Thursday, 19 February 2015

WinterPLAY Guest Blog: Tito Guillen of the Fort McMurray Filmmakers Association – Let’s Make Movies

There’s a quote I really enjoy by Ira Glass, it pertains to writing but can be translated to any discipline. The TL:DR version is, if you want to get good at something, do it as much as possible so that you learn and grow from the experience.

This method also proves to the individual if what they are doing is truly something they want to be good at and in turn invest their time and resources to become educated in.

That is the idea of the Winter REELs Film Challenge. The challenge is an opportunity for filmmakers and those interesting in filmmaking to come together and create something in a very brief amount of time. This exercise is less of a challenge in film, as it is in storytelling and collaboration. In fact, it often works to the benefit of the teams to not all be filmmakers.

The concept is simple, a short film made in three days. To ensure no one films anything ahead of time, a group of elements is added to the challenge. They are often an object, a location, and a line of dialogue. The winner is the team that best incorporates these elements into their film. Last year introduced an audience vote for winner and this year there will be a judged winner and an audience choice favourite film.

Anyone can participate and all entries shall be screened on the big screen for friends and families to see. This year, they will be screened along side the 80’s feature ‘Revenge of the Nerds.’ That is also the only clue we have for potential teams this year.

The best advice for new teams participating is to not get too hung up on the technology of filming. It may seem overwhelming but story is everything. Take the time to give your script a start, drama, and resolution and you will be fine. 

For returning teams, the best advice that can be offered is to try something new while remembering that the elements and how they are used is key to impressing the judges. 

The YMMFMA is very proud of the entries submitted every year and look forward to seeing new and familiar faces in this year’s entries. 

The kick-off is at 9pm February 19th at the lobby of the Keyano theatre. This year will offer over $2500 in awards over several categories. The films will be screened on February 28th along with Revenge of the Nerds. This is a movie I have wanted to screen since the first Winter REELs. It will be an 80’s party with best 80’s clothing winning a prize from Nerdvana.

Hope to see you all there. Cowabunga!

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Social Prosperity Wood Buffalo Receives Social Innovation Award from Minister of Innovation and Advanced Education

(from left to right: Mike Allen, MLA Fort McMurray – Wood Buffalo, Honorable Don Scott, Minister of Innovation & Advanced Education, Deputy Government House Leader; Honorable Heather Klimchuk, Minister of Human Services; Nancy Mattes, Social Prosperity Wood Buffalo, University of Waterloo; Cathy Brothers, Capacity Canada; Bryan Jackson, Suncor Energy; Diane Shannon, United Way of Fort McMurray; Heather Evasiuk, Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo; Bonnah Carey, Some Other Solutions; Katharine Zywert, Social Prosperity Wood Buffalo, University of Waterloo, Ifeatu Efu, Social Prosperity Wood Buffalo; Sana Elache, Syncrude Inc.  Missing from the photo: Cathy Glover, Suncor Energy Foundation; Kim Nordbye, Suncor Energy Foundation; Tracey Carnochan, Suncor Energy; Brandi Gartner, Oil Sands Community Alliance; Manny Makia, FuseSocial; Russell Thomas, United Way of Fort McMurray; Ken Coates, University of Saskatchewan, Tanya Darisi, The O’Halloran Group; Katharine McGowan, University of Waterloo.)

Social Prosperity Wood Buffalo was honoured today for using social innovation to successfully strengthen the social profit sector in Wood Buffalo, increase community resilience, and improve capacity to address complex social problems.  The social innovation scroll of recognition was presented by the Honourable Don Scott, Minister of Innovation and Advanced Education for the Province of Alberta at the ConvergenceYMM summit in Fort McMurray, Alberta.  In his remarks, Minister Scott acknowledged that community-driven social innovation provides the greatest opportunity to improve the quality of life of Albertans.  He thanked the Suncor Energy Foundation for their leadership and vision.

  “Since its inception, Social Prosperity Wood Buffalo has had an incredible legacy of success,” he said.  “On behalf of the government and all Albertans, I want to congratulate Social Prosperity Wood Buffalo for helping to build a stronger and better Alberta.”

