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Matthew van Ginkel won the RBC Emerging Filmmaker Pitch Competition for his horror short "First Session," which premiered at the Gimli Film Festival in Manitoba. Here, Matthew shares his story about finding inspiration from personal experience, overcoming obstacles, and becoming a better filmmaker.

Banner Image: Gogha ɂets’eredı – courtesy of Laura Grier

Canada’s emerging artists contribute to the fabric and strength of communities. “Creative Culture: Emerging Artists to Watch” is a new series profiling young Canadian artists as they begin to grow from emerging to established.

Matthew van Ginkel is a filmmaker and director based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He’s already released his first film — a horror short called First Session , which premiered online at the Gimli Film Festival in Manitoba this summer.

After graduating from high school, Matthew started a degree in theatre and film at the University of Winnipeg. At the end of his first year, he saw an ad for the Vancouver Film School. He applied, got in, and moved out west to start the new program.

Now, Matthew is back in Winnipeg and he has begun work on his first feature film.

It’s been a busy few years and his career is only just getting started.

In this podcast, Matthew shares his story of how it all began.

Find out about how RBC supports emerging artists.


Matthew van Ginkel:

It’s kind of hard to pinpoint but I remember how this archaic technology of DVDs … on some movies there was always like a second disc or a bonus disc, where they would show behind the scenes on how they make that movie. I remember watching the first Pirates of the Caribbean bonus feature like showing all the behind the scenes … I thought that was really cool.

His interest piqued in high school, where he picked up a camera for the first time in a video production class at Fort Richmond Collegiate.

Matthew van Ginkel:

I really liked how you can essentially tell stories and express yourself in a different medium. Just another way of people to hear your voice. That’s what really attracted me.

My former teacher, Mr. Reid, who I’m still in contact from time to time, it was really motivating. Even if you think you made something great … he would always push you to make something better and better and better … which is something that I still have, which is lesson I kind of took to heart.

In 2019, Matthew was the winner of the RBC Emerging Filmmakers Pitch Competition – a $10,000 grant that helped him create First Session. In the short film, we follow a man exploring an abandoned school and encountering dark, physical manifestations of his inner struggles, which he confronts during a therapy session.

Matthew van Ginkel:

I took great inspiration from my upbringing with autism when writing this script so I have a very personal connection with the overall story in the film. Even though the main character’s mental struggles were deliberately left unexplained and open to interpretation. I took moments from my life into the film such as how James is revealed to not do very well in school and while James battles with the monster he manages to look at a photo of him and his friends, which kind of helps give him the strength the motivation to fend off the monster. It symbolizes how having a support group can help you through really hard times. I’m thankful in my life to have friends and family who would support me along my path in life.

It was no easy feat — but Matthew says it was worth every minute.

Matthew van Ginkel:

There is always a lot of pre production work. It was months of planning, making sure all the paperwork was in place, making sure every crew member had everything that they needed … even though I wasn’t the biggest fan doing all the prep work, it was kind of like a necessary evil. [It was] confirmation that I’m trying to do the job that I want to do.

The premiere wasn’t exactly as he’d imagined, as the Gimli Film Festival was held online this year. But Matthew says it was a good lesson in the ways technology has helped him build his career.

Matthew van Ginkel:

I think it ultimately turned out really well. People still managed to see my film at Gimli Film Festival which I think is great. It’s a bit unfortunate not being there in person watching the whole audience react to my film. However, on the bright side, I think the pros kind of outweighs the cons where it was much easier for people to access my film and the Gimli Film festival overall. And I think that’s really great.

For Matthew, working as an independent filmmaker is a dream job. But he still needs to work at getting his creative juices flowing, especially when he feels a lack of motivation or inspiration.

Matthew van Ginkel:

I would say the beginning of COVID, even a bit before the whole shut down … that was the longest moment where I felt very unmotivated. I was kind of hitting a bit of a writer’s block … But then it got to a point where the nothingness … kind of forced me reevaluate things and force that creativity back. It was a blessing because I’m trying to tackle writing this feature film and normally the biggest problem of doing that is not having enough time but now you’re given all this extra time.

Now, he’s getting back into the groove. He admits that some days are more productive than others, but he looks to friends, particularly those from the Vancouver Film School, for support and motivation.

Matthew van Ginkel:

I do believe that’s where I generally get most of my inspiration and creativity from, because … on the polar opposite of my lack of creativity, I would say the most creativity or inspiration I felt was when I was still attending Vancouver Film School where I’m just like with the same 20 classmates where everyone’s trying to create something, trying to do something different.

If it’s doing my own projects, my own films … one creative or fulfilling day would either be finishing a script or getting something major in pre production done. I’m kind of hitting both creative and very uncreative moments. Trying to write this feature film and a very productive day would be like getting a scene figured out or getting a couple of questions or things that I need to resolve to make the story make sense.

Since graduating from the Vancouver Film School in 2018, Matthew has moved back home to Manitoba, where he says there are incredible opportunities and support systems in the film industry.

Matthew van Ginkel:

There’s a province full of creative people that kind of want to prove themselves and the film industry here in the province has a lot to offer … The one that comes to mind is The RBC emerging filmmaker pitch competition. I find just overall the community here for filmmaking like On screen Manitoba, Manitoba Film and Music and the Winnipeg Film Group I find those are all really valuable resources for the filmmakers in the province.

He also finds new inspiration in other creative outlets.

Matthew van Ginkel:

I’ve been listening to a lot of movie soundtracks. Just being aware and listening to what others have composed has been really inspiring. I’ve been listening to a lot of Hans Zimmer’s scores. He’s done the soundtrack for the Lion King, Gladiator, Pirates of the Caribbean, Interstellar, Inception, Dunkirk …

Looking ahead at the next five years, Matthew hopes to release his first feature film, a full-length version of First Session with more elements from his favourite horror genre.

Matthew van Ginkel:

I like the idea of building a spooky atmosphere that kind of makes you on the edge of your seat rather than relying on consistent jump scares or the big scare.

His advice for other young filmmakers is short and simple. It’s also reminiscent of the advice and mentorship he received in high school.

Matthew van Ginkel:

I’d say keep watching movies and always make something better than your last project.

This podcast was produced as part of RBC’s new series, “Creative Culture: Emerging Artists to Watch.” To learn more about other inspiring young creatives, visit

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