Canada’s Supporting Women in Film Trades (SWIFT) Conference Report 2023 (Part II)

The Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean speaking at Canada’s Supporting Women in Film Trades (SWIFT) Conference

In November 2023, Film Training Manitoba rescheduled the Supporting Women in Film Trades (SWIFT) Conference’s keynote speaker, the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean due to illness. The new date of this session was January 6, 2024.

This session was moderated by Manitoba-based filmmaker Danielle Sturk who also serves on the SWIFT Conference organizing committee. This session was sponsored directly by RBC.

A total of thirty organizations came together to conduct the SWIFT 2023 Conference, and with over 140 participants at the conference in November.  Much like the conference held in November 2023, this SWIFT speaker session was held at Red River College Polytechnic’s Manitou a bi Bii daziigae.

Canada’s SWIFT Keynote Speaker Session started with a land acknowledgment and opening remarks from the SWIFT committee executives, Carrie Wilkins and Ellen Rutter.

The Honourable Jamie Moses, Minister of Economic Development, Investment, Trade and Natural Resources speaking at the SWIFT Conference

Bringing greetings on behalf of the Province of Manitoba was the Honourable Jamie Moses, Minister of Economic Development, Investment, Trade and Natural Resources. Minister Moses spoke positively about women’s important role working jobs and careers in Manitoba and congratulated the SWIFT committee members, conference attendees and the organizers on the success of the SWIFT conference.

FTM was also joined by film industry veteran Cathie Edger who serves the President of the Director’s Guild of Canada’s Manitoba District Council (DGC-MDC). Cathie provided a greeting on behalf of the DGC-MDC and shared advice about entering the industry. The DGC-MDC was instrumental in founding both FTM and SWIFT. Multiple DGC-MDC members served on the SWIFT conference planning committee, and the guild also sponsored the SWIFT Conference.

SWIFT was also honoured to have Deputy Premier of Manitoba the Honourable Uzoma Asagwara attend the conference. Minister Asagwara met with Madame Jean and Cathie Edgar and spoke about the success of the conference.

From left to right: Deputy Premier Uzoma Asagwara, Madame Jean, and Cathie Edgar at the SWIFT Conference

Madame Jean was introduced by last year’s SWIFT award winner Ellen Rutter. Madame Jean was a Canadian Journalist and documentarian who was Canada’s 27th Governor-General of Canada (2005-2010) and the first person of African heritage to hold that post. She later became the first woman to serve as secretary-general of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (2015–19).

Danielle Sturk (left) and Madame Jean (right) in the moderated question-and-answer session

Jean’s family was descended from slaves. Her father suffered imprisonment and torture under the regime of François Duvalier, leading to the family’s flight to Canada when Jean was age eleven. They settled in Montreal. Jean proved to be a brilliant student, studying languages and literature at the University of Montreal, where she earned a master’s degree in comparative literature. She also attended universities in Italy and France.

A social activist, Jean mixed freely in the diverse world of Montreal’s ethnic communities, honing a perfect command of French and English in the process. Embarking on a career in broadcast journalism, she became a popular commentator on the French-language network of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and also worked frequently on the English network.

From 2001, Jean worked as an anchor for Radio-Canada’s Le Téléjournal, and in 2004, she began to host her own television interview show, Michaëlle. She won numerous awards for her journalism, including the Amnesty International Journalism Award. With her husband, French-born Canadian filmmaker Jean-Daniel Lafond, she also made several acclaimed documentaries, most notably Haïti dans tous nos rêves (1995; “Haiti in All Our Dreams”).

Madame Jean speaking at the SWIFT Conference

For over an hour Madame Jean spoke in a revealing and forthright manner. She provided insights into the barriers women face within jobs and careers. Her speech was highly motivational, with Madame Jean sharing personal experiences of working in public positions and the need to overcome challenges while serving in leadership positions. Throughout her speech there were standing ovations and applause. 

Following the speech, Danielle Sturk moderated a question and answer session which at times electrified the energy of the session. This part of the program was an important sharing of thought-provoking ideas and led to deeper discussions with the participants.

From left to right: Jennifer Smoluk, Adam Smoluk, Jean-Daniel Lafond, Michëalle Jean, Danielle Sturk, and Daniel Lussier together before the SWIFT Conference

Following the SWIFT speaker session DOC Manitoba’s Chair Merit Jensen-Carr, Manitoba Institute of Trade and Technology Beverlie Stuart,  Film Training Manitoba’s Executive Director, Adam Smoluk took to the podium to announce the Film Master Series with renowned internationally renowned filmmaker, Rory Kennedy.

Photo announcement for the Film Master Series with Rory Kennedy, presented at the SWIFT conference

FTM annually conducts special masterclasses with highly accomplished film professionals to help develop the skills of Manitoba’s film industry professionals.  The Film Master Series allows film industry professionals to get advice and hear about personal experiences from well-known and accomplished film professionals, as well as an opportunity for a select few to have one-on-ones with the renowned speaker.

Rory Kennedy is an Academy Award-nominated, Primetime Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker. She has made over forty films. Her films have appeared on major streamers and broadcast networks including Netflix, HBO, National Geographic and PBS. Her work has been profiled in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times, and she has appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Today Show, and CNN.

This Film Training Manitoba Master Series is in partnership with The Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology, DOC Manitoba, Moxie Films and the Winnipeg Film Group, and will be held February 10 and 11, 2024.

For more information on this Master Series, please follow the link:

The evening ended with Film Training Manitoba organizing a reception with the support of Centre Culturel Franco Manitobain. Performing was Haitian-Winnipegger musician Wilbert Chancy, who surprised Madame Jean with a performance of traditional Creole songs.

Wilbert Chancy playing the piano for Madame Jean at the reception

The SWIFT committee is already planning to conduct a meeting to start planning the 2024 Canada’s SWIFT Conference which is taking place on November 23 and 24. The mission of SWIFT is to grow and improve this important conference alongside this ever-changing industry, to help encourage and support the increase of women, women-identifying, and non-binary individuals working on film sets.

FTM has sent out a SurveyMonkey to all those who attended the conference and the speaker session. We encourage all the participants who attended to review the SurveyMonkey and submit their feedback!