‘We want to hear your stories’

OurToba creates space for underrepresented filmmakers to share their work

Kathleen Gallagher, president of the OurToba Film Network

Keeley Braunstein-Black

Kathleen Gallagher, a Winnipeg-based actor, producer and screenwriter, understands the challenges women face in her industry. As president of the OurToba Film Network, she is creating a space for women, non-binary and gender-diverse filmmakers in Manitoba to meet, create and gain skills.

“It is still a bit of a boys club,” Gallagher says of the film industry. She cites a lack of confidence as a potential barrier for filmmakers who don’t identify as male.

“I didn't even really see myself as a filmmaker until I was in my 30s, and I think there (are) a lot of boys who, as kids, played around with cameras and angles ... who considered themselves filmmakers at age 12.”

Inspiration for OurToba came to Gallagher partially through Women in Film and Television (WIFT) Toronto, a not-for-profit, member-driven organization supporting women in screen-based media. While her plans to found WIFT Prairie fell through, she channeled their vision to bolster similar initiatives in Winnipeg.

Gallagher’s involvement in the Womxn’s Film & Video Network at the Winnipeg Film Group influenced its eventual transition into OurToba in 2022.

“It became ‘OurToba’ just to have a more inclusive name to reflect the community,” she says. Gallagher became the OurToba president in 2022 and officially incorporated in 2023.

“I saw this opportunity to grow OurToba and do the things I wanted to with WIFT ... but a little bit more grassroots, a bit more approachable.”

Through OurToba’s member network and events, Gallagher wants women, non-binary and gender-diverse filmmakers to step forward and claim their space.

“We want to hear your stories,” she says.

Natalia Longley, an OurToba member and actor, has gained confidence as a filmmaker through co-producing projects through the group. She views OurToba events, such as the Cold Reading Event – where writers watch actors read their screenplays before an audience – as catalysts for bringing the broader film community together.

“It’s all very kind of splintered,” Longley says, referring to the disparate relationship between local actors and writers. She is excited for the future of OurToba.

“It’s that kind of missing piece in Winnipeg,” she says. “Things can really happen if you’ve got the right people around you.”

OurToba receives support and funding through partnerships with OnScreen Manitoba, Film Training Manitoba, ACTRA Manitoba, Winnipeg Arts Council, Winnipeg Film Group and the Manitoba Legal Clinic for the Arts (MLCA).

Lisa Haydey, a law student at the University of Manitoba, is a screenwriter on the board of directors at OurToba. Haydey offers free legal advice through MLCA to industry creatives and organizations, including OurToba.

“I think (Kathleen) has a lot of really exciting ideas about how to expand our reach and provide more support for new filmmakers,” Haydey says.

Through the OurToba network, Haydey fostered solid friendships with people who have helped each other realize their films.

“That would not have been possible without this group,” she says.

OurToba has not yet created an “official” membership program, but “it’s in the works,” Gallagher says.

Curious creatives can visit ourtobafilmnetwork.com for posted events and volunteer opportunities, or to donate through PayPal via bit.ly/478Crvm.

Published in Volume 78, Number 10 of The Uniter (November 16, 2023)

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