75 minutes – Drama
Festival release date: February 3, 2010 (International Film Festival Rotterdam)
Release date: 1986
A Life was shot over the course of six years. It is Frank Cole’s wordless account of a soul unhinging. It features the director as a man who spends the first half of the movie obsessively sealing an empty apartment following a woman’s departure, and the second half lost and wandering the Sahara desert, where it was filmed. A Life replicates the often frankly disturbing experience of being trapped inside someone else’s neurosis.
Also see: Life Without Frank.
Also see: The Best Canadian Films You’ve Probably Never Seen
Chris Gallagher is a producer-director-cinematographer-editor-composer. He attended the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University and taught film at the University of Regina during the 1980s and at UBC for many years. He has been making films since 1972 and is best known for his experimental films Seeing in the Rain, Atmosphere, and Undivided Attention. His work examines philosophical paradoxes and contradictions by applying structural strategies to events as a means to reformulate linear experience to propose aberrant understandings of familiar assumptions.
Features & TV Movies:
VR indicates Direct-to-Video Release
Plastic Surgery (1975, short)
Atmosphere (1976, short)
Santa (1979, short)
The Nine O’Clock Gun (1980, short)
Seeing in the Rain (1981, short)
Terminal City (1982, short)
Mirage (1983, short) Undivided Attention (1987)
Where is Memory (1992)
Time Being (2002)
Do As I Say Not As I Do (2010, short)
Euclid’s Gym (2010, short)
The Reals (2010, short)
Your Are Here (2010, short)
Thaw (2010, short)
It’s Only a Movie (2011, short)
Movie Still (2011, short)
From Here to There (2011, short)
Future Perfect (2012, short)
The I in Film (2012, short)
Silent Film (2012, short)
Iris (2013, short)
Dis Solve (2013, short)
Coping with Loss (2014, short)
From Time to Time (2014, short)
Optical Silence (2015, short)
Velocity Made Not Very Good (2015, short)
Water Falls (2016, short)
Jump the Gun (2017, short)
117 minutes – Experimental, documentary,
Release date: 1987
Undivided Attention follows a couple driving across Canada in a top–down coupe. With cameras strapped to everything from typewriter carriages to shovels, this absorbing, feature–length non–narrative film forces viewers to question the authority of their own perceptions. It places all points of view on an equal level, which allows us to consider the extent to which identity itself is determined and reinforced by the position one looks from. Undivided Attention, the director’s eighth film, is also a helluva visual trip, well worth it, even if only for the ride.
Click here to watch a short trailer for Undivided Attention.
Patricia Gruben was born in the United States and made her way to Canada during the Vietnam War era after graduate studies in Film at the University of Texas. She worked for ten years as a set decorator and art director while making experimental narrative shorts (The Central Character, Sifted Evidence: an interview) which drew attention at international film festivals. In 1982 she moved to Vancouver to teach film production at Simon Fraser University. There she made two long experimental narratives, Low Visibility and Ley Lines, and a 35mm dramatic feature, Deep Sleep, starring Megan Follows. In 1987, with Colin Browne, Gruben founded the Praxis Centre, a national script development workshop now operating as the Whistler Film Festival Screenwriters Lab. From 1982-2018 she was a film professor at Simon Fraser University, teaching courses in film production, film studies and screenwriting, and running a field school in the art and culture of contemporary India. Gruben was honored for her contributions to Canada’s film industry at the Women in Film and Television (WIFTV) 2015 Spotlight Awards, where she was presented with the Teamsters 155 Woman of the Year Award. The award acknowledges her significant success in film as well as her mentorship of other women in the industry. Gruben also wrote and produced a 3-act play, The Secret Doctrine, starring Gabrielle Rose, and created an interactive installation, The Veil of Nature, with Martin Gotfrit. We list her credits as a Director first.
Features & TV Movies:
VR indicates Direct-to-Video Release
The Central Character (1977, short)
Sifted Evidence: an Interview (1982, short) Low Visibility (1984)
Deep Sleep (1990)
Ley Lines (1993)
Floating Islands (2019, short)
Strange Land (2019, short)
99 minutes – Drama
Release date: 1984
Production company: Neoma Ltd
An accident victim (Larry Lillo) is found wandering in the mountains near the site of a plane crash. Taken to a hospital, the mute Mr. Bones (so named for the bones he clung to when picked up) proves absolutely resilient to all tests based on logic, reason or even speech, but utterly responsive to such “nonsense” as games, puns and sing–a–longs. In other words, Mr. Bones’s experience, whatever it was, has effectively loosed his moorings from the bounds of empirical thought, which makes the agents of official reason, such as the doctors and the police, determined to dismiss him as simply crazy.
