Renowned cinematographer returns to York to mentor students

Internationally renowned cinematographer and film alumnus Paul Sarossy (BFA ‘86) returns to his alma mater this week to share his insights and experience with students.

He will launch the Department of Film’s 2008-2009 Norman Jewison Series with a free public screening of the 2005 feature film Where the Truth Lies, directed by leading Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan, on Thursday, Sept. 25 at 7pm in the Price Family Cinema, Room 102, Accolade East Building on York’s Keele campus. Sarossy served as director of photography for the production and will talk about his role in the making of the film in a Q & A session following the screening.

Right: Paul Sarossy 

Where the Truth Lies is a stylish film noir about a cold case that turns into a hot story. A female journalist becomes consumed with the attempt to discover the truth behind the breakup of a celebrated comedy team after the duo found a corpse in their hotel room. In her investigation, the journalist uncovers a shocking tale of talent and treachery, love and lust, buried truths and betrayed trust.

The film stars Kevin Bacon, Colin Firth, Alison Lohman, David Hayman and Maury Chaykin. Steve Munro, a contract faculty member in York’s Department of Film, did the sound design.

Sarossy has been the eye behind the lens on almost every Atom Egoyan production since Speaking Parts in 1988, the cinematographer’s second feature. Their most recent collaboration, Adoration, had its world premiere this year at the Cannes Film Festival, followed by a gala screening at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Left: Where the Truth Lies is a stylish film noir about a cold case that turns into a hot story. The film stars Kevin Bacon, Colin Firth, Alison Lohman, David Hayman and Maury Chaykin.

Egoyan is not the only director who has put to Sarossy’s talent to use. He has worked with an impressive array of internationally-renowned filmmakers, including Norman Jewison, Paul Schrader, Roger Spottiswoode, Denys Arcand, Patricia Rozema and Peter Bogdanovich.

The screening of Where the Truth Lies is part of a five-day masterclass Sarossy is conducting for film students.

Earlier in the day, he will give an illustrated talk outlining his career path and a graduate seminar discussing his creative process in working with a wide range of top Canadian directors. The following day, hands-on work begins in earnest as Sarossy shares his 20+ years of experience with a small group of fourth-year production students. Sarossy’s regular camera crew has generously offered to come and demonstrate the workings of a highly-skilled professional team to senior students and third-year cinematographers.

Right: The film tells the story of a female journalist who attempts to discover the truth behind the breakup of a celebrated comedy team after the duo found a corpse in their hotel room. In this scene, Kevin Bacon looks on as Colin Firth’s character attempts to seduce a chamber maid played by Rachel Blanchard. The mystery surrounding chamber maid’s death is at the heart of the film.

York’s fourth-year fiction film directors will then have the opportunity to take part in a hands-on intensive shoot in collaboration with their cinematographers and assistants. Mentored by Sarossy and director Srinivas Krishna (with whom Sarossy collaborated on Masala and Lulu), student teams will take turns shooting a short scene on 35mm in the Department of Film’s soundstage, learning and putting into practice the fundamentals of on-set practice and etiquette along with their craft.

The process will culminate in a final session where the cinematographers will observe Sarossy supervise the transfer of the film they shot to high-definition video at Deluxe Toronto labs. The company is lending its support to the project by covering the costs of the processing. Other industry partners include Panavision, which is providing some high-end 35mm cameras; William F. White Ltd, making available specialized lighting equipment; and Kodak Canada, donating film stock.

“I’m thrilled to be participating in this masterclass, as I benefited hugely from a similar situation when I was a student,” Sarossy said. “It was amazing how a little knowledge from the outside world helped us in our development. I hope to continue this tradition.”

The organizer of Sarossy’s visit was his former York classmate, film Professor Ali Kazimi. “Some of my most memorable learning experiences have occurred when I have spent a concerted amount of time with a filmmaker,” Kazimi said. “While Paul and I were students here, a York alumnus, cinematographer Mark Irwin, presented a guest lecture and workshop. Mark’s generous sharing of his knowledge was a turning point for both of us. When I approached Paul about a masterclass this year, he loved the idea of spending several days with students, and he recalled the ‘Mark Irwin’ day which he told me ‘totally changed his approach’ to cinematography.” (Irwin earned a BA in fine arts in 1973.)

Left: Colin Firth (left) and Kevin Bacon

In addition to several international festival awards and nominations, Sarossy has won a raft of national accolades for his work. His honours include five Genie Awards — given in recognition of the best of Canadian cinema — for the films Head in the Clouds, Perfect Pie, Felicia’s Journey, The Sweet Hereafter and Exotica; a Canadian Society of Cinematographers (CSC) Award for best cinematography in TV drama for Rocky Marciano; CSC Awards for best cinematography in a theatrical feature for Head in the Clouds, The Sweet Hereafter, Exotica and White Room; and the CSC’s 2004 Kodak New Century Award for his ‘outstanding contribution to the art of cinematography’.  He received an American Society of Cinematographers nomination for outstanding achievement in cinematography for a mini-series for Picture Windows, and an Independent Spirit Award nomination for best cinematography for the feature film Affliction. His directorial debut, the film Mr. In-Between (2001), garnered the jury prize for best UK feature at the Raindance Film Festival.

The Norman Jewison Series is named in honour of the internationally acclaimed Canadian film director and producer whose generous support has made this program possible. Established in the Department of Film in 2007, the series brings distinguished Canadian and international filmmakers, screenwriters, film historians and theorists to York to meet with students and to present and discuss their work in a public forum open to the wider community.