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Christopher Chapman

Director, Producer, Editor, Cinematographer
(b. January 25, 1927 Toronto, Ontario)

“I think it’s very important for each individual to know who he is.... There’s something vital about touching the land. Some might say it interferes with filmmaking… I suppose it’s a question of what you think is important.” – Christopher Chapman, May 1983

Christopher Chapman is a gifted and naturally talented director and cinematographer of poetic films on nature and the environment. A quiet crusader, he usually wrote, photographed, edited and produced his own films. As Gerald Pratley put it, Chapman “always worked as an independent artist, making films of personal vision, style and conviction that have appealed to audiences around the world.”

The son of distinguished architect Alfred Chapman – who designed the Royal Ontario Museum, the Prince’s Gates and the original Toronto Star building – Christopher was born into a wealthy, intellectual and erudite family, but grew up in an atmosphere of genteel poverty after the family lost its fortune in the Depression. He worked initially as a designer in advertising and for automobiles, but found his calling at the age of twenty-six when his first film, The Seasons (1953), won the Canadian Film Award for Film of the Year. He followed this success with the similarly themed Quetico (1958), Saguenay (1962) and The Persistent Seed (1963), which all met with great acclaim and won numerous awards at international festivals.

Apart from eight months with Crawley Films, Chapman always worked freelance. As innovative as he was independent, he laid the groundwork for the IMAX process with his pioneering multi-image film A Place to Stand (1967), which displayed as many as fifteen images simultaneously on a 70mm screen and utilized a twelve-track sound system. Ontario’s official film for Expo ’67, A Place to Stand won a Canadian Film Award for Film of the Year and an Academy Award® for Best Live Action Short. Impressed with Chapman’s use of split-screen imagery – what he called the “multi-dynamic image” – Steve McQueen asked him to direct his upcoming feature, Le Mans (1971). The naturally shy, low-key Chapman was initially excited by the project, but, daunted by the scale of the production and the lack of complete control, ultimately turned it down.

In the seventies, Chapman made several films in the IMAX process for Ontario Place, including Toronto the Good (1973) and Volcano (1973). He received the Centennial Medal, won a total of six Canadian Film Awards, and served as president of both the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and the Directors Guild of Canada. He retired in the mid-eighties and lives with his wife on a farm near Sunderland, Ontario.

Film and video work includes

The Seasons, 1953 (director; producer; editor; cinematographer)
Canadian Wheat, 1956 (cinematographer)
Quetico, 1958 (director; producer)
Village in the Dust, 1961 (director)
The Annanacks, 1962 (cinematographer)
Saguenay, 1962 (director; cinematographer)
The Enduring Wilderness, 1963 (cinematographer)
Lewis Mumford on the City, Part 1: The City - Heaven and Hell, 1963 (co-director & co-cinematographer with Robert Humble, Derek Knight, Claus Loof, et al.)
Lewis Mumford on the City, Part 2: The City - Cars or People?, 1963 (co-director & co-cinematographer with Robert Humble, Derek Knight, Ian MacNeill, et al.)
Lewis Mumford on the City, Part 3: The City and Its Region, 1963 (co-director & co-cinematographer with Derek Knight, Claus Loof, Ian MacNeill, et al.)
Adventure in Newfoundland, 1964 (cinematographer)
Expeditions Bluenose, 1964 (cinematographer)
Magic Molecule, 1964 (co-director with Hugh O'Connor; cinematographer)
The Persistent Seed, 1964 (director; editor; cinematographer)
Top of a Continent, 1964 (cinematographer)
Impressions: 1670-1970, 1970 (director; producer)
Ontario, 1970 (director; producer)
Canada, 1973 (producer; editor)
Toronto the Good, 1973 (producer; director; editor)
Volcano, 1973 (director; producer; editor)
A Sense of Humus, 1976 (director; editor; cinematographer)
Saskatchewan: Land Alive, 1980 (director; producer; editor; cinematographer)
Kelly, 1981 (director)
A Song of Juniper, 1981 (producer with Gordon McLennan; editor; cinematographer)
Pyramid of Roses, 1982 (director; producer with Gordon Lawson McLennan; editor)
The Wilderness, 1984 (director; editor; cinematographer)
Crown 3 D, 1986 (director; editor; co-cinematographer with Ken Post)
USIA Expo 86, 1986 (director; producer with Francis Chapman; editor; cinematographer)

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