size, age, or ability, and recognizes that they are related. It is the goal of ACTRA Manitoba to encourage and support diverse stories to be shared, and inspire the next generation of film-makers, actors, and creative geniuses.

Interested members should contact the office at to be sent the application package, or for more information.

Diversity News

By Alan Wong

S**THOLE COUNTRIES. This is what we get to start 2018 with? Nope. Not going to have it. None of us should. 2018 is going to be a great year. But it won’t just be great on its own; PEOPLE are going to make it great. People like you and me who work hard every day to make things a little better for each other. We all contribute in our own little way, and it’s important. It really is.

So, when I hear about events such as the 48-hour Anti-Racism Film Challenge, organized by the Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation – the weekend of February 16-18 – I say heck yes. That is something worth getting behind. So get a team together and make one, or if you want to act in one – it’s cool; ACTRA is a sponsor! Members can perform in the films under the resume agreement, and ACTRA will pay for the AOS insurance. Here’s the info:

Join the Anti-Racism Arts Festival this February and March.
You can take part in the 48-hour Anti-Racism Film Challenge (Feb. 16-18) or the Anti-Racism Digital Arts Challenge (Feb. 1-28).
Winners get prizes and it’s free to enter.

The films and art pieces will be showcased and screened during the red carpet screening on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on March 21st.

More information about the festival here:

Now, go be awesome and have your voice heard.

WAIT!!! While I’m here, I  also want to promote the Afro Prairie Film Festival, happening on Friday, February 23rd from 7-9pm at Cinematheque. It will feature OUVRIR LA VOIX (SPEAK UP/MAKE YOUR WAY), a film about francophone European black women from the diaspora. There will be a Skype Q & A with the filmmaker Amandine Gay.

Here’s the event page:

Okay. NOW go be awesome.



Diversity Report: Diversity On Screen – All Access


Diversity On Screen: a Conversation with Jennifer Holness

Interviewed by  Ify Chiwetelu


Written by Alan Wong


Late afternoon, on the second day of ALL ACCESS, is not necessarily the prime spot for any sort of panel. Many participants were in 1-on-1 sessions in the next room, or feeling sluggish from their mid-day slump. However, in the midway ballroom of the Fairmont Hotel, a small but engaged audience welcomed Jennifer Holness to Winnipeg with enthusiastic applause. CBC Radio host, Ify Chiwetelu conducted an intimate interview with the award-winning Jamaican-Canadian producer and screenwriter.

Jennifer’s story is exceptional. To hear her tell it, it would almost seem like producing content with an ethnic mandate was easy. It certainly seemed to come easy to her and her producing partner & husband, Sudz Sutherland, who as a team, have put out edgy, hard-hitting stories of gun violence, deportation of immigrants, and homophobia. The couple have won numerous awards for their projects and continue to push the boundaries with Shoot the Messenger, a gritty television crime drama loosely based on Ex-Toronto Mayor, Rob Ford. Her goals are to tell stories that other producers shy away from, and if her success is any indication, they are ones that people want to hear – and need to hear.

After a very interesting 45-minutes, which very much seemed like a casual chat over a glass of wine, Participants were left with the message that diverse content – powerful, meaningful content that speaks to all of us – is in demand and in need. And it’s our job to create it.

Blog: Asians in Media – VAFF Report by Alan Wong


The Vancouver International Asian Film Festival (VAFF) is in its 20th year, and is a festival celebrating films on the Asian diaspora. I was attending the premiere screening of my short documentary, “A Dwarf’s Hideout”, about a young Japanese family who came to Winnipeg and chose to stay and plant roots. It’s an all too familar story for me, as my parents were also transplants to this quirky little prairie city, and my childhood mirrored that of the Akimoto’s young children, running around their family restaurant. Dwarf no Cachette in St. Boniface is a little home-style Japanese cuisine jewel, and the film captures the family’s everyday life, their first impressions of Winnipeg, and why they chose to stay.

I’m proud to announce that the film won the award, Best Canadian Short, out of a strong group of films by emerging Asian-Canadian film-makers from across the country. It is an honour to be recognized for what I believe to be a very “Canadian” story, and a project very close to my heart.

Some other interesting events that I was able to attend, were the Asians In Media panels, of which there were three different sessions: Comics, Music and Movies. All were interesting for different reasons. Comics are now one of the major sources of material for new films, so the diversity represented in new comics are important for the overall impact they have on pop culture. Also, in today’s age of self or independent publication, stories about POC are much more accessible. Writers/creators are finding that readers are not only out there, but are plentiful, and hungry for these diverse stories.

In Music, YouTube and other sites have done the same for indie artists with talent, but aren’t in a record label’s sights – yet. It evens the playing field, giving the fans the opportunity to engage with who they wish, instead of their musical tastes being dictated by big media. It is still a very challenging industry, but one that is less about looks or colour of skin, than about your musical ability. The ears are colour-blind.

By far, the biggest panel was the Asians In Movies session. The keynote speaker was William Yu, who launched #starringjohncho, a social media movement that saw popular movie posters photo-shopped with John Cho in the lead role, to see what it would look like to have an Asian male as a Hollywood star. It became viral, spreading all over the world and was covered by CNN and BBC, to name a few. Demonstrating that the issue is very relevant, and that all POC feel under-represented or misrepresented. Also discussed was the whitewashing of Asian roles by Hollywood and the position that stereo-typically Asian roles put Asian actors in. One might be apt to refuse those roles that pander to a stereotype, BUT if the actor is able to bring depth to that character, then it might be worth it to take pride in that endeavor, and fight for the artistic freedom to do so.

