That’s a Wrap
Award-winning filmmaker finds success in the classroom as well
Gil Gauvreau attributes his continued success in both film and video production and teaching to his ability to adapt to new different mediums.
“One-minute films are all the rage. They’re designed to be shown on a mobile phone, so it’s a brand new experience for me,” says Gil, a film instructor at George Brown College since 1999. “Even though I’m primarily a documentary/full-length film person, I’m curious about changes in film and distribution – so that’s how my experience with short films first started.”
And it all came to a head at the Mobifest Mobile Film Festival (held November 2008 in Toronto): Gauvreau’s entry, URBAN GROWTH, took home the top award in its category – the only Canadian film to receive an award.
“The film is shot slightly differently than a regular film,” Gil says. “A lot of editing and fast cuts do not play well at some slower speeds, so this film featured few shots and less movement, among other changes.”
Mobifest, however, was not his first foray into the world of one-minute films. URBAN GROWTH was originally entered in last year’s Toronto Urban Film Festival. While that version was also one-minute long, unlike the Mobifest version, it didn’t use any audio because it was screened in city subway stations.
Exploring the latest technology is nothing new for Gil. The man responsible for, among other things, 30 documentaries, including the 13-week series For Art’s Sake on CanWest Global, as well as social issue documentaries including Spirit of the Dragon, which won the National Film Board of Canada Award for Outstanding Canadian Documentary in 2003, initially started his George Brown career teaching how to Produce a Feature Film in 16mm – because, in his words, “VHS wasn’t good enough and digital hadn’t arrived yet.”
Gil’s interest in filmmaking first took off in Grade 9 when he received an 8 mm camera as a birthday present. He later founded the film society at the University of Windsor and won a prize at the world’s first film festival for students, Cinestud.
But he got his first taste of teaching (in a course on filmmaking basics) while he was a grad student at UCLA.
“On my first day at UCLA in the late 1960s, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward screened their film Rachel, Rachel for students,” he says. “That was something that happened throughout my time at UCLA, and it’s something I’ve brought to the George Brown program – local producers and directors coming to share their knowledge and films with our students.”
Gil has also seen the evolution of the film and video production offerings at George Brown. When he first started teaching just ten years ago, there were only two courses. Now, there are 12 courses and the Independent Filmmaking Certificate. With Gil’s help, the curriculum – and perception – has changed.
“Now that we’ve got an official certificate and a number of courses, students are encouraged to come to George Brown and study film,” he says. “They leave not only with a certificate but with plenty of hands-on experience. Our downtown location is also important because the film industry is also located downtown.”
But he is probably best known at George Brown for his Video Production course – one that allows students to write, produce, direct and edit their own short film (five minutes or under).
“It teaches students to compress story-telling techniques and forces them to have clear story lines,” Gil says. “They can’t get too complex, so, in essence, the time limit really helps tell the story.”
More importantly, students leave that course with both experience and a finished product (which can be used as a sample reel for those who are looking for jobs in the field).
“It’s important to be exposed to all aspects of film – from digital editing and cinematography to screenwriting and the use of the latest technology,” Gil says. “With our program, you learn about film both by studying its history and by being trained in its present. It’s the best of both worlds.”