Jan 16, 2019
Curated by Mike Maryniuk
Mike Maryniuk has assembled some of his favourite films from both the Winnipeg Film Group and the Video Pool archives. He initially set out to find films about working class heroes and forgotten small town local legends. Both the film and video archives are jammed to the rafters with gems and both “Famous for Quality”.
With films from Winnipeg Film Group (WFG) and Video Pool (VP).
Norma Bailey & Ian Elkin – Goldeye (5.5 min | 1983) – Read Interview
A documentary on the fine art of smoking Lake Winnipeg goldeye. (WFG)
Barbara Hunt – Can-D-Man (6.5 min | 1988) – Read Interview
Can-D-Man was part of the Nutty Club project that saw a number of Winnipeg artists working in a factory setting. This is not a new area for Barb Hunt as her previous video work Coats was derived from working in a clothing manufacturing business. She likes to take the viewer through the processing of a product only to take liberties with it. What results is a lyrical look at Nutty Club’s fluorescent pink popcorn. (VP)
John Paskievich & Mike Mirus – The Price of Daily Bread (16 min | 1985) – Read Interview
Anthony Nahuliak, his wife and daughter, farm near Hodgson in the Manitoba Interlake, on land that has been in the family for generations. Now they must sell their farm equipment, house, and land to pay the bank. This movie seems one of Paskievich’s harshest yet it is also one of his most tender because it so succinctly narrates the very act of displacement. (WFG)
Patrick Friesen – Spirit of Asessippi (27.5 min | 1984) – Read Interview with Don Proch
A portrait of sculptor, Don Proch, and his relationship to the Asessippi landscape found within his practice. (WFG)
Norma Bailey, interviewed by Mike Maryniuk
Norma Bailey is Manitoba’s most successful narrative director. There is no other filmmaker that has as diverse a catalogue, more titles or more for hire gigs than Norma. From off shore MOW’s to NFB Vignettes to underappreciated short independent work. Buried deep in the WFG archives, not labelled and not previously screened. Both myself and Monica Lowe’s eyes lit up when we realized what the film was. I’m beyond excited to share this film.
Mike: What is/was your connection to Gimli and the Dockside Fish Market?
Norma: Growing up in Gimli, the Olson’s who owned Dockside were our neighbours. They had a bunch of kids and we had a bunch of kids and there were other families around us and we all moved back and forth between all the houses. At that time the Olson’s didn’t have Dockside. Paul Olson was just one of the many fishermen in Gimli. By the time they built Dockside I was old enough to work there and that was my summer job every year starting when I was about 13. At first I worked in the back sorting and re-icing all the fish that was brought in to be shipped to Winnipeg. Then when I was older I worked in the store selling fish. Paul would smoke Goldeye twice a week for the store.
Mike: What is your earliest memory of smoked goldeye?
Norma: I first had as a kid. My dad would occasionally bring it home although my mother couldn’t stand it.
Mike: At what point did you realize that smoked Goldeye was uniquely Manitoban?
Norma: Not until I was older.
Mike: I recall your short film The Performer being played daily on television. Tell me a little about the experience of creating such an iconic piece of Canadiana.
Norma: I was living in Montreal and catering all the rock shows at The Montreal Forum where the Canadiens played. So I met Roger Doucet at the Forum and when the NFB asked for short vignette ideas I pitched my idea and my mentor Wolf Koenig helped me make it.
Mike: Did that experience make you want to create something closer to home?
Norma: I wanted to do a film in Manitoba because my father died while I was living in Montreal and I wanted to be back with my family. So I proposed Bush Pilot to the NFB and came back to make it.
Mike: Nose and Tina may be my favourite Manitoba made documentary. It’s such an intimate and human portrait of a complicated relationship. I’d love to know a little more about the making of the film.
Norma: Nose was an old biker friend of my brothers and so I’d known and loved him for several years. And then he and Tina started to live together and I slowly began to feel that I wanted to tell their story.
Barbara Hunt, interviewed by Mike Maryniuk
A few years ago I started poking my nose into the Video Pool archives, Hope Peterson the distribution coordinator at the time, was helping me find a few things suddenly stopped and said “You need to see this film” it was of course Can-D-Man, a hybrid documentary/ performance / psychic examination of life in the “Famous for Quality” Nutty Club. It’s my favorite film to show to Winnipeg filmmakers who think they have seen it all.
Mike: What is your first memory of the Nutty Club?
Barbara: When I moved to Winnipeg I remember seeing the big painted signs on the Nutty Club factory and being amazed, even then in the 1970’s, that these old painted signs on brick buildings still existed in Winnipeg. And I liked the wonderful dancing candy man. Looking at him on a freezing winter day really perked up my spirits.
Mike: What were the conversations like with the workers during the shooting of the piece?
