​30 Things You Didn’t Know About the CFC

By Cory Angeletti-Szasz ● July 25, 2018 09:30

The CFC is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. To commemorate this milestone, we’ve introduced a “30 things” series on our website – four stories that share 30 facts, memories, insights and/or pieces of information about the CFC, inspired by occurrences in our 30-year history. The first, which you can read HERE, explored 30 of the groundbreaking, award-winning and flat out awesome film, television, interactive and VR productions that CFC has had a hand in making in its 30 years.

The second piece in this series focuses on 30 interesting insights, facts and pieces of information that you might not know about the CFC – from our unique campus being located on the historic Windfields Estate in Toronto, to our history of ghost activity, and some of the impressive guests who have visited the CFC over the years.


Norman Jewison in the Sobey Empire Theatre at the CFC (photo by Peter Bregg)

We’ll start off with one fact you probably already know: Norman Jewison, renowned and award-winning filmmaker, established the Canadian Film Centre (originally called the Canadian Centre for Advanced Film Studies) in 1988, fuelled by his passion for storytelling and his commitment to emerging Canadian talent.


Christopher Plummer (second from the left) with Norman Jewison (centre) at a fundraising event for the CFC

The first fundraising event that Mr. Jewison hosted to secure funds to open the CFC – and to spread word of its impending opening – was centered around a screening of John and the Missus, where guests were welcomed by Christopher Plummer, who was a strong supporter of Mr. Jewison’s vision and dream of creating the CFC.


E.P. Taylor, former owner of Windfields Estate (photo courtesy of the Taylor Family Archives)

CFC’s campus is located on the historic and picturesque grounds of Windfields Estate in Toronto, Canada – the former home of prominent Canadian businessman, E.P. Taylor. The Taylor family lived on the property until 1987, at which time the estate was transferred to North York, and eventually amalgamated into the City of Toronto, with the agreement that it be leased to the Canadian Film Centre and adapted for use as a creative media institution.


Photos of The Queen Mother

The Queen Mother visits Windfields Estate (photo courtesy of the Taylor Family Archives)

Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, stayed at Windfields Estate on occasion when the Taylor family inhabited the house. The Taylor family would “move” into one of the cottages during her visits, so that The Queen Mother would have the main house to herself.


Two men stand behind a horse housed in a stable

E.P. Taylor, Northern Dancer and Huratio Luro at Windfields Estate
(photo courtesy of the Taylor Family Archives)

Another special guest who used to visit Windfields Estate is Northern Dancer, the greatest racehorse of the 20th century – who won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and the Queen’s Plate in 1964 – and was owned by breeder of champion racehorses, E.P. Taylor. The beautiful grounds of Windfields Estate were complete with a back paddock for horses, as well as stables, where Northern Dancer was housed when he stayed on the property.


An old house undergoing renovations

Windfields Estate undergoing renovations to prepare the building and property to house the CFC

Once the CFC was up and running, we welcomed the following 12 filmmakers into the inaugural film program: Brigitte Berman, Holly Dale, Mary Jane Gomes, John Gunn, Gérald L’Ecuyer, Lael McCall, Ann Medina, Ann Petrie, Peter Raymont, Joan Schafer, Aiken Scherberger, and Terry Williams.


A group of people gather in a board room

CFC’s first twelve residents gather in a suite at Yonge and Bloor Streets in Toronto, a temporary headquarters for the CFC while Windfields Estate was undergoing renovations

While Windfields Estate was undergoing renovations in preparation to house the CFC, operations were headquartered in a suite in a high rise on the northwest corner of Yonge and Bloor Streets in Toronto, where the aforementioned first group of residents were welcomed.


A group of people gather in a parking lot

Some of inaugural group of residents standing in front of the Stables on Windfields Estate

When the CFC originally opened its doors, there were only six staff and one program offered that was attended by the 12 residents. The first program was the Film Resident Programme, which is still running today by the name of the Cineplex Entertainment Film Program – it’s CFC’s longest running and flagship film program.


Two individuals sit in an edit suite for a film

Two Editors’ Lab residents in the edit suite

In 1997, the Editors’ Lab was launched as the fourth discipline to be a part of the Cineplex Entertainment Film Program.


Six individuals eating a meal around a table

Early CFC staff and residents enjoy a meal at the CFC

From its inception until the early 2000s, before the area surrounding Windfields Estate was developed and there was anywhere nearby to eat, the CFC had chefs who worked onsite to prepare meals and food offerings for residents and staff. Once the area began to urbanize, the complex at Bayview Avenue and York Mills Road (which was once owned by E.P. Taylor!), became the go-to spot for residents and staff to grab a quick bite not far from CFC’s campus.


Two individuals pose for a picture

Margot Kidder with Norman Jewison at the CFC in 1989

Lois Lane, well, the actress who played her in Superman I, II, III and IV alongside Christopher Reeve – the late Margot Kidder – was a resident of the CFC in 1989. But long before the CFC and before Superman, Margot landed her first major feature film role in Gaily, Gaily, directed by none other than CFC founder Norman Jewison.


