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John Greyson

John Greyson1960, London, Ontario


A video artist, filmmaker and writer, John Greyson emerged on the Toronto video art scene in the 1980s. Much of his early video work is concerned with gay rights, AIDS activism and censorship. His unique polemical and witty style have made him a force to be reckoned with by the mainstream, straight society, par­tic­ularly as he creates tales that are unabashedly gay in style and content. Even after moving into feature filmmaking, Greyson remained true to his activist roots.

Greyson studied visual art in London, Ontario, and in 1991, attended the Canadian Film Centre (CFC) in Toronto. At the CFC he directed The Making of "Monsters," a satirical Brechtian musical that won best Canadian short at the Festival of Festivals in 1991 as well as the Teddy Award at the Berlin Film Festival.

His first feature, Urinal (1988), which also won the Teddy Award, in 1989, melds narrative and filmic elements, and like many of Greyson’s films, intertwines fictional and historical figures from various periods. His internationally exhibited agitprop musical Zero Patience (1993) features the ghosts of Sir Richard Burton and Gaetan Dugas, the Patient Zero who allegedly spread the AIDS virus in the early days of infection.

Greyson's adaptation of Michel Marc Bouchard's play Lilies (1996), a prison drama that deals with guilt, homosexuality, priests and young love, won a Genie for best picture in 1996. Lilies marked Greyson’s move into adaptations, which continued with his film The Law of Enclosures (2000), based on the novel by Dale Peck, for which Brendan Fletcher won a best actor Genie.

Along with his feature narrative work, Greyson continues to produce more overtly polemical work such as Uncut (1997), a playful, yet powerful, interweaving of images of Pierre Trudeau, circumcision and copyright law. Greyson was also a member of the Blah! Blah! Blah! collective and participated in documenting the trade summit in Quebec, producing the video Packin’ (2001). In addition to his film and video work, Greyson has directed numerous television episodes for series such as Made in Canada, Queer as Folk and Drop the Beat.

Through both his filmmaking and writing, Greyson has established himself as a key figure in the queer film and video movement. He is the co-editor (with Martha Gever and Pratibha Parmar) of Queer Looks: Perspectives on Lesbian and Gay Film and Video (Routledge, 1993) and the author of Urinal and Other Stories (Power Plant/Art Metropole, 1993). He has taught at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia and at the Ontario College of Art, Toronto. He has served on innumerable boards, juries and committees and was awarded the Toronto Arts Award for media arts in 2000.

By Liz Czach

Film and video work includes

The First Draft, 1980 (director; writer; producer)
Breathing through Opposing Nostrils, 1982 (director; writer; producer)
Disrupting Diplomacy, 1983 (director; writer; producer)
Manzana por manzana, 1983 (director; writer; producer)
Changing the Current, 1984 (director; writer; producer)
The Perils of Pedagogy, 1984 (director; writer; producer)
The Jungle Boy, 1985 (director; writer; producer)
Kipling Meets the Cowboys, 1985 (director; writer; producer)
To Pick is Not to Choose, 1985 (director; writer; producer)
A Moffie Called Simon, 1986 (director; writer; producer)
Moscow Does Not Believe in Queers, 1986 (director; writer; producer)
You Taste American, 1986 (director; writer; producer)
The AIDS Epidemic, 1987 (director; writer; producer)
Angry Initiatives, Defiant Strategies, 1988 (producer; TV)
Urinal, 1988 (director, writer, co-editor with David McIntosh; producer)
The Pink Pimpernel, 1989 (director; writer; producer)
The World Is Sick (Sic), 1989 (director; writer; producer)
No Way Charlie Brown, 1990 (director; writer; producer)
The Making of “Monsters”, 1991 (director; writer; producer)
Zero Patience, 1993 (director; writer; producer)
After the Bath, 1995 (director; writer; producer)
Lilies, 1996 (director; writer; producer)
Uncut, 1997 (director; writer; producer)
Herr, 1998 (director; writer; producer)
Made in Canada, 1998 (director; TV, four episodes)
Welcome to Paradox (aka Betaville), 1998 (director; TV, two episodes)
This is Nothing, 1999 (director; writer; producer)
Drop the Beat, 2000 (director; TV, two episodes)
The Law of Enclosures, 2000 (director; writer; producer)
Topping from 25 x 25, 2000 (director; writer; producer)
Nunca, 2001 (director; writer; producer)
Packin’, 2001 (director; writer; producer)
Queer as Folk, 2000–2001 (director; TV, four episodes)
Proteus, 2003 (director; co-writer with Jack Lewis)

Note: Updated to January 2003.



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