The discussions were all enlightening, with the take away being that if we want to see diverse stories being told, we need to support inclusive creative work, not just in voice, but with our dollars. And that, even though the industry has come a long way to recognizing that diversity makes for a better industry, we still have a lot of work to do. So let’s get to it.

Alan Wong




As I approached the short line that was forming outside of the Glenn Gould studio, I saw what I expected to see. Mostly young people of colour, dressed in conservative business casual; some talking in small groups and some on their phones.  As I stood there with those first few for the next 20 minutes, the line started to grow behind me, and the participants more diverse.  All ethnicities, age ranges (but still mostly younger), and the physically challenged.  There must have been close to 80 people there, making it (by one organizer’s testimony) the largest event of its kind that the CBC has hosted to date.

It was the third annual Match-up, an event meant to connect diverse creators with other industry professionals. In attendance were writers, directors, actors, filmmakers, musicians and producers; all looking to make connections with the cadre of executives that CBC had invited to participate.  The list of contributors was extensive and included many of the industry’s top decision makers.  At the registration desk, I received a name tag and two drink tickets.  I then signed up for a “speed-connecting” session; a chance to speak to 5 different executives for 3 minutes each.  I had done my research beforehand so I had an idea about who I wanted to talk to.

When the event started, Shad, host of Q, addressed the crowd with a brief introduction and welcome. Then introduced Tara Ellis, Executive Director of CBC Scripted Content, who made a short speech.  After some formalities, they announced the beginning of the speed-connecting sessions.  I wasn’t on until the next slot, so I grabbed a beer, chowed down on some hors d’oeuvres, and began the grueling task of forced conversation.  I successfully navigated my way through a few awkward interactions, occasionally stepping back and surveying the room.  I noticed that the few physically-challenged attendees in wheelchairs were grouped together, largely ignored by the rest of the group.  As I made this sad observation, I ran into Catherine McKinnon, the ACTRA National International Woman of the Year award winner.  (If you are unfamiliar with her, she is a long-time advocate for the hearing impaired and a talented deaf actor.)  I congratulated her on her achievements and was then called into my speed-date.

In a room set up like a grid, 5 rows of 5 pairs of chairs, the contributors sat, as the last session participants filed out of the room, we filed in. I met with:

  1. Abby Ho, Senior Producer of CBC Commission & Scripted, who gave me insight into the digital world and the evolution of internet programming. Where communities form and genre-specific content is able to find a fan base. CBC’s Youtube presence is carefully curated.
  2. Shane Smith, Director of Programming, Hot Docs, who gave me his card to submit to him my short documentary and encouraged festival participation and promoted the industry events and workshops connected with Hot Docs.
  3. Bruce Cowley, Creative Head, Documentary Channel, who also asked me to submit my short doc to him. We talked about Winnipeg and he told me he was working on projects with Merit Jensen Carr of Merit Motion Pictures and Kyle Bornais of Farpoint. We talked about the state of documentaries in modern media.
  4. Grant Harvey, Director/Producer, Fuel Films Inc., who encouraged me to keep doing what I was doing, and that I seemed to be on the right track. He did give me some useful advice about going after an agent and film-making at my level.
  5. Sarah Adams, Executive in Charge of Production, CBC Drama, who gave me some insight to what the CBC are looking for and some advice for my career as a creator. CBC Digital Originals is looking actively for comedy and unscripted. Content that lends itself well to web-series. She also mentioned finding an agent and touted the CFC and NSI for training.

The timing was kept by a gong, which was very obnoxious sounding, but undeniably effective.

Afterwards, there was more mingling in the lobby of the studio. It was very loud as people started to loosen up and get more comfortable.  I happened to meet a writer who had participated in the Bell Media Diverse Screenwriter’s program.  She told me about her project, which was picked for mentorship and development.  Now, her goal was to produce a trailer for a pilot, to get funding for said pilot.  She told me that the show is a sci-fi dramedy set in… Winnipeg (however ironically).  “I’M from Winnipeg!” I exclaimed.  I started telling her about how great it is to shoot in Winnipeg; the tax credits, the variety of landscapes, not to mention the supportive and skilled filmmaking community.  Needless to say, she was very impressed and interested in sussing out the possibility of filming here.

Over the years and throughout my travels, I’ve heard many people extoll Winnipeg’s virtues. But I’ve also heard people air their negative perceptions of our fair city.  If we want to break free of these notions that Winnipeg is less-than, we have to make people aware of the awesomeness that resides, no – THRIVES here.  In regards to the filming industry, it is much easier to film in Manitoba, than it is almost everywhere else.  We have extremely cooperative government officials, not to mention a wonderful organization, Manitoba Film & Music, dedicated to helping producers make the best of their hard-sought budget dollars.  And many people who are actively working in the industry know this.  I heard three separate executives make reference to Winnipeg throughout the night.  We are a small market, but we churn out quality product.

As the night wore on and the crowd began to thin, that’s when the conversations turned to the issues of diversity in the larger scope of Hollywood and commercial media. Misrepresentation and under-representation being the main topics.  But the overall feeling was positive, and with so many talented, like-minded individuals, all hungry for a piece of the pie, it seems inevitable that the portion of diverse content shown across all platforms will continue to grow.  The fact that events like this exist, as well as other Diversity initiatives, show that the institutions realize the lack of representation.  That, in itself, is a step in the right direction.

All in all, it was a worthwhile event. I feel I got out of it as much as I could, given the time and circumstances.  And I gained some valuable insight into how Winnipeg fits into the industry (very positively), and other issues of diversity.  Essentially, the opportunities are out there, and the CBC (and their affiliated partners) are actively pursuing diverse content for their platforms.  The onus is on us, as creative professionals, to create, and foster the community where our stories can be celebrated

– Alan Wong,  actor/singer/film-maker

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