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MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Trevor Kristjanson

Congratulations on the BravoFACT grant that you received for your film Platypus! Can you tell us about the film?

Thank you! Platypus is a fictional short film following Jensen Murphy (wonderfully brought to life by Nancy Sorel). Jensen, the world’s premier Human Taxidermist, struggles to find human connection as she straddles the world of the living and the dead. The film was written by Joshua Benoit and Chaz Beaudette, and produced by Jessica Gibson and Chaz Beaudette.

You have been involved in creating a number of films. What was your inspiration to be a filmmaker and has being an actor influenced you as a director/producer?

As a teenager I made videos with my friends in Gimli, basically emulating the CKY skateboarding videos of the early 2000s. It taught me how to create, from both sides of the camera. Being an actor has a big influence on how I direct. I find a lot of directors are sort of afraid of actors and of giving direction. Being an actor has given me a lot of confidence and ability in working with other actors.

Who is a filmmaker that you admire, and why?

Danishka Esterhazy. She makes the movies that she wants to make, seemingly without compromise. They’re dark and stylish and her voice shines through. I’ve worked with her as an actor a few times, and she’s very caring, clear and confident.

Who is an actor that you admire, and why?

Darcy Fehr. I saw him on stage a few years ago in a production of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”, and it was the best acting I’ve seen. I’ve trained under him (as many have), and he is generous in sharing his knowledge with others who want to act. He’s humble, hardworking, sensitive and talented.

When did you become an ACTRA member, and what was your first union gig?

My first union gig was on the feature film “Radius”, and I believe I became an ACTRA member around that same time.

How has being a member of ACTRA benefited you?

You can go into a production as an actor, and be confident that the union has your back. From a filmmaker standpoint, programs like the Member Initiated Projects help us all create our own work.

What does it mean to you to be a Canadian artist, telling Canadian stories?

I’m grateful to be Canadian, and I feel like I have the power to tell any story, about any subject matter I choose. I believe the Prairies in particular produce some of the strongest filmmakers and artists in North America. Places like the Winnipeg Film Group and unions such as ACTRA have really nurtured a lot of great Canadian artists.

Do you have any advice for other actors out there who are interested in creating their own projects?

As important as grants for artist are, I don’t think you can always afford to wait on somebody to give you money. There’s a number of reasons why a project may or may not receive funding, many of which are irrelevant to the quality of the project. I say just make the stuff. Find like-minded crew and actors who are willing to help you make your project, keeping in mind that it is a pretty big thing to ask sometimes. Help each other out. Make good work, and make everybody else play up to that level of quality.

President’s Message – October 2018

Hello, fellow members.

Please RSVP for your free ticket to ACTRA’s upcoming Gala & Awards Evening.  In addition to the performance awards, we are handing out two very special industry related awards.  At a time when our industry is thriving and more of our members are working than ever, I expect this Gala to surpass all others – not to mention we are also celebrating two ACTRA Anniversaries.  We are also offering complimentary tickets to members of IATSE and DGC unions. All tickets include 2 drinks, food and entertainment. Please spread the word. I hope to see many of our members and industry friends out celebrating with each other on Friday, October 12th!

We have had a few changes at ACTRA Manitoba over the last couple of months, one of which is losing our wonderful Toni Reimer from Council, as she has made a temporary move to Vancouver.  We miss her terribly but welcome Cheryl Gensiorek to Council.  Along with Toni we have lost our newsletter, possibly temporarily, but thought it would be a good time to re-evaluate where Council puts its energies and look to our members for what they see to be priorities.  For the time being we will be sending bulletins when we feel we have urgent news for our members.  I would appreciate any feedback members have on whether the newsletter is of value to you.

We have a new staff person at ACTRA Manitoba: We welcome Liz Quesnel as the ACTRA Manitoba Steward.  Liz will be part-time in the office, and, on-set stewarding productions and offering assistance to members in relation to working conditions and contracts.

Finally ACTRA Manitoba’s “RESPECT on SET” wallet cards are now available for our members in regard to maintaining a respectful workplace for all.  Stop by the office to pick up a few to pass around.

