Regina, Treaty 4: Wanda Schmöckel

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(Photo by Aidan Morgan, Intro by Amber Goodwyn)

Wanda Schmöckel is, perhaps, the most curious person I know. I’ve witnessed her inquisitiveness on sticky bar stools and behind a microphone, around dinner tables, at drive-ins, fowl suppers and in pumpkin patches - the lady is always engaged fully with whomever or whatever is before her. Her questions are incisive and she doesn’t back down from bullshit.

These qualities are clearly present in her professional activities: writer, editor, filmmaker, salon curator and journalist. It makes sense that such a smarty-pants would be led to vocations that require deep reflection and logic.

All that said, when I asked my partner to describe Wanda’s most marked characteristic, he offered “super wicked dry sense of humour.” That’s true too. Wanda’s hilarious. I won’t ruin any of her jokes by trying to write them down.

So, Wanda is a hilarious brain, but she’s also elegant and gracious. One of my early encounters with Wanda was at a dinner party. Wanda and her partner Mark invited us newbies to their table soon after we’d arrived, perhaps empathizing with our newcomer status (Wanda moved to Regina from Toronto ten years ago). Wanda and Mark’s home and stories revealed their love of beauty and adventure, as both are natural aesthetes, travellers and good listeners interested in the exchange of excellent stories.

Getting to know Wanda helped Regina to become a home for me. Friends help define one’s sense of belonging to a place, I think. A person like Wanda would be a boon to any (or either) city I’m sure, but I’m sure glad she ended up in ours.

KC: What kinds of projects are you involved in right now?   

I’m working on outlines for a couple of long form writing projects that should be up and running by the time the snow flies. I’m the editor of Splice Magazine (the Saskatchewan Film Pool’s bi-annual journal on filmmaking in Saskatchewan) and we have a new issue coming out this fall – it’s a big one. My husband and I recently re-launched the amateur lecture series Chicken & Wine after a one-year hiatus, and we’d like to mount another event before the end of 2016. I just joined the board of Curtain Razors, and I’m really excited about what they have planned over the next season. Other than that, I’m cooking up ideas for freelance stories that I never seem to find time to pitch (it’s been hard to schedule time to write lately).

KC: What’s your day job? What do you like about it? What’s challenging?

I’ve been working at the MacKenzie Art Gallery as their Communications Coordinator for just over a year. The MacKenzie really is a marvel and it’s one of the first things that ingratiated Regina to me after I moved here from Toronto. That this gallery programs the caliber of exhibitions that it does and remains free to the public is really wonderful. It’s an exemplary institution, and I consider it a privilege to be able to contribute. I also really like the people I work with, many of whom are artists and otherwise smart, creative folk who bring a lot of heart and dedication to their jobs.

KC: What’s important to you?

Ultimately, my family, husband, and friends are most important to me. I really miss my people back home. Luckily, I’m able to get back regularly, which helps, so keeping in touch is very important. Having a purpose and a project on the go is also crucial. I’m no good unless I have something other than worry to occupy my head. Sleep is also important to me. And I value good audio-visual equipment (especially good speakers). I wish exercise were more important to me.

KC: What do you like most/least about Regina?  

Regina has much to recommend it. I love the constant cross-pollination in the arts communities – Regina really knows how to get people with different arts practices to work together and create great things. This fall is going to be a doozy with the Caligari Project, Curtain Razors’ Moveable Feast events, the Meet in the Middle symposium, mispon, Queer City Cinema, the Saskatchewan Independent Film Awards, Pile of Bones Film Festival… I’m never bored here, and I appreciate that. I also like that a lot of people pass through Regina and bring new energy with them. I am regularly thankful for the RPL Film Theatre (and programmer Belinda New) as well as the Dunlop Art Gallery. I like that there’s a dedicated group of people working towards improving the downtown – it feels better than it did when I first moved here, and the momentum is definitely building. I also love the tree-lined streets in my neighbourhood, my bike commute to work, the city’s parks, and the friends that I’ve made here.

On the downside, I could do without the crummy public infrastructure, bad infill housing, social isolation, rampant racism, hearing people complain about a lack of parking when what they really mean is they can’t be bothered walking more than a block between their car and their destination, and the general apathy around clearing snowy sidewalks. It’s a cultural blind spot that results in a pretty hostile environment for everyone –but especially for those with mobility issues of any kind. I also really dislike Regina’s general aversion to criticism. Regina has a bad habit of deflecting even constructive criticism with a weird brand of a boosterism, which is often manifested through a simulacrum of an angry mob carrying torches and pitchforks (online anyway). The thing is, nothing gets better without criticism. If no one complains, nothing can change for the better.

KC: What is your impression of Saskatoon?

Very favourable. A trip to Saskatoon is a great tonic and I like the change of scenery. I like its downtown and what they appear to be doing with it. Saskatoon has also managed to retain a lot of its older buildings. Regina did such a thorough job decimating the centre of the city that the recent wave of restaurateurs, business people, and other brave souls who have started to rebuild it face an uphill battle – not least because of the broader citizenry’s misinformed opinion that there is no parking downtown (again with the parking…). I enjoy eating in Saskatoon and its general entrepreneurial spirit. I like the Roxy and Broadway cinemas. I like the cocktails at the James Hotel. I miss the Mendel, but I like that Saskatoon has put public money into a new art gallery downtown. Meanwhile Regina is setting its money on fire through the construction of a football stadium for the Riders to play 10 to 12 home games a year. That alone probably says all you really need to know about the general sensibility of both cities.

KC: How do you survive the winters?  

I try not to let winter stop me from getting out and walking around. The nice thing about Saskatchewan winters is the sunshine and dry cold. You can actually dress for the cold here, which you really cannot do in more humid places. Whenever I hear people get snotty about Torontonians complaining about minus 20-degree weather, I know they’ve probably never left this place. My husband and I also bought cross-country skis at an end-of-season sale this past spring, so I’m looking forward to heading out on the trails with him at the next opportunity – because Regina is a pretty great place to ski. We also have an excellent cable package and very good house shoes.

KC: (From the Proust Questionnaire) What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I used to work as an editor in television, and for a while, when the Toronto production industry was in the tank (in the early 2000s), I took work cutting news at the CBC. One weekend, I was working alone with the only Associate Producer in the newsroom when word arrived that Rick James had died and we’d have to cut his obituary. The weekends were generally pretty snoozy and this AP and I liked to horse around, so he was game when I suggested we try something with the cut. I ran off to the archive to find a copy of the video for Super Freak while he wrote the script. We started the cut on the line: “she’s a very kinky girrrlll…” and then dropped the audio so the news anchor could read over the rest of the cut. But when it got to the end, we got tricky, and I back timed the final shot so that when the audience heard the anchor say “Rick James died of natural causes”, you saw Rick wink at the camera in slow motion. I don’t know if this was my greatest achievement, but it remains my favourite edit.

Links:

Splice Magazine: http://www.filmpool.ca/splice/

Saskatchewan Filmpool: http://www.filmpool.ca

Chicken & Wine: https://www.facebook.com/chickenandwine

Curtain Razors: http://curtainrazors.com
MacKenzie Art Gallery: http://mackenzieartgallery.ca

Rick James’ Super Freak: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QYHxGBH6o4M