When I think of the film Stand!, there’s no word that resonates stronger than “community”— from how the concept of the film was spawned to its execution; it’s an example of what can be achieved when a group of people come together, support one another and fight for each other. It represents what both independent film and the city of Winnipeg are about. It’s a Winnipeg story, shot in Winnipeg, created by Winnipeggers, and was largely funded by organizations and individuals who were impacted by the 1919 Winnipeg general strike. And the story it tells is one that inspired me to make my hometown of Winnipeg home again.
Like a lot of actors, I’ve lived all over the place, from entertainment powerhouses like Los Angeles, Toronto and Vancouver, to the tiniest of towns like Langford, British Columbia. For the better half of a year, I even lived out of an old camper van. But in every place, there’s always been a day when I woke up and realized it’s time to take the next step. Not because there wasn’t opportunity or work, but because I still hadn’t found what I was looking for. And just like my character, Stefan Sokolowski in Stand!, I decided the next step was Winnipeg.
Winnipeg is home to one of the largest collections of early 20th-century buildings in North America, it has one of the highest provincial film and production tax credits, and is known for fostering a community of artists who create art for art’s sake. Individuals like Danny Schur, the creator of Stand!, emphasize this point emphatically. The storyline of the Sokolowskis in the film is based on real-life characters of the past, but they also have a heartfelt present-day tie to Danny. His grandparents immigrated from Ukraine and made the Prairies their home. Stand! is Danny’s own personal story and a distinctly Winnipeg story, one that recalls the city’s motto, unum cum virtute multorum (“One with the strength of many”).
Winnipeg is home to one of the largest collections of early 20th-century buildings in North America, it has one of the highest provincial film and production tax credit, and is known for fostering a community of artists who create art for art’s sake.
Filmed on location in Winnipeg, Stand! incorporates some of the same locations of the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike itself.
The story behind the creation of Stand! and the narrative emphasizes this industry and life itself is a marathon, not a sprint.
As a Winnipegger myself, I immediately felt connected to the material and identified with the characters. One of the craziest parts of this story is that I remember talking to Danny about how the film came to be and he told me he spent something like 15 years trying to get the film to picture after writing the successful musical Strike!. On top of that, the way the film was financed was unorthodox compared to other independent films in that it was funded by an education market pre-sale, labour-sponsors across the globe, and an unprecedented level of private investment, largely from Winnipeg. It’s that creative, outside-the-box thinking and community involvement that I feel independent filmmaking is about. It’s a constant uphill battle to do what you say and say what you do rather than just talking about it. That’s something here that I fell in love with and I believe it’s because of the type of community Winnipeg is. Like Stefan Sokolowski figures out, finding the people you can count on to support you will lead to a more fulfilled existence. To those of you who feel unmotivated, the story behind the creation of Stand! and the narrative emphasizes this industry and life itself is a marathon, not a sprint.
Lisa Bell stars on screen and sings “The Ma’am is Mum”, “Better Days” and the title song, “Stand!”.
Just like the characters in Stand! finding opportunity in Winnipeg, I see the opportunity here. It’s been almost one year to the date since I moved back and in that year I’ve booked three leads, I’m directing and producing, I’ve scored and narrated a children’s animation pitch for Cannes MIPTV, recorded a bunch of music, finished writing my first feature script, and started teaching acting classes. On top of that, I’ve teamed up with a friend to create a production company called One Night at the Capri to begin producing our own projects and support the talent in the community that hasn’t had an opportunity to be heard. I’ve achieved more and worked more in the last year than in any other place I’ve lived and it's pushing me forward in my career. The only thing I can pin it on is this community. That’s what Stand! is about, what Winnipeg is about–and what I’m about.
Marshall Williams is an actor, writer, musician, director and producer. His TV credits include Glee and feature film credits include How to Build a Better Boy, Stand!, SuperGrid and His Master’s Voice. Marshall has been an ACTRA member since 2010.
Top photo: Marshall Williams and Laura Slade Wiggins in Stand! Photo courtesy of Strike! Movie Manitoba Corporation.