100 minutes – Drama, Environment issues, First Nations,
Festival release date: September 10, 1991 (Toronto International Film Festival)
DVD release date:
Production company: Cinexus Capital Corporation
Canadian distributor: Northern Arts Entertainment
Clearcut, based on the novel by M.T. Kelly, attacks the smug liberal pieties of so many movies about racial issues by daring to suggest that sometimes action, and violent action, speaks far more eloquently than words. And words are what its central character, a Toronto attorney representing a native community in a logging dispute, can’t seem to stop spewing. Even when kidnapped by a sinister Indigenous man (played terrifyingly by Graham Greene) determined to mete out a little overdue payback to white society, our “hero” (Ron Lea) keeps on trying to do what it is he’s been trained to do at least since law school: negotiate, reason and compromise. But that isn’t working this time.
The film’s director, Ryszard Bugajski, was born in 1943 in Warsaw, Poland abd passed away in Warsaw on the 7th of June 2019.
127 minutes – Documentary
Release date: 1982
Production company: NFB
Canadian distributor: NFB
This National Film Board documentary focuses on a group of men as they depart for a weekend hunting trip in rural Québec. Among them is an earnest, philosophical teacher/poet who is so out of place in this macho roundelay of drinking, swearing and shooting he soon becomes an even more pathetic victim of hormonal persecution than the moose the men have come to kill. By film’s end, he will be subjected to forms of systematic humiliation that, ugly as they are, speak volumes about the conforming agenda that motivates so much ritualized male bonding.
(June 28, 2021 – Toronto, ON) Corus Studios has announced their decision to greenlight a new original series, currently with the working title of Pamela Anderson’s Home Reno Project. The 8 60-minute episodes will begin production this year and is set to premiere on HGTV Canada in 2022. The series follows iconic screen star Pamela Anderson as she returns to her roots on the coast of Vancouver Island. It has been, apparently, her lifelong dream to transform her late grandmother’s abandoned legacy property and turn the residence into a place she and her family can call home.
“Corus Studios is thrilled to work with Pamela Anderson and capture this incredible undertaking of her lifelong dream,” said Lisa Godfrey, Senior Vice President of Original Content and Corus Studios. “The series speaks to our ongoing development strategy of telling unique stories with perfect balance – showcasing real-life experiences while preserving incredible transformations that spark intrigue for a wide-range of audiences on platforms around the world.”
Sprawling over seven acres on the shore of the idyllic town of Ladysmith, B.C., the series centers on the massive renovation of the property, which Anderson purchased over 25 years ago and promised to keep in the family. Ready to give the rustic ocean-view property a proper refresh, she is set on executing her vision, project managing every aspect of the transformation from architectural design and functionality to detailed interior finishes. Her renovation dreams come true with the help of her new husband and local carpenter, Dan Hayhurst, her mother Carol Anderson, and local crew, designers, and craftspeople.
Corus Studios will distribute Pamela Anderson’s Home Reno Project internationally. For Corus Studios, Colin Bohm is Executive Vice President of Content and Corporate Strategy, Lisa Godfrey is Senior Vice President of Original Content and Corus Studios, Krista Look is Director of Original Lifestyle Content and Marni Goldman is Executive in Charge of Production.
Frank Cox-O’Connell is primarily a stage actor. A selection of his theatre credits include the role of Miles in The Drawer Boy at Toronto’s Theatre Passe Muraille and at Farnham Maltings (UK); the title role of Hamlet in the CanStage production in Toronto; playing various roles in the Soulpepper production of Spoon River brought him a coveted Dora Award for Performance; he was nominated for a Dora and won a My Entertainment Award for Performance for his work playing the dual roles of Jason/Tyrone in the Coalmine Theatre production of Hand to God. As a theatre director he has worked across Canada as well as in United States, Ireland, Austria, Japan and Australia. He plays the role of Kristian in the 2021 series Strays.
Strays – TV series, sitcom
Date of first broadcast: September 14, 2021
Production company: Thunderbird Entertainment
Originating network: CBC
Season 1: 10 x 30 minutes
Strays follows Shannon Ross (Nicole Power) from Kim’s Convenience as the new executive director of the Hamilton East Animal Shelter, where she is boss to an eclectic staff. Now in her 30s, Shannon is ready for a change and new challenges. She’s putting Toronto in the rearview to focus on her new job, new relationships, reuniting with family and learning more about herself. Shannon’s trademark positivity is put to the test as she manages an oddball team, including her apathetic cousin Nikki (Nikki Duval), her over-eager animal care manager Kristian (Frank Cox O’Connell), her overly sheltered office manager Joy (Tina Jung) and the building’s maintenance guy Paul (Tony Nappo), whose straight-faced prison humour keeps everyone on their toes.