Side profile of a man

Martin Scorsese at the CFC in 1988 when he was a visiting filmmaker meeting with the inaugural residents

CFC has a history of welcoming celebrated and talented filmmakers, artists, creators and guests to the CFC to host discussions, lectures and master classes with our residents. One of the first few visiting filmmakers to lead a master class at the CFC was the illustrious Martin Scorsese, who travelled to the CFC in 1988 to meet with the inaugural film residents.


A flyer advertising a film premiere club

One of the first images advertising The Second Monday Reel Club

Nineteen eighty-eight was also the year that Mr. Jewison (with some help from Garth Drabinsky, then head of Cineplex Odeon) launched “The Second Monday Reel Club” at the CFC – a film premiere club, modelled on the ones that were popular in Hollywood in the 1940s and 50s – that would act as an important fundraising tool for the organization. The club was open to public membership and offered members a film premiere a month, an annual party, and passes to see movies in theatre. This initiative has evolved over the years, and it still exists today as the CFC Circle of Supporters.


A movie director signing a poster for one of his films

Martin Scorsese at the CFC signing a poster for ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’

The first film premiere of The Second Monday Reel Club was Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ. Scorsese was in attendance for the event, and he and moviegoers had to be escorted or wend their way through a crowd of religious protestors.


Three individuals dressed up for a 'The Great Gatsby' themed garden party

An image from The Great Gatsby-themed first-ever ‘The Second Monday Reel Club’ party (now the CFC Annual Garden Party) on August 8, 1988

It was The Second Monday Reel Club that gave birth to The CFC Annual Garden Party, also in 1988 (it was a busy year!). The CFC hosted a celebration on August 8, 1988 to promote the club, its benefits, and to invite people to take part. This was the first of what would become an annual Garden Party held at CFC, an event that now serves to thank the donors who participate in our giving program, the CFC Circle of Supporters, and our generous sponsors.


Three individuals walking down a hallway

Lewis Gilbert, Norman Jewison and Liza Minnelli at the CFC

In its early years, the CFC ran an initiative called “Air Canada’s Masters of the Cinema Lecture Series,” whereby Air Canada would fly in a prominent filmmaker, artist or creator, who would lead a lecture for CFC’s residents, and the CFC would host an evening to which the public was invited to hear them speak. Among the many who took part in this initiative were Liza Minnelli, Arthur Penn, David Cronenberg, Stephen Frears, James Horner, Neil Jordan, David Puttnam, Jeff Bridges, Topol, Rod Steiger and Daniel Petrie. One former CFC employee recalls these creators being very fond of Mr. Jewison and his work, and wanting to support him however they could.


A man holding papers speaks to an audience

Norman Jewison wearing a ‘Moonstruck’ sweater

The world premiere for Norman Jewison’s beloved and multi-award-winning romantic comedy Moonstruck was a fundraising event for the CFC. It was held at the Columbus Centre in Toronto, following a screening that was held at the Eglinton Theatre. Olympia Dukakis (who plays Rose Castorini) and Nicolas Cage (who plays Ronny Cammareri) flew to Toronto to attend the premiere.


A man lays in a bathtub

A still from BLOOD & DONUTS

The first feature that was produced through the CFC (CFC Features) was BLOOD & DONUTS (1995), directed by Holly Dale, an alumna of the inaugural film program. The screenplay for the film, by Andrew Rai Berzins, was typed out on a 1992 Underwood typewriter.


A woman wearing a VR headset

A user trying out a VR experience at the CFC

The CFC runs programs and initiatives that span a wide range of areas across the screen-based industry – from film and TV to screen acting, songwriting and composing, as well as digital media. In 1997, CFC launched a digital media branch, CFC Media Lab. Originally called Habitat New Media Lab, it has become an internationally acclaimed digital media think tank, an award-winning production environment for interactive and immersive media experiences (120 interactive digital media prototypes and VR experiences have been developed through CFC Media Lab), and it runs Canada’s first digital media and entertainment accelerator, IDEABOOST. CFC Media Lab also implemented an entire VR strategy, which includes (co)productions of VR experiences, programming for creatives, and data collection/analysis of the emerging ecosystem of VR in Canada through Pulse on VR: A Living Ecosystem.


The front cover of a Lifetime Achievement Award booklet

The front cover of the booklet that was prepared for the celebration and presentation of Norman Jewison’s Lifetime Achievement Award

In 1998, the year that the CFC celebrated its 10th anniversary, it also presented our Founder and Chair Emeritus Norman Jewison with the first-ever Canadian Film Centre Lifetime Achievement Award, in order to pay tribute to Mr. Jewison as an international visionary in the screen-based industry. Read the feature story on Mr. Jewison that was written for the booklet HERE.


People gather outside for a BBQ

A photo from the first-ever CFC Annual BBQ Fundraiser held at CFC’s campus on Windfields Estate, September 1988

The CFC Annual BBQ Fundraiser, our largest fundraising event that occurs every year during the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), grew out of a tradition that Mr. Jewison initiated: hosting a barbeque up at his farm just north of the city every year during the festival in honour of international filmmakers who were attending and/or participating in TIFF. As the barbeque grew exponentially year over year, Mr. Jewison decided to move the event to the expansive grounds of Windfields Estate – and so the official fundraising event was born. The event remains to this day one of the most sought-after tickets of TIFF.


