by James Forrester
(Motion Magazine, Vol. 4, No. 3, August 1975)
Bill Mason, award winning Canadian filmmaker, whose feature film, Cry of the Wild, has become one of the most financially successful films in Canada, was interviewed recently in his Gatineau studio, overlooking Meach Lake. In an article in the April issue of Maclean’s, John Hofsess suggested that Cry of the Wild was a “revised, expanded version” of the hour-long television documentary Death of a Legend, which he described succinctly as “just another Canadian nature movie”. This slanted article entitled, “In the footsteps of Walt Disney”, seemed to be confusing the creative responsibility of the filmmaker, Bill Mason, with the financial ability of the distributor, Ralph Ellis. The primary focus of this interview is the relationship between these two films. I hope it will present a more reasonable perspective of the various roles of filmmakers and businessmen in Canadian cinema. As the interview progressed, it touched on many facets of the career of Bill Mason, who is undoubtedly one of the most complete creative personalities in Canadian film today.
I would really like to know your side of the story, vis-a-vis Cry of the Wild and Death of a Legend, but first of all, explain how you started to make the films and the relationship between the two films?
I’m glad to do it now. Part of the confusion may be my own fault because I’ve avoided interviews. Then I thought, well it’s your own darn fault if you don’t explain how it was made. I hear Cry of the Wild written up as a version which it just isn’t, so I’d be happy to set the record straight. I’ll start right from the beginning and this will be the first time that it has been given an overall birdseye view, because it is very complicated.
I’ll start by saying the article itself did make me angry because it said that Ralph had made the film which is not true. Ralph Ellis is the distributor of the film. He deserves more credit than just being the distributor because he was really responsible for the film being turned into a feature film. But let me start at the beginning ...
The Wildlife Service asked the Film Board if they would like to make a film on animals, then the Board said, yes, and in the process of research they settled on the wolf as the subject. I knew this was happening as it was mentioned around the Film Board for a year. Then one day the Film Board phoned me and said would I like to make the film, so I said, “Wow, yes. This is a beautiful subject”. I could imagine charging all over the North and it would take at least a year. I read the script and I was not too keen on it. So I wrote my own script, from what little I knew about wolves, which was not much more than the average guy interested in wildlife. We submitted the script to the Wildlife Service and they said it was fine. They liked it because it dealt not just with wolves but with man’s alienation from the natural world, using the wolf as a symbol of that alienation. Once they OK’d it, I took a big gulp as I had signed a one-year contract but spread over two, because I knew that this arrangement would give me two winters.
I had other things to do in between.
As I proceeded with the filming, I began to realize that people were fascinated with the fact that I just got dropped off in the middle of nowhere and stayed there by myself. I took it very much for granted because I like being out there. And I thought, well if people are interested in that, I’ll film my experiences and make it up into a half hour television film. So I started to shoot while waiting for the wolves, with a radio control device to film myself. And then I began to develop a story line portraying how you live out there.
Then I put that aside and I edited up Death of a Legend. But I thought, why don’t I stick all that stuff into the film and make Death of a Legend into a feature. So I put it all together and showed it to the Wildlife Service, but they were not very enthusiastic. They didn’t say no, but I had such a good rapport with their guy, Daryl Eagles and the fact that he didn’t show any interest really cooled me. So you can imagine my embarrassment in having put myself in the film anyway, and the only way I would go with it was if he was wildly enthusiastic because I needed the encouragement. So I completed Death of a Legend without the personal interest material. Then I started right into editing the second film which is called Wolfpack. Now, while I was cutting these, I was also working on footage from the personal point of view.
At that time did you envision it as a third film?
Remember Death of a Legend is number one, Wolfpack is number two, and what became Cry of the Wild, as I didn’t have a name for it yet, was the third.
What year was that?
1973. So now I’m using the outs from the outs, because all the best shots have been used in Death of a Legend and the next best in Wolfpack, but I still had mountains of footage. I mean I wore out a Beaulieu camera, at 150,000 feet of film on the whole project.
