Windsor Film Society’s Q&A with U of W Alumni Filmmakers Braunte Petric and Matt Gallagher

The Rise and Fall of the Grumpy Burger is a documentary by Matt Gallagher about local moviemaking legend Marshall Sfalcin as he tries to make the leap from self-produced b-monster movies into serious storyteller. By making a movie about his family’s Hi-Ho fast food restaurant chain that operated famously here in Windsor for several decades from the 1930’s, Marshall hopes to expose the truth, that it was his family that invented fast food. It is an exciting glimpse into the passion of a man that is a driven moviemaker and a proud Windsorite. 

Image of a picture: “Cruisin’ 65′” by artist Ronald Suchiu depicting Hi-Ho Restaurant.

The Q&A following the presentation featured filmmakers Braunte Petric and Matt Gallagher. Braunte started things off answering questions about how the idea for her documentary Defender came to her. 

“I’ve worked [with the subject of the documentary] maybe just over two years now, the idea came to me last year, and it was actually for TVO, and that’s what started that. 

Julia is this amazing woman that’s been through so many challenges, like in that video she was actually going through chemo. She’s done so much and she’s done so much for other people, fighting for people.” Braunte remarks.

What was the most difficult part of producing the movie?

“By the time I found out this contest was out I had two months to make it, and then in the middle of that my grandmother actually ended up in the hospital. So, I ended up having to throw that together. I had less time than I wanted to be able to direct it, produce it, and get a proper story created. I had to use what I got, and the most difficult part was trying to put something together in less time than I expected, but trying to still to find a powerful story that would come across in -I only had 4 minutes and 55 seconds for the contest.” 

When did you make the movie?

“It was right after I graduated. I ended up entering the contest a week after I got my diploma.” 

The focus shifts to Matt Gallagher. 

Why that film at that point in your life?

“I graduated the University of Windsor, I’d done a little half hour short, much in the spirit of pulling it together at the last minute, but this was the first film that TVO gave me a chunk of money. I sold them on the idea of this character from Windsor, Ontario named Marshall who was this filmmaker that wanted to make a real movie about his grandfather who he claimed invented fast food in North America so whether that was true or not it was irrelevant to my film. I thought to myself I can probably spend some time with them, between the two brothers I had filmed a lot with them … probably at least 70 hours of footage at some point. We had already struggled with the edit … I hadn’t worked with Nick Hector before, and Nick had a great reputation of doing documentaries, he met with me and he watched the footage and said, ‘I think we got something here’. 

“Nick and I have done another 6 or 7 films now.” Matt Gallagher adds. 

The relationship with Marshall’s grandmother really humanizes him, was that a decision during filming?

 “My camera was a moth to the light when I saw his grandmother for the first time, I was like, ‘that could be the film just him and his grandmother’, so any opportunity that I could get just to spend time with him and his grandmother I thought was great for the film, and really just an interesting relationship that I’d never seen before. His grandmother owned this old salon that hadn’t had a customer for 25 years, but she still cut Marshall’s hair.”

What year was it filmed?

“I think 2007 was the final date that we put the edit together. But that film took three years to make, so we probably started filming it in 2004, so we were shooting on a little Sony PD-150, standard definition, it took a long time … we didn’t know what the story was, and we had to wait for Marshall to finish, that’s the thing about some documentaries that you get into, you can have a great beginning, great middle, but if you don’t have that end, then you have to wait for it all to come together. Now I do things a little differently.”

Why did Marshall like making movies in Windsor?

“Marshall could only answer this himself, but from what I know about Marshall, what I remember about him at this point, was that he wanted to stay in Windsor, he liked Windsor, he grew up here. He had a bit of a chip on his shoulders about Toronto filmmakers, and Vancouver filmmakers and filmmakers in Hollywood, and how much it takes to make a movie and all we need is our passion and our stories. Marshall was a big supporter of anything Windsor and loved this city, and I think for him he saw it as a badge of honour to be able to produce shows like ‘Ten Dollar Tales’ and these other movies in a city like Windsor that you don’t expect to see that, at least in 2007 that was something new, now I see that … Windsor has been featured in a lot of other films, but at that point there wasn’t much here. 

Theodore adds: “And that was before Youtube really kicked in, and just the idea that they had this show on local cable was amazing, I remember flicking through channels and seeing it, it was this cool grassroots thing that predates, or prototypes it.” 

How did you overcome the amount of footage in order to pull a story from it? 

Nick Hector said, “Whenever anybody talked about the Hi-Ho, it was incredibly dull, but the second that it was between you two then everything pops. It became easier.” 

Did you intend to be a character in the film? 

