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Terence Macartney-Filgate

Terence Macartney-FilgateTerrence McCartney-Filgate
b. 1924, England


"You have to have a lively mind," Terence Macartney-Filgate has said. "You have to be interested in everything. It’s how you react to the winds of fate. Do you drift with them or stick your sails up?" An opinionated iconoclast who believes documentary films should be about people, not ideas, and should always explore emotional content, Macartney-Filgate has been an influential figure in the development of new forms of documentary in Canada.

The product of an army family, Macartney-Filgate was born in England and raised in India until the age of nine. He joined the Royal Air Force during the Second World War and became a flight engineer, flying more than a dozen operations toward the end of the war. In 1946, he went to Oxford University and obtained a degree in politics, philosophy and economics.

A long-time admirer of the National Film Board, Macartney-Filgate applied repeatedly to the Board and was finally hired as a scriptwriting assistant in 1954. He directed his first film in 1956, then worked extensively as a producer and cinematographer on the groundbreaking Candid Eye series. Responsible for seven of the thirteen films, he helped refine the free-form, unscripted, observational approach and is considered perhaps the most important single influence on the direct cinema style of the series. This characteristic style is evident in The Days Before Christmas (1958), Blood and Fire (1958), Police (1958) and The Back-breaking Leaf (1959).

Macartney-Filgate left the NFB in 1960 and joined Drew Associates – Bob Drew’s stable of documentarians that included Richard Leacock, D.A. Pennebaker and Albert Maysles – where he was a principal (but uncredited) cameraman on Primary (1960), a key film in the development of direct cinema in the United States. Macartney-Filgate soon left Drew Associates over creative differences, but continued to make films independently.

In 1962, he was hired by American producer Robert Hughes to assume the direction and photography of a documentary about the poet Robert Frost when the original director, Shirley Clarke, left the project. After Macartney-Filgate completed the film, Clarke claimed contractual rights and was credited as the sole director. The film, Robert Frost: A Lover’s Quarrel with the World (1963), went on to win the Academy Award® for Best Documentary Feature.

Macartney-Filgate worked out of New York for most of the sixties; during this time, he won a Peabody Award (the Institutional Award for Television Education) for his searing 1964 documentary Changing World: South African Essay. He rejoined the NFB briefly in the late sixties to work on the Challenge for Change series, before moving to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. It was at the CBC that he returned to prominence in the mid-seventies with such major documentaries and docudramas as Lucy Maud Montgomery: The Road to Green Gables (1975), Grenfell of Labrador: The Great Adventure (1977), Fields of Endless Day (1978) and Dieppe 1942 (1979). He won acclaim for his 1992 CBC documentary Timothy Findley: Anatomy of a Writer, which was honoured at the 1993 Geminis with the Donald Brittain Award for Best Social/Political Documentary Program.

Macartney-Filgate also won two Canadian Film Awards for Blood and Fire and The Hottest Show on Earth (1977) and received an Ontario Film Institute Award in 1981. Remaining active even in retirement, he is a scuba-diving enthusiast and avid Lego collector and instructs would-be glider pilots. An advocate of small-format video, he continues to freelance from his base in Toronto.

