Red River College is known for its cutting edge curriculum, state-of-the-art equipment and industry-ready grads driving Manitoba’s economy. So it makes sense the school was an early supporter of WindCity, a brand-new Winnipeg-based web series.
“Red River has shown itself to be really innovative and forward thinking,” says Jean du Toit, the show’s production manager and an RRC grad. “It’s taken over old buildings, it’s renovated, it’s made itself felt as a presence in the downtown. The fact that it was an early supporter of WindCity is just another example of that forward-thinking mentality of the College.”
WindCity is the first locally produced digital sitcom to be situated in Winnipeg. It’s branded content, meaning local businesses and organizations pay to have their products or services featured in the plot. (Think product placement on steroids.)
The College is involved in the project in a few ways. For starters, three RRC grads play prominent roles in the series: There’s production manager du Toit, as well as Ali Tataryn (shown above) and Karl Thordarson (at right), both of whom have prominent roles in front of the camera.
Tataryn plays Morgan, a financial advisor with RBC, and Thordarson plays Duke, the show’s de facto villain. Tataryn, who runs Frame Arts Warehouse when she isn’t acting, graduated from RRC’s Applied Counselling program in 2006.
Thordarson graduated from the Greenspace Management program in 2008, and now works as a Technician for the City of Winnipeg’s Parks and Open Space Division. Du Toit, who works for Frank Digital, the production company that produces WindCity, completed the part-time Professional Photography program in 2011.
Another way RRC is involved is through its sponsorship of the web series, which in its first season follows Dylan, a man embarking on a mission to reclaim his business and the love of his life. The sponsorship led to one of the show’s supporting characters, Sam Fortier, being written as an RRC student.
Fortier, played by Kyle Nobess, is a proud Métis and an energetic, passionate, ever-helpful goofball. According to Tataryn, the character is a fun representative for the College.
“I love the quirk that Kyle Nobess has brought to the College,” Tataryn says. “It’s exactly what Red River College is about… providing practical opportunities for different types of people and goals.”
The ability to showcase all the great things Winnipeg has to offer was something the show’s cast appreciates.
“The idea is that Winnipeg is featured instead of playing stand in as ‘Anytown,’” Thordarson explains. “We look to be able to celebrate and showcase its architecture, culture and various key businesses, small or large, that are a big part of what makes Winnipeg such an interesting place.”
In many ways Winnipeg ends up as a character unto itself.
“You could look at Winnipeg as being a mirror of Dylan’s perceived limitations,” Tataryn says. “As Dylan faces his own personal challenges and breaks free of his self-made limitations, he discovers that Winnipeg, like his own life, has far more potential than he ever thought,”
This is the first web series to prominently feature Winnipeg, but given the changing nature of media there’s a chance it won’t be the last.
“The traditional methods of funding entertainment have changed,” explains du Toit (shown at left). “This innovative approach to funding entertainment [as seen in web series with branded content] is a natural progression for filmmakers and for entertainers. So as was the case with WindCity, everyone is getting something out of it. Everyone is involved and everyone has a stake in the outcome and in the health of the series.”
Being involved in this kind of cutting-edge product is exciting, says Tataryn.
“I love new media. I love finding better ways to tell stories, through as many forms as possible,” she explains. “As we find more and more forms of advertising, telling stories, creating ideas, we find more and more opportunity, complexities and inspirational moments. Figuring out ways combine these efforts, while creating genuine entertainment for people, is a challenging venture and I’m happy to be part of projects that experiment on the edge!”
To watch episodes of WindCity, visit www.windcity.tv.
Profile by Stacy Cardigan Smith (Creative Communications, 2006)