When you think of Canadian cities with booming film industries, you’re probably thinking Vancouver, sometimes known as Hollywood North, or Toronto, home of the Toronto international Film Festival. Visitors to the city will be pleasantly surprised to learn that Winnipeg has a healthy film industry and is home to a myriad of wildly creative filmmakers and talent that provide the city with an artistic edge.
This not only attracts indie producers to the city, but also Hollywood types too – The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, starring Brad Pitt, was filmed in the ‘Peg in 2006, and so were parts of K19: The Widowmaker, starring Harrison Ford, in 2002. There’s actually a huge list of movies, TV shows, and documentaries that have been filmed in the city (there’s a Wiki page detailing them here).
Winnipeg makes a great location for filming not only because of a healthy provincial tax credit to tempt producers, but also because of the huge range of backdrops that it offers. You don’t have to stray far from the city limits to be in stunningly beautiful Canadian wilderness that easily doubles as pretty much anywhere else in the Northern US (and was used as Siberia too in one TV show), and in the city itself there are historic districts that lend themselves perfectly to any period pieces you might need to shoot. (Interestingly, Legends of the Fall was almost shot in the Exchange District, but city officials and local residents refused to allow the filmmakers to remove trees for the shoot, even though they promised to put them back when filming had finished.)
When it comes to indie movies, there’s a lot of action happening in Winnipeg and has been for more than 30 years. The Winnipeg Film Group was formed in 1974, set out a manifesto to fight the discrimination against Canadian filmmakers and made history. The group has been instrumental in ensuring that more independent Canadian movies are made and distributed, not just ones coming out of Manitoba. Films from this group have shown worldwide, won awards at major film festivals around the world (including Cannes, Venice, and Berlin), and served as an incubator for local talent.
If you’re looking to watch movies, you’ll catch plenty of Winnipeg Film Group’s films at The Cinematheque, the city’s indie cinema, where the group is based. There are also various independent movie and documentary festivals that go on throughout the year and a series of Movies Under the Stars that happens in Memorial Park every summer. So, if you’re a film buff, you’re going to love this city.
Photo: The Nutty Club candy factory; Exchange District, Winnipeg. Photo by Aidan Wakely-Mulroney used under Flickr’s Creative Commons.