Then I had a meeting with the Board to suggest the feature and all the reactions were negative. I cut it to an hour, showed it to the CBC and the NFB sold it to them as an hour special. Then Ralph Ellis phoned me from KEG Productions and he asked if I would be interested in doing a film on wolves for the Audubon Series. So this would have been film number four, but I showed him the one hour television film for the CBC, which I was just completing. Ralph was very excited and he was climbing the wall. He said that it was a feature film and did I have some more footage I could use to make it up to an hour and a half. I said that it was already an hour and a half and I had just finished cutting it to an hour.
So I went home and I got a call later saying the deal was on; KEG was getting the film back from the CBC. Ellis now had his film and I was ecstatic because of the possibility of having the film screened in 35mm with good sound, compared to 16mm. I was walking on cloud 9 at the prospect. However, what I didn’t do was just put all the stuff back in. I went back through the outs again, and instead of just padding it back up, I tried to see if there were whole new sequences. When I went back, I discovered all sorts of things that I ‘d overlooked; little behavioural things, like the dominant male beating up the subordinate male when he tried to approach the female. Little behavioural things with Sparky that I’d missed. So the film turned out having gone through this process of cutting down and then building back up again. I think it turned out better for that reason. So I completed Cry of the Wild at an hour and a half. My attitude at that stage was it can work, but it’s going to need one incredible sound track and score. I was lucky enough to get Larry Crosley to do the score. He actually did the sound track for the first film I ever did, Wilderness Treasure, and I’d always wanted him to do another one. He made this film work; he made it come off the screen. It was just a little documentary but he completely expanded it. When I first heard the score I just breathed a great sigh of relief. He’d given the film what it needed. Then the original song writer didn’t come through and Bruce McKay who did the Rise and Fall of the Great Lakes, was given very little time but the guy came up with a nice song. Some of the philosophy coming out of the song isn’t mine, but you shrug and say “Well, you know, I can’t write it, so this is his feeling and these are his words.” This is not to degrade the song. I like it, and it works in the film.
I noticed in a number of your films that you used songs to emphasize a theme.
Yes, I do. Sometimes it works and sometimes not. For instance, with Death of a Legend, let’s just say that I’m not happy with it. I really think it was a failure, I really do. I knew it was at the mix, and I had a very poor rapport with my producer Barrie Howells. It was not a happy situation. This was not the producer I work with now [Bill Brind]. We have an excellent rapport.
OK, So I finished Cry of the Wild, but then it was very frustrating because it took a long time to get the thing launched. We did a test screening in Edmonton, and it was “so so”, pretty good. But I think that Ralph expected it to really go over big. I don’t think he lost anything, but by the same
token he didn’t clean up either. Up ‘til now I know that everything I’ve said is absolutely factual, however from this point on I wasn’t directly involved in the distribution of the film, so I don’t have all the details.
How did the film get into the hands of American National Enterprises?
Somebody took it down to American National in Salt Lake and they said that they would take it, but then they found out about Death of a Legend. When they saw it they said, “Look, there are shots in there that are just like the ones in Cry of the Wild”. So we assured them that there was only one duplicate shot; the shot of the big male looking into the den. That is the only duplicate shot, but let’s face it, the shots are very similar because they are the same wolves. They signed the deal with Ralph Ellis and the NFB for distribution rights.
Many people have asked me if I am upset about the Americans buying the film and running it throughout the US. I’m ecstatic that the film is getting seen by people. I don’t care if they’re Americans or Canadians. The Americans have more problems with their diminishing wildlife, than we have and a wolf is a wolf. I don’t care if he’s an American wolf or a Canadian wolf.
What did you get financially from the sale of Cry of the Wild?
When the film took off, I began to think maybe I’m entitled to something for several reasons. I had invested a lot of time and it was made in an unusual way, so I thought I should get some kind of small royalty. Mind you, I did submit my bill for the $2,000 to edit the film and because of a feeling of good will the NFB suggested that they would give me a bonus of $5,000. I said, thanks, but did you know that I’m out $9,000 in the equipment I bought to make the films and my repairs! So they went over my income tax expense claims and have made compensations. I don’t get rich working for the Board but I’m not complaining. They give me total freedom to make the films that I want to make.
What is your relationship to the National Film Board?