Two people mid-conversation sitting at a table outside during a BBQ

Norman Jewison and Whoopi Goldberg at the 1994 CFC Annual BBQ Fundraiser at Windfields Estate

Speaking of the CFC Annual BBQ Fundraiser, we’ve had lots of wonderful guests join us at the BBQ over the years, including Whoopi Goldberg, who came to the BBQ in 1994 as a guest of Norman Jewison.


The Taylor Family and their guests enjoyed the pool and cabanas at Windfields Estate
(photo courtesy of the Taylor Family Archives)

Before the CFC underwent the Windfields Campus Improvement Project, a renovation and construction initiative to improve the CFC’s operating capacity, there used to be a pool and cabanas on the property, which was replaced with the Northern Dancer Pavilion in 2014. The swimming pool is "remembered" in the pattern of the Northern Dancer Pavilion floor and adjoining terrace through an outline of its former footprint, as a way of respecting the history and heritage of the property.


An old photo of a Georgian Revival Style mansion

Windfields Estate, circa late 1930s (photo courtesy of the Taylor Family Archives)

Windfields Estate has a history of ghost activities throughout its Main House, cottages and surrounding property. Several CFC staff members over the years have reported stories of encounters with ghosts and spirits. More to come on this in our next piece in our “30 things” series, coming out in October!


An image from ‘Stories We Tell,’ developed through the CFC NFB Documentary Program (as it was formerly called)

Since its inception, the CFC has continually generated world class content, which is often award-winning and groundbreaking, for the screen-based industry worldwide. This content – short films, features, TV series, interactive productions, virtual reality (VR) productions, and more – is created, developed and/or produced through our various programs in film, TV, screen acting, music and digital media. CLICK HERE to browse through some of our past productions.


Headshots of four individuals

(L-R): Don McKellar, Sarah Polley, Clement Virgo, Christina Jennings

Throughout our 30 years, we have seen more than 1800 alumni (and counting!) come through our doors – alumni who have been instrumental in shaping Canada’s screen-based industry – like: Don McKellar, Christina Jennings, Clement Virgo, Damon D’Oliveira, Holly Dale, John Fawcett, Graeme Manson, Semi Chellas, Brad Peyton, Tassie Cameron, Peter Raymont, Stella Meghie, Vincenzo Natalie, Andrew Rosen, Anthony Leo, Yung Chang, Sarah Polley, Jeremy Diamond, Ingrid Veninger and Charles Officer, to name a few!


Five actors pose for a photo on set of a period mystery drama TV series

'Murdoch Mysteries,' developed/produced by alumni company, Shaftesbury

CFC alumni have also formed hundreds of renowned and award-winning content, production, technology and/or digital media companies and brands, like these ones you may have heard of:


Six individuals pose beside a film poster for a premiere at Cannes Film Festival

(L-R): Sharon Lewis, Clark Johnson, Clement Virgo, Rachel Crawford, Damon D'Oliveira and Karen King at the world premiere of 'Rude' at Cannes.

Many of these companies were forged as a direct result of residents meeting while at the CFC – like Conquering Lion Pictures for example. Co-founders Clement Virgo and Damon D’Oliveira first met at the CFC in 1991, produced the short film SAVE MY LOST NIGGA’ SOUL together (through our Short Dramatic Film Program), then they went on to produce RUDE together (through CFC Features), and shortly after they founded Conquering Lion Pictures.


David Cronenberg stars in Body/Mind/Change

In 2013, CFC Media Lab and TIFF launched a co-production entitled Body/Mind/Change (BMC), an immersive digital extension of TIFF's first major original exhibition, David Cronenberg: Evolution. The experience starred CFC Board Member (Ex-Officio) David Cronenberg and immersed audiences in a “Cronenbergian” world inspired by the film Videodrome, brought to life across three platforms — online, mobile, and real-world. It was the first web interactive experience that generated a 3D-printed object based on data collected from the player. The co-production was a huge success – it attracted participants from around the world, and received two Media & Technology MUSE Awards and the 2014 Ontario Museum Association (OMA) Award for Excellence in Special Projects.


Five people pose around an award

Christina Jennings (second from the left) was the 2018 CFC Award for Creative Excellence recipient

In 2014, the CFC created the CFC Award for Creative Excellence, an annual award that honours and celebrates the success of accomplished alumni who have made significant creative and entrepreneurial contributions to the screen-based and/or digital industry. Since the award’s inception, we have honoured the following alumni: Semi Chellas (2014); Graeme Manson and John Fawcett (2015); Don McKellar (2016); Clement Virgo and Damon D’Oliveira (2017); and Christina Jennings (2018).

Stay tuned in October for the third piece in our “30 things” series.

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Cory Angeletti-Szasz

Interim Director, Marketing & Communications