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Skip Tracer

Year: 1977
Language: English
Format: 16mm Colour
Runtime: 94 min
Director: Zale Dalen
Producer: Laara Dalen
Writer: Zale Dalen
Cinematographer: Ron Orieux
Editor: Zale Dalen
Sound: Richard Patton
Music: J Dodd, Linton Garner
Cast: David Peterson, John Lazarus, Rudy Szabo, Mike Grigg, Al Rose, Sue Astley, Jack Leaf

Skip Tracer is the examination of a crisis of confidence in the form of a thriller. The film follows the morally dubious activities of John Collins (David Peterson), a Vancouver loan company clerk whose principal job is tracking down delinquent borrowers and collecting outstanding accounts ("skip tracing"). Zealous and unrelenting in his job, Collins is gunning to win the company’s annual Man of the Year award for the fourth straight year. It is seemingly in the bag until he runs up against other employees with ambitions every bit as carnivorous as his own. As Collins becomes involved in an increasingly dangerous game of professional one-upmanship (a nasty knife attack lands him in the hospital), he starts to question the moral and ethical viability of all his cutthroat careerism.

As thrilling as it is thought-provoking, Skip Tracer probes the pathology of ambition with an unblinking eye and furiously fast-paced narrative momentum. Vancouver filmmaker Zale R. Dalen’s feature film debut – one of the most auspicious of the seventies – is a well-crafted narrative that skilfully combines an intimate portrait of the day-to-day life of a debt collector with a distinctive critique of a consumer society entirely dedicated to buying and selling, profit and loss.

Low key in approach but precise in execution, Skip Tracer was well received by critics and international festival audiences, but received only minimal theatrical distribution in Canada. It won the Wendy Michener Award at the Canadian Film Awards in 1977.