What was happening was that I would simply work on the films under contract until they were right. Then I found out I couldn’t make it as a freelancer. So I had a long talk with Newman and he said that they would give me a three year exclusive contract. I just finished the contract this month. They then asked me if I would come on staff.
The other thing that the Board did for me was to give me Ken Buck, a friend of mine, to work with me for a year. He started shooting for me on canoe trips and it has worked out beautifully.
Is there any way that you think the Film Board could be improved?
I think that any organization can only be as good as the people who form the organization. The Board is the kind of place which is good if you’re the kind of person who likes to work. Fortunately, with the program committee, you have to push to get your ideas accepted.
If there is any difference between myself and some filmmakers, maybe it’s because I’m not in love with the medium. I’m in love with what it can say and I use it to express my feelings about things. The thing about film that I find frustrating is the question of who really makes the film. I say, I made Cry of the Wild with the help of a lot of talented people; Larry Crosley doing the music, John Knight doing the sound and the technicians doing their best. But I still see it in that I conceive the idea, write it, direct it, shoot it, edit it, animate it and do the commentary sometimes. The Film Board made it possible. They gave me the wherewithal , but I still like to think that I made the film. I don’t know whether that’s selfish, but that’s the way I feel.
I found with some of the producers, I spent half my time just arguing with them. That’s another reason I decided to quit and then they gave me Bill Brind, for a producer. We have a very good rapport and he understands the way I want to work.
Have you ever thought of going into independent production?
In the period when I was thinking of quitting, I was going to accept some investment money and go into some films of my own because the royalty intrigued me. I’m very partial to the documentary feature. I cannot understand why Canadians haven’t seen that our expertise is in the documentary film. Why haven’t we said let’s make documentary features like Hellstrom Chronicle, The RA expedition and Blue Water, White Death. I think it’s starting now. Ralph Ellis really sees it. The only thing I worry about is if we churn out documentary features, the quality could go down.
How did you get started making films?
I was an animator in Winnipeg, working for an advertising agency. Then I came to Crawleys and worked as an animator for a while. And then I got the idea for Paddle to the Sea. I submitted that to the Board. Previously I had made Wilderness Treasure for Pioneer Camps. If you saw this film, it is the beginning of my interest in live film, and to go back before that I was the canoeist in Chris Chapman’s first film Quetico. It was a fantastic experience meeting Chris and working with him. That’s where my inspiration came from, just watching him use a camera like a paint brush.
From watching your films, I get the impression that you like to work by yourself?
I worked for a very short time as a cameraman, but I can’t work that way. I think even if I made a feature film, I’d have a very small mobile crew. My technique is to have everything that you need on your back. If you can’t get it in your knapsack then don’t take it. My advice to younger filmmakers is to buy a camera. I started with that beat up old Cine Special over there on the table with the sides peeling off. That’s the first camera that I bought. It’s primitive, it’s been over Niagara Falls twice, I’ve shot rapids with it, I’ve swamped the canoe with it, but it still goes. The first film that I made, Wilderness Treasure, I shot it with the Cine Special and I had three lens; a 15, a 25 and a six inch. You know, that’s all I needed. The film I shot then, I’m still happy with it today. So I say, “Look, you don’t need a lot of exotic equipment.” What you do need is a good tripod head. If you buy a hundred feet of film this week, and a hundred feet next week, go ahead and start your film. What I found is that just knowing that you’re making a film is what matters. It’s dreaming about it, and it’s writing your script. I find that if I can get a kid to say, “I’ve got something I want to say.” Then I can say, “Now do your storyboard, do your drawings, do your sketches, and start.” Because that’s the process of making a film. I tell them, “Don’t worry about where you’re going to get a camera, where you’re going to get film or how you’re going to get the money to edit it.” Get your whole storyboard laid out, buy or borrow a camera, buy a couple of hundred feet of film and start shooting it.
This is what we did on Wilderness Treasure. We finished the filming, then I showed it to the Inter-Varsity Board members, and they were wildly enthusiastic. Now I said, “We have to have a composed score, but we haven’t got the money, so it might be a while before it’s complete.” It was three years before there was enough money for an original score by Larry Crosley. Inter-Varsity is a non-profit organization so it took a long time to raise the money. And finally, we were able to finish the film in 1962.