“No, I didn’t want to be a character in the film. I hate being in films. I’ve been forced to narrate a couple of films, and I always get dragged into it kicking and screaming. It’s my intention not to be into it, but Marshall pulled me into the story. His conversations with me were interesting when it came to art and what’s real and what’s not real and what’s documentary and what’s not. He forced my hand and made me be in the film. At the end of the day, we just looked at the content and what he had on tape. The footage will dictate your story. If you’re looking for a true story, you just have to look at the footage.” 

Conflict in the story between the brothers, how much were you involved in pushing them to finishing the project, and pushing them so that you could finish your own project?

“I couldn’t finish my film unless they finish their film, and at that point they were probably three years in or so and I was just done. I didn’t want to do this anymore … either finish the film or don’t finish the film, but Tuesday night I’m showing up there and I’m filming because I’m going home after this.  I think it was my soft-threat that actually got that screening happening, good or bad, it was an ending to my film, but at that point I was tired, as I’m sure they were.”

How do you get somebody to give you money to make a film?

“The technology now is amazing – 4K and 6K and now you can do it so much easier, and the editing software is so friendly. I still struggle, I’ve been making documentaries for twenty years, and we still start from scratch every time we go into a broadcaster. In Canada, there’s only a handful of broadcasters. There’s TV Ontario, and they only do 13 a year, and CBC might do another 26. You’re competing against me and every other filmmaker in Canada, it is going to be very difficult to get a green-light on a production and when you do you should thank your lucky stars. What I would do, and what I did do in the beginning is I just made them on my own. I made a half-hour film on my crazy Uncle Terry who lived in downtown Detroit. I did another little calling-card drama that actually Ted (Theodore Bezaire) volunteered with lighting and production assistant. You can’t wait for a yes from a broadcaster, you have to go and make your film and hopefully get it into a film festival; but that short about my Uncle, it got into Hot Docs which is a good documentary festival in Toronto, and it got into a festival in Michigan, but that little calling card film was enough for TV Ontario and CBC to take me seriously when I got them on the phone the next time. There’s a thousand ways to do it, and I don’t want to pretend that I know the secret code, that’s the way I did it, and I would recommend for first time filmmakers to make a calling card film.” 

There you have it, Windsor, follow your passion and make your movies, your subjects are out there in the city waiting to be discovered. The next, and final screening in the U of W Alumni Filmmakers series is Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer, has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Local Movie Screenings Cancelled Due to COVID-19 Pandemic

As Canada tries to shut its doors on COVID-19, the city of Windsor’s movie theatres have done the same to help prevent local spreading of the pandemic. Movie theatres and special event screenings have been postponed or cancelled due to the emergency. Here is a quick summary of what’s happening so far with the local theatres.

Windsor Film Society has postponed their upcoming Friday March 20 screening of Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer. Recall, that for the U of W Alumni Filmmakers Series the screenings were being presented downtown at the Armouries – School of Creative Arts building. All non-essential activities at the University of Windsor have been cancelled or postponed due to dealing with the pandemic. You can follow Windsor Film Society on Facebook, to see the latest updates to learn when this event will be rescheduled. 

Following the announcement from the University, another screening, The 46th University of Windsor Film Festival and CMF Gala, has also been postponed. Follow the event on Facebook to see when it will be rescheduled.

WIFF 365 has cancelled their upcoming screenings for March and April. The affected screenings are: MAFIA INC on Thursday, March 19; KUESSIPAN on Thursday, April 9; and THE TRAITOR on Thursday, April 9. Refunds will be released for purchased tickets. 

‘Movie Nights at the Chrysler’s screening of The Goonies on April 2 has also been cancelled. The cancellation puts a halt on their new plan to show weekly movies. When the health crisis is over, they will send out a media release for the summer movie season. You can follow them on Facebook and Instagram to learn when the new summer movie schedule is released.

Lakeshore Cinemas, in Tecumseh, has also decided to close it’s doors indefinitely, due to the concern that COVID-19 will spread locally.

To cap it all off, the big theatres are even closing their doors. Cineplex announced earlier this week online that, “Based on the publicly stated guidance from multiple public health authorities, including recent government directives and the escalating dangers of community spread, we are temporarily closing our network of entertainment venues. This includes the closure of all locations of The Rec Room and Playdium, as well as our entire circuit of 165 theatres across Canada beginning tonight through to April 2, 2020.” – Ellis Jacob, President and CEO, Cineplex.

This page will be updated as I learn about more cancellations or the details of when postponed events have been rescheduled. Until that time, follow the recommended guidelines for health and safety. Dust off those old DVD’s to keep you company during the coming period of hibernation as we wait for this emergency crisis to pass. I recommend Outbreak, the classic 1995 thriller starring Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo, and Morgan Freeman.