Nikki Duval received an Honours Bachelor of Arts in theatre at The University of Winnipeg and went on to graduate from The National Theatre School of Canada in Montreal before moving to Toronto. In addition to her television and film work, Duval is also a stage actress. She starred in Shakespeare in the Ruff’s new adaptation Portia’s Julius Caesar and played the role of Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream also for Shakespeare in the Ruff. She has also appeared in The Importance of Being Earnest (Ravenous Theatre), Knickers! A Brief Comedy (Globus Theatre), The Pitchfork Disney (Precisely Peter Productions), Well Born (SoCo Theatre), Hamlet (Hart House) and The Circle at the Tarragon Theatre in Toronto.
Features & TV Movies:
VR indicates Direct-to-Video Release
501 (2014, short) Hyena Road (2015)
Killer High (TV-2018)
Escaping the Madhouse: The Nellie Bly Story (TV-2019)
The Broken Hearts Gallery (2020)
The Novice (2021)
(June 21, 2021 – Toronto, ON) This website was founded by writer-director Ralph Lucas as an offshoot of an idea for a documentary series entitled Northern Stars – The Canadian History of Hollywood. Launched before the .ca suffix was created, the research for the series was repurposed and went online in 1996 as Northernstars.net, a url which is still active. When it was launched it was just the latest in a long line of projects designed to document and celebrate “all things Canadian,” as Lucas has often said.
The first example of his push for more recognition of Canadian talent came in late 1966 with the publication of a tabloid newspaper devoted to Canadian music where he was co-publisher. This was in the pre-“CanCon” years of Canadian radio, where he had started his career in 1964. In the first, and as it turned out only edition, Lucas wrote an editorial calling for more Canadian music on Canadian stations. It would take the governing body, the CRTC, another five years before regulations would be enacted. During a broadcast career that lasted 22 years, every station Lucas programed or managed always exceeded the minimum quotas.
His next project came in 1977 and used radio. He had become an award-winning radio writer-producer in the early 1970s and spent a few years in advertising writing for print, television and radio but had restarted his radio career. In 1977 he had moved to the Montreal company that owned CFCF-TV, CFCF Radio (Canada’s first radio station), and CFQR-FM where he was working as an announcer. Ten years had passed since the national celebration of Canada’s 100th birthday and Montreal’s magnificent Expo ’67. By then there was little of that “Expo feeling” left in Canada and even less in Montreal as the Province of Québec had elected its first separatist government just one year earlier. Lucas, a fan of Canadian history since grade school, had been collecting odd bits and pieces of information for years and decided it was time that some of that history reached a much larger audience.
While there was some talk about Canada’s approaching birthday, Lucas thought there was too much emphasis on the number and not enough on the deep and rich past of the still young country. He wrote a series of Public Service Announcements that would run on CFCF radio. The overriding theme, while recognizing the nation’s 110th birthday, was the fact that there was “So Much More to Celebrate.” Fifty-two 90-second programs were written. Produced by CFCF’s Keith Grigsby the series was narrated by freelance announcer, Earl Pennington. Two of the finished programs were submitted under the title Canada Week, and both received Honourable Mention Awards at that year’s annual radio commercial festival.
Ten years later, in 1987, Lucas was in Toronto and had left radio to establish his own independent production company. Research began almost immediately on the earliest years of the movies and the role Canadians played in the birth of the industry. The result was a concept for a 13-part documentary series which, as mentioned above, ultimately led to this award-winning website.
In 1992, as Canada prepared to celebrate its 125th birthday he made the decision to update and expand the historical vignettes produced 15 years earlier in Montreal. This new series would kickoff with a 30-minute Canada Day special and then continue with a new 90-second program every weekday for the next 13 weeks. To narrate the series he contacted the agent for one of Canada’s best storytellers and actors, Gordon Pinsent. While the first series in 1977 was heard on just one radio station in Montreal, this new series, Gordon Pinsent On Canada would be heard on a network of radio stations from coast-to-coast. Co-written by Tony Reynolds, the series was produced and syndicated by Lucas’ production company. It featured original music composed by Leon Aronson with technical production by Ron Zakar.
A few years later Lucas turned his attention to Canada’s sports heritage and working with archive material, researched, wrote and produced 130 90-second programs titled, Great Moments from Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. Again featuring original music by Leon Aronson, the series was distributed by the radio division of TSN and heard across Canada.