Barbara: First of all I thanked them a lot because they seemed to be a bit nervous. I told them I used to work in a factory and this is why I wanted to do a video in the Nutty Club. I also explained that I wanted to create a day-dream because that’s what we do while doing repetitive work in factories. (Studs Terkel wrote in his book Working that many factory workers have “escape dreams” – big unrealistic dreams about something that would allow them to escape this life. For example, I worked with a woman in one factory who wanted to become an opera singer.) The Nutty Club workers seemed shy about my romantic take on factory work, but were really curious and wanted to be part of it. There was always a supervisor around during the shooting, so I think the workers were in a bit of a bind – wanting to portray a romantic dream, but also do their job well. I know what that feeling is like so I tried to thank everyone as much as possible so the supervisor would know that everyone had done really well. The guy who was behind the door that slowly opened was very nervous but I kept telling him all he had to do was stand there and be himself. He was wonderful. And the nice woman who sewed the pink popcorn was concerned about getting it right. Her concentration on the task was perfect. She laughed when I explained the idea was that while sewing, she would be having a romantic day-dream – I think she understood very well!
I would have liked to talk to the workers more, but you know what it’s like when you are shooting a video with a time limit. I knew everyone had to get back to work, back to their real job.
Mike: Fascinating. Are the factory worker escape dreams something that you continued to explore in other work?
Barbara: Good question and something I have never considered. Looking back on work I did right after that, there were a few pieces that were dream-like, for example a figure on a bed made out of vintage broken glass with clouds of fabric overhead. And I just remembered another piece with a mirror pond and gold-painted rocks plunging down. These two pieces were “stories” – depicting events so maybe that was inspired by my first experience with time-based video. But later in my art practice, my work was more literal, based on my responses to real life events – death and war mostly.
Mike: How was the video received in Winnipeg?
Barbara: To be honest, I find openings kind of stressful and it was all a blur. I seem to remember people being curious about it and what was going on in it – why were those men walking along in pink popcorn? I think people found it a bit surreal, maybe. What I do remember very very clearly was the negative response from male artists in the community – they were incensed that only women were chosen for the show, and particularly perturbed because the theme of the show was an industrial environment – something they seemed to believe was for men only. That was a real feminist wake-up moment for me (among many others ha ha), to be criticized on the basis of gender only. I had worked in factories before, so an industrial environment was not foreign to me – that was why I, and the other women in the show, were chosen. We all had ties to industry in Winnipeg.
Mike: What drew you to Winnipeg? (maybe an update on where you are.)
Barbara: I’ve moved around a lot in my life, all the time actually. I lived in Ottawa when I was young and used to go to the National Gallery and a commercial gallery on Sussex Drive. I knew I wanted to go to art school, so I researched the artists whose work I liked and found that some of them had been trained at U of Manitoba – Ivan Eyre in particular. In those days I wanted to be a realistic painter. I still paint with watercolours sometimes. So I saved a bit of money and moved to Winnipeg. I didn’t have a year of residency to qualify for student loans, so I worked in factories, saved money, and spent time on my portfolio.
More-than-you-want-to-know Update – after getting my Diploma in studio art, I moved to Toronto for a year, then homesick returned to Winnipeg where I put down roots, joined MAWA, set up a studio on Main Street (where I also lived) and established myself as an artist – forever grateful to Winnipeg. Then in 1989 (the year after Nutty Club) I went to Banff for a year, intending to return to Winnipeg, but stayed in Vancouver after tree-planting, then got accepted for an MFA at Concordia, stayed in Montreal for a while (more factory work), until Sheila Butler offered me a teaching job at Western, which led to a job in Newfoundland, which led to a tenure-track position at Queen’s, and then back to Memorial University in NF where I spent the last 17 years. whew. Now I am retired and living in my little trailer in the woods on Vancouver Island.
Mike: Any advice to artists who are new residents to Winnipeg?
Barbara: Oh my. For women, join MAWA and be an active member. Volunteer to be on the board. For everyone, join an artist-run centre and same advice. Work hard. Have fun. Sounds corny but follow your own vision, make your own work because the strength of Winnipeg is its support for a wide diversity of work. Be nice to everyone. Don’t gossip or say anything negative about anyone. Carefully choose one person to confide in. Basically, be professional. Help other artists. Work for the good of the whole Winnipeg art community. At high tide all boats get lifted. I aspire to be a good Winnipeg artist – that’s why I always call Winnipeg my home town.
John Paskievich, interviewed by Mike Maryniuk
John Paskevich could be called Winnipeg’s answer to Les Blank. Examining the unique cultures that exist within corner stores, the working class, forgotten neighborhoods, dreamers on the edge of disaster and in the case of The Price of Daily Bread, the almost weekly tragedy of the small town auction.
Neighbors politely stalk the farm equipment hoping for rock bottom deals, while the owners grieve the loss of a loved one or a bank foreclosure while applying mayonnaise to sandwiches for would be buyers. Country auctions are darkly poetic emotional tire fires that require a warm hearted approach.
