About 21 years ago I first found out about the New Brunswick Filmmakers’ Cooperative in Fredericton New Brunswick and today the Coop (as I will always know it) is 25. On March 1, 1979 the Coop came into being and the media arts scene in New Brunswick has never been the same. I owe the Coop so much (including my dues for this year) and it is inseparable from my own development as a media artist. Pretty much everything I know about filmmaking has come from there and it’s also probably the reason that I teach now.
The role of the Coop has changed dramatically over the past 2 1/2 decades. At first there were artists who needed the equipment to make their films. The reduced cost and portability of 16mm film equipment and the involvement of the National Film Board of Canada made it possible for a small group of artists to start telling their own stories in their own way. When I first walked into 51 York Street it was with my friend Kevin Holden who was working on a film called “Just Say Hello” which was part of New Brunswick’s Bicentennial celebration. I remember seeing the Steenbeck and learning how film was edited. I began recording sound when Doug Sutherland had no one to record sound for a scene on his short film, “Smoke.” I remember Dave Clarke, the first coordinator of the Coop. I remember my good friend Tony Merzetti the second and current coordinator of the Coop and the person who taught me so much about filmaking and lighting and editing that it couldn’t be crammed into any film school anywhere. The Coop is also where I met my friend Errol Williams who gave me a chance to work with him when I took a workshop and heard him talk about a documentary that he wanted to make about Willie O’Ree. During a break I told him if there was any way that I could help him I would. He’s given me a few chances to work with him and it’s always been fun.
So on the evening of the 25th birthday of the Coop I’m a bit sad that I can’t be there, but so proud that I’ve been able to be part of such an amazing organization that has helped so many people tell their stories. Now I’ll raise my glass which has some of the Scotch that was given to me as a present when I left the Coop a few years ago. Cheers and see you all soon!