December 22, 2022
As we wind down the year at ACTRA, I can’t help but remark that my first full year as your President has seemingly flown by. Yet so much has happened that it’s kind of a large task trying to sum it all up! 2022 started off very challenging… we were isolating again with our third wave of COVID, and it was a hard, cold winter. I definitely felt the SAD throughout February and March. But productions carried on, such as the popular Violent Night (in theatres now!), King of Killers, Little Bird, and Acting Good, just to name a couple of the MANY films and TV shows that shot early in the year.
Our MIP screenings were very successful, with people coming back out, timidly at first, but I think we were all ready to gather again as things started to thaw. Cory Wojcik and Mandeep Sodhi won the Golden Boy Award for Most Outstanding MIP (Not Funny), however ALL of the MIP’s were great this year, showing the strength of that program to help members produce some exceptional short films. Speaking of past Golden Boy Award winners, Jonathan Lawrence’s Alter Boys went to camera this year, a project that started as a MIP, and is now a web-series for CBC Gem. A hearty congratulations to Jonathan and his team!
As things started to heat up, Rob and I went looking at offices. When we found someplace we liked, we’d bring some other councillors and staff to get their thoughts. This led to us finding our new space, nestled in the East Exchange! A lovely area, near the theatres and the Waterfront. Thank you to all who attended our Open House, and for those who haven’t seen it yet, stop in and say hi to our staff, some of whom you’ve known for a while now, and a couple who are newer, but have been great additions to the team (I’m looking at you, Shauntana and Ellie!).
Film and television production volume remained high all throughout the summer and into fall. Those months flew by as I ramped up work on the 22nd Annual Gimli International Film Festival (my day job), and we celebrated Jan Skene as ACTRA Manitoba’s Woman of the Year, Robbie Patterson with the Vic Cowie Award, and gave Life Memberships to Ti Hallas and Blake Taylor at our June AGM. Recognitions all well-deserved. It was a wonderful return to in-person AGMs at the Radisson Hotel and an opportunity for the ACTRA’s National Executive Director, Marie Kelly, ACTRA’s National President, Eleanor Noble, and ACTRA’s Regional Director, Ian Chai to visit Winnipeg and meet some of our members.
Somewhere in there, I attended a National ACTRA Conference, where the main topic was the fight for the NCA (National Commercial Agreement), where basically, the group representing the ad agencies are trying to bust our union. The struggle continues today, and ACTRA has been implementing a strategy to try and win this important battle. It’s the most significant challenge our union has faced in years and the full outcomes are not known yet, but millions of dollars in income for our members across the country have been lost so far. I hope that events in 2023 bring some positive results on this front.
As the ACTRA Awards Gala drew near, there was a palpable excitement that we would finally be having our pinnacle event in person once again. And what a party it was! Around 400 people packed the main floor of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights for a night of camaraderie, appreciation, and fun times. It was almost like people had not been to an awards gala in, oh say… four years? The feedback we got from that evening was fantastic. It was glamourous, it was exciting, it had excellent production value, and it felt like a true celebration of our industry. Seemed like everyone had a grand old time and stayed healthy to boot. Thank you once again to Shannon Guile and her amazing team for putting on the best gala to date, and special thanks to Joanne Rodriguez and Aleks Paunovic for being awesome hosts!
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the recent passing of our beloved Doreen Brownstone. I had the good fortune of getting to know her through working on a couple of different film projects, and she always had a warm smile for me. She made me laugh with her self-deprecating humour and the way she could be sweet and grandmotherly one minute, then outrageous and sharp-tongued the next – for the sake of comedy, of course. She didn’t have a mean bone in her tiny body. She will be missed, but she leaves behind an adoring community of friends, colleagues, and admirers. Thank you to Stefanie Wiens for writing a touching tribute to her for us.
We head into the new year with a renewed optimism. A new energy in the office, on our council, and in the industry in general, with the opening of Big Sky Studios, and also the ongoing success of our local production companies. Our membership is growing! This is good news all around, because as more productions happen, the more opportunities we all have to be seen and cast.
Finally, as you may have noticed, we’ve raised the bar with our training and education projects. We will be using technology to better reach a broader base of performers with the valuable knowledge and insight that people want to hear. We will continue to put on events that enrich our community. We will work on helping to create more opportunities for professional development. We will continue to work on seeking equity in the areas that need it. And we will continue to advocate for our members, pursuing high professional standards on set and throughout the industry. If these are important things to you, then consider joining a committee! We’ll be doing a call for new committee members in the new year, so keep an eye out for that. We can always use more help.
On behalf of the staff and council at ACTRA Manitoba, we wish you a joyful holiday season, and a happy new year.