BRIAN D. JOHNSON (producer, director, editor, writer)
Brian D. Johnson is best known as an award-winning journalist and longtime film critic for Maclean’s. He is also president of the Toronto Film Critics Association. And he has worked over the years as an author, musician—and most recently, a filmmaker. His five books include a volume of poetry, Marzipan Lies (1974); a novel, Volcano Days (1994); and three non-fiction works, including Brave Films, Wild Nights (2001), a history of the Toronto International Film Festival. Yesno is his second professional short. His first, Tell Me Everything (2006), was a poetic choreography of hands at work. Both films were funded by CTV’s Bravo!FACT.
DENNIS LEE (writer, performer)
Dennis Lee is one of Canada’s most eminent and beloved poets. Spanning over four decades, his career has ranged from universally popular children’s verse to audacious experiments on the frontiers of thought and language. Born in Toronto in 19tk, Lee earned an M.A. in English Literature at the University of Toronto in 1965. From 1967 to 1972, he served as editorial director of House of Anansi Press, which he co-founded, and which published his first two volumes of poetry—Kingdom of Absence (1967) and Civil Elegies and Other Poems (l968). Lee has published 19 volumes of children’s poetry, most famously Alligator Pie (1974). From 1982 to 1986, he helped script two films by Jim Henson (Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal) and was the song lyricist for Henson’s 96-episode TV series, Fraggle Rock. Lee has plied the analytic side of his literary career as a prolific essayist, and as an astute book editor—he was poetry editor at McClelland & Stewart from 1981-84. Lee was named Toronto’s first Poet Laureate (2001-2004) and has received myriad prizes, including the Governor General’s Award (for Civil Elegies and Other Poems), the Toronto Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement, Officer of Order of Canada, and honorary doctorates from the University of Toronto, Ryerson University and Trent University. His most recent books of poetry are Un (2003) and its apocalyptic sequel, Yesno (2007). In 2009, Civil Elegies was developed as a stage musical by Mike Ross and Lorenzo Savoini at Soulpepper Theatre, under the direction of Albert Schultz.
RON MANN (Executive Producer)
Ron Mann is one of Canada’s leading filmmakers, with a 25-year career of consistently finding a theatrical audience for documentary features. His movies, which tend to celebrate and analyze movements of alternative culture, have become pop culture milestones in their own right. They include Imagine the Sound (1998), Poetry in Motion (1982), Comic Book Confidential (1983), Twist (1991), Dream Tower (1994), Grass (1999), Go Further (2003), Tales of the Rat Fink (2006) and Know Your Mushrooms (2008). Mann’s work, which plays around the world, has been recognized through many awards and festival retrospectives. He has won Genies twice for Best Documentary Feature, first for Comic Book Confidential and then Go Further. His most recent film, The Year of the Flood, chronicles author Margaret Atwood’s groundbreaking book tour/road show. Mann, who directs and produces, created his own production company, Sphinx Productions, in 1979. In 2003, with Gary Topp, he launched filmswelike, a Canadian distribution company distribution company that is filling the gap in finding an audience for independent films.
LOUISE GARFIELD (executive producer)
Louise Garfield is a veteran of Toronto’s cultural scene, She has worked in film, television, theatre and dance as a producer, writer, performer and choreographer—notably as a founding member of the brilliant feminist lip-sync trio The Clichettes. Garfield was one of the three founding partners at Triptych Media, a Toronto based film and TV production company. She began her film career as associate producer on director John Greyson’s award-winning The Making of Monsters, and co-produced Greyson’s first feature, Zero Patience, a Musical About AIDS. In 1997 she co-produced Thom Fitzgerald’s The Hanging Garden, which won prizes for most popular film and best Canadian film at three successive events: the Toronto International Film Festival, the Vancouver Film Festival and the Atlantic Film Festival. It also won the 1998 International Critic’s Award and four Genies. Garfield produced Lucky Girl, a television movie for CTV, directed by John Fawcett (Ginger Snaps), which won two Geminis and the Writer’s Guild of Canada’s Top Ten Award. Lucky Girl was nominated for best TV movie at the 2002 Banff International Television Festival. Now executive director of Arts Etobicoke, Garfield sits on the board of Dance Collection Danse.
NICK FOX-GIEG (Animation Director)
Nick Fox-Gieg is an animator and video artist based in Toronto. His film The Orange won the jury prize for Best Animated Short at SXSW 2010. His shorts have also been shown at the Ottawa, Rotterdam, and Zagreb film festivals, at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and on CBC TV. His projections have been featured at the 2009 Governor General’s Awards and in the Broadway musical Squonk; he’s performed his live sound and video works at the Paradiso in Amsterdam and the Redcat Theater in Los Angeles.
