A still from Kurayami No Wa (Circle of Darkness) by JumpstART grant recipient Morgana McKenzie. Photo: Courtesy of SAW Video.
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Event celebrates 35th anniversary, screens past films born of grant program

On Nov. 11, SAW Video Media Art Centre, located in the Arts Court building, is holding film screenings of work produced out of their grant program, JumpstART, to celebrate their 35th anniversary.

The non-profit organization has helped local artists produce over 100 films of varying genres, from dramas, to quasi-documentaries, to experimental films.

Michele Wonzy, the curator of the media centre, explained that the variety comes from the evolution of digital technology used to produce films.

“The tools have changed,” she said. “In this exhibition you’ll see very performative work, artists who place themselves at the centre of the piece and explore themselves through video and sound (and) as the works become more digital, there’s an incredible use of editing.”

SAW Video’s origins are as unique as the work that they produce. Started by a group of artists in 1980 as a grassroots organization, the centre received official funding from the Canada Council for the Arts two years later after submitting a video application.

JumpstART was introduced five years later in 1987  to give budding filmmakers a foundation for their passion, provide them with the tools they need to dip their toes in the art of video production, and offer financial assistance for the production of their work.

“SAW Video has an interesting history. They emerged from Galerie SAW Gallery, (a) collective (that) was embedded in sharing space and stages (as well as) performance artists and dancers” Wonzy shared, describing it as a “disciplinary zeitgeist.”

She explained that this collective of artists wanted to explore media art, and helped make SAW what it is today.

Since its creation, the production fund has also evolved into a mentorship program to give artists extra support. Up to six grants are awarded each year, and completed works are shown a year after the participants join the program so they may jump-start their careers.

“It encourages artists of all walks of life,” said Wonzy, adding that the hands-on mentorship guidance was recently introduced in 2009. “It’s always been a mentorship program, (and) not everyone who applies has worked with video before.”

One restriction of the program is that works must come in during the pre-production phase, and all post-production and editing must be done at SAW Video.

Penny McCann, director of the centre, started out as a grant recipient and shared her experience with the program in her introduction for the screening catalogue.

“My start as a media artist came with the JumpstART grant I received in 1989, with which I made my first experimental video, Marching to Pretoria,” said McCann. “My JumpstART video introduced me to video production, SAW Video Co-op (so named at the time), the artist-run centre movement, and the world of media art.”

“For me, as for many others, the program was truly a defining moment in my life.”

For this year’s festivities, Wonzy chose which works to play for the screening and gave some insight to the decision in her curatorial essay.

“This curated program of 15 media artworks is but one framed sample of work that has been created over the past 3 decades—a program that I believe demonstrates the ART in JumpstART.”

She encourages those interested in media art to play around with camera techniques and to go to as many exhibitions as they can, and one place to start is the upcoming retrospective.

“Come to the show. It’s an awesome piece of history, and it’s gonna be a great party.”

Catch the show on Friday, Nov. 11 from 7:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. at the Arts Court building. Tickets are $8 at the SAW Video office or $10 at the door.


  • Spring 2022: Desiree Nikfardjam Fall 2021: Zofka Svec 2020-2021: Aisling Murphy 2019-2020: Ryan Pepper 2018-2019: Iain Sellers 2017-2018: Ryan Pepper