Freeze Frame​​ exposes Manitoba youth to international film industry

By Sara Calnek, CBC News

17-year-old Viola Zhou is the daughter of a director and that’s the same direction she wants to go in.

Wednesday, the Grade 11 St. John​’​s​-Ravenscourt student took part in Freeze Frame’s 19th annual International Film Festival for Kids of All Ages.


Zach Wolf, Film Training Manitoba, shows grade 10 Gimli High School students Amy Thorkelson how to use the camera. (Sara Calnek/CBC)

“I think movies are a visual art that I really admire doing and it’d be really cool,” she said.

She likes all movies but ​it’s the storytelling involved in documentary work that really attracts her.

“I feel like documentaries are a really nice way of spreading stories around and mainstream movies are less detail and less realistic,” Zhou said. “It’s always nice to see what’s out there.”

Pascal Boutroy, Freeze Frame’s artistic director, said th​is is the reason ​for his organization exists – to give kids an insight to what happens behind the scenes ​of film production ​and expose them to what is out there.

Empowering kids to be ‘media savvy’

“It was always about empowering the kids, exposing them to different [things], and making them media savvy,” Boutroy said. “We want our kids to be broadminded, to understand what is going on in South Africa, to understand what’s going on in Denmark, all kind of experiences in life. I think it’s good for them and it’s good for society in general.”


Autumn Witt from Gimli High School acts with classmates, they are taking part in Freeze Frame’s International Film Festival for Kids of All Ages. (Sara Calnek/CBC)

When Boutroy created Freeze Frame 19 years ago, it was ​with ​the idea that children needed to be exposed to more than the Hollywood blockbusters that dominate our screens and they need to think about what they are watching.

“If you look at the media today, it’s very based on stories that are told in moving images. Film is one of them, so teaching them about films is also about teaching the​m​ about the diversity of messages,” Boutroy said. “They have learned that when you edit one image close to another, you have made a decision, an editorial decision, that can twist the truth or not, so they become more savvy this way. They become a more critical watcher, and they’ll be better at making decisions in their lives too.”

Gimli Ice Festival provides backdrop for doc


Winnipeg Film Group was showing kids how to use cameras, lights, and audio equipment at Reel Jobz, a Freeze Frame initiative to get kids involved in film production. (Sara Calnek/CBC)

Autumn Witt and Amy Thorkelson are Grade 10 students from Gimli High School.

For a class project they have to create a documentary about this weekend’s Gimli Ice Festival. They have learned how to work a camera, and have developed interview skills, and video editing.

The exposure to the film industry led Thorkelson to develop an interest in directing and camera work.

She said documentary work isn’t just about that – it’s also about a team working together to create something out of just an idea.

freeze frame

St. John’s-Ravenscourt​ student Evan Whitman is shown how to record his voice onto a plastic dinner plate by Charles Granger of NLC2. (Sara Calnek/CBC)

“There’s so many different jobs that I didn’t know about. Like all the producing, editing, filming, the sound, the lighting, the music, everything,” Thorkelson said.

Boutroy also believes these kids are the future of the business and that it’s important to get them interested in it now so they can gain the experience they need to excel at it in the future.

Future of Manitoba film industry at stake

“On a short term, it’s certain that we are struggling to find crews in Manitoba, so we do need more people to get into the industry. Also, what’s important with our workshop is that the kids learn to shape the messages, so if they are the kinds of kids that actually want to be filmmakers, they have a chance to learn that, to be exposed to that, and then they can push it further,” Boutroy said.

Witt has a split role in her high school production. She is editing and directing and although she is unsure if a future in film is for her, she knows the whole process of making a documentary is more than it seems and there’s no denying how important documentaries are.


Students were invited to record their voices on a plastic dinner plate to simulate vinyl record recording. (Sara Calnek/CBC)

“It looks like a lot of work to put it all together and make it all look that well, having to edit it together and have it transition nicely,” Witt said. “Documentaries show places you’d never think of, like Africa and what happens there, and like inside a McDonalds, what the food is.”

The films ​at the International Film Festival for Kids of All Ages ​are from all over the world​, including Denmark, South Africa, France, Norway, and Canada.

They will be screened ​to the public ​this weekend at 340 Provencher Blvd. Tickets are $6 and can be purchased at the door.

Saturday’s screenings start at 10 a.m. with the last film running at 2 p.m.

Sunday’s films start at noon, with the closing ceremonies at 2:30 pm.

Last year’s festival was attended by close to 6,000 kids between the ages of 3 and 18.

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