Do you always work from a storyboard?
Yes. I see everything in pictures. Words don’t mean a thing to me. I can sit back and scan the whole film. If you saw the storyboard for Death of a Legend you would be surprised at how close its is to the film. I don’t have too much patience with people who say that they just want to start shooting and something magic is going to happen. The only time when that’s true is an expedition, where you don’t know what’s going to happen.
Are there any animated films available which you’ve made?
I worked on the Wizard of Oz series at Crawleys, which is nothing to be proud of except it was a lot of fun. It was a limited animation style, which is a nothing style, but the guys who were working on it like Vic Atkinson, were great to work for.
I have an idea I would like to do on whales. I like the cartoon style animation, but I also like some of the things Disney has done, when they have animated things that could never be filmed. Like when the Sperm Whale goes to 3,000 feet to battle with the Giant Squid, and this is something which will never be filmed. I can imagine animating a thing like that.
How much shooting have you done around here, just in the Gatineau?
There is another interesting aspect to film making, when you’re working out of the house and that’s the incredible rapport Joyce (Bill’s wife) has with the work. She is totally involved and she looks after everything related to finances. When I got the wolves, I said to Joyce, “Do you mind if we had a few wolves?” She said, “Well, how many do you have in mind?” I said, “You know a couple; just little ones.” They arrived when I was on Baffin Island and it was a month and a half before I got home. And those wolves grew quickly in that time. As they grew Joyce would clean the pens and one day she realized that she was working with these big monsters. Even when I brought home this mated pair; Big Charlie was bigger than I am, she got used to the idea of having them around. When you see the wolf films Joyce is in with them.
The only film I couldn’t seem to get a single shot from here was for the Bowhead Whale film. I use Meach Lake a lot for pick up shots, cutaways and things that just didn’t work.
Obviously Blake James has been a big part of your films. What is your assessment of his role?
Much of the success of my films must be attributed to him. He began as a location assistant on Paddle to the Sea. I used him as the lighthouse keeper and he did such a great job, I have used him in every film, up to the Bowhead Whale film. Blake also did some filming of me in Cry of the Wild. I am very indebted to him for the enthusiasm and effort he put into my films and for the many times he risked his neck in the film Blake.
Do you see yourself as a filmmaker?
I think the one thing I neglected to tell you, is that I never consciously set out to be a filmmaker. I was happy doing commercial art and animation and I was very happy painting. I was just starting to get somewhere and I had started to find a way of portraying what I wanted to say about the bush; a style that was totally spontaneous. I guess the best way to describe it is impressionism.
Turner is my hero, not the sunsets, but the Turner who did these wild violent storms and man as part of the scene. I like that. I find that people give dimension to the land. I’ve never made a film without people in it, and I always thought that I would. You see it was Chris Chapman’s film The Seasons that turned me on to film making. Then one day I was looking back and realized that my films always have someone in them, and that surprised me. I would still like to make a film without anyone in it, but not right now.
Now I have this incredible compulsion to draw. Maybe that’s why I’ve put more work into these storyboards than is needed. Although they are very rough and I could do them ten times better, I reach a stage where I realize that I just can’t afford to spend anymore time on them. They are still only sketches, but I enjoy it. Every once in awhile I look at the kids and I realize that I’ve just got to draw again. Darn it, I’m an artist and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life making films, as much as I enjoy it.
So you see yourself as primarily an artist?
I see myself as an artist who somehow got sidetracked into making films and having never regretted it. The films work so why should I complain, and I’ve made a living at it. But there again, maybe it’s part of my nature in that, as far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be doing something other than what I was doing. I can’t help it. Maybe after a year or two of painting, I’ll want to get back to film making. The dilemma was that I kept getting offered films. They kept appearing on the horizon and I kept taking them. Finally, this year was the first time that I’ve been able to say, “No”, except for films which I didn’t think would work and I wouldn’t even attempt. So this is the first time that I’ve said , “No” to films that I’d love to make. I’ve got to get that year of painting in, and I want to do some reading for my own enjoyment, because everything I read is related to the subject that I’m working on. For instance, I know canoeing better than I know anything else. Just look at the books on canoeing on these shelves. Yet I still feel that there is so much that I don’t know and until I finish the film, all I will be reading is canoe books. What a pleasure it will be to just sit down and read.
