Establishing Shots

An Oral History of the Winnipeg Film Group

Kevin Nikkel (Author)

A behind-the-scenes account of a cultural institution that made a distinctive mark on Canadian film

Establishing Shots captures a diverse group of filmmakers in an immersive oral history of one of the most important and notorious artist-run centres in Canada: the Winnipeg Film Group. Both a deep dive into the life of an internationally renowned institution and an exploration of the growth of an experimental film movement, this richly illustrated collection of interviews produces a vibrant picture of the Winnipeg Film Group’s origins, successes, failures, and ongoing impact.

Formed in 1974 as a membership-based film production, training, and exhibition cooperative, the Winnipeg Film Group was part of a wave of artist-run centres funded by the Canada Council for the Arts. Kevin Nikkel’s candid conversations with twenty-nine administrators and filmmakers— including Guy Maddin, Shawna Dempsey, and Matthew Rankin—reveal the precarious path of independent artists, struggles for equality within the industry, and the importance of place in their work. An engaging resource for scholars and historians of Manitoban and Canadian culture and film, Establishing Shots also shows emerging filmmakers how other artists got their start and learned their craft.


To find these many testimonies overlapping and interacting is fascinating, and the book presents an unusual three-dimensional picture of the life and activities of the Group. Establishing Shots is certainly one of the most successful all-interview books I have encountered.

– William Beard, University of Alberta

The resulting work, Establishing Shots: An Oral History of the Winnipeg Film Group, is an important document of not just Winnipeg’s cinematic history, but of the city’s resilient reputation as an artistic and creative oasis.

Ben Waldman, Winnipeg Free Press

Together the disparate voices gathered here do reflect the Film Group’s lasting importance as a key element of Winnipeg’s cultural matrix, and that in itself makes Establishing Shots a valuable contribution to the city’s history.

Kenneth George Godwin, Cagey Films

Compiled and presented by Kevin Nikkel, himself an independent filmmaker and long-time member of the Winnipeg Film Group, the conversations also offer perspectives on industry issues and the lives of independent artists, and serve as a resource and inspiration to emerging filmmakers.

Paula E. Kirman, Prairie Books NOW

About the Author

Kevin Nikkel is an independent filmmaker and educator based in Winnipeg. He is a long-time member of the Winnipeg Film Group. He co-directed the documentary Tales from the Winnipeg Film Group with Dave Barber in 2017.

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