Fox-Gieg received his MFA from the California Institute of the Arts in 2004, and his BFA from Carnegie Mellon University in 1999. He’s received a Bravo!FACT commission, three U.S. state Media Arts Fellowships, and a Fulbright grant to the Netherlands; he was awarded Ontario Arts Council and Toronto Arts Council Media Artist grants in 2009.
OWEN BELTON (composer)
Owen Belton has been writing music for dance since 1994 when he created the music for Shapes Of A Passing, Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite’s piece for Toronto-based Ballet Jorgen. This was soon followed by music for the critically acclaimed film short, A Hollow Place, directed by Dan Sadler. Since then, he has created many scores for dance companies including Kidd Pivot, BJM Danse, The National Ballet of Canada, The Stuttgart Ballet, Ballet BC, Ballett Frankfurt, Nederlands Dans Theatre (NDT), and The Cullberg Ballet. Owen has also scored several short films and plays including Theatre Replacement’s acclaimed Clark & I in Connecticut in 2008. In June of 2009 Owen won the Dora Mavor Moore award for best dance score for Emergence, which was performed by The National Ballet of Canada and choreographed by Crystal Pite.
Based in Vancouver, Owen Belton graduated from the Simon Fraser University School for the Contemporary Arts in 1993, where he studied composition with Owen Underhill and Barry Truax. He studied computer music where he was introduced to granular synthesis, an important element in many of his compositions. He incorporates a wide range of acoustic and electronic instruments in his music, as well as blending non-musical sound. Nothing is too strange to avoid consideration.
Owen has his own digital music studio where he weaves his sonic webs. He also works as a recording engineer for other composers and musicians, and performs as a singer-songwriter under the name Lost Hombre.
NICHOLAS DE PENCIER (director of photography)
Nicholas de Pencier is a director, producer, and director of photography working in documentary, performing arts, and dramatic film. He is President of Mercury Films Inc., the Toronto-based production company he shares with his partner, Jennifer Baichwal. As both producer and director of photography his credits include the Genie-nominated feature documentary Let It Come Down: The Life of Paul Bowles, which won the International Emmy Award for Best Arts Documentary in 1999; and The Holier It Gets, which won Best Cultural and Best Independent Canadian Documentary at Hot Docs, 2000, and garnered Geminis for best writing, editing and direction in a documentary series. In 2002 he produced and shot The True Meaning of Pictures about Kentucky photographer Shelby Lee Adams, which won the Gemini for Best Arts Documentary. De Pencier also co-directed, produced and photographed for TVOntario a series of 40 short profiles on artists who have received Ontario Arts Council grants over the past 40 years, including Dennis Lee.
In 2006, de Pencier produced the documentary Manufactured Landscapes, which won the Chum City Award for best Canadian feature at TIFF, and both the Genie Award and Toronto Film Critics Award for best documentary. He then directed and partially shot Four Wings and a Prayer, about the migration of the Monarch butterfly, which won the Grand Prix Pariscience, the Banff Rockie Award for best Wildlife and Natural History Program, the Jules Verne Nature Award, and was nominated for Geminis for best Science Documentary, Best Cinematography and Best Direction. Most recently he was producer and director of photography on Act of God, a feature documentary about the metaphysics of being struck by lightning, which opened Hot Docs in 2009. In 2010 he is shooting the documentary adaptation of Payback, Margaret Atwood’s Massey Lecture on debt.
DAVID BEN (Conjurer)
David Ben has performed sleight-of-hand for over thirty-five years. In the early 1980s he studied with Ross Bertram, a 20th century master magician. His recent projects include creating magic for A Touch of Venus at the Shaw Festival and programming the Masters of Magic series at Luminato. Ben currently serves as the Artistic Director of Magicana. He is also an author. In Advantage Play (2001), he examined creative problem-solving through the eyes of card cheats, magicians, tax lawyers and spirit mediums. In Tricks (2003), he exposed for the magic community some of the techniques and tools used in his professional repertoire. In Dai Vernon: A Biography (2006), he penned the first half (part two now progress production) of the definitive portrait of Dai Vernon, the most influential magician of the 20th century.
For four decades, Leonard Cohen has been one of the most influential singer-songwriters of our time. Born in Montreal, he first his mark as a literary figure, winning acclaim for his collections of poetry, including Let Us Compare Mythologies (1956) and Flowers for Hitler (1964), and his novels, The Favourite Game (1963) and Beautiful Losers (1966).
His first album, Songs of Leonard Cohen (1967), featuring the classic “Suzanne,” launched him as a major recording artist. It was followed by Songs From a Room (1969) and Songs of Love and Hate (1971). One of the most revered figures of the singer-songwriter movement of the late ’60s and early ’70s, Cohen moved beyond folk with New Skin for the Old Ceremony (1974), then Death of a Ladies’ Man, his 1977 collaboration with Phil Spector. Recent Songs (1979) and Various Positions (1984) brought him back to more familiar sonic terrain. Though not initially released in the U.S., Various Positions includes “Hallelujah,” which has become one of his best-loved hits, covered by over 150 artists including Jeff Buckley, Willie Nelson and Bono.
