Pioneering Newfoundland film producer Paul Pope dies
ST. JOHN’S, NL — There has been a devastating loss to the film and arts community in particular, and to the province of Newfoundland and Labrador in general, as award-winning film producer Paul Pope — a man largely responsible for the growth of the film industry in the province — died Thursday morning April 14.
A post on his Facebook page said he died peacefully surrounded by his family, who requested confidentiality.
He has produced or worked on hundreds of films (most recently the popular television series “Hudson and Rex”), was a founding member of the Newfoundland Filmmakers Co-operative (NIFCO) and served as its president for over 20 years , and he spearheaded the creation of the Center for Film and Media Production at the College of the North Atlantic (CNA) which was announced this week.
For those who knew him, he is remembered as generous above all else, but also hardworking, creative, intelligent and full of humour.
Those remembering Pope’s pioneering influence on Thursday ranged from actors and colleagues to Prime Minister Andrew Furey, but when he got his start in film in the 1970s he was just David Pope’s younger brother.
I am absolutely devastated by the news of #PaulPopeit is sudden death.
Paul was a pioneer, a driving force in our film and television industry. With passion and energy, his work was inspiring and his legacy will live on.
My deepest condolences to Lisa and her family at this tragic time. pic.twitter.com/lRk2SNZ2TY
— Andrew Furey (@FureyAndrew) April 14, 2022
David was one of the main founders of NIFCO.
“Paul was kind of the little brother in the beginning – the overly bright, overly active, hanging out little brother, and it wasn’t long before we started to see that he wasn’t just the kid of someone brother – that he was a strength, an intelligence, a creative spirit,” said writer and director John Doyle.
“His brother Dave died young. He had a disability and he died young, and I think Paul sort of picked up the torch there because Dave used to say he really wanted to capture the light in Newfoundland – that was what he wanted to achieve in film…and when Dave died early Paul, I think, sort of took over.
Work presented province
Pope picked up the slack and filmed Newfoundland and Labrador better than anyone could imagine, because he proved we could do it here ourselves.
“He had the vision and the courage to believe that this industry could grow and that we Newfoundlanders and Labradorians could tell our own stories — that it wasn’t enough for stories to be told to our topic,” said Gerry Rogers, whose documentary, “My Left Breast,” was produced by Pope.
Rogers said it was filmed mostly with a small camera by herself and partner Peg Norman, and the sound was “a mess”, so Pope traveled to Toronto’s top sound labs to try. to make it audible.
“He had the vision and the courage to believe that this industry could grow and that we, as Newfoundland and Labrador, could tell our own stories — that it was not enough to have stories told to our topic.
— Gerry Rogers
“He was so engaged,” she said.
“Paul was so committed to those who made big commercial films, and to those who made his little experimental films – to him, that all mattered.”
Comedian Mark Critch said many people got their first movie jobs thanks to Pope.
Paul Pope’s Secret Nation was my first job as a movie extra. His Anchor Zone was my first leading film role. A lot of people got their first jobs in film and TV because of Paul. Then their 2nd, 3rd and even 100th. Thanks to his work with CNA, many more will now learn the trade. RIP Paul Pope.
— Mark Critch (@markcritch) April 14, 2022
“Then their 2nd, 3rd and even 100th. Thanks to his work with CNA, many more will now learn the trade,” he tweeted.
Critch himself got his first job as an extra on Pope’s “Secret Nation,” and Critch’s first starring role in film was in Pope’s “Anchor Zone.”
“He created opportunities and left no one behind,” tweeted actor Pete Soucy.
In recent years, Pope has worked hard to bring underrepresented people and communities into the industry.
‘Rare Birds’ author Edward Riche tweeted: “There would be no Dutch film and TV industry without Paul.” The screen adaptation of Riche’s “Rare Birds” was produced by Pope.
“His work has showcased our beautiful province on the national and international stage and allowed visitors from everywhere to experience what we have to offer with their own eyes,” Premier Andrew Furey said in a statement.
Had affairs with Paul Pope in London, New York, Paris, Barcelona and Sofia. I made movies, I had a good time. There would be no Newfoundland and Labrador film and television industry without Paul. He will be missed.
— Edward L. Riche (@EdwardLRiche) April 14, 2022
“As we mourn this loss, we recognize Paul’s outstanding contributions to the film and television industry, as well as his contributions to our province and our country. His legacy in this industry will live on for years to come,” he said.
Influencing outside of the cinema
In addition to numerous awards and nominations for his projects with Pope Productions, Pope has also received ArtsNL’s Arts Achievement Award, the Douglas James Dales Industry Builder Award, and an honorary doctorate from Memorial University.
His work has extended beyond film.
“As we mourn this loss, we recognize Paul’s outstanding contributions to the film and television industry, as well as his contributions to our province and our country. His legacy in this industry will live on for years to come.”
“He was a friend of the City of St. John’s,” Mayor Danny Breen said in a statement.
“Paul was a key contributor to the city’s 10-year economic plan, Roadmap 2021, and recently brought his fresh and insightful perspective to the development of the economic development framework. A frequent collaborator on several projects with the City, he generously gave of his time to the organization, notably by being a former member of the City’s Arts Advisory Committee.
Pope also served on the board of the Canadian Media Producers Association for many years, and the organization also released a statement on Thursday:
“Paul was a giant in the Canadian media production community and a great advocate for the industry in Newfoundland. Through his tireless promotion of the province and the work of his own company, Pope Productions, Paul can be credited with bringing hundreds, if not thousands, of film and television projects to Newfoundland during his four decades of career.
“He is irreplaceable”
His colleagues said he was essential to the professionalization of the industry in the province.
“People in the arts can be difficult and temperamental, and there can be a lot of challenges, to be terribly underestimated,” Doyle said with a laugh.
“And he was able to work with all of that. He had a kind of toughness of character that was able to be in the middle of this maelstrom (on film sets)….the constant phone calls, people from Toronto, people from the lab, someone in the rue – the guy trying to organize the place, it keeps coming to mind, and he was able to keep the spirit of what we were doing.”
Secret Nation, Rare Birds, Hudson & Rex. Paul Pope brought it all together. He made it happen. He produced.
Our rich film and television industry has lost a cornerstone. And many of us have lost a friend.
Paul left his mark. But he leaves too soon.
—Seamus O’Regan Jr (@SeamusORegan) April 14, 2022
Doyle said when people met Pope, it didn’t take them long to learn that he was smart, witty, fun and hardworking.
“But beyond all that, or on top of all that, he was very generous – generous with his time, his influence, his knowledge that he could pass on to someone else or bring people together to make things happen. He is irreplaceable,” he said.