Jan Skene

ACTRA Manitoba President

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.


Congratulations on your role in Nellie Bly! Can you tell us a little bit about the part? Also, how did you prepare for this and other auditions and for being on set?

In Nellie Bly I played Nurse Grupe, a sadistic nurse in a women’s lunatic asylum in the 1800s. Grupe is part of a group of three nurses that carry out the orders of the head of the hospital, Matron Grady. Grupe is the meanest of the lot and does everything that her boss tells her to do, no matter how depraved. I initially auditioned for Matron Grady, which I prepped for days, and I was called back for Grupe with only a day’s notice. I felt underprepared for the callback because I had less time, but when I walked in the room the director Karen Moncrieff was so fantastic and just let me play. As a theatre performer, I’ve often felt restricted by the camera and having to stand on a tape line on the floor and only one actor to read with. Much of the time I feel like I’m in a straitjacket at film auditions. Karen Moncrieff was the first director who said “don’t worry about where the camera is or the reader or the tape line – you just do your thing and we will follow you”. This totally released me and I think I did the most fun audition of my life. I left the room not even caring if I got the part or not because I felt like I was given permission to be free and do what I wanted. It was very empowering. I took that spirit of freedom to the set and just stayed open to my fellow actors, the creativity of the director and stayed true to my instincts.

What has been your favourite or most memorable role thus far?

Nurse Grupe is my favourite role I’ve played in film so far. Karen and I spent some time discussing why this nurse has become the way she is, and I think we developed a character that on paper may come off as pretty archetypical, giving her some dimension and nuance. I say this not having seen the film yet, so I just hope that the layers come across. I loved working with all the amazing women on set and there was a great camaraderie that developed between everyone. The fact that the story was based on a true story was not lost on anyone and I’ve always connected with these kinds of suffering, slightly mad characters. Some people might find this disturbing or depressing but I have always found these types of characters fascinating.

When did you become an ACTRA member, and what was your first union gig?

I think I became an ACTRA member in 1991. My first role was a clerk in a corner store who is tormented by some young punks that mess with her Slurpee machine. This was John Kozak’s film Hell Bent.

How has being a member of ACTRA benefited you?

I belong to three associations: CAEA, ACTRA and PGC. While all of these associations have wonderful protections in place, ACTRA is by far the most comprehensive. I have always been proud to belong to this association. I appreciate how well we are paid and, if you take the time to learn about all of the benefits of being a member – such as our RRSP and Insurance policy – you will be amazed at how well we are covered for our health and for our future. ACTRA has your back!

How do you stay sharp? Do you have any training suggestions?

I have always been the most afraid of losing my memory, so I am constantly trying to find ways of keeping my memory sharp and challenging my brain with new ways of learning. I did a one woman play this year with over 6000 words playing 30 different characters which was a great brain workout. I am also learning how to play the violin – they say music re-connects pathways as you age. I have a language program on my phone so I am trying to increase my vocabulary in French and Spanish. I feel like my greatest asset as an actor is my imagination – everything we do is generated from our mind, so keeping it stimulated and fed is essential! Training is great – the Actor’s gym is fantastic and there are some great teachers in the community. If you can’t afford workshops, practise in front of a camera – record yourself and watch it back – that is the best teacher.

Do you have any advice for other actors out there?

Advice for other actors…this is a tough business and it will never appreciate you and it doesn’t owe you anything. It’s only good to you when it needs something from you. Money and attention and awards are great but I’ve seen lots of people go down the road of feeling like they deserve more. This will make you miserable. It’s good to want things and work hard to realize your dreams, but always have something real in your life that can fulfill you. For me this is my family and community. They will always come first.

Political Action

By Alan Wong

March 22, 2018

Since the release of last year’s financial report by accounting firm KPMG, sectors have been on the defensive, including ours. However, with the announcement of the provincial budget on March 12th, members of Manitoba’s film industry can breathe a (temporary) sigh of relief that no major changes were announced.