Windsor Film Society Presents: The Birder and Q&A Discussion

The pre-show reel featured photos from production and the Red-Carpet Premiere. It was an interesting behind the scenes look at a local film production, full of images of camera and boom operators, grips, grip stands, grip stands holding flags, and all the other crew members it takes to make a movie right here in Windsor. It was nice to see the movie highlighted in this way, as if making it was special, meaningful. It set the tone for a night of celebrating U of W Alumni filmmakers. 

One of the clips from the Red-Carpet Premiere Q&A showed Mayor Drew Dilkens saying how proud he was to see Windsor on the big-screen. I concur, Mayor, and from the popular turn-out to the screening, quite a few others do as well. 

Following the main presentation, was the highlight of the evening, a Q&A discussion with filmmakers Theodore Bezaire and Mike Stasko of The Birder, and Gemma Eva of “Rough Love”, which began with Mike Stasko asking crew members of both films that were in attendance to stand and take an applause. 

Gemma Eva, writer/director of “Rough Love”, the short film which preceded The Birder said the idea came to her from, “basically my past acting experience, I started off in theatre, and when I started off acting I did screenplays like Night of the Living Dead and High Physique and later on I started doing more parody musicals and getting into stuff like a musical called Evil Dead Musical. A parody of the Evil Dead film and so from there I wanted to do something in lieu of more parody.”

Gemma was asked about the thrilling soundtrack. “We basically picked five 80’s pop songs to mimic in the film, our composer Will Rogers did an amazing job, he said, whatever song you have, we want your parents to think, ‘oh yeah, I know that song’ – he goes, it’s not that song.”

When asked about the actors, Gemma replied, “They’re all friends of mine from theatre I’ve done around the community. I had an idea of who I wanted to cast while I was writing it and hoped to God that they said yes”. Gemma continued to say, “My favorite relationship in the film was the two brothers – [the actors] had actually been best friends since before high school … so their chemistry was on-point.”

Gemma was asked about the shooting schedule next: “It took four days and they were very long days. Most movies are 10-hour days … 14 hours a day are quite long. I remember picking up Starbucks on the way to set, and them closing and then coming home and it was already open for the next day.”

Of the sets, costumes, and props, Gemma stated, “renting from the theatre companies that I’m involved with, production designers buying stuff, and then a lot of the paintings in the background was us painting them, a lot of them were home-made.” 

The audience also noticed the sharp colors that highlighted the movie. “We wanted to make a difference from the party room – nice, fun, bright colors, and we wanted to make the death room to be spooky as possible and cliché as possible.” 

And, finally, what are you doing next? “Right now, I’m working on my thesis, because I am doing my Masters at University, and I’m working on a musical movie.”

The focus shifts to The Birder. Theodore Bezaire spoke about coming up with the idea for the movie: “I was having an idea about relationships with teachers after high school. I had had this interesting conversation with a teacher. I was in University at the time, I went back to my high school and had this real conversation with a teacher, and [realized] ‘he’s a real person, he has emotions’, so that sparked an idea … Mike and I were kicking around different ideas, we have a mutual friend who is a big ornithologist – that’s kind of an interesting sub-culture, that at the time we hadn’t really seen.”

Mike Stasko adds, “I think the idea of him being an ornithologist came late in the script … There’s a lot of parallels between drift migration and finding the path again. We knew we wanted Ron to go through this arc. At first, it was a teacher that decides to live in the school for the summer.”

Theodore adds: “And then we developed it.”

“The script was in development for technically seven years. Originally, it was more of a buddy comedy between the two main guys. When Telefilm came in, they wanted us to play up the daughter relationship and the parallels that came out of that gave it a nice third dimension.” Mike remembers.

Theodore reflects: “Looking back, growing as a writer during that time was huge. Through that process of dealing with story editors, with producers at Telefilm Canada made us better writers.”

When asked about actor selection, Theodore remembers, “during that development process we started doing packaging – getting the main actors together and creating lists. Tom [Cavanagh] was always on that list. He was one of the first people that we went after, because we wanted to lock in our Ron, and then hopefully, the other people would fall into place.”

Mike adds: “Fred Willard was a dream pick of ours, one of my favorite comedies is Waiting for Guffman. He was one that was a big feather in our cap.” 

Theodore notes: “He came on early in the process. That was a big day. Being a huge Christopher Guest fan, as a filmmaker, Waiting for Guffman, was a transformative movie for me. Graham Greene fell into place, he was only on-set for a couple of days. Mark Rendall, is the other key component of the relationship. I had seen him in a movie called Victoria Day, and it’s more of a drama, and kind of sullen, but his performance, I like that guy a lot. When we were trying to cast for everyone, a lot of people were pushing stand-up comedians, but my thought process was let’s find an actor, and they can be funny.”

What about the locations? Will people from Windsor recognize shooting locations?