With I’m Your Man (1988) and The Future (1992), Cohen captured a darkening landscape of love in a dangerous time. After a five-year retreat to a Buddhist monastery on Mt. Baldy, he re-emerged on “Boogie Street” with Ten New Songs (2001), Dear Heather (2004)—as well as Blue Alert (2006), which he produced and co-wrote for his former background singer Anjani Thomas.
Cohen has published 12 books. His Book of Longing (2006), collecting his words and drawings, became the first book of poetry to top bestseller lists in Canada. Cohen has been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2008, Cohen returned to the stage for the first time in 15 years to triumphant acclaim. Since then he has been steadily touring, performing three-hour concerts to sold-out audiences and standing ovations around the world.
Leonard Cohen and Anjani Thomas also contributed to the score of Brian D. Johnson’s previous film, Tell Me Everything (2006).
Margaret Atwood was born in 1939 in Ottawa and grew up in northern Ontario, Quebec, and Toronto. She received her undergraduate degree from Victoria College at the University of Toronto and her master’s degree from Radcliffe College.
Throughout her writing career, Atwood has received numerous awards and honourary degrees. She is the author of more than thirty-five volumes of poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and non-fiction and is best known for her novels, which include The Edible Woman (1970), The Handmaid’s Tale (1983), The Robber Bride (1994), Alias Grace (1996), and The Blind Assassin, which won the prestigious Booker Prize in 2000. Atwood’s dystopic novel, Oryx and Crake, was published in 2003. The Tent (mini-fictions) and Moral Disorder (short stories) both appeared in 2006. Her most recent volume of poetry, The Door, was published in 2007. Her non-fiction book, Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth, commissioned for the Massey Lectures, appeared in 2008, and her most recent novel, The Year of the Flood, in the autumn of 2009.
Ms. Atwood’s work has been published in more than forty languages, including Farsi, Japanese, Turkish, Finnish, Korean, Icelandic and Estonian. In 2004 she co-invented the Long Pen™. Her novel Surfacing was produced as a Canadian film in 1981. The Handmaid’s Tale, was adapted for the screen by Harold Pinter, directed by Volker Schlorndorf and released in 1990, starring Natasha Richardson and Robert Duvall. The Robber Bride was adapted as a TV movie featuring Mary Louise Parker in 2007.
Margaret Atwood currently lives in Toronto with writer Graeme Gibson. They are the Joint Honourary Presidents of the Rare Bird Society within BirdLife International. Ms. Atwood is also a current Vice-President of PEN International.
Michael Ondaatje was born in Sri Lanka in 1943, and has lived in Canada since 1962. Among his books of poetry are Rat Jelly (1973), There’s a Trick With a Knife I’m Learning to Do (1979), The Cinnamon Peeler (1990) and Handwriting (1998). Other works include anThe Collected Works of Billy the Kid (1970), Coming Through Slaughter (1976), Running in the Family (1983), In The Skin of a Lion (1987), The English Patient (1992), Anil’s Ghost (2000) and Divisadero (2007). He co-authored The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film (2002). The award-winning novelist and poet, who lives in Toronto, is also an editor of Brick.
Born in Kingston, Jamaica and now living in Toronto, d’bi young (who eschews the upper case) is a dub poet, playwright and actor who has performed, published, and lectured internationally. Her works have been produced by theatres across Canada, and in London and New York. She studied theatre at the Jamaica School of Drama during the 80s and early 90s, while learning the art of dub poetry from her mother Anita Stewart, one of Jamaica’s pioneer dub poets. She studied at Toronto’s Soulpepper Theatre, where she played Olga in Three Sisters. Her play blood.claat won two 2006 Dora Mavor Moore Awards, for outstanding new play and outstanding female performance. In 2007, young won the Toronto Arts Council’s Emerging Artist Award. She is the 2009-2010 playwright-in-residence at Canstage theatre and a member of the Tarragon Playwrights Unit 2010. Young has self-produced six dub albums; her newest, wombanifesto, is due late 2010.
Karen Solie’s first collection of poems, Short Haul Engine, won the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize and was shortlisted for the 2002 Griffin Poetry Prize, the ReLit and the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. Her second, Modern and Normal, was shortlisted for the Trillium Book Award for Poetry. Her poetry, fiction and non-fiction have appeared in numerous North American journals. She is a native of Saskatchewan and now lives in Toronto.
Karen Solie’s latest book, Pigeon won the $75,000 2010 Griffin Poetry Prize, in addition to the Pat Lowther Memorial Award and the Trillium Award. Solie’s poetry, fiction and non-fiction have appeared in numerous North American journals. She is a native of Saskatchewan and now lives in Toronto.