A coalition of industry representatives, of which ACTRA was a voice, proposed that a working group be formed to review the effectiveness of the Manitoba Film & Video Tax Credit, in order to help the government make an educated assessment. In his speech about our sector, Minister Friesen announced that they will be proceeding with this idea; the successful result of months of advocating by our industry associations and unions.

All of the research and information collected over the past few years on the impact of the creative industries, in particular – the booming film and television industry – will be used to help our case. Our stance is that a stable and consistent tax credit is a valuable and worthwhile investment in our industry: the hundreds of talented artists, craftspeople, technicians, and administrative staff who work, pay taxes, and are otherwise involved in making the city great. Not to mention all of the side businesses who benefit: vendors, hotels, caterers, just to name a few.

But this article is not to inundate you with facts and statistics, nor is it to tell you how great the tax credit is. You can find that information easily online and through organizations like On Screen Manitoba, or Manitobans for the Arts. This article is to offer gratitude to all of our members who have been pro-active during this time of insecurity. If you shared a post on social media, wrote a letter to your MLA, or even just talked about the issue with people in your circles, you were advocating for us, and for that – a huge THANK YOU!

The work isn’t done. however, as the committee has until June 30th to submit a report. We hope that the outcome will not only continue to support our industry, but see initiatives to help ease our growing pains (e.g. shortage of production space, skilled crew, etc.). It’s an exciting time to be an active and involved ACTRA member, and if it means more auditions, better roles, and more opportunities for you to practice your craft, then it is all worth it.


Thanks for representing ACTRA members and adding your insight at our recent casting panel. You’ve had many years of on set experiences. Can you tell us how you prepare for auditions and for being on set?

Acting is my job, not my hobby. Auditioning is a significant part of that job. An audition is also an opportunity to perform in front of an audience that is interested and invested! I approach auditions as seriously as any working day on set, and there’s no difference in the kind of preparation I do. My rule of thumb is “If I’m not ready to shoot, I’m not ready to audition.”

I do what it takes to clear enough time to prepare, because there’s work to be done. I usually need 8 to 10 hours to prepare an audition, often more, depending on the size of the role. Sometimes that means cancelling family plans or social engagements and often giving up show tickets. Auditions don’t happen often in Winnipeg, so when they do, I make them a priority.

Of course, preparation means a lot more than just memorizing lines. There’s a performance to prepare for and I don’t have 3 weeks to rehearse. I need to be efficient, without taking shortcuts. I do all the work that needs to be done: I break down the scene, I do research, I do character work, I learn an accent, if needed. I explore the scene in as many ways as possible. Then, I leave all that homework at home and do what I can to be relaxed and confident in the room. I show up on time (which means early) and I do my best to present a performance that is Active, Truthful and Connected.

What has been your favourite or most memorable role thus far?

I’ve been very fortunate to be cast in a lot of fun and interesting roles, and it’s hard to pick a favourite. But I have a particular affection for my recurring role as Rupert Mowat in the CBC series “Nothing Too Good For A Cowboy.” It was the first time I got to develop a character over a series arc and it was a wonderful, creative experience. A team of great writers gave me an unforgettable gift when they created this strange, funny, interesting character and let me collaborate on his development over several years. Truly a highlight.

When did you become an ACTRA member, and what was your first union gig?

It was so long ago, I had to look this up on the ACTRA website and the titles aren’t listed. I joined ACTRA in 1986 or 87 and my first gig was probably doing a radio play for CBC or acting in a corporate training video. My first feature film gig was as a truck driver in Francis Damberger’s movie “Solitaire,” but the scene was cut out. However, I did get to work with Francis many times after that, most recently on the TV comedy series “Tiny Plastic Men.”

How has being a member of ACTRA benefited you?

I joined ACTRA as soon as I could and am so glad I did. Being a member of ACTRA has allowed me to make a half-decent living as a professional actor in Canada. ACTRA ensures that I’m valued as a professional and treated well on-set. ACTRA ensures I’m provided with fair wages, decent working conditions, and receive recognition for my work.

