What we’ll do for money…

Alan Zweig, Independent, Toronto; Jonathan Stack, Gabriel Films, New York; Peter Mettler
Grimthorpe Film, Toronto; Peter Wintonick
Necessary Illusions Productions, Montreal
June 1, 2005

Alan Zweig

Independent, Toronto

Director, I, Curmudgeon (2004)

After film school, I drove a cab. Then a friend of mine told me I could take my driving skills and combine them with my interest in film production and become a film driver.

One of the major responsibilities of the transport department is the care and transport of the stars, including maintaining their motor homes. So there I was on this American mow about a gay football player, and I was given the job of making Scott Baio and his father, Mario, happy. Mario had absolutely no reason to be there given that his son was 25 at this point, so he had developed an obsession with the luncheon meat in his Winnebago fridge.

One day I had to turn off the electricity in his Winnebago, and when he returned and found his baloney lukewarm, he demanded an apology. I wouldn’t give him one, so he demanded that the production fire me. Amazingly, they stood up to him and a compromise was reached. For the remainder of the production, I wasn’t allowed to come within 100 yards of Scott Baio.

Jonathan Stack

Gabriel Films, New York

Director, Liberia: An Uncivil War (2004)

Until this day, I still find myself caught between doing exactly what I want to do and what I have to do to live. No shame in that. But I don’t think of it as sacrificing my time (doing Playboy Television segments or making a 13-part series in Las Vegas) as much as a challenge of a different order. And sometimes, what you lose in content you gain in creative opportunities. For example, a higher budget gig can mean getting a chance to work with higher caliber crews.

The way I look at it is, the key to getting good at anything is practicing. So, I take each gig seriously. Actually, I’m inspired by Marvin Gaye’s song, ‘If you’re not with the one you love, love the one you’re with!’

Peter Mettler

Grimthorpe Film, Toronto

Director, Gambling, Gods and LSD (2002)

In earlier years I’ve done time in car washes, airports, film labs, warehouses, restaurants, film festivals, hauling, postering, driving, and ‘trading,’ where I possibly learned more about life than in the sometimes cloistered systems of filmmaking.

These days, I’m open to anything that ties into the threads of my own subjects and interests. My part-time jobs include camera, sound or editing work, consulting, education, writing, photographic exhibition, voice-overs and VJ-ing.

I like to serve the explorations and visions of other artists because I believe that two openhearted collaborators can often go further than one – and it puts a healthy check on my ego.

While I’ve had the privilege to travel sporadically around the world by invitation, the accompanying insecurity sometimes makes me wonder what might have happened had I not turned down those well-paying commercial lifestyles that were dangled in front of me like carrots.

Then I remember how experience is golden.

Peter Wintonick

Necessary Illusions Productions, Montreal

Dir., Cinéma Vérité: Defining the Moment (1999)

For me, it’s not so much doing other jobs to make ends meet, it’s that I took a conscious documentary vow of poverty about 20 years after leaving the fiction feature, sponsored, corporate and commericial film world. Perhaps it was one too many (although I only had one) meetings with advertising account execs who thought they were filmmakers that drove me to docs. I have never had to wait on tables or spill beer in a bar, though I did run a fruit stand for a little bit, and worked one day as a journalist for a small town paper. I don’t think

having to do other work is in any way demeaning… In fact,

it gives one’s life meaning, gives one’s films the flesh of

reality, and takes a pound of ego out of oneself. These are all prerequistites for good auteur doc-making.

About The Author
Andrew Jeffrey joined Realscreen in 2021 as its news editor. Here, he helps to oversee assignment, reporting and editing for Realscreen's daily newsletter. Prior to his work covering documentary and non-fiction film and TV, he worked as a reporter and associate producer for CBC Edmonton, and as a reporter for The Star Calgary, where he covered daily news on beats such as local and provincial politics, health care and harm reduction, sports and education. His work has appeared in other Canadian news outlets such as TVO, the Edmonton Journal and Avenue Magazine.