Claude Gagnon spent an entire decade in Japan working as an editor and director in 70’s. With his first feature, Keiko (1979), he became the first and only foreigner ever to receive the coveted Japanese Association of Film Director’s prize for Best Film. Back to Canada in the 1980’s, Gagnon and his partner Yuri Yoshimura-Gagnon founded their own film company Aska Film.
The Grand Prize of the Americas at the 1987 World Film Festival in Montreal was given to Claude Gagnon’s The Kid Brother by the unanimous decision of the Jury. Never before in the history of the Montreal World Film Festival did this prize go to a Canadian director. The Kid Brother also received the UNESCO prize at the Berlin Film Festival as well as many other prizes and was sold to over 40 territories.
He was also successful directing for TV: in 1994 TF1, the highest-rated TV station in Europe, entrusted a major project to Gagnon. In addition to directing and co-producing, he co-wrote the screenplay of Pour L’amour De Thomas (For The Love of Thomas), a primetime feature with Brigitte Fossey, that scored 38.2% share on TF1.
As head of Aska Film Productions, Claude Gagnon has co-produced Rowing Through in collaboration with one of the oldest and best known Japanese companies: Shochiku, and Winter Lily produced in association with ASMIK ACE Entertainment, Japanese distributor of Scream, Fargo and Trainspotting.
In 2016, he was awarded the « Michel Brault Career Grant » from the Art Council of Quebec.
PRESENTATION: WILL JAMES - HIS LEGACY, LITERATURE & ART
SATURDAY 3:00 PM - 5:00 PM
High School Auditorium
Admission by Festival Button Only
Gagnon On Will James
After Claude Gagnon has spent an hour in a Mile End café talking non-stop about the famous cowboy author Will James, the question almost asks itself. “Has he become obsessed with Will James? “Well, obsessed is a bad word, but yeah I’m totally obsessed,” he admits. “I don’t want to be away from Will James.”
He originally thought it would be easy to identify James life and interpret a story. He had of course watched many a western thought this would provide a baseline for interpretation of James
life and an amazing documentary of an early 20th century writer who lived and loved western culture.
The veteran director — whose films include Kenny, Kamataki and Karakara — has been intrigued by James for years, ever since he saw Jacques Godbout’s National Film Board documentary Alias Will James way back in 1988. That film explored the Québécois roots of the author of Smoky the Cowhorse, Lone Cowboy and more than 20 other books. In 1967, 25 years after his death, biographer Anthony Amaral revealed that this legendary cowboy, movie stuntman and writer was actually French-Canadian, born Joseph Ernest Dufault in St-Nazaire-d’Acton in the Montérégie region. James life as, Dufault, began in Gagnon’s hometown of St-Hyacinthe, Quebec It is St.-Hyacinthe where Dufault left in 1907 before becoming Will James. Something to do with cattle theft!
As soon as he saw Alias Will James, Gagnon wanted to make a dramatic feature film about this character, but he eventually set the project aside. He came back to the subject several years back, wrote a couple of drafts of a screenplay, but something wasn’t right. He just wasn’t satisfied. He realized he wanted/needed to go out west himself and immerse himself in the cowboy world that was James’s stomping ground. He has also had the opportunity to meet with James’ nephews and several other members of his family, has had access to many personal documents that have provided a unique on documented perspective on the subject
James was no ordinary cowboy as Claude has learned. He has read most of James books at least twice garnering new information on the man each time. The more he researched James, the more he felt the need to tell James story in western culture.
Gagnons’ documentary, Will James, will focus mainly on the first 22 years of Will James’ Life most of which he spent in Saskatchewan, Montana, Idaho and Nevada, before being arrested in Utah.
“I kept saying — ‘I’m missing something. I need to be in the west. I need to meet cowboys.’ “
That dream became a reality in February 2015 when he received a cool $100,000 as the first-ever recipient of the Michel Brault career grant from the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec. He bought a 1967 Mercedes recreational vehicle and hit the road, looking to solve the Will James mystery.
From July until late December, he crisscrossed the west, on both sides of the border, in his camper. He spoke to anyone he could find who had any connection to James, everyone from a collector of cowboy art who bought a James painting to the folks at the University of Nevada at Reno, the home of the archives of James biographer Amaral.
“What I’ve been searching in my trip is to find out who this guy was,” said Gagnon. “What kind of personality did he have? I want to really know this man in every moment of his life even though he died in 1942. The people in the Will James Society laugh and they say — ‘No one in the world now knows more about Will James that you do.’ By accident, I became a specialist. That was not the original idea.
“I dream about Will James. I get up in the morning at six o’clock and all I do is I start to think about Will James. I say: ‘Okay that year he was there but why did he make the move there?’ I keep running these things in my mind. I don’t want to be away from Will James.”
So why the obsession? Gagnon says he just couldn’t stop wondering why this francophone kid from Quebec would head out to Saskatchewan as a teenager to become a cowboy. He is fascinated by this story, of a kid who became a rancher, held various odd jobs all over the region, ended up arrested for cattle rustling in Nevada, did time behind bars, worked as a stuntman in Hollywood and, finally, capped it all off by transforming himself into a bestselling author of westerns.
“I want to make a movie about what it’s like to run away with 30 head of cattle at night,” said Gagnon.
And to capture a guy he thinks just doesn’t get the respect he deserves.
“I remember one line in Jacques Godbout’s film. He said: ‘Well, he was no Shakespeare.’ Maybe he was no Shakespeare but Shakespeare couldn’t ride a bronc the way Will James could ride a bronc. In the cowboy world, nobody could write with the talent that Will James did.”
Gagnon’s plan is to finish the screenplay and produce a film on Will James life in 2019.
Based on article @ http://montrealgazette.com/entertainment/arts/filmmaker-claude-gagnon-on-the-trail-of-will-james
And discussion by email with Mackey Hedges in 1988
Allen Glazner grew up among citrus trees in Upland, California, and fell in love with mountains, deserts, and science as a child. He attended Pomona College, majoring in geology, earned a Ph.D. at UCLA, and took a faculty position at the University of North Carolina in 1981, where he has been ever since. He grew up watching monster movies and westerns and knew that those monsters and cowboys were out there in the desert. His research deals with volcanic rocks, granites, and plate tectonics, and he works all over eastern California, including Yosemite, the Mojave Desert, and Owens Valley. He has coauthored three popular books on California’s geology: Geology Underfoot in Southern California, Geology Underfoot in Yosemite National Park, and, most relevant to Lone Pine, Geology Underfoot in Owens Valley and Death Valley.
Saturday October 6th from 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM
First tour to leave directly after the introductory presentation
Owens Valley hosts one of the most dramatic landscapes on Earth, and that landscape is pure geology. On this tour we will examine some of the geologic features and forces that built this landscape, including granites, glaciers, faults, and earthquakes. Stops will include granite fins in the Alabama Hills, the fault that produced the great 1872 Lone Pine earthquake, and evidence for the chain of lakes that occupied Owens Valley during glacial times, not long ago.
Tour #1: Saturday October 6th 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM
Tour #2: Saturday October 6th 1:30 PM – 3:30 PM