In 1997 when the Province of Ontario enacted legislation to amalgamate the City of Toronto with its neighbouring municipalities into a new “mega-city,” Lucas created, researched and co-wrote 65 1-minute programs. Neighbourhoods of the GTA detailed the history of the many small communities that make up the Greater Toronto Area. It was produced by and aired on Toronto’s NEWS680 radio station.
Since Northernstars was launched, much of Lucas’ time has been given over to researching and writing about the people who make up the ever-growing website. The vast majority of the long, detailed biographies on this website were written by him, and several have been picked up for republication. Lucas is particularly proud of his biography of Mack Sennett, which was used in A Short History of the Movies, published by Pearson-Longman in the United States in 2006.
In 2021, Northernstars reached its 25th year online. Lucas continues to act as Publisher and Managing Editor. He also continues to contribute to the website writing articles and the occasional biography. He also acts as Producer and Director for the website’s ongoing series of on-camera video interviews with Canadian filmmakers. He continues to work as a writer-director in video, a photographer often covering major Canadian film events for Northernstars, and as a writer of fiction, screenplays and poetry. His memoir, The Strathmore Stories was published in 2020. Finally, he is involved in helping to guide the development of The Canadian Independent Visual and Digital Media Association, the nonprofit corporation that will become responsible for taking Northernstars into the future.
TV Series – Guest appearances:
The Fifth Estate (2013)
Man Seeking Woman (2015)
12 Monkeys (2015)
Saving Hope (2015)
The Expanse (2015)
Beauty and the Beast (2016) Kim’s Convenience (2016)
In Contempt (2018)
Good Witch (2019)
Odd Squad (2020)
Second Jen (2021)
Nine Films About Technology (2021)
NFB marks National Indigenous Peoples Day by Staff Editors
(June 21, 2021 – Toronto, ON) Today is National Indigenous Peoples Day. In honour of that, Kevin Settee’s four-part series of short films, The Lake Winnipeg Project, is premiering online at Indigenous Cinema, the NFB’s online collection of Indigenous-made films. Lake Winnipeg’s shores are home to many vibrant Indigenous communities, including the Anishinaabe, Cree and Métis. The Lake Winnipeg Project is an Indigenous-led community-engagement project that explores the communities’ deep connection to the land and water at a time when many external forces are imposing change.
The Indigenous Cinema page offers free streaming of more than 400 new and classic titles from the NFB’s collection of films by Indigenous directors.
Two of the NFB’s most recent works by Indigenous creators are currently on the festival circuit: Courtney Montour’sMary Two-Axe Earley: I Am Indian Again and Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers’Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy (Seen Through Woman Productions/NFB), which has received the Rogers Audience Award and the Emerging Canadian Filmmaker Award at Hot Docs and the Colin Low Award for Best Canadian Director at DOXA.
The NFB’s online learning portal, CAMPUS, features a number of new resources anchored in the NFB’s Indigenous collection, with mini-lessons written by Indigenous educators based on such acclaimed works as Alanis Obomsawin’s Jordan River Anderson, The Messenger, Christopher Auchter’s Now Is the Time, and Tasha Hubbard’sBirth of a Family.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, led by strong local partners across the country, the NFB’s Aabiziingwashi (Wide Awake) Indigenous cinema initiative remained active via virtual screenings, as well as in-person screenings where public health measures permitted. The NFB collection of Indigenous-made works consists of documentaries and animated films that can foster dialogue on a range of topics and themes.
NFB representatives can help communities and organizations find a film or curate a program for their own local screening events by emailing email@example.com
(June 21, 2021 – Toronto, ON) John Greyson’s International Dawn Chorus Day, which had its world premiere at Berlinale 2021 where it screened as one of 20 short films in the Documentary + Experimental programme, has won the Teddy Award for Best Short Film. The short, experimental documentary was written, directed and produced by Greyson with Shant Joshi of Fae Pictures serving as Impact Producer.
This will be the 4th time Greyson has won a Teddy, having previously received it for Urinal (1989, Best Feature), The Making of Monsters (1991, Best Short), and Fig Trees (2009, Best Essay Film). The Teddy Award is Berlinale’s queer film award – is the most important queer film prize in the world, unofficially and affectionately labeled the “Queer Oscar.” A socially committed, political award, it recognises films and people who foster a heightened awareness of queer topics across the board and thus contribute to a greater tolerance, acceptance, solidarity and equality in society. The Teddy Award has been presented at the Berlin International Film Festival since 1987. Films from all sections of the festival compete for the coveted TEDDYs each year.
em>International Dawn Chorus Day was shot during the pandemic with 40 filmmakers from across the globe. The film uses a Zoom call visual to offer a bird song for Egyptian filmmaker Shady Habash and Egyptian queer activist, Sarah Hegazi, who lost their lives enduring the horrors of wrongful detention.