Thanks to ACTRA, I also have an insurance plan, and I even have a sizeable RRSP. ACTRA Performers’ Rights Society has ensured that I continue to receive about 10-15% of my annual income through residuals, royalties and use payments. It also makes me proud to know I’m a member of a national (and international) community of professional actors.

How do you stay sharp? Do you have any training suggestions?

An actor always needs to be learning about their craft, themselves and the world. I believe the best training for an actor is acting. Every job I do is an opportunity to learn.

I jump at any chance to perform, including auditions for film, TV and theatre. I try to get on stage and do a play every year, or so. I also do a little improv, attend workshops, and volunteer for short film projects. I’m also learning as much as I can about filmmaking.

Of course, I think acting classes are important. At this stage of my career, I find teaching and coaching other actors to be a great way to develop my craft and grow as an actor and director. Acting is a collaboration which I love and enjoy sharing. Every actor has different strengths and needs, so make sure yours are being met. I suggest you look for instructors who have actual professional experience working on set and/or on stage. (Yes, I mean me, but I’m not the only one.)

Training shouldn’t be limited to just acting classes, by the way. In the last few years, I’ve taken singing lessons, tap dance classes, unicycle and juggling lessons, and I’m currently taking a beginner class in conversational French. I also write and produce short films. I’ve recently challenged myself by making a series of whimsical short films entirely on my own, to develop my filmmaking skills. I call them SoLowe shorts.

Do you have any advice for other actors out there?

If you want acting to be your profession, take it seriously and approach it as a job. Find as many opportunities as you can to perform and to grow. The more you do, the better you’ll be. Also, remember you’re a human being and so are most of the characters you play. Learn many things, learn about people, and learn about the world. Always be learning, always be growing.

Oh yeah, make sure your health and personal happiness are your first priorities.

Check out my website:

President’s Message – February 2018

After representing Manitoba at three solid days of meetings with ACTRA Councillors and various staff and representatives from across the country, I am refuelled with enthusiasm and pride for our union, our work and the members we represent. I am now on the ACTRA National Executive, and in April we are hosting for the first time an Executive Face to Face Meeting – in Winnipeg. Although our branch may be small in numbers, I maintain our super-strength is in holding up the integrity of ACTRA’s agreements for all our nation’s members who end up working in our fair province. Looking forward, we are celebrating Manitoba’s 60th Anniversary and ACTRA National’s 75th this year – check out ACTRA Magazine’s special edition. Also, plans for our Awards Gala on October 12th are already in motion – get your nominations in!

Although it is somewhat daunting, I am honoured to be sitting on the National Executive surrounded by so many intelligent and passionate voices.  In his opening address to Council at the February meeting, National President David Sparrow said, “ACTRA is leading the way on so many initiatives right now. We are being looked to by unions and politicians around the world as an association that has it right! ACTRA has become a go-to voice on the arts in this country.” I agree. The issues and initiatives are so far-reaching I won’t even begin to expand on them in this report, just know –  we have a big year ahead of us. We must find real and immediate solutions to dealing with personal harassment in our workspaces; we have to keep fighting for inclusion in our stories and on our screens; we have to be sensitive to the realities of our small branch economies and find creative ways of opening work opportunities.

Finally, I task you to think about what you would like to see in a newly negotiated IPA. We will be coming to the members and asking for input very soon.

See you at the MIP Event – March 24th.

Jan Skene

ACTRA Manitoba President

Casting Panel – February 2018

On February 1st, 57 people attended a casting panel discussion hosted by ACTRA and Film Training Manitoba. Panel members were Jeff Beesley (director), Kyle Bornais (producer), Kristen Harris (actor), Carmen Kotyk (casting director), and John B. Lowe (actor). Marina Stephenson Kerr was the moderator.

Marina started by noting that we all recognized auditioning was an imperfect process. She quoted a friend who told her we had to be tough as nails to get in the door and, once in, be open, confident, and sweet. This seemed to strike a chord with several in the room.

There was a consensus that the increase in film production seen during the past year would continue and that Manitoba and Manitoba actors had a good reputation among producers who had completed projects here. In short, the future looks good for the film industry in this province.

