(b. January 1, 1946)
Following an eclectic early career in computer programming and music education, Wheeler emerged as one of Canada’s finest storytellers. She started working in film in 1971 when she became the first female to join the Filmwest cooperative in Edmonton. Wheeler spent five years there, finding herself increasingly interested in feminism and in telling women's stories.
Five years later and after having made close to 20 short films, Wheeler left Filmwest to work as a freelancer, mostly for the National Film Board, making documentaries and short dramas such as Great Grand Mother (1975), Happily Unmarried (1977), Augusta (1978), Teach Me to Dance (1978), One's a Heifer (1984), A Change of Heart (1984) and the feature docudrama A War Story (1981), narrated by Donald Sutherland, which explores her father's experiences as a doctor in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp during WWII.
Great Grand Mother, her first feature length documentary, considered by many to be her best film, won five Alberta Motion Picture Industry Awards and a Blue Ribbon at the American Film Festival. Great Grand Mother anticipated two themes that run through Wheeler's work: stories about women, a topic explored in Loyalties (1986), Bye Bye Blues (1989) and The Diviners (1993); and stories of her family, A War Story (1981) and Bye Bye Blues (1989).
Encouraged by the international success of her films, Wheeler made the shift into dramatic filmmaking — a natural step for Wheeler who had worked with actors to recreate scenes in a number of her documentaries. Loyalties (1986), a captivating story of an unlikely friendship between a Métis woman and an Englishwoman, was a success at film festivals around the world. Bye Bye Blues (1989) was inspired by her mother's war years as a musician in a dance band and the film established Wheeler as a force within the Canadian industry. Distributed worldwide, it won awards for its sensitive story and uplifting music and it continues to attract new audiences.
After moving to British Columbia in 1990, Wheeler directed the adaptation of the Margaret Laurence novel The Diviners, as a two-hour movie for television, winning a Genie for best movie of the week. Wheeler continues to work in television, having directed a number of successful shows including episodes for the critically acclaimed Da Vinci's Inquest (1998–2000), Cold Squad (1997–1998) and Beggars and Choosers (2000).
In 1998, Wheeler returned to feature filmmaking with Better Than Chocolate, a romantic comedy set in the lesbian community of Vancouver's east end. It won numerous awards in gay-and-lesbian festivals in Europe and North America and was popular with audiences. Wheeler has been awarded six honorary doctorates and the Order of Canada for her contributions to Canadian filmmaking.
Film and video work includes
Promises, Promises, 1973 (editor)
Great Grand Mother, 1975 (director; writer; cinematographer)
Augusta, 1976 (director; writer; editor)
Happily Unmarried, 1977 (director; co-cinematographer with Robert Reece; producer)
The Forests and Vladimir Krajina, 1978 (co-editor with Ian Rankin, Malca Gillson)
Priory, the Only Home I've Got, 1978 (producer)
Teach Me to Dance, 1978 (director)
The Red Dress, 1978 (editor)
Never a Dull Moment, 1979 (producer)
Triangle Island, 1979 (producer)
A War Story, 1981 (director; writer; producer)
From Bears to Bartok, 1983 (co-editor with Barry Freeman; producer)
Great Days in the Rockies, 1983 (producer)
A Change of Heart, 1984 (director; TV)
Children of Alcohol, 1984 (producer; co-editor with Harvey Spak, Gil Cardinal)
One's a Heifer, 1984 (director; co-writer with Donaleen Saul)
The Third Person, 1984 (producer)
This Is Only a Test, 1984 (producer)
To Set Our House in Order, 1985 (director; writer)
Cowboys Don't Cry, 1988 (director; writer)
Angel Square, 1990 (director; co-writer with James DeFelice)
The Diviners, 1992 (director; TV)
The Ray Bradbury Theatre series, 1992 (director; TV, one episode)
Other Women's Children, 1994 (director; TV)
Jake and the Kid series, 1995 (director; TV, two episodes)
The War Between Us, 1995 (director; TV)
Mother Trucker: The Diana Kilmury Story, 1996 (producer; writer; TV)
The Adventures of Shirley Holmes series, 1997-2000 (director; TV, two episodes)
Cold Squad series, 1997-1998 (director; TV, three episodes)
The Sleep Room series, 1997 (director; TV, two episodes)
Da Vinci's Inquest series, 1998-2000 (director; TV, pilot and five episodes)
Beggars and Choosers series, 2000 (director; TV, one episode)
Marine Life, 2000 (director)
Mysterious Ways series, 2000 (director; TV, one episode)
The Orkney Lad, 2000 (director)
Suddenly Naked, 2001 (director; producer)
Edge of Madness, 2001 (director; writer)
The Investigation, 2002 (director; TV)