Shady Habash was known for his satiric anti-dictator music videos, and died in Cairo’s notorious Tora prison the day before the 36th annual International Dawn Chorus Day (May 3, 2020). Egyptian queer activist Sarah Hegazi, famously incarcerated for flying a rainbow flag at a Cairo concert, lived in Toronto as a refugee and took her own life a month after International Dawn Chorus Day.
Having experienced jail time in Cairo during the Arab Spring in 2013, John Greyson reminds audiences of the “lockdown” of the real struggles that so many Egyptian activists and artists continue to face in the detention and imprisonment systems in the Arab world. Most recently, Sanaa Seif (film editor and collaborator on Hot Doc’ hit, The Square) was sentenced to 18 months for the crime of trying to deliver a letter to her brother, likewise serving time in the same prison where Habash and Greyson were incarcerated.
Greyson said, “I’m incredibly honoured by this Teddy award and accept it on behalf of all the prisoners still locked up in Egypt. Despite lockdown, despite Sisi, the stories of Shady and Sarah and everyone must be told, must be heard.”
“Even though the COVID-19 pandemic stopped the world in its tracks, International Dawn Chorus Day reminds us that injustice never ceases to halt and, if left unnoticed, can fester into disastrous consequences. We thank jury members Esma Akyel, Samuel Girma, and Sylvie Cachin for recognizing the necessity of this bird song for our fallen heroes, Shady Habash and Sarah Hegazi,” added Impact Producer Shant Joshi.
40 artists and filmmakers from six continents collaborated on the cinematography, waking up early on May 3, 2020 to shoot/record their respective dawn choruses on their cellphones. The 40 are, in alphabetical order: Anonymous (Imbaba, Cairo), Anonymous (New Cairo City), Anonymous (Tora, Cairo), Sofia Bohdanowicz (London), AA Bronson (Berlin), Julie Burleigh (LA), Shu Lea Cheang (Paris), Sheila Davis (Halifax), Richard Fung (Dades, Morocco), Rebecca Garrett (Toronto), Shohini Ghosh (Delhi), John Greyson (Toronto), Maureen Greyson (Coventry), Sharon Hayashi (LA), Dee Dee Halleck (Willow), Nelson Henricks (Montreal), April Hickox (Toronto), Michelle Jacques (Victoria), Nancy Kim (Seoul), Prabha Khosla (Burnaby), Lyne Lapointe (Mansonville), Stephen Lawson (Montreal), Jack Lewis (Vanwyksdorp), Catherine Lord (Hudson), Loring McAlpin (New York), Alexis Mitchell (Glasgow), Maki Mizukoshi (Tokyo), Ken Morrison (Cuernavaca), Daniel Negatu (Vancouver), Martha Newbigging (Consecon), Jane Park (Sydney), Pamela Rodgerson (Toronto), Su Rynard (Toronto), Lior Shamriz (Glendale), Amil Shivji (Dar Es Salaam), Cheryl Sourkes (Montreal), Dieylani Sow (Dakar), Richard Tillmann (Bayfield), Almerinda Travassos (Prince Edward County), David Wall (Toronto), BH Yael (Toronto). (Note: the Egyptians collaborators by necessity must be anonymous, given widespread reprisals against any Egyptians speaking out against the regime).
Editing by Kalil Haddad (Tiger Eats a Baby, Still Processing, Farm Boy, As I Sat in His Car) with sound by Everett Major (Tiger Eats a Baby, Farm Boy, As I Sat in His Car). Vtape holds worldwide distribution rights.
(June 17, 2021 – Toronto, ON) Production on the highly anticipated Inferno Pictures and Sienna Films’ series The Porter is now underway in Winnipeg, Manitoba. A CBC and BET+ original series, production on the 8 60-minute series is being shot across various locations as well as in studio, and is scheduled to continue until mid-September.
Set in the roaring 20s, The Porter offers a dramatic and compelling look at the Black community in St. Antoine, Montreal — known, at the time, as the “Harlem of the North”. The story is told through the eyes of two Black train porters taking very different paths to liberation. One pushes to create the first Black union in existence, the other chases power on the wrong side of the law, but both have the same goal: to free themselves and their families from oppression. They’re young, gifted and Black, from Canada, the Caribbean, and the U.S., and they find themselves thrown together north and south of the color line. In an era that boasts anything is possible, if change isn’t coming for them, they will come for it.