When asked about what sort of training was important for actors, the following points were raised:

  • Actors with distinctly more credits collaborating as peers with other actors.
  • A difference is noticed when an actor prepares with a coach.
  • Actor’s gyms are a valuable resource and one where you can make connections with producers and directors in a safe and encouraging atmosphere.
  • Members initiating small groups of friends or colleagues to prepare for auditions together.
  • Two people mentioned Cal Botterill, a sports psychologist and author, as being knowledgeable about handling performance anxiety.

When asked what panelists liked to see in an audition room, the following points were raised:

  • Strong choices
  • Pleasant manner
  • Confidence
  • Professionalism

When asked what professionalism at an audition looked like, the following points were raised:

  • Be prepared
  • Say thank you
  • Be considerate of fellow actors outside the room by keeping noise level and interactions at a minimum
  • Know your lines cold
  • Be prepared to shoot as if you actually had the job and were shooting that day

When asked what panelists didn’t like to see in an audition room, the following points were raised:

  • Not being prepared
  • Making excuses for not being prepared
  • Shaking hands (one person talking about the number of people seen in an audition day and spreading germs)
  • Weapons (even if just toys, but yes, it’s happened)

A question about how to get into the audition room was raised. The response was keep submitting. A casting director may have 800 submissions from local actors and cannot see all of them. Carmen Kotyk mentioned that now that she has her own studio she will be able to see more people. She also said that there will be facilities there for self-taping. If you are not sure you are right for a part or want to submit for more than one part, submit anyway. She may decide to read you for another role. An audience member mentioned that while casting workbook only appears to allow you to submit for one role per production, if you wait 24 hours it’s possible to make a second submission.

Quotes of note:

John B. Lowe: “The best actors in the world are always learning and growing. Theatre actors get the advantage of rehearsal. As an actor, hopefully you are always open to growing.”

Jeff Beesley: “Give us the tools to sell you. If you have something that shows your talent, put it on your website or your reel – record something and make it available.  Just give us the tools to sell you.”

Jeff Beesley:  “Carmen f’n fights for you.  She will go to the wall for Manitoba actors. You have an advocate here in Carmen!”

Carmen Kotyk:  “We often have no control over some of the casting decisions. If a director or producer wants something, and even if it doesn’t make sense to me, their choice gets priority.”

Kristen Harris: “A safe audition space is the most valuable thing for a performer. The safer you make that space, you are going to invite that actor into their character and audition.”

Thanks from ACTRA to Film Training Manitoba, the panelists, the moderator, and all those who attended.

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.



President’s Message – January 2018

Hello fellow Manitoba members and welcome to 2018.

Our industry in Manitoba continues to flourish and, as a result, more members are working than ever before AND booking more significant roles.  I don’t remember, ever in my lifetime, turning on the television and seeing so many recognizable faces on the screen.  I can’t even single out any of our amazing members for congratulations in fear of leaving others out – there are so many!  If you want a fun exercise, go to our What’s Shooting  page and then check out the IMDB credits for the films and series that have shot here recently.

Council is very busy with our various initiatives, including:  Training – the new Accent Parties and the upcoming FTM workshop with Mackenzie Gray, plus the very much anticipated Casting Panel; Diversity and Women’s working on many initiatives and participating Nationally on inclusivity and RESPECT discussions; Political Action – always working behind the scenes to keep our issues front and center with funders and advocacy groups; Social/Networking – next up is MIP Night on March 24th and then we go full throttle toward our next Gala Awards Celebration. Thanks to the members who agreed to sit on our Discipline Committee – your support is much appreciated.  Finally a big shout-out to Toni Reimer who has brought our Newsletter into a new dimension and works diligently at bringing us closer together as a membership through her informative Member Spotlights, ASK ACTRA and member-driven announcements.

As working members of ACTRA I ask, as always, that you do your part to keep informed and advocate for your fellow performers and, in turn, yourself.  We – Council and staff – are always here for you, but we need your participation, support and direction. I would love to hear from you if you have suggestions or solutions or questions.

Jan Skene

ACTRA Manitoba President

p.s. RESPECT on SET: Do it  Be it  Say it

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