Atlantic Artists Representing on the West Coast:
It’s 2:00 AM Atlantic Standard Time (10:00 PM Pacific Time) and I’m letting my gaze graze the slippery surface of lake Okanagan as I scan the horizon for the barely discernable line where dense mountains meet the cool night sky in Syilx nation territory. This bus is carrying a crowd of independent filmmakers, media artists, programmers, and arts administrators from a ceremony at the En’owkin Centre in Penticton, back to the IMAA conference site in Kelowna, BC.
Every year, the Independent Media Arts Alliance (IMAA) holds an annual general meeting and every second year, they hold a full on conference in a different region of Canada, which brings together independent media artists from across the country. This year, the conference is in Kelowna and is titled: “On Common Ground: Celebrating Indigenous Culture”. I’m here this week, as a delegate for the Faucet Media Arts Centre in Sackville, along with over 80 other delegates representing media arts organizations across Canada.
The IMAA defines itself as a “non-profit national arts service organization that promotes and advances the interests of a vibrant media arts community. Representing over 80 independent film, video, and new media production, distribution, and exhibition organizations in all parts of Canada, the IMAA serves over 12,000 independent media artist and cultural workers.” Their goal is to develop connections between producers, distributors and event organizers in the media arts.
When differentiating between commercial and independent artwork, the IMAA defines an independent production as being “a work over which the artist maintains full creative and editorial control at all stages, from production to distribution.” According to their mandate, their aim is to “represent the independent community and to promote opportunities for independent media arts to be produced, distributed and presented, where commercial interests are never placed above cultural, social, and artistic values.”
Member organizations of the IMAA include film and media art festivals, distributors, and film production centres. The member organizations are divided into six regional groups that meet throughout the year between AGMs. Five of the six regions are based on geographic location, while the sixth region is devoted to the indigenous first nations.
This year, the Atlantic Region has sent delegates from the New Brunswick Filmmakers Co-operative from Fredericton, the Faucet Media Arts Centre from Sackville, the Island Media Arts Co-operative from Charlottetown, the Centre for Art Tapes from Halifax, and the Atlantic Filmmakers Co-operative from Halifax.
In addition to providing a platform for media arts organizations to network and communicate, the conference is also filled with panels, round tables, workshops, exhibitions, and screenings. Throughout the thread of agendas, minutes, motions, votes, and actions, there are panel discussions on topics ranging from cultural experience and intellectual property rights to expressing cultural identity through new technologies. The conference this year also includes an open forum exploring advocacy, employment standards, media preservation, diversity, and censorship in the media arts, as well as a funding forum where the Canada Council for the Arts is presenting a strategic plan and program review.
The conference ends with the Annual General Meeting, which, according to the IMAA is the most important activity, because “The IMAA sets its policy according to the decisions taken by the members at the Annual General Meetings, and ensures that the general guidelines are followed.”
After a week of intense discussions, political debates and challenging screenings, most of us will head to the airport for a long journey home. While we may be dispersed and separated by the geographical expanse of the Canadian landscape, we will nonetheless return to our respective organizations with a greater sense of unity, direction, and place within the greater national framework.