“I remember going on scouting trips and shooting videos dating back to 2007. We checked out the old St. Joe’s. One of the key components was the outdoor stuff. We found a home at Ojibway for most of the outdoor stuff, on the trails and things.” Theodore said. 

Mike adds some technical filmmaking insight: “If you know Windsor-Essex, the park for example was exterior at the park, Ojibway was the inside of it, Malden Park was the side of it, and from Villa Nova roof was the roof of the old St. Anne’s. Optimist was the façade of the front. It was five different locations to piece it together. If you’re an outsider, it looks like a continuous thing, but people in Windsor were probably a bit confused.”

Theodore adds: “But the key component was the school though. We were lucky enough to get access to the old St. Anne’s in Tecumseh. We basically got the run of the place, so it was our production office, it was our production design workshop, we had the gym for building sets and things like that. We had also shot in the school a lot. It became a central hub for the film, it was our headquarters. You move around a lot to different locations; it was nice to have that one hub.”

Asked next about the production schedule, Theodore remembers: “It was 19 days. 99.9% of the movie was shot in Windsor-Essex. The park film [from opening scene] was shot up in Toronto, and a couple of inserts. At the end, when Floyd’s running and he cranks his knee, that’s all with the actors here in Windsor, but just that one shot of his ankle bending was up in some park up in Toronto, and it was our producer’s brothers, that was his foot.”

Mike: “I play a lot of Ron Spencer’s hand-modelling. When you see close-ups of Ron’s hands or feet or he’s driving – that’s me.”

Theodore: “The foot going into the pedal of the fountain:” Mike: “that’s my foot.”

The Q & A ended on a humorous note with somebody asking about Mike Stasko’s beard in the film. Mike replies, “I wrote the character Mike Harper. I gave him the name Mike so that it would force Ted’s hand to cast me. He didn’t want me in it, because I starred in his last one, so he said, “fine, you have to grow a huge beard and look unrecognizable and that’s what I did to get the part. He made me audition for it as well.” 

The screening was made all the more special for having the opportunity to gain this insight into the production of these two movies. Windsor, we are so lucky to be living here right now in the midst of a burgeoning film industry. The Rise and Fall of the Grumpy Burger, screening at the School of Creative Arts downtown on Friday Feb 28th is your next opportunity to be part of the growing discussion about movies in Windsor. Come out to the event and engage with the filmmakers themselves and see for yourself what is so cinematic about Windsor. 

Where to See a Movie in Windsor: A Guide

There are alternatives to seeing box-office blockbusters on the big screen in Windsor. Although Windsor still does not have a full-time independent cinema, there are organizations and community groups devoted to viewing a wide selection of movies. In this guide, I will breakdown the options so that you know where to go the next time you want to see a movie on the big-screen. You can also check out the Events calendar located at the top of the sidebar menu to your left. Let’s get started:

Windsor Film Society: I have already posted a blog about this important community devoted to showing triptychs of movies for cinematic fans here in Windsor. Their current series is U of W Alumni Filmmakers, and features three selections coming up from local filmmakers. Up first is The Birder, on January 24 at the new home of the School of Creative Arts, University of Windsor, in the Armouries building located in downtown Windsor. The filmmakers will be in attendance for a discussion and Q&A after the screening. This is your opportunity to support local films, cinema, and artists all at the same time. By attending this unique event, you are getting a cinematic experience that big chains do not offer: a conversation with the filmmakers. See the Events calendar for more information.

Windsor International Film Festival: The wildly successful WIFF has been getting bigger for fifteen years, and last year celebrated being named #1 Film Festival in Canada by selling more than 42, 000 tickets in 2019. You can read the WIFF 2019 recap for more information. WIFF offers a chance for people to see the hottest documentaries, the latest foreign films, and a range of festival and Oscar winners. For more details about the local component, please read the 2019 recap. A trend is developing where WIFF and its monthly 365 series have been screening Netflix movies before they stream. This trend points to an idea that people still want to go out to see a movie. There is a shared communal bond among a movie audience that can’t be replicated at home in front of your T.V. – every November, WIFF reminds us of that for a hearty week of filmgoing; but that just leaves us wanting more.

The lobby of the Capitol Theatre for WIFF365

WIFF365: More. WIFF introduced WIFF365 to alleviate those post festival blues with a monthly series that screens two movies. Recently, I viewed Uncut Gems, and was grateful to see this Netflix movie on the big screen. It won’t be released in many theatres, so I feel like I was treated to a special experience. WIFF365 brings Windsor the opportunity to consistently see the best in alternative screening. Check the Events calendar for upcoming WIFF365 selections and don’t miss your next opportunity to see a once in a lifetime screening event.

