History of Film in Thunder Bay

In 1911, the first film produced in what is now Thunder Bay was entitled “Port Arthur & Fort William: Canada’s Keys to the Great Lakes.”  And, so began Thunder Bay’s century of filmmaking which we’re celebrating this year at the 8th Annual Bay Street Film Festival.

Highlights of films produced in the Lakehead since 2011.

“Modern Girls on Snowshoes” (1929) shows fashionable young women on snowshoes, one woman puts on her makeup in the great outdoors! This was a 20th Century Fox Production shot entirely in Thunder Bay.

In 1920 “From Sea to Sea,” a grain handling film with shots of canoeing, fishing and mining operations. In 1953 and 1962 two films:  “Lakehead Grain” and “Lakehead” were made about grain handling at the Lakehead, that also included shots of ships being loaded with grain.

The famous “Nanook of the North” was produced by the local filmmaker Robert Flaherty and first screened in Thunder Bay. In 1926 he also directed “Moana,” for Paramount Pictures and a rough-cut preview was held at the Prince Arthur hotel before a private audience before its release.

In 1929 “A Race for Ties,” Harold Harcourt and Dorothea Mitchell produced Canada’s first amateur feature-length film, under the aegis of the new Port Arthur Amateur Cinema Society. Dorothea Mitchell  ( www.ladylumberjack.ca ) was the first independent filmmaker in Canada and she shot entirely in Thunder Bay and environs. Nicknamed the “Lady Lumberjack” she had emigrated from England and variously homesteaded, ran a sawmill and a general store before settling in Port Arthur. Between 1929 and 1931 the Port Arthur Amateur Cinema society completed two feature-length films and nearly complete a third, “The Fatal Flower.”  This film was picked up and completed in 2002 by an enthusiastic group of filmmakers in Thunder Bay spearheaded by award-winning director Kelly Saxberg.

Through the forties, fifties, sixties up to the first decade of the 21st century films continued to be made including:

The Devil Bear (1929),

Sleep Inn Beauty (1930—Dorothea Mitchell),

Western Trip (1931),
Wheat Supply Canada (1949),
Canadian Cameo Hockey Stars (1950),
Port Arthur Festival: A City’s Story (1958),
Petticoat Expeditions, the National Film Board of Canada for the History Channel (1995),
Anyplace Wild, PBS, filmed at Old Fort William (1996),
Inuit Dog (1998).1999
Rosies of the North, 52 Min. Documentary NFB, director, Kelly Saxberg,2001
Zombie Massacre, Feature, produced/written/directed by Eric Weller
Pioneer Quest: Survivors of the Real West,  48 Min. Documnetary. Frantic Films, directed by Kelly Saxberg,2002
Banana Split, Kelly Saxberg and Ron Harpelle,

2003
Letters from Karelia, Kelly Saxberg NFB 74 Min. Feature documentary
As Long As The Rivers Flow: Story of the Grassy Narrows Blockade
Documentary, DV, 52mins Dave Clement

2004
Power and Pet-Coke: The Synfuel Controversy
2004 – DV, 52min Kate Kroll, Dave Clement

2005
Printemps de Voyagers/Voyageur Legacy: Our Story.
Director:Kelly Saxberg
“The Fatal Flower” (1930) 48 Min Silent feature finished by Flash Frame Film and Video Network

2006
“The Remnant” Dave Clement Drama, 16mm, 20min
“On The Rails in Red” 24 minutes Drama  Piotr Skowronski
“Dorothea Mitchell: A Real Pioneer”, 50 min documentary
Producer Ron Harpelle Director Kelly Saxberg,

2007
“Unsaid,” drama 15 minutes produced and directed by Ryan LaVia of Pastime Productions.
Perogy Nation Episode 1”The Broadway Somosa” (Series pilot for Shebandowan films Producer Kelly Saxberg, Ron Harpelle.)
“Simpson St.” (2007) documentary 27min Lee Chambers, producer,

2008
“Seeking Bimaadiziiwin” Kelly Saxberg/Dave Clement 31 minutes fiction
“Sharing Tebwewin” Director Dave Clement, Producer Kelly Saxberg
“Free Press” 7 minutes Drama  Piotr Skowronski
“Woodland Spirits” Documentary, DVC pro, 27mins. Dave Clement

2009
“Undertow,” a film by Piotr Skowronski,  24 min. drama,
SCI Lunchroom, 10 min short fiction, Kelly Saxberg
“Bay City Rodney Dwira, director” feature 94 min. (Action Police Drama) Lee Chambers, producer,
“Judy” Short Rodney Dwira, director, Lee Chambers, producer.
“To My Son In Spain: Finnish Canadians in the Spanish Civil War”
42 minutes Dave Clement
“The Healing Lens” documentary 42 minutes Michelle Derosier

2010
Citoyens du Monde, 6 x 54 min episodes director Kelly Saxberg, producer Louise Paquin and Charles Lavack,
“Life is but a Dream” Flash Frame for Doc Challenge 8 min. documentary

“In Security” documentary 52 Minutes Ron Harpelle
2011
“Sticky Money”  fiction 10 minutes director Ryan La Via
“Under The Red Star” – docu-drama 79 minutes Director Kelly Saxberg
“Big Blue Row” – documentary 8 minutes director Kelly Saxberg
“Northern Grown” documentary 30 minutes directors Kelly Saxberg Raili Roy
“Chopsticks fiction” 8 minutes Ryan La Via, Dianne Brothers
“Where on Earth is MY Bike” documentary 30 minutes Paul Morralee
“Gas through the Glass” fiction 2 minutes 30 sec. Caleb Magiskan
“Return to Manomin” documentary 70 minutes Michelle Derosier
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