Exciting new additions to the cast include Oluniké Adeliyi (Titans, American Gods) and Loren Lott (American Idol, Tag). They join Aml Ameen (I May Destroy You, Yardie), Ronnie Rowe Jr. (Star Trek: Discovery, Pretty Hard Cases) and Mouna Traoré (Self Made, The Umbrella Academy) who were announced earlier this year. Plus, series originators Arnold Pinnock and Bruce Ramsay take on series regular roles of ‘Glenford’ and ‘Dinger,’ respectively.
Adeliyi portrays ‘Queenie’, the savvy, seductive and sinister crime boss in Chicago whose lavish lifestyle and power appeals to Junior, but at what cost?; while Lott plays headstrong ‘Lucy,’ a talented performer who yearns for the spotlight as she battles shadeism and an instinct for music that’s out of step with the times.
The Porter, which tells the story of the people who fought to ignite the civil rights movement in North America, was originated and created by Arnold Pinnock (Altered Carbon, Travelers) and Bruce Ramsay (19-2, Cardinal), with Annmarie Morais (Killjoys, Ransom, American Soul), Marsha Greene (Ten Days In The Valley, Mary Kills People) and Aubrey Nealon (Snowpiercer, Cardinal). The series is produced by Winnipeg-based Inferno Pictures Inc. and Sphere Media’s Sienna Films. Morais and Greene are showrunners and executive producers. Charles Officer (Akilla’s Escape, Coroner) and R.T. Thorne (Blindspot, Utopia Falls) will direct the series, and are executive producers. Pinnock also serves as an executive producer, and Ramsay a co-executive producer. The series is written by Morais, Greene, Andrew Burrows-Trotman, Priscilla White, Pinnock and Ramsay, with Thorne participating in the writers’ room. The series is funded with the support of the Canada Media Fund and Manitoba Film & Music and is distributed internationally by Abacus Media Rights (AMR) and Sphere Distribution.
Meatballs Still Keeps You Laughing Review by Lois Siegel
(June 14, 2021 – Ottawa, ON) Many young people go to summer camp. Maybe you have been to one, but it surely was not as crazy as the one in the film Meatballs. The film stars Bill Murray as Tripper, the camp program director. Camp North Star is a boy’s camp in Ontario for 14-year-olds.
The story follows a young man, Rudy, who is not keen on being at the camp and lacks self-confidence, but Tripper expertly helps him to fit in. Tripper is also the head prankster at the camp. People sometimes wake up to find themselves sleeping in trees. Fans of Bill Murray will love his performance. The first thing Tripper does is tear up the camp rules. Delightful chaos prevails. With Tripper in charge, Camp North Star is different from other camps – for example, he announces Sexual Awareness Week and brings hookers into the camp.
There is Olympian competition with rival Camp Mohawk and it includes a swimming rally. To give Camp North Star an advantage, one camper puts a fish in a competitor’s swimsuit.
A popular camp song becomes: “The Food is Hideous.” And there is a hot dog eating contest between two very overweight rivals. The film is full of surprises and is always entertaining.
Although Meatballs first came out in 1979, it still holds up and will keep you laughing as everything goes wrong.
Filming took place at Camp White Pine on Hurricane Lake between Haliburton and West Guilford in August and September of 1978. Meatballs was directed by Ivan Reitman and selected for National Canadian Film Day on April 21, 2021. Back in the day, it won Genie Awards for Best Screenplay and Best Actress for Kate Lynch.
The film was the highest-grossing Canadian film of all time in the United States and Canada, winning the Golden Reel Award Canada, which was presented at the Genies to the highest-grossing Canadian films.
I was part of the production crew after teaching film production at John Abbot College and Concordia University. Other Canadian crew members and their school affiliations were:
Ernie Kestler – second camera assistant, Concordia University
Rit Wallis – second assistant editor, John Abbott College)
Josh Nefsky – stills photographer, Concordia University.
Much to everyone’s surprise, Meatballs grossed $17.9 million in its first 17 days. It was followed by several sequels: Meatballs Part II (1984), Meatballs III: Summer Job (1986) and Meatballs 4 (1992). None of the sequels involved either Ivan Reitman or Bill Murray. Only Meatballs lll: Summer Job had any connection to the original.
(June 14, Toronto, ON) Eleanor Noble has been elected by ACTRA’s National Council to a two-year term as National President. Eleanor replaces David Sparrow, who stepped down as National President after serving in this role for four years.