John’s non-invasive and singular way of filmmaking (in the case of The Price of Daily Bread and Ted Baryluks’s Grocery) could be described as un-filmmaking by opting to capture the scene frame by frame in still images. John’s process allows the viewer to experience the subject matter the way one might in a memory, dream or campfire conversation.
Mike: Why was the idea of making this film compelling and how did you end up in Hodgson, Mb?
John: During the mid 1980’s there was an epidemic of family farm bankruptcies. The farms in the Interlake, especially, were falling. Michael Mirus and I thought that this was a story very much worth telling. We visited several farm auctions and checked out the notices in towns announcing upcoming auctions. In Fisher Branch we heard that the Nahuliak family farm In Hodgson was coming up for auction. We visited the Nahuliaks and they consented to us documenting their story.
Mike: I came across a mysterious 16mm print of a film called Country Auction, after checking it out I realized it was The Price of Daily Bread. When did the title change and why did you land on the this title?
John: Country Auction was the working title. We chose The Price of Daily Bread as the title for a couple of reasons. For the Nahuliaks the price they paid, emotionally and financially, as farmers, was a high one. Our title, of course, was taken from the Lord’s prayer, “give us our daily bread.” The film, in a way, is a secular prayer.
Mike: Describe the technical process of how the images and sound were captured for this film and did this process allow for greater trust / access / truth to unfold on camera?
John: I shot the still photos and while I was doing that Mike Mirus recorded the sound. It was quite an easy, unobtrusive and not expensive way of working.
Mike: How did making this film change you? Or did it?
John: I learned a lot about the history and struggles of those running small family farms, many of which date back to the homesteading days of the early 20th century. And I developed an appreciation of the Interlake and it’s hard scrabble beauty.
Mike: How is making a film with a series of photographs different than taking a single photograph? Is your approach different?
John: With a single photograph you look for a moment when content takes on a form that says “now”. With a series of photos you are not as concerned with a specific moment but rather with the many moments that come before and after any given moment. Plus you are paying attention to what is being said.
Mike: How important is patience to your filmmaking process?
John: Patience is very important in my film making process. I don’t work with a script continuing to trust your gut instinct in times both good and bad is very important. Nothing ever turns out how you imagine it will; the results are always worse of better.
Don Proch, interviewed by Mike Maryniuk
There are several non active films that exist within the Winnipeg Film Group archives. Because they were educational films (mildly commercial), they weren’t considered to have the same artistic merit as filmmaker driven content. Some of these 16mm titles however quickly became my favorite Manitoban documentaries. Only a small fraction of these films are currently in an archive or have been transferred to a digital format. One of my favorites is The Spirit of Asessippi a portrait of the brashly prairie-centric Don Proch.
Mike: How did the film come to pass?
Don: Pat Freisen, a poet (Governor General nominee for a book of poetry 1997)/writer/filmmaker was making a series of films for the Dept. of Ed. He had made films on the art of Ivan Eyre and Esther Warkov before making a film on my work. Previous to the making of this film, I had a one person show at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, my work was shown at The Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and was included in many shows across Canada, so my work was well established before the film. There was also a film series done by TV Ontario – ten 1/2 hour segments of 30 Canadian visual artists- the film called “Visions” was widely screened and it was made prior to Pat’s film. Pat was the writer, director, editor, and he, myself, and a cameraman did all the setups. I made no work specifically for the film but simply worked on things that were in progress at the start of filming.
Mike: Does your connection to the Spirit of Asessippi still exist?
Don: The title ‘The Spirit of Asessippi” was selected by Pat. My connection to Asessippi and that kind of “edge of the Prairie” landscape was that I had lived there and the memories, visions, and experiences I had when I started making art are still the same today as they were then with added layers of memory woven into them as time progresses. My work is a result of those memories and it does change as time molds and distorts those memories.
Mike: What are some of the challenges of creating work in front of a camera.
Don: As I mentioned earlier, the works were made or in progress and I continued on my planned path for making the work with little awareness of what was being filmed.
Mike: How was the film received upon release? And where was it originally screened?
Don: I don’t recall where it was screened or if I went to the screening – the first time I do recall seeing it was on CBC. They had bought the rights to show it nationally on a program called “Reflections”. It was shown on that program a number of times during the course of that program. I did get many calls and notes from viewers across the country commenting on either the program or my work.
Mike: How has your work changed from this time period or has it?
Don: I don’t think of my work as “changing”, I think of it in terms of one piece leading to the next.
Mike: What was some advice you received early on in your art career that led you back to your roots?
Don: I never did have to go back to my roots- that’s where I started.
We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, which last year invested $153 million to bring the arts to Canadians throughout the country.
Nous remercions le Conseil des arts du Canada de son soutien. L’an dernier, le Conseil a investi 153 millions de dollars pour mettre de l’art dans la vie des Canadiennes et des Canadiens de tout le pays.