Classic Films and Flashback Series: Screenings of older movies, offered at a discount price through Cineplex, at Windsor’s Silvercity. Coming up this spring, titles such as The Karate Kid, On the Waterfront, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s and many more will be available for viewing at Silvercity on select dates. Silvercity has an advantage over an independent cinema because they can afford the distribution rights, which can be costly, especially if you do not sell a lot of tickets to the event. I commend them for choosing to select older movies to throw in with their programming. Recently, I have viewed Batman and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Again, I am grateful to see those movies on the big-screen where the eye-popping colour scheme of Batman dazzles me and the action scenes of Raiders are right there in front of me.

It is after all, an experience. Whether you’re into an intimate setting with locals, a raw documentary, or the stylish comforts of Silvercity: Windsor has a movie-going option that is just right for you, and is as diverse as our great community.

What are your main considerations when going to see a movie? Is location as important as the film you’re choosing to see? Do you still value movie theatres in this age of streaming? What comforts and/or amenities do you require at a theatre nowadays? Please leave your comments below, thank you.

A WIFF 2019 Recap

The Windsor International Film Festival has seen substantial growth since its first screening 15 years ago. It is not just the number 15 being celebrated though, it is the fact that the festival has been named “Canada’s No. 1 Film Festival” on TIFF’s Film Circuit. Congratulations to WIFF on all the success.

WIFF presented 165 features and documentary films during 277 screenings; 21 of those films were local programming, which is exciting for Windsor’s film industry. The stats are impressive: there are 132 Oscar nominations among this year’s 165 films, shipping in from 29 other countries, 83 films from world leading film festivals, 46 alone from TIFF. 

The festival has grown quickly over its 15 years. It added a huge extension with the monthly WIFF365 series, allowing WIFF subscribers to experience even more film screenings throughout the year. This year, for example, the festival has expanded again by extending its run to ten days, and also by adding WIFF Alley, and WIFF Village.

#WIFF Alley

Speaking of festival growth, it was announced last week that WIFF sold over 42, 000 tickets to the 2019 festival, a record in ticket sales for the festival; and a real indicator that there is a market for cinema here in Windsor.

Making a big contribution at this year’s WIFF were local filmmakers Gemma Eva and Calum Hotchkiss, who worked together on the short film’s “Rough Love” and “The Rabbit and the Snare”. Both films screened during “WIFF Local Shorts”, and were received with a round of applause. They also worked on Boys Vs. Girls, where Gemma was an Associate Producer and Calum was the Key Grip. 

The Chrysler Theatre

“WIFF Local Shorts” was a highlight of the festival for me. Presented at the cinematic Chrysler Theatre, this evening had a touch of magic and the feel of a big premiere. There was an energy in the theatre as we watched a roll of locally produced shorts together. Enthusiasm for the movies was pulsing in the many cheers from a vibrant crowd. I wish there had been a Q&A afterwards, or other glimpse of the filmmakers.

Gemma Eva had a successful festival with the screening of “Rough Love”, this year’s Best Screenplay winner at the University of Windsor Film Festival, which Gemma has won three years in a row. She also won Best Director. Gemma Eva has been steadily writing and directing movies in Windsor for over five years: “The Last Night” (2015), “Damned for All Time” (2016), “Again” (2016), A Late Night Adventure with Holly and Zoe” (2017), “Heidi Wilson is Okay” (2018), and “Full Meta Racket” (2018). 

“Rough Love” will precede The Birder on Friday January 24, see Events calendar for details.

The local screenings did not stop with the shorts though, there were 11 feature films that were local as well. Boys vs. Girls was shot out at Kiwanis Sunshine Point Camp and another highlight of the festival for me. I attended Kiwanis camp as a child, and to see the pool, and the cabins freshly painted, was a vivid reminder of a wonderful experience of my youth and why I’m so passionate about seeing Windsor in the movies. This event featured a brief Q&A with Theodore Bezaire and Mike Stasko afterward, where they let slip they have more projects on the go, the Windsor movie-making magic continues …

The Quick and Dirty by Jordan Krug and Nicholas Shields is another film with shooting locations in Essex County. The indie drama Last Call was co-written and directed by Windsor’s Gavin Michael Booth. There is also Prey, a documentary directed by Windsor’s Matt Gallagher which was a winner at Hot Docs Documentary Festival earlier this year. Prey was also voted as this year’s LiUNA! People’s Choice Award winner at WIFF, congratulations to Matt Gallagher and the team that created the documentary about sexual abuse. 

Now that the festival is over, you may find yourself experiencing WIFF withdrawals, and yearning for next year; but remember, WIFF365 will be happening every month until WIFF2020.

What was your favourite movie from WIFF? Please leave your comments below, thank you.

