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Establishing Shots: An Oral History of the Winnipeg Film Group

Establishing Shots: An Oral History of the Winnipeg Film Group

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By Kevin Nikkel, published by the University of Manitoba Press

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

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