Origin stories: Wookey Films
Sibling production company has LGBTQ+, Franco-Métis perspective
Award-winning Wookey Films is coowned and co-produced by brother/sister combo Jérémie and Janelle Wookey. The production company has been operating in the Exchange District since 2013.
The creative duo started making plays and concerts at a young age. “We tortured our parents and aunts and uncles with that when we were little,” Janelle says.
As the story goes, their father, an elementary-school teacher, would bring home a video recorder from school at Christmas.
“We became obsessed with this video camera, because we could tape our concerts and watch them ourselves,” she says.
When the camcorder was returned to the school, the parents realized they needed to invest in their own equipment. Jérémie describes how they needed to sell something in order to afford it.
“My dad sold his electronic Yamaha keyboard and bought a camera with (the money),” he says.
Fast-forward to today when, under the Wookey Films banner, the filmmaking team is telling stories that “build stronger bridges.”
Wookey Films’ documentaries are varied in subject. However, the company strives to give a voice to LGBTQ+ people or people of Franco-Métis heritage. “We always try to tell stories from (the LGBTQ+ community) and want to ensure it’s represented,” Jérémie says. He came out in his 20s and has been with his partner for nine years.
The siblings are proudly Franco-Métis. When Janelle was 19 years old, she worked on air for APTN. She then decided to spend more time understanding and connecting to her Métis roots.
Their family discovered their Métis heritage when Janelle and Jérémie were 12 and 10 years old, respectively. Their Métis grandmother held that secret for over 60 years.
That story became Janelle’s Creative Communications project at Red River College. The documentary, Mémère Métisse, was the dynamic duo’s first proper film production.
The 2008 documentary aired on CBC, Radio-Canada and APTN and premiered at the ImagineNATIVE festival in Toronto.
Wookey Films employs three full-time staff in Winnipeg. They added a production team of three people in Montreal who work on their French series Encré dans la peau.
“We have a core team, and when we have a bigger project, we create another team that works with our full-time employees,” Jérémie says.
Casey Gibb is a recent addition to the team. He is also Janelle’s partner.
“I was already his boss, so it was an easy transition,” Janelle says, jokingly. “We try to work on separate things, but it works.”
A new French production is in the works called Théâtre de l’histoire. It’s a one-hour documentary following Winnipeg highschool students as they embark on a theatre workshop designed to enhance their understanding and connection to Indigenous history,” Janelle says.
Wookey Films has won multiple awards, including one for best short documentary at ImagineNATIVE 2014, as well as the Aboriginal Award at the Yorkton Film Festival 2015. It has been nominated five times for the Prix Gémeaux.
For more information about the production company, visit visit wookeyfilms.com.
Published in Volume 76, Number 16 of The Uniter (February 3, 2022)