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

"Establishing Shots 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

"Freedom combined with rootedness is what has defined the ethic of the Winnipeg Film Group over the long haul, something that Establishing Shots makes abundantly clear over an exceptionally wide range of interviews. For anyone interested in the development of Canadian independent filmmaking, it really is essential reading."

Jerry White, Prairie History

"Throughout the book, Nikkel digs into the tensions, the jealousies, and the sour grapes that are part of any community art project... The questions left hanging in Nikkel's rich and entertaining history are mostly existential: Did Winnipeg's soul really die when its NHL franchise moved to Phoenix? Did that midnight mass on Garbage Hill really happen? But perhaps it's best to accept the mythology of Winnipeg and the narrative of its films as factually tentative: maybe yes, maybe no."

Tom Jokinen, Literary Review of Canada

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 2007.

Table of Contents



A Short History of the Winnipeg Film Group

Part One: The Bate Building
1. Len Klady
2. Leon Johnson
3. David Cherniack
4. Bob Lower
5. Alan Kroeker
6. Elise Swerhone
7. Merit Jensen Carr
8. Gene Walz

Part Two: The Adelaide House
9. Greg Hanec
10. Ed Ackerman
11. Guy Maddin
12. Dave Barber
13. John Kozak
14. Sherren Jerrett
15. Carman Lethbridge

Part Three: Artspace
16. Greg Klymkyw
17. Bruce Duggan
18. Patrick Lowe
19. Jeff Erbach
20. Noam Gonick
21. Shawna Dempsey & Lorri Millan
22. Winston Washington Moxam

Part Four: Community and Experimentation
23. Sol Nagler
24. Arlea Ashcroft
25. Walter Forsberg
26. Matthew Rankin
27. Mike Maryniuk
28. Leslie Supnet
29. Scott Fitzpatrick
30. Danishka Esterhazy
31. Danielle Sturke
32. Caroline Monnet