Nancy Mattes, Director of Social Prosperity Wood Buffalo, accepted the award on behalf of project partners including the Suncor Energy Foundation, the United Way of Fort McMurray, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, the Oil Sands Community Alliance, FuseSocial, Capacity Canada, the University of Waterloo; Steering Committee members Cathy Glover, Bryan Jackson, Kim Nordbye, Tracey Carnochan, Bonnah Carey, Diane Shannon, Russell Thomas, Ken Coates, Manny Makia, Heather Evasiuk, Sana Elache, Brandi Gartner, Cathy Brothers,  and project team members Katharine Zywert, Tanya Darisi, Katharine McGowan, and Ifeatu Efu.

“I am deeply honoured to accept this social innovation scroll of recognition on behalf of Social Prosperity Wood Buffalo,” said Mattes. “We are so proud of the extraordinary outcomes that have occurred as a result of our work including the Heart of Wood Buffalo Awards, the Arts Council Wood Buffalo, the ‘Look into Wood Buffalo’ Community Wellbeing Survey and ConvergenceYMM.  Social Prosperity Wood Buffalo effectively stewarded community initiatives and shifted the social profit sector towards greater resiliency and capacity so they are better able to achieve their missions.  We look forward to continuing our collective efforts to build a culture of social innovation in Wood Buffalo.”

For more information about the award and Social Prosperity Wood Buffalo please contact Director, Nancy Mattes;

Telephone: 519-888-4567 ext. 38213

Twitter: @NMattes

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

WinterPLAY Guest Blog – Pioneers by Theresa Wells of McMurray Musings

“Why do we live here?” she says on a frosty morning as she climbs into the passenger seat. It is far below zero outside – about 20 degrees below, in fact – and I have neglected to warm up the car as much as I should have. The leather seats are cold, the windows are frosted over and the teenager is early-morning growly, the perfect trifecta of terror for the start to a cold winter day.

“I have a job here,” I reply, a bit growly myself as the darkness and never-ending bitter cold can gnaw away at you over time as you grow weary of the lack of sunlight and numb fingers.

“Not what I mean,” she snarls as if I am some sort of dunce stunned by the cold temperatures. “Why do PEOPLE live here? I mean who arrived up north and thought it was a good place to live?”

We sit as the car idles, both of us pondering the answer. It is a fair question, as one must think that the first arrivals to the prairies and northern Canada must have come in the summer months and the first winter must have come as a tremendous shock – although perhaps not, because snow and cold temperatures are not exclusive to Canada and are part of the heritage for many of us. Some of us who find our roots in Europe came from places that experience snow and cold and ice, and so our ancestors must have found winter in Canada comforting rather than frightening, a taste of the homeland they left behind.

When I was growing up my favourite books were the Laura Ingalls Wilder series. Her tales of life in the “big woods”, the story of pioneers on the American prairies, captured my imagination. There were stories of farming and fires and plagues of locusts and, yes, winter. I would sit in my warm Prairie house, a blizzard brewing outdoors, and read the words of an American girl who was one of the first to settle the Prairies in North America. I found the courage of her family astonishing, their bravery in the face of the challenges remarkable. I suppose, to some degree, I saw myself and my family, because while we lived in a Prairie city in a modern house instead of a sod hut and had cars instead of wagons and oxen, we too faced challenges like the cold winters. In some ways I felt like we were still pioneers.

As I sit in the car waiting for the windows to defrost I reflect back on the Christmas we spent in London, landing just two hours before they closed Heathrow due to the snow that year. While thousands across England were stranded in airports and train stations in a country not accustomed to such heavy snowfall, we found ourselves to be Canadians in a sort of paradise, a city known for its history and grandeur but this time coated in a blanket of thick white snow. I thought back to the doormen at our hotel on The Strand who would apologize for “the bother” every time we stepped outdoors, their gloved hands making a sweeping gesture towards the snow and our laughter as we replied “But we are Canadians” and their smiles in return, assuring us that in that case they had ordered the snow just so we would feel at home in their country. We watched an entire city become transformed and transfixed by the snow, businessmen in shiny suits and slippery shoes lobbing snow balls at each other in Covent Gardens and snowmen popping up in the centre of busy city streets. London, always magical by nature, became almost mystical as the snow, both a bother and a blessing, drifted down from the heavens above.

I awake from my reverie as we drive towards our final destination. It is still dark when we arrive, although the temperature has begun to mellow. We begin to unload, the two of us burdened down with bags and boots and we trudge towards the bright lights of the building ahead.
She is trailing behind me a bit, skis in one hand and her ski boots in the other. As we arrive at the top of the chair lift at Vista Ridge she drops the skis on the snow and anxiously begins to tug off her Doc Martens, motioning for me to hand over her ski poles.