Uncut Gems: Adam Sandler Shines in Netflix Drama

If you’ve ever thought that Adam Sandler couldn’t act his way out of a wet paper bag: meet Howard Ratner, an Adam Sandler character that gets into a much stickier jam than being trapped in such a bag. It is indeed Sandler’s acting that helps us love this struggling character in the Safdie brothers’ modern and gritty realist auteuresque drama. 

Directed by Josh Safdie and Benny Safdie, Uncut Gems stars Adam Sandler as Howard Ratner, a has-been successful New York gems dealer that has raked up a severe amount of gambling debt. Ratner now has a chance at a big-score when he comes into possession of a rare and precious gem that he believes to be worth a million dollars; if he can balance all of the people that are after him for his various schemes involving pawning gems for protection against debts and betting any money that comes to him on basketball. Rotten Tomatoes rates it at a 92% and says, “Uncut Gems reaffirms the Safdies as masters of anxiety -inducing cinema – and proves that Adam Sandler remains a formidable dramatic actor when given the right material.” 

There is a lot to be excited about when it comes to Uncut Gems. It appears to be having a great festival run with special presentations happening at VIFF, TIFF, and now WIFF365. Reviews for the film have been mostly good. The Independent says of Sandler, “it’s the best performance of his career. [He] toys with his audience’s empathy, disgust and pity like a cat with its next meal.” There was some Oscar buzz about the movie, particularly for Adam Sandler’s career highlighting performance, but his name was not mentioned on the Oscar nominee’s announcement this morning. Is this another example of the Academy ignoring comedic actors in dramatic roles? Post your comments below.

Oscar nomination, or not, Sandler’s characterization of Howard Ratner is full of rich strokes of genius – he speaks as fast as he is quick to be shrewd, never missing an opportunity to capitalize any way he can. His shrewdness is evident in every scene as he continues to make shady deals in pursuit of quick earning, and is ultimately the character’s tragic flaw. 

Filmed in New York City, Uncut Gems features an intense opening scene shot in South Africa and takes us into the world of precious gem trading. It is also an exciting piece of Howard’s world of mysterious gems, gambling and risk-taking. This gritty drama is meant to be seen on the big-screen, preferably as part of a film festival, where you’re not just viewing it with the public, but with eager film buffs that are communally engaged, like at WIFF365.

For WIFF, it is another Netflix film to be screened before it streams on Netflix. The Irishman had a screening run in November, and now airs on the successful streaming service. Don’t wait to see Uncut Gems online though, this movie is so good it deserves to be seen on the big screen. You can search upcoming screening events in Windsor on our new Events calendar, featured in the top of the sidebar menu. 

GetResponse Review: Quality, Affordable E-mail/Subscriber List for your Small Business or Blog


I have been using GetResponse for about 6 months. I initially signed up because it was the most affordable platform for a beginner e-mail campaign. Since, I have been pleased to grow my subscriber list and can see the benefits of direct mail communication to promote my blog and communicate with readers.

What is so great about GetResponse is that they are user-friendly, so beginners have an easy time navigating the web-site. GetResponse has an easy to interpret interface that allows users to take quick actions such as creating forms, newsletters, landing pages and autoresponders. From here, you can also see your latest newsletter stats – how many were opened, how many clicked-through. You can also see your list stats.

More important even than easy access to all of those basic functions of your GetResponse account, is the links to several free webinars, beginner courses, and a whole swath of other resources to help you understand how to make the most out of GetResponse. If you are new to the edea of newsletter marketing, or perhaps intimidated by the language, these webinars and the resources will help you get started.

List Building Program

It’s all right there in front of you to help you get started sending e-mails. I use them primarily for sending links to my subscribers about new content on my web-site. I find this valuable because:

  • They know when there is new content on the web-site.
  • It includes a link straight to the material.

It is a communications tool. I can personalize messages, sending certain customers certain promotions or discounts, info that you have learned from surveys or other customer research. It’s a personal message at holidays, birthdays, anniversaries (your list size tells you how long each subscriber has been on your list – send them a birthday wish! A gift even).

GetResponse allows you to build a relationship between you and your clients/ readers in this digital world. 

The decision to have an e-mail list should be an easy one for any blogger, small business owner, or social media influencer. It’s crucial to your ability to maintain a long-term communication with/and building a fan-base for your brand. With GetResponse you will get an experience that makes the process easier to grasp and encourages understanding so that you can master it, at an affordable price. There are different levels you can choose from. The basic plan with up to 1000 subscribers works well for me as a beginner, if need arises I can upgrade later. If you have a larger client base, maybe you want to upgrade straight away. GetResponse has the right quality, affordable plan for your needs.

GetResponse Pro

You can visit GetResponse to sign up by selecting any of the GetResponse ad links on this web-site. In the top menu there is a tab that says GetResponse, click it to go to their page for sign-up details. There are two more in the sidebar menu. Or, by clicking any of the ad links inside the article. Click on the offer that is most appealing to your needs, and in no time you will have an easy to use e-mail subscription service at your disposal: the most reliable tool for growing customers.