“It is an honour to be elected as ACTRA National President,” said Eleanor Noble. “I am looking forward to working with everyone and continuing to enhance our industry and keeping Canada on our screens. ACTRA members across this country are committed to protecting performers’ rights, strengthening our working conditions through collective bargaining and advocacy, and taking action to increase diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. Respect and dignity must be reflected in the story of our diverse talent across this country. I will work to ensure everyone feels they belong because they do.”
An ACTRA Montreal Councillor since 2006, Noble is currently Vice President of ACTRA Montreal and the Chair of the ACTRA National Women’s Committee. Actively committed to creating safe sets across Canada and broadening diversity in all aspects of our industry, Noble is the creator of the Casting Standards Committee in Montreal, which works with industry partners to improve the casting process. She also oversaw the adaptation of ACTRA National’s guide for Best Practices for Scenes Involving Nudity, Intimacy, Simulated Sex and Sexual Violence.
Based in Montreal, her screen credits include Incendo’s Seasoned with Love, CBC’s Detectives, I.D.’s Fatal Vows, and APTN’s Mohawk Girls. Her voice performance credits include the popular series Arthur, Disney’s Trulli Tales, Netflix’s Maggie & Bianca: Fashion Friends and the video games Assassin’s Creed, Splinter Cell, Prince of Persia. Eleanor Noble is a graduate of the Professional Theatre Program (The Dome) at Dawson College in Montreal.
The election for National President took place this past weekend during ACTRA’s National Council meeting. Outgoing President David Sparrow will remain on ACTRA’s National Council as Past President.
ACTRA’s National Council, composed of 28 National Councillors plus the National President and Past President, is the principal policy-making Council within the union. The National Council is elected every two years with elected National Councillors serving a two-year term. The National Council is responsible to the entire membership and has a moral obligation to ensure its decisions adequately represent the national interests of all nine ACTRA Branches.
(June 9, 2021 – Toronto, ON) This August look for a new mini-series on Netflix titled The Chair and starring Sandra Oh as Dr. Ji-Yoon Kim. The six 30-minute episodes follow Dr. Kim as she navigates her new role as the Chair of the English department at prestigious Pembroke University. The tightly paced series sees Dr. Kim facing a unique set of challenges as the first woman to chair the department, and as one of the few staff members of colour at the university.
The Chair sees Amanda Peet as executive producer, writer and showrunner. Joining Peet as executive producers are Sandra Oh, David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, Bernie Caulfield and Daniel Gray Longino. Writers are Peet, along with Annie Julia Wyman, Richard E. Robbins, Jennifer Kim and Andrea Troyer. Director of all episodes is Daniel Gray Longino.
Previously announced as launching August 27, The Chair will be available on Netflix on August 20, 2021.
A Dragon Talks About Film by Ralph Lucas – Publisher
(June 9, 2021 – Toronto ON) In late May we learned that serial entrepreneur Vince Guzzo would be in Toronto in early June and open to doing some interviews. Early June was a bit up in the air as I had a day full of appointments I couldn’t move and our corporate head had previous commitments on the specific day the president and CEO of Cinemas Guzzo would be in town. I asked if I could submit a few questions via email and if he had time perhaps he could respond in the same way.
Some quick background: Vince Guzzo is the only son of Italian immigrants, who early on believed he could turn his father’s small theatre business into something very much larger. However, to do that he would need to take on the large and established exhibitors. In 1998, he did just that. He sued the biggest movie competition in Canada to gain equal opportunity for “the little guy” to show first-run releases — and won! Today Cinemas Guzzo is the number one operator in Quebec and the third largest movie exhibitor in Canada.
Usually referred to as a cinema mogul, Guzzo’s many business interests have grown, some of them offshoots of the movie theatre chain. Known as Mr. Sunshine, he has been quoted as saying “The sun can be warm and comforting — but if you get too close, it could burn you.” He joined the team of potential investors on the CBC realty series The Dragon’s Den in September of 2018.
I still look forward to meeting him one day, but thank him for taking the time to reply to our questions about the film business in general and Canadian film in particular.
RL: Over the past many decades when the news media has covered the film exhibition business readers are constantly reminded that cinemas don’t make money on ticket sales but rely on the concession stand to make a profit. Is that true? And if true, what percentage of their total revenue does the average cinema make from just showing movies?
VG: It’s absolutely true, and this is one of the reasons we refused to re-open our theatres until we were allowed to sell concession products despite the fact that the Provincial Government permitted us to and that’s how #popcorngate came about. The reality is that half of all ticket sales go to distributors and 40-50% of our revenue and 60-70% of our profit margin comes from food and beverages sales. That is a lot. Between social distancing, limited capacity, and the curfews, we were doomed not being allowed to sell concession products.