By Andrew McIntosh

Film and video work includes

Crash Rescue and Fire Fighting, 1956 (co-writer with William Davidson)
Emergency Rescue – T33 Jet Aircraft, 1956 (director; editor; writer)
Methods of Instruction, 1956 (writer)
Battalion Intelligence Section, 1957 (writer)
Call it... Rehabilitation, 1957 (sound editor)
More than Skin Deep, 1957 (writer)
Wildlife in the Rockies, 1957 (writer)
Blood and Fire, Candid Eye series, 1958 (director; TV)
Canadian Infantrymen, 1958 (director)
Country Threshing, Candid Eye series, 1958 (co-cinematographer with Jean Roy, Georges Dufaux; TV)
A Day in June, 1958 (co-cinematographer with Jean Roy, Michel Brault, Ray Jones, Claude Jutra, Raymond Le Boursier, Reginald Morris, John Spotton)
The Days Before Christmas, Candid Eye series, 1958 (co-director with Wolf Koenig, Stanley Jackson; TV)
Ground Handling of Aircraft – Part 1: Play it Safe, 1958 (director; writer)
Memory of Summer, Candid Eye series, 1958 (co-cinematographer with Wolf Koenig, Georges Dufaux; TV)
Pilgrimage, Candid Eye series, 1958 (director; TV)
Security – Sabotage, Security series, 1958 (director)
Police, Candid Eye series, 1958 (director; co-cinematgrapher with Michael Brault, Georges Dufaux; TV)
With the R.C.A.F. in Europe, 1958 (writer)
La Battaison, 1959 (co-cinematographer with Georges Dufaux, Jean Roy)
The Back-breaking Leaf, Candid Eye series, 1959 (director; co-cinematographer with Gilles Gascon; co-sound with Victor Merrill, George Croll; TV)
End of the Line, Candid Eye series/Documentary 60 series, 1959 (director; co-cinematographer with Georges Dufaux; TV)
Glenn Gould: Off the Record, Candid Eye series, 1959 (assistant director; TV)
Glenn Gould: On the Record, Candid Eye series, 1959 (assistant director; TV)
The Cars in Your Life, Candid Eye series/Documentary 60 series, 1960 (director; cinematographer; TV) aka a Down and 24 Months to Pay
Emergency in Morocco, 1960 (director; cinematographer)
Pilot X-15, 1960 (director; cinematographer)
Primary, 1960 (co-cinematographer [uncredited] with Richard Leacock, Albert Maysles; photographer; sequence editor)
Arts in Cuba, 1962 (director)
Robert Frost: A Lover’s Quarrel with the World, 1963 (co-director [uncredited] with Shirley Clarke; co-cinematographer [uncredited] with Shirley Clarke)
Lewis Mumford on the City, Part 1: The City, Heaven and Hell, 1963 (co-director and co-cinematographer with Christopher Chapman, Robert Humble, Derek Knight, Claus Loof, Ian MacNeill, Reginald Morris, Erik Nielsen, Bryan Probyn)
Lewis Mumford on the City, Part 4: The Heart of the City, 1963 (co-director and co-cinematographer with Ytzen Brusse, Jean-Claude Chiabaut, Léonard Forest, Mogens Gander, Jacques Giraldeau, Kirk Jones, Derek Knight, Hector Lemieux, Claus Loof, Ian MacNeill, Reginald Morris, Erik Nielsen, Bryan Probyn, François Séguillon, Wim Smits)
Lewis Mumford on the City, Part 5: The City as Man’s Home, 1963 (co-director and co-cinematographer with Mogens Gander, Jacques Giraldeau, Robert Humble, Kirk Jones, Ian Macneill, Reginald Morris)
Lewis Mumford on the City, Part 6: The City and the Future, 1963 (co-director and co-cinematographer with Mogens Gander, Jacques Giraldeau, Robert Humble, Kirk Jones, Derek Knight, Jean-Claude Labrecque, Claus Loof, Ian MacNeill, Douglas McKay, Reginald Morris, Erik Nielsen, Bryan Probyn, Donald Wilder)
The Hundredth Summer, 1964 (director; co-cinematographer with Jean-Claude Labrecque, François Séguillon)
Changing World: South African Essay, 1964 (director; cinematographer)
Composers USA: The Avant Garde, 1966 (director; cinematographer)
McLuhan is the Message, Telescope series, 1967 (director)
The Sound of Christopher Plummer, Telescope series, 1967 (director)
Portrait of Karsh, Telescope series, 1967 (director)
Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One, 1968 (co-cinematographer with Stevan Larner)
Up Against the System, Challenge for Change series, 1969 (director; cinematographer)
A Young Social Worker Speaks Her Mind, 1969 (director)
Pinter People, 1969 (cinematographer)
A.Y. Jackson: A Portrait, 1970 (director)
Walk, 1971 (cinematographer)
Henry David Thoreau: The Beat of a Different Drummer, 1972 (director; producer)
Bieler, 1974 (co-cinematographer with Gord McClellan, Robert Carney, Nicholas Kendall)
Lucy Maud Montgomery: The Road to Green Gables, 1975 (director; cinematographer; producer)
The Time Machine, 1976 (director; producer)
Grenfell of Labrador: The Great Adventure, 1977 (director; cinematographer; producer)
Labrador: Land out of Time, 1977 (director; cinematographer; producer)
The Pearson Building, 1977 (co-cinematographer with Wolf Koenig)
The Hottest Show on Earth, 1977 (director)
Fields of Endless Day, 1978 (director; co-producer with Beryl Fox, Nick Ketchum, Jennifer Hodge)
Dieppe 1942, miniseries, 1979 (director; producer; TV )
This Is an Emergency, 1979 (co-director with Derek Lamb)
Different Timbres, 1980 (co-cinematographer with Paul Caulfield, Barry Stone)
In Memory of Norman Bethune, Spectrum series, 1980 (director; producer)
Dorothy Livesay: The Woman I Am, 1981 (co-cinematographer with Leo Zordoumis, Brent Straughn)
The Golden Mountain: The Chinese in Canada, 1981 (producer)
Spirit of Batoche: The Métis, 1986 (director; producer)
The Edenshaw Legacy: Contemporary Haida Art, 1986 (director; producer)
Morley Callaghan – First Person Singular, 1987 (director; producer)
Ukrainian Canadians: A Time to Remember, 1989 (director; producer)
The Magical Eye, 1989 (director; cinematographer; co- producer with David Verrall)
Timothy Findley: Anatomy of a Writer, 1992 (director; cinematographer; co-producer with Silvia Basmajian)
Cinéma Vérité: Defining the Moment, 1999 (appears as himself)
The Last Illusion, 2004 (appears as himself)

Note:  Updated to April 5, 2004



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