PROFILE: Bruce McDonald
Born May 28, 1959, Kingston, Ont.
He’s made a lot of movies, but Bruce McDonald will go down in history as the man who announced he would buy “the biggest chunk of hash” he could find after winning the $25,000 prize for best Canadian feature at the 1989 Toronto International Film Festival (then called Festival of Festivals). “What can I say,” says McDonald. “I’ve never been all that interested in doing what’s expected of me.”
A true Canadian maverick, McDonald’s career started in documentary and gradually shifted into narrative features after a solid stint as an editor on such films as Atom Egoyan’s Speaking Parts and Ron Mann’s Comic Book Confidential -- not to mention crewing on Norman Jewison’s nun story, Agnes of God. A proud Canadian, when McDonald originally set to work on his first road movie, Roadkill, he wanted to make sure it was a Canadian take on the romantic genre and made sure his characters pointed north -- ...
PROFILE: Gary Burns
Born 1960, Calgary, Alberta
A former construction worker who turned to filmmaking at the age of 30, Burns remains something of a lone wolf on the Alberta landscape howling at the moon. A guy who generally works alone and steers clear of the “film scene,” Burns makes movies that appeal to his own personal brand of darkly comic wackiness. ``I don't really know what's going on in Alberta from a film standpoint. I'm not a part of it. I'm not really part of anything. I don't crew. I don't work in the industry. My friends have nothing to do with the film business. I don't even go to see movies. I'm guess I'm just another alienated Canadian filmmaker,'' says the man who used to sandblast oil-rig equipment.
A graduate of the University of Calgary’s drama program, Burns decided to enroll in the film program at Concordia University in Montreal in the hopes of turning his passion for storytelling into a career. After graduating from Concordia in 1992, he ...
PROFILE: Garth Drabinsky
Born 1948, Toronto
Few Canadians have simultaneously inspired as much awe, admiration, skepticism, sycophancy and disgust as Garth Drabinsky -- the high-flying entrepreneur behind the joystick of such dazzling, daredevil crashes as Cineplex and Livent. Love him or hate him, you have to hand it to the man for not only building an empire from the ground up, but doing it twice -- if not more (surely, the man will make another return to the limelight he loves so much) -- and flying the Maple Leaf in the face of star-spangled suits at every turn.
On paper, Drabinsky created the two the largest entertainment companies this country has ever seen, only to lose them both to American interests. Determined to play the same game of self-creation cemented into American consciousness via Hollywood’s marketing of the “American Dream” -- to the point where he even took it upon himself to produce the American classic, E.L. Doctorow’s Ragtime, on Broadway-- Drabinsky ...
PROFILE: ROBERT LANTOS
Born 1949, Hungary
It is interesting to note that throughout Garth Drabinsky’s rein as the leading Canadian entertainment figure in the Trump-ed up days of the early ‘80s, there is only one footnote to Robert Lantos -- the man who co-founded and nurtured the largest production and distribution in the history of Canada.
The footnote appeared in April, 1988, when it was announced that Cineplex, already in deep financial straits, had signed a deal with Alliance that was supposed to give Alliance the much-needed production cash while giving Cineplex a product pipeline to fill its screens.
No one paid too much attention to the deal save a few producers who predictably sounded the doomsday alarm about consolidation of the independent scene, and worried that the independents would no longer be “independent” if publically-traded companies like Cineplex continued to dominate the fragile market.
For all the huffing and puffing, no one’s house ...
PROFILE: ANNE WHEELER
Born: 1946, Edmonton
One of the original rebels, it often seems the entire western film tradition sprouted from Anne Wheeler’s loins. If not on a formal level -- then certainly on a spiritual one. Exuding a sense of quiet, calm confidence, she has been referred to as a “Dalai Lama-like” presence by the legions of young actors and film-makers who have shared her many movie sets.
“All of us dream of being like Anne,” noted Lynne Stopkewich, fellow west-coaster and director of Kissed. “She just flows.”
Director of several features, including the critical success Bye Bye Blues (1989) and the commercial hit, Better Than Chocolate (1998-9), Wheeler has blazed her own trail through the wilderness -- not just in film, but in life as well.
Growing up the little sister to three older brothers in the already hostile landscape of Edmonton, Wheeler says she was “determined to catch up” with her older siblings, regardless of whether the ...
PROFILE: DENYS ARCAND
Born Deschambault (between Quebec City and Trois Rivieres)
June 25, 1941
Perhaps the first Canadian film-maker to achieve true celebrity status, not just in English and French Canada but around the world in the wake of Declin de l’empire Americain, Denys Arcand still gets a rush out of getting a last-minute reservation at his favorite restaurant.
“As a film-maker you become semi-famous for six months -- every four years. I can’t say I don’t like that. I’m not addicted to fame or anything, but it’s nice to think people are listening when you open your mouth to say something,” said Arcand after the release of Stardom, his 2000 film that centred around a young female hockey player from rural Ontario who becomes a supermodel quite by accident.
“I’ve been a celebrity since 1986, after Declin. That was my first taste of stardom. Before that, no one asked me what I thought of anything. Fame gives you this sense of recognition and in ...
PROFILE: ATOM EGOYAN
Born, July 19, 1960
Named in honour of the first nuclear reactor in Egypt, Atom Egoyan seemed fated to make a lasting impression. The first child born to Joseph and Shushan Yeghoyan, Armenian refugees living in Cairo, Atom, his sister and his parents moved to Canada in 1963 -- where they set down roots in the gardening capital of the Great White North: Victoria, B.C. In order to make the transition smoother, the Yeghoyans opted for a phonetic spelling of their family name and opened a furniture store -- despite their own creative bent. Both parents had once studied fine art, and Joseph even spent time at the Art Institute of Chicago as a young man. They were the only Armenian family in Victoria at the time, and for the young Atom, a first-generation immigrant trying to find a place in the verdant bosom of British colonialism, an outsider stance came as second nature.
At first, like most kids whose parents have “accents,” Egoyan ...
PROFILE: LÉA POOL
Born 1950, Geneva, Switzerland.
From scrawling on blackboards in her native Switzerland to calling the shots on feature films in Canada, Léa Pool has travelled a great distance both physically and emotionally since abandoning her teaching career to study communications at L’Universite du Quebec a Montreal. When Pool left Geneva in 1975, she did so with the simple aim of learning to shoot video so she could teach her students what to do. She never dreamed of making movies, let alone becoming one of Canada’s premier directors, but once she discovered the medium’s ability to act as a type of psychic paint stripper, Pool was hooked.
Beginning with a small, co-directed documentary short about a bellhop in a hotel, Laurent Lamerre, portier, Pool made an impression off the bat and was given a chance to teach after she completed the program. Un Strass Cafe (1980) was her first solo project -- an experimental short made with the support of the National ...
PROFILE: NORMAN JEWISON
NORMAN JEWISON Born 1926, Toronto, Ont.
He’s one of many young, talented Canadians who wandered south to fulfill his dreams -- but he never abandoned his Canadian identity, and when it came time to reinvest in his cultural heritage, Norman Jewison didn’t just give something back -- he created a legacy in the form of the Canadian Film Centre (or The Norman Jewison Centre for Advanced Film Studies). Located in an old mansion on the outskirts of metro Toronto, the centre opened its doors in 1986 and has since pumped out some of the best screen talents the country has to offer.
Though he’s experienced great success on the American side of the border, Jewison has never been co-opted by the studio system. His films tend to follow certain studio conventions, but he makes movies that explore themes of social justice and tolerance, and sticks to his guns regardless of the potential backlash.
For instance, when Jewison’s most recent film The Hurricane (about the wrongful ...