Using these referral links, I will receive a commission. Thank you.

Automation templates

Bright Lights Windsor 2019 Edition

Bright Lights Windsor is illuminating Jackson Park with it’s dazzling display of lights for a third year in a row. Mayor Drew Dilkens proudly exclaimed before the lighting of the tree that “this is the best bright lights ever!” 

The mayor continued to say, “Bright Lights is about community, and it’s about family, it’s about bringing people together. There is no entrance fee for Bright Lights. Anyone in Windsor is welcome to come here and experience the magic of the holidays, the magic of our community, the magic of Windsor.” 

Bright Lights has been growing since its inception. From 60, 000 people in the first year, to 100 000 last year. Hopefully, the extra money and extension will bring in more people to see the lights.

One thing sure to bring in more people on weekends is the W.E. Made it: Christmas Market showcasing local artisans’ handmade crafts, as well as food and beverage vendors from around the city. 

Sadaf Malik, Designer/Maker at Pearl Sheen Health and Beauty. Please visit:

The W.E. Made It: Christmas Market operates on the weekends only, and the vendors change weekly, so be sure to check the link above for complete details.

Being able to connect several of these vendors to residents is crucial for the local economy, and helps communities to strengthen as people discover how to support local artisans in their city. A free public event like this is a great place to incorporate a local market, especially with Christmas being right around the corner and everyone looking for gifts on their shopping list. Why not shop the W.E. Made It: Christmas Market and support local artisans? It beats driving in the holiday mall traffic. 

Sarah Hutchings of MaitriStones. Please visit and follow her on Instagram at @maitristones.

New this year is “Silent Nights” on Mondays, organized in partnership with Autism Ontario Windsor Essex. The lights will be on but there will be no sound and strobe effects will also be turned off; this is to accommodate people with sensory sensitivities. 

Too often we are all so distracted by the noisy output of the media and all its little techno outlets that we don’t think to sit in silence. Silence can be a real blessing, the ability to sit still in a moment and allow yourself to be with you. It’s good for mental health, taking a break from noise and distraction. 

This is a great event for a first date as it’s free, the atmosphere is pretty, and simply it’s fun. There is lots of space for walking and viewing the lights, places to sit with your coffee and hot chocolate (provided free on these nights December 6, 7, 20, 21, 26, 27, & 28, 2019), or touring through the W.E. Made it: Christmas Market. 

A sleigh ride through the lighted park would be a romantic feature to add, making it even more cinematic, Windsor. 

A short video of highlights from Bright Lights Windsor 2019
FRED the Bookmobile – Windsor Public Library
TWEPI: Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island – Information Booth

Enjoy Bright Lights Windsor 2019! 

Happy National Drive-in Day!

Today is National Drive-In day. June 6. Why today? According to New York Film Academy, the first patented drive-in opened on June 6, 1933 by Richard Hollingshead in New Jersey. Smack in the middle of the Great Depression. Which just goes to show you that no matter how hard economic times a society falls on, there is always money for entertainment, especially revolutionary entertainment such as the drive-in. Before them, people were packed into crowded theatres, now the experience was shifting into cars. Cool, right? 

One of the upsides to drive-ins was that they were more accessible for the whole family. Even people of today can relate to packing into a tight row of theatre seating with a group of 6 or 8 people. Drive-ins were great for families that had noisy kids that needed to sprawl out with lots of space. 

The Drive-Ins started in the 1930’s, but it took until the 1950’s and 1960’s for them to reach the height of their popularity, as car sales sky-rocketed in the booming decades, so too did the drive-ins popularity.  

In Windsor, The Skyway Drive-In opened on April 30, 1948. Clearly, the owner was a visionary who could see the future popularity of drive-ins. The Skyway was operational until 1985, probably falling victim, much like the Odeon’s and other cinemas of the 20thcentury, to the massive popularity of the revolutionary VCR.

Another, was the Windsor Drive-In located at 5444 Walker Rd. It opened in 1950, and was also owned by the Dydzak family. Later, the Twin Drive-In opened on September 22, 1966. The Twin was located on the current site of Silvercity; I find it comforting to know that the location has a long history of movie screenings. 

After the 1980’s mass demolition of drive-in’s, cinema’s, and the like, there have not been many independent’s popping up, save for the odd civic night of nostalgia, but nothing like a fully operational business that serves the community, until August 7, 2015, the Boonies Drive-In theatre opens, just outside of Tilbury. Still operational this season, the drive-in features current releases and a selection of classics.

