Movies, video and film are the exciting mediums these days. It’s what people pay to see, what they discuss in coffee shops and how they fantasize as a route for success, fame and a means to express themselves.
Some of this expression in recent years has become part of the cultural fabric of Thunder Bay. The city features two local film festivals along with sporadic independent film showings and events that make a visit to the city even more worthwhile if you are a film/movie buff.
Generating Local Interest in Movie and Film
Fifteen years ago, my brother Eric Weller made the first feature-length film in Thunder Bay in 70 years—a horror/comedy, Zombie Massacre. He now teaches at Confederation College where the film program produces about 200 short films a year.
Many college students have started local film businesses and others have left for studios in bigger cities. Trent Opaloch has become director of cinematography for such films as Elysium and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Marie Avgeropoulos, who began acting in short films at the College, has starred in films such as 50/50 and Percy Jackson & the Olympians as the successful Netflix series, The 100. She also garnered fame for dating Taylor Lautner from the Twilight series.
Graduates who’ve gained experience working on big budget Hollywood films have returned home to Thunder Bay and Northwest Ontario to help first time filmmakers with their own projects. This has helped to create a burgeoning domestic film business that is highlighted with the city hosting a number of local film festivals and events. These festivals and events featuring local film and video production not only provide an opportunity for locals to showcase their talents, but for us to see remarkable works from across the country and from around the world.
Bay Street Film Festival
September 9-13 807-346-0066
Finlandia Club, 314 Bay St. Above the Hoito www.baystreetfilmfestival.ca
This festival is a surprising mix of low and higher budget productions that give regional filmmakers the chance to suffer the slings and arrows of a real life audience, not just that of their friends and fellow filmmakers. We all get the opportunity to see a wide variety of Canadian and international films. These include documentaries, animation, experimental works, dramas and more. Submissions this year include films from Syria, Iran, Australia, Norway, and others. And you can meet the filmmakers, up to ten this year. One year, Mexican filmmakers drove all the way up here to talk to an appreciative audience. You can also attend master classes to learn directly from them as well as local filmmakers. The organizers do a great job at this event, and the venue is the ever-popular Finnish Temple above the famous Hoito restaurant.
North of Superior Film Association (NOSFA)
Silvercity, 850 N. May St. 807-628-8445 www.nosfa.ca Films regularly shown at Silvercity.
This four-day festival hosted by NOSFA occurs in the Spring, runs from Thursday to Sunday, and features 18 films, each film shown multiple times so that there are between 50 and 60 screenings. Films are shown at Famous Players Silver City Thunder Bay but a change of venue may occur, so please check their website closer to the date. NOSFA also routinely screens two or three films a month at Silver City. NOSFA selects an impressive number of quality foreign films, Canadian films and alternative American films that won’t have made it to the big screen in Thunder Bay, which is primarily dedicated to blockbuster Hollywood fair. NOSFA makes it possible for lovers of film to get a taste of what is offered in bigger cities that have repertory theatres. Films shown generally win all sorts of international awards, including Academy Awards. Check their website for show times. You can subscribe to their mailing list on their website. Members get discounts and notifications of upcoming films.
Movie Nights in the Park
May & August/September
Marina Park, Festival Area (Movies in the Parks)
The City of Thunder Bay's Recreation and Culture Division presents Movie Nights in the Park as a part of a Spring and late Summer series of movies and short films at Prince Arthur's Landing—otherwise known as Marina Park. The films are shown when the sun goes down—people are invited bring their lawn chairs and blankets to watch films on the big screen at the Thunder Bay waterfront. Movie Nights in the Parks screens a popular, previously released movie title along with a number of short films by local and regional filmmakers shown before the feature film each night. The movie lineup is post on the City of Thunder Bay website and the Culture and Events Thunder Bay Facebook page.
Confederation College Film Night (Conflix)
March 2016 (date yet to be determined)