The Early Years
The Festival began in 1947 as the Yorkton Film Council. Its mandate was to act as a volunteer distribution agency for the National Film Board (NFB). Jim Lysyshyn, field man for the NFB, suggested a film festival. When the Council rejected his proposal, he came forward with a more audacious proposal – an international festival.
The Council accepted the new idea and organized the first festival in the fall of 1950. Throughout the 1950s, the festival was a huge success with as many as 4000 people at the screenings, this at a time when the population of Yorkton was only 8000.
Change Comes to Yorkton
In the 1960s, with the advent of television, attendance at the screenings fell as did Council enthusiasm. In 1969, the Council was ready to fold the event. At that time, a group of dedicated leaders came forward to rejuvenate the festival.
Over the next decade, they introduced substantial changes including: after-theatre parties and other social events to draw in the local people; workshops for students and filmmakers; moving from an international festival to one limited to Canadian films; hiring paid staff; re-designing the Golden Sheaf, the award presently in use today; and the use of qualified highly qualified people as adjudicators. These changes set the template for the festival up to the present.
A Lasting Legacy
Commitment to the film community is the Festival’s long and enduring legacy. According to co-chairperson, Richard Gustin, “the Golden Sheaf Awards allow us to celebrate our successes. The workshops provide a formal learning experience. The events of the festival allow for a fellowship that fosters contacts and friendships, growth and business.”
In the 1980s, the Festival was instrumental in the formation of the Saskatchewan Motion Picture Industry Association (SMPIA) and on a broader societal front, the Saskatchewan Council of Cultural Organizations, the SaskCulture of today. Presently, the Festival continues its commitment by organizing film events with partnership organizations across the province and across the country.
In its current form the festival continues to be dedicated to the promotion of the best screen based media content, through our annual film festival and Golden Sheaf Awards competition. In addition to the annual event, the festival is dedicated to the promotion of short video content through our year round screening and tour outreach programs.
Photo above: Recording Films and People at the CJGX Radio studios, 1950s. James Lysyshyn is to the left of the microphone, and Nettie Kryski, centre, in white. Both were instrumental in the early years of the festival.
Formation of the Yorkton Film Council
1st Golden Sheaf Award presented
Entries limited to Canadian films
Festival renames as Yorkton Short Film & Video Festival
Festival celebrates 65 Years of Film
1st Yorkton International Film Festival
Festival moves from biannual to annual format
Entries limited to films less than 60 minutes
Festival renames as Yorkton Film Festival
Festival celebrates 65 Years of Film
As part of the festival 65 Years of Film celebrations, the YFF commissioned a series of historical vignettes covering the full history of festival. These vignettes have been compiled into a free PDF for download.
The Yorkton Film Festival grew out of the Yorkton Film Council, established in 1947 by a group of local volunteers interested in bringing documentary films to Yorkton and area.
To scroll through the history, click on the arrows at the right and left of the slideshow.
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