It seems funny that drive-ins were once advertised as being for the whole family, indeed they were; but one resident remembers saying, “you’d drive away from the drive-in and there would be a pile of empties left on the ground.” They marketed to a late-night crowd as well. Whatever your experience at a drive-in was, you probably remember it fondly with a sense of nostalgia for the by-gone unique era of cinema viewing. 

Clearer than the drive-ins in my memory are the video stores of Windsor: Jumbo, Applause, Eye on Video, and of course Blockbuster, but even the selection at your neighbourhood convenience store was usually stacked with the latest hits and a few notable classics. 

We celebrate National Drive-in day because of all the many innovations in cinema viewing over the years – 3D, IMAX, etc. The drive-ins were the most unique and treasured. The notion of going out somewhere to an event and having the party happen inside of your car almost seems like a hyper advanced sales gimmick for car advertising. The cars themselves, were much more appealing back then as well, perhaps a spacious old Chevy Caprice would be more comfortable than a tight row of theatre seating with strangers, and certainly more appealing than hanging out in a modern vehicle. Currently, the party is happening inside, on our screens, and its anti-social. 

Are you as likely to get a group of cars huddled together under a free wi-fi bubble to watch Netflix? Unlikely. Probably not. The modern revolution in cinema is that of the plush viewing environment: 7.1 surround sound, massive I-MAX screens, and recliner seating in amphitheatre style viewing rooms. The modern chains of cinemas are indeed the great cathedrals of the revered kings and queens of the worshipped stars of Hollywood. We revere them in our lives through our Instagram following and magazine reading and we worship them in the modern luxury theatres, making them idols.

For more local drive-in reading, click here

Building the Industry Locally by Growing Talent: Film Camp for Kids

Photo courtesy of Film Camp for Kids.

Amanda Gellman is Chairwoman for the Windsor Centre for Film, Digital Media and Creative Arts, and she wants to do something really special, she’s trying to build a film industry in our beloved Windsor. One of the most exciting things by far happening in the construction of this industry is Film Camp for Kids.

“It takes 30-40 years to build an industry, it all starts with growing talent. Many of our programs look at the needs of growing talent in the young.” Says Amanda Gellman. 

Film Camp offers several week-long workshops where students work in small groups to make a short film from conception to finished product. Kids learn basic elements of planning, writing, lighting, designing, shooting, and editing a movie. They do it by a deadline, on a budget, using the resources available. They use their creativity, and learn quality filmmaking skills in the process by working together as a team. 

After a family and friends viewing night serves as a premiere, student films are posted to the camp’s Youtube channel, where a growing number of student films can be viewed. Students are being exposed to the full spectrum of the film production experience, and what is most important of course, is that they are doing it right here on location in cinematic Windsor.

Film Camp for Kids is a part of Windsor Centre for Film, Digital Media and Creative Arts. The Centre is operating 10, 000 square feet of prime real-estate in downtown Windsor. 4, 000 of those square feet are taken up by Hub 691. The remaining 6, 000 square feet are occupied by the successful Film Camp for Kids, which has plans to expand again in 2020. 

Currently, Film Camp’s 6, 000 square feet facility features a multi-room studio, a Green screen room and set, an Art room for painting and more, and Costume room, as well as the filming equipment, lights, camera’s, and the kids of course, supply the action. 

A tour of the current downtown studio. Courtesy of Film Camp for Kids.

“Our kids get practical experience out on location, most programs work in a studio, we go out … they learn how to behave on a shoot location or at a business. We’ve shot at City Hall, coffee shops, hotel lobbies, board rooms, and parks,” Says Gellman of the student experience. 

Since its inception in 2012, Film Camp has had 350 kids at their programs, 90% of those kids have been back multiple times. Film Camp’s goal is to grow talent, and they are doing it, not just with students, but also the instructors.

As of 2019, Film Camp has offered 75 summer jobs in seven years. “The goal remains to grow talent, so we offer those jobs to film students to help grow their talent.” Says Amanda Gellman. 

The prices for the Film Camp are: $200/week and $175/week for multiple weeks. 

For a week long training camp in visual arts and film, that’s a fair price. Similar camps in Toronto or even Detroit are going for around 5 or 600 /week; which is truly one of the benefits of growing a big industry in a smaller market. 

Movies, if you haven’t heard, is big industry. They are at the forefront of audiovisual storytelling in the multi-modal millennium. As viewing options are still expanding, there is no limit in sight to the potential for movies as an artform to reach people. These artists are pioneers of creativity and digital media, and Windsor’s growing them by the heap. You know what they say about Essex County and growing things – from grapes for wine to students of film, this is a good place to grow. 

Windsor offers it all, and with Film Camp for Kids feeding students into the Film and Media programs at the University of Windsor, the cinematic ball has started to roll into the next 30 years. Stay tuned.