“I don’t have any idea why we live here,” she says just before she snaps her ski goggles down over her eyes and glides off on her first run of the day, a young adult who began downhill skiing at the age of four and who now tackles double black diamond mountain runs with ease. I watch as she swishes down the hill, her colourful ski jacket slowly disappearing into the softly drifting snow. I know we will be there for hours, me in the ski lodge drinking huge amounts of coffee, watching the snow, writing a bit and waiting for her to drop in for visits, her hair damp with sweat and melted snow and her cheeks bright red.

And while she is out on the gentle slopes of our own ski hill in Wood Buffalo, executing graceful turns as she skis the day away, I will spend my day chuckling quietly at her question about our choice of place to reside. It may not be a tropical paradise and it may spend a good part of every year blanketed in snow and ice – and that is exactly why we live here. It is because we are still pioneers at heart, braving the snow and cold, even if it is from behind our ski goggles and with our ski poles in our gloved hands as we quietly glide down snow covered hills, surrounded by dense boreal forest and under the broad expanse of the northern sky, dotted with twinkling stars in the crisp and cold morning air.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Register today for the Community Talent Competition presented by Peter Pond Mall. There are great prizes to be won

Friday, 6 February 2015

A Wood Buffalo Narrative

Since 2006, The Legacy Children’s Foundation has been working hard to create all-inclusive music programming in Alberta that engages financially challenged families and at risk children and youth. Through music programs such as The Instruments of Change mentoring program in Wood Buffalo, The Legacy Children’s Foundation has witnessed the powerful draw that music has for young people and how significant this type of programming has been in shaping the lives of this community's most vulnerable populations.

Instruments of Change provides musical instruments to under privileged children and youth while also supplying them the financial resources to pay for lessons from local, first-rate musicians, and various music-related workshops that introduce them to the many career options available to them through the music industry.

"I like that song!"

That is what Morgan, a student at Anzac school said with a big smile, when we learned Phyllis Sinclair’s song "Minoh Awasis" this fall. Phyllis is a songwriter and writes in Cree, and Morgan has connected with this song which has traditional aboriginal percussion.

We adapted Phyllis' song to guitar, using a percussive style on a simple Chord progression. The student is taking Cree in school and is pleased to hear songs can include Cree. 
Morgan has a one half hour lesson per week with her mentor.  Morgan sets up her music space with enthusiasm and focuses intently on the frets and always wants to know the next step. Morgan keeps her own notes.

Morgan was referred to Instruments of Change Wood Buffalo by her music teacher Kelli Northrop at Anzac School. Morgan has expressed her joy in music, playing ukulele and some guitar with Grandfather in the past.

Students in Wood Buffalo experience success in so many ways, and now through the Music Arts!
If you would like to support The Legacy Children’s Foundation, Instruments of Change program please make a donation today. They accept gently used and new instruments and place them into the hands of local children.  Donations can be dropped off at Campbell's Music, 10011 Franklin Avenue or at Timberlea School, 107 Brett Drive.

If you have any questions or would like more information on the Instruments of Change program please contact Instruments of Change Coordinator, Dave Martin at dave@legacyfoundation, twitter: @instrumentsof, or phone 780-881-6869. 

Thursday, 5 February 2015

WinterPLAY Guest Blog – Christina Traverse of Mush McMurray

Anyone who has encountered a true Northern winter season will tell you it is typically like a deep freeze. There are days you may not want to even leave your house because it’s -40—without the wind-chill! Soon you start to realize that the residents in northern communities, especially Fort McMurray, deal with winter differently. First there are the snow birds or migrators. They leave with the Canada geese and follow them down South in the fall and come back when the temperatures are above zero. Then you have the residents that stick it out. Some days they curse Mother Nature and the blistering cold, other days are not too bad. They go about their lives and day to day routines. Lastly you have the people that embrace the cold, snow and everything about winter, because it is their favorite season. You may refer to these people as crazy, mentally unstable, or insane, all of which I’ve been called!