RL: Canadian films have had an on-and-off relationship with cinema chain owners, or maybe the issue is with distributors. There was a time a number of years ago when a Canadian film might get a two-week run. Then it became one week. Last year, as Northernstars was keeping track of what Canadian films were playing where, we noticed a lot of Canadian films were just getting 3- day runs. They’d open on a Friday and close on the Sunday. Who makes that decision? And what factors play into that decision? For example, does having a known director, Denys Arcand, David Cronenberg, help? Or does it just not matter when it comes to Canadian film?
VG: Unfortunately, if a film, Canadian or not, doesn’t sell tickets, it can’t continue to run. I am an art lover and always want to promote and support local artists and companies. Cinémas Guzzo is known for giving Canadian films a spotlight and as an example of this, we’ll soon be presenting Livrés chez vous sans contact, a Quebec film that we’re aggressively promoting. Our streaming service also offers an array of Canadian movies in both French and English.
RL: We know we have a vast talent pool in Canada and particularly in Québec with its own home-grown star system. We also have a huge talent base behind the cameras. So…what is the greatest weakness in Canadian film? We think it’s lack of promotion or advertising funds. Do you agree?
VG: Yes! Lack of funding and a proper marketing budget is the biggest challenge. We see lots of bad blockbusters with recycled storylines that still make a fortune, whereas quality movies are not being promoted to prospective audiences. It’s unfortunate because we have jewels that remain unknown and this needs to change.
RL: Talk about the “cinema experience” and what people miss by not watching films on a big screen in large numbers?
VG: These are two different things. Certain films are just as good on a small screen as a big one. But others really should be seen on the big screen, in an auditorium, for a complete experience. Especially in our current environment, it is not about the size of the screen but rather creating a nostalgic moviegoing experience where people get to laugh and cry together and be immersed in the excitement together.
RL: Some say the reason Québec films do so well is that they are made for what is, essentially, a closed society. My take is that the most successful Québec films, no matter the story line, are made for an international audience. It sometimes appears as if English Canadian films are made primarily for an English Canadian audience. In the quest to “tell our own stories” and all the government funding that goes into that, we miss the opportunity of reaching a very much larger audience in Canada, in Québec and internationally? Do you have any thoughts on what might make Canadian film more popular?
VG: Artistically, it makes sense to want to tell a story that means something to you, personally. Many American films showcase just a small part of America or an individual’s personal journey. All stories can be presented in a relatable or interesting manner. I think the challenge, again, comes down to the promotional budget. If the cinematography is brilliant and the story speaks of the human experience, who cares that it’s set in a small town in Manitoba vs. downtown Montreal. I think movies from Quebec have found their niche and perhaps have slightly more cachet, because they are in French, and Montreal is an artistic city rich in culture.
RL: Canadian film festivals have reached a vastly larger audience by streaming their curated programs. Have you ever thought of using that “curated” approach to what you’re offering in your theatres? In short, every day is a mini-film festival because of what you’re showing?
VG: I’m always interested in promoting Canadian artists in our cinemas when the demand is there. Additionally, our streaming platform, which officially launches this summer, we will be offering a broad repertoire of local productions. Including these are especially important to me. Watching movies at home is less of an experience, but it’s also less of a commitment. I believe that highlighting local productions on our streaming platform will introduce a new audience to some Canadian gems and hopefully increase the demand for Canadian content.
RL: Finally, taking all the various components of a complicated world together – pandemics, unemployment, failed local economies with their shuttered bars, restaurants and boutiques, a huge investment in streaming content on larger and larger home screens…where do you think the exhibition business will be in five or ten years time?
VG: Our industry, much like many others, has taken a huge hit during the past year and a half. That said, I’m convinced that movie theatres will see post-pandemic revival. I think, if anything, this period of being confined indoors has made people remember the grandeur and excitement of seeing a film on the big screen. People will crave the moviegoing experience more than ever and not take it for granted. Think about it, people invest a fortune in state-of-the-art kitchens in their homes, but they still go to out to eat at a restaurant.
Our thanks again to Vince Guzzo for taking the time to answer our questions. Season 16 of The Dragon’s Den premieres on October 14, 2021.
All Cinémas Guzzo theatres opened on Friday, May 28, 2021, strictly following all provincial health and safety guidelines.
Ralph Lucas is the founder and publisher of Northernstars.ca. He began writing about film and reviewing movies while in radio in Montreal in the mid-1970s.