Return to tiff.’s home page

Canadian Film Encyclopedia

Shopping Cart

Donald Shebib

Director, Producer, Editor, Cinematographer
(b. January 27, 1938 Toronto, Ontario)

One of the best filmmaking talents of his generation, whose first feature film, Goin' Down the Road (1970) (made for $27,000 on grant funding), is a key reference point in English-Canadian film, and probably the Canadian feature cited most often. Not only is Shebib a central figure in the development of English-Canadian cinema but he is also an eloquent, compassionate chronicler of individual alienation and collective Canadian angst.

Before launching into his feature film career, Shebib made several award-winning, lucid documentaries for the NFB and CBC-TV, notably Surfin' (1964), Satan's Choice (1965) and Good Times Bad Times (1969), which won three Genies. Shebib’s second feature was less successful, but his third feature, Between Friends (1973), which toured the festival circuit at Cannes, London, Berlin, Chicago, Edinburgh, Sydney and Melbourne, is perhaps his most accomplished work until Heartaches (1981), which won three Genies.

He has made many noteworthy dramas for television, especially The Fighting Men (1977), which was later released in a 35mm theatrical version, By Reason of In­sanity (1982) and Little Kidnappers (1990), starring Charlton Heston — one of Disney’s highest-rated movies of the week.

His later features have tended to move away from the themes and styles that dominated his early work and sug­gest a mature talent at ease with the medium. However, his later work, which has been mostly for television (Night Heat, The Addams Family, Police Academy, E.N.G., Wind at My Back, and others) has failed to garner the same critical attention as his early work.

Shebib, who played amateur and semi-pro football for over 25 years, studied sociol­ogy at the University of Toronto and film at UCLA, where he directed his first film. He is also an accomplished editor and has won three Genies for his editing work. He has co-written most of his films and written several screenplays.

In 2011, Shebib directed Down the Road Again, a sequel to his best known and most beloved film, Goin’ Down the Road. The cast brought back several key players from the original film, including Doug McGrath (who plays the dreamer Pete); Jayne Eastwood (Betty, the woman happy-go-lucky Joey gets pregnant) and Cayle Chernin (Selina, Pete’s ex) -- and introduced several new characters most notably Betty–Jo, Betty and Joey’s daughter, ably played by Kathleen Robertson. The premise of the film was Joey’s request that Pete take his ashes back to Cape Breton. Sadly, Cayle Chernin passed away after the making of the film.

For more extensive looks at Shebib’s career see Piers Handling’s The Films of Don Shebib (Canadian Film Institute, 1978). Geoff Pevere has also written a monograph, titled Goin’ Down the Road (University of Toronto Press & TIFF, 2011).

Film and video work includes

The Duel, 1962 (director; cinematographer; editor)
Joey, 1962 (director; editor)
Revival, 1963 (director; cinematographer; editor)
Surfin', 1964 (director; co-cinematographer with Carroll Ballard; editor; TV)
Satan's Choice, 1965 (director; cinematographer; writer; editor)
Allan, 1966 (director)
A Search for Learning, 1966 (director; editor)
Christalot Hanson, 1966 (director; cinematographer; editor)
David Secter, 1966 (director; cinematographer; editor)
June Marks, 1966 (director; cinematographer; editor)
Basketball, 1967 (director; editor)
Everdale Place, 1967 (director; editor)
San Francisco Summer 1967, 1967 (director; cinematographer; editor; TV)
Graduation Day, 1968 (director; cinematographer; editor)
Stanfield, 1968 (director)
Unknown Soldier, 1968 (director; cinematographer; editor)
Fruet; editor; producer)
Goin’ Down the Road, 1970 (director; co-writer)
Rip-Off, 1971 (director)
Born Hustler, 1972 (director; cinematographer; editor)
Deedee, 1974 (director)
Mrs. Gray, 1974 (director)
Once Upon a Time in Genarro, 1974 (director; writer; TV)
We've Come a Long Way Together, 1974 (director; editor)
Winning is the Only Thing!, 1974 (director; editor)
The Canary, 1975 (director; TV)
Second Wind, 1975 (director; editor)
The Fighting Men, 1977 (director; TV)
Old Man Reever, 1977 (director; editor)
Holiday for Homicide, 1978 (director)
Side Street series, 1978 (director; TV, one episode)
Fish Hawk, 1979 (director)
Heartaches, 1981 (director)
By Reason of Insanity, 1982 (director; TV)
Running Brave, 1983 (director)
Slim Obsession, 1984 (director; TV)
The Edison Twins series, 1985-1986 (director; TV, eight episodes)
The Campbells series, 1986 (director; TV, six episodes)
The Climb, 1986 (director)
Danger Bay series, 1986 (director; TV, two episodes)
Diamonds series, 1987 (director; TV, nine episodes)
Katts and Dog series, 1987-1988 (director; TV, four episodes)
Night Heat series, 1987 (director; TV, nine episodes)
Sea Hunt series, 1987 (director; TV, four episodes)
T and T series, 1987 (director; editor; TV, one episode)
My Secret Identity series, 1988 (director; TV, one episode)
E.N.G. series, 1990-1991 (director; TV, three episodes)
Little Kidnappers, 1990 (director; TV)
Top Cops series, 1990 (director; TV, one episode)
Counterstrike series, 1991-1992 (director; TV, three episodes)
Street Justice series, 1991 (director; TV, one episode)
Change of Heart, 1992 (director)
The Ascent, 1994 (director)
Lonesome Dove series, 1994 (director; TV, four episodes)
The Pathfinder, 1996 (director; TV)
Dead Man's Gun series, 1997 (director; TV, one episode)
Police Academy series, 1997 (director; TV, four episodes)
The Addams Family series, 1998 (director; TV, two episodes)
Wind At My Back series, 1998 (director; TV, three episodes)
Code Name Eternity series, 1999 (director; TV, one episode)
Caitlin's Way series, 2000 (director; TV, one episode)
The Zack Files series, 2000 (director; TV, three episodes)
Radio Free Roscoe, 2003 (director; TV)
A Song to Sing-O: A Love Affair With Gilbert & Sullivan, 2007 (director; TV)
Down the Road Again, 2011 (director; writer)

Additional notes by Steve Gravestock

By: Tom McSorley