As a born and raised Fort McMurray resident, I quickly learned to accept the cold snowy weather and find different things to do. That is one of the many reasons I own 25 Alaskan Huskies. I train and race sled dogs in various competitions anywhere from Montana to Alaska every year. It all started about 14 years ago, I thought it was a good idea to hook up my little brother to a GT snow racer and get him to pull me around the neighborhood. It worked out well, until my mother found out what I was up to and that was the end of that! Shortly after I taught our German Shepherd, Cheyenne, to pull me around and I was hooked!

In 2011, I finally got my first sled dog and a real dog sled. It wasn’t too long before I had my own team and entered my first race here in Fort McMurray, the 3 Forts Sled Dog Race that was part of the 2011 Syncrude Regional WinterPLAY Carnival. The race route was 176 miles from Fort McMurray to Fort Chipewyan on the Athabasca River. Since then I have competed in several different races, some were quite easy and others were really difficult. There are periods of time where I spend three or four nights alone in the wilderness with just my dogs. Once you go winter camping once, you quickly learn what NOT to forget for the next time.

A lot of people ask me the same question: “Why do you love winter so much?” My response is always the same: I spend almost every day outside in the winter, but I am spending the days with my dogs. We explore different parts of North American by dog sled, places most people haven’t even seen before. At night you are surrounded by the Northern Lights, and when you are out in the woods away from the city lights the show is spectacular. You don’t have to have a team of huskies to enjoy the winter months, there are a lot of other great things to do! So get out of the house and find something you enjoy doing, it will make the winter season feel shorter and a lot more fun!

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Fourth Edition of the Wood Buffalo Timeraiser


Open Call for original: 2D and 3D artworks

Fourth Edition of the Wood Buffalo Timeraiser
Calling all emerging artists: Get paid and generate volunteer hours!

FORT MCMURRAY, ALBERTA- We are thrilled to announce that the Call to Artists for the fourth edition of the Wood Buffalo Timeraiser is now open. We are looking to purchase artwork from local, emerging artists to help inspire participants in Wood Buffalo to donate their time in support of great causes. Artwork will be chosen by a selection committee from the Wood Buffalo Art Community.

There is no submission fee associated with this call.
SUBMISSION DEADLINE: Thursday, February 26, 2015 at 4:30 p.m.

To apply, please submit the following to
·         High Resolution digital copy/picture of your submission
·         All pieces must be original, no copies or prints are allowed
·         Artists Statement (max 250 words)
·         Brief Bio (max 250 words)
·         Photo of yourself (optional)
·         Price of each submitted piece (max. 5 pieces per artists)
·         Title and dimension (inches) of each artwork
·         Medium (e.g. acrylic on canvas)
Note: Pieces selected in previous years, may not be submitted again

What is the Wood Buffalo Timeraiser?
The Timeraiser is a silent art auction with a twist. Instead of bidding money, participants bid volunteer time to agencies that need their skills and energy. We purchase all artwork locally at fair market value and auction it off on the night of the event. The Wood Buffalo Timeraiser will be held on April 16th, 2015. Successful auction bidders have 12 months to complete their volunteer pledge to organizations in the Wood Buffalo Region.

Last year 40 pieces of art were purchased for the Timeraiser. The artwork purchased put approximately $20,000 into the Wood Buffalo Art community. The combined 40 pieces raised over 3,800 volunteer hours in the Wood Buffalo region.

Submission Guidelines:
·         Must be a resident of the Wood Buffalo Area
·         Emerging or mid-career artists will be given preference
·         Artist sets the price of the artwork submitted, up to $1,500
·         Successful artists will be notified via email by March 10, 2015
·         Delivery date for the selected art pieces will be determined and announced in the new year; all successful artists will be contacted with dates and times for drop-off
·         All artwork must be dry and ready to hang (wire setting 1/3 from the top of the artwork)
·         All pieces must be framed and signed (stretched canvas on a frame is acceptable if it has finished edges)
·         Exhibition of the artwork will commence mid-March and will end the evening of the Wood Buffalo Timeraiser- April 16, 2015.

For more information, visit and please circulate this notice to your friends and colleagues in the art community.

About FuseSocial
FuseSocial is the Volunteer Centre for Wood Buffalo.  Our service to community is focused on supporting local social profit organizations in fulfilling their missions.  Through our work, we seek to provide leadership, advocacy and support to the social profit sector through the promotion of volunteerism, professional development, and research and knowledge exchange.

Stephanie Pilgrim
Analyst, Volunteer Resource Management