Our fair city

Local artists add their voices to the mix

In the weeks following The Uniter’s critique of WindCity, the recently released web series that credits Winnipeg as a main character, many local filmmakers weighed in with their opinions. Though it is generally agreed upon that WindCity portrays an unfamiliar experience for most people in the arts scene, it has served to encourage those who have their own voice to add to the mix.

“The best thing about [shows like WindCity], is that it renews our interest in representing niche communities,” says Kayla Jeanson, filmmaker, videographer and former University of Winnipeg student of the School of Contemporary Dance.

Inspired by Portlandia and the blog Winnipeg Love/Hate, Jeanson has begun writing a sketch comedy series that highlights some of Winnipeg’s quirky characters and attitudes.

“I think with funders it can be hard to take chances,” she explains. “I want to be free to have some fun without feeling beholden to anyone.”

Jeanson describes her project as a labour of love that she plans to work on with several writers, and anyone who feels enthusiastic enough about the idea to donate their time.

As she excitedly shares ideas for sketches that sound truly hilarious, one concept that comes up is the relationship between Franco- and Anglo-Manitobans, which she talked to filmmaker Stephane Oystryk about extensively before putting pen to paper.

No stranger to representing niche communities, Oystryk is currently in post production on FM Youth, a feature-length film he shot over the summer that stars three young French Canadians, including UW student Katrine Deniset.

“It started out as a short,” he says. “I wanted to see if I could bring the St. Boniface experience to cinema. Could the Frenglish be pulled off, would people even care?”

The response was positive enough that he expanded on the idea, and hopes to present a finished product by June.

“It’s really about my 20s. We’d go sit on the steps of the Cathedral, bring beer cans or a flask with our backpacks late on Friday and Saturday nights… house parties were also a big thing, and karaoke at the Nicolette on Thursdays.”

Oystryk is passionate about capturing his experiences on screen, but he doesn’t discredit others’ either. “I don’t think WindCity presents a Winnipeg that’s not valid,” he says.

When asked for his take on that which is quintessentially Winnipeg, UW Theatre professor and writer, Per Brask, weighs in with his thoughts.

“A bunch of people around the kitchen or dining room table with coffee, beer, and treats discussing whatever is going on in the city,” he describes. “Sometimes there’ll be snow and sometimes there’ll be hot sun, but people will always do that here.”

In the end, a local artist’s mission seems pretty clear: ask not what a web series can do for your city, ask how you can create something that is unique to your community within that city.

Published in Volume 68, Number 23 of The Uniter (March 12, 2014)

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