While shooting her feature film BEARWALKER on Manitoulin Island in 2002, Dr. Shirley Cheechoo was amazed at how many youth were itching to get involved in the filmmaking process.
This observation led to the beginnings of Weengushk Film Institute (WFI).
By July 2002, WFI was founded by Dr. Shirley Cheechoo, and became incorporated as a non-profit, charitable organization under Provincial Charter.
As a professional, community-based arts organization, WFI is dedicated to the creation and establishment of an artist-focused centre for capacity building in the media arts for both Indigenous youth and persons of diversity. The Institute provides a unique forum for artists from various cultural experiences to share in their stories, and supports the collection, preservation, and representation of new voices in the media arts. The concept of WFI was born from the need to reignite the
interest of Indigenous youth to participate in community initiatives through arts-education, and to offer them an opportunity to re-engage in the learning process through community-based, media-arts instruction.
2009 to 2013 - Articulation Agreement with Laurentian University
In 2009, WFI arranged the lease to own agreement of a 4 000 square foot facility in M’Chigeeng, ON. It was at this time that WFI initiated the first 8 month introductory Lab series for Indigenous youth.
The new facility also saw the development of an articulation agreement with Laurentian University in Sudbury for graduates of Lab 2 to receive 30 credits towards a Bachelor of Arts Degree. These students are also eligible for 12 credits towards a concentration in Rhetoric and Media Studies with the Department of English.
2012-2013 saw the creation, development, and production of a feature length film by program participants, entitled Moose River Crossing.
WFI continues to offer community-based workshops and the Summer Scenes Film Camp as part of our overall strategy towards community arts education and exploration.
A number of WFI participants have received awards in Canadian film festivals for the short films they created at WFI, including Best Short at the Cherokee Film Festival, and Best Short and Honorary Jury Selected Special Recognition at Cinefest Sudbury Film Festival.
2013 to Present - Brock University fully-accredits Lab 1
In 2016, participants who enrol in the WFI Lab 1: Certificate in Film Production course will now receive a Certificate in Film Production from Brock University. Students will receive five university credits upon successful completion.
WFI maintains its' commitment to provide an opportunity for the youth of Indigenous communities to experience storytelling through the medium of film. WFI's strategy towards youth community arts education and exploration is made possible for delivery by partners, funders, sponsors, and donors. It is the goal of WFI to continue program delivery to youth in the community, so that they may bring their stories to life through film.
What began simply with community-based weekend workshops in the filmmaking crafts has now blossomed into a four year, residential, media-arts training and creation program for aspiring, emerging, and professional artists alike. Today, our full-time program has expanded with concurrent instruction and registered participants from across Ontario and parts of Canada. Indigenous and other individuals from remote, isolated areas benefit from WFI's unique educational delivery and methods, and are able to take the next steps towards a sustainable future.