I took a trip to England two months ago. They had a Turner exhibition on in London; fifteen rooms of the stuff, six hundred and fifty paintings. I just marvelled at it. At that time, I bought ever book they’ve ever printed on Turner. And I’m going to sit down and read everyone of those books.
What about making a film about Turner?
Nope. No interest whatsoever! I want to paint like Turner. That’s one thing; I find it very interesting how there are some subjects that I love, but I have no desire to make films on them. It’s very strange and I don’t know why that is, but it’s the last thing I want to do. Turner just inspires me to paint. Maybe that’s good. For instance, I love to play hockey but I have no desire to make a film on hockey.
Have you ever thought of living in another country?
No, I don’t think that I ever have. The only reason I could possibly see for doing that is to study art. To go to the Louvre and to just soak it up or to London. When I was there, it was incredible. That was the first time in my life that I spent eight days just sitting in the art galleries and that was fantastic. But other than that I’m so much in love with this country. I’m very, very bitter about what we are doing to it ...
by James Forrester
(Canadian Review, September/October, 1975)
Bill Mason, one of Canada’s most skilful filmmakers, lives in a house overlooking Meach Lake, high in the Gatineau Hills. A fast flowing rivulet courses down the hillside close to the laneway. Chain link fences with tendrilled weeds growing over, perch on the summit; a quiet reminder of the wolves which were raised here for a film project.
Behind the house, amid a grove of trees stands his studio. The inside walls are festooned with large photographs from Mason’s films, storyboard illustrations for a current film and a ceiling to floor-size map of Canada.
One day when I was visiting, the lights in the studio flickered three times in rapid succession. Mason excused himself and later returned, explaining that this was part of a signal system he had worked out with his wife. Otherwise, he was not to be disturbed while he works on the Steenbeck editing table, which he uses to create his award winning films.
This is one filmmaker who values his privacy. To some extent, this may account for his neglect by the Canadian media generally. However, John Hofsess wrote an article in the recent issue of Maclean’s magazine entitled, “In the Footsteps of Walt Disney”, in which he completely ignored Mason’s accomplishments. The article was devoted not to Mason, but to a Toronto businessman, who was the Producer/Distributor of Mason’s feature film, Cry of the Wild. To be ignored is more of an affront than to be criticized.
Consequently, his films have become very familiar to audiences, winning many awards including two Academy Award nominations, while Mason is virtually unknown outside the film making community.
Before the interview began, I was aware of his work in the area of live action documentaries, which he has been making for the National Film Board since the mid 1960's. It was only as the interview progressed, that the full range of his creative activities came to light.
Mason was born in Winnipeg in 1929. He studied fine art at the University of Manitoba and subsequently worked as a commercial artist, in an advertising firm. Then he became involved with animation through television commercials, eventually moving to Ottawa to work as an animator at Crawley Films.
“I worked on the Wizard of Oz series at Crawley’s which is nothing to be proud of except it was a lot of fun. It was a limited animation style, which is a nothing style, but it taught us to really bang the stuff out. A lot of the animation that I’ve done on my own films is diagrammatical, like The Rise and Fall of the Great Lakes.
His first experience with live action film making came about because of his intense interest in canoeing:
“I was the canoeist in Chris Chapman’s film Quetico, which really whetted my appetite. That was a fantastic experience meeting Chris and working with him. That’s where my inspiration came from, just watching him use the camera like a paint brush. I would say that I’ve just gone from there.”
His first film, Wilderness Treasure was produced for Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship and Pioneer Camps:
“I had been going to these camps as a child and as I grew up and took out canoe trips, I began to realize what a film that would make. Briefly, I shot it and it was three years in completion, because we ran out of money. So I edited it during the time I was at Crawley Films. And then it did very well, won a couple of awards and that was really my ticket to the Film Board.”
Initially, he went to the N.F.B. as an animator, working on film clips. However, Mason soon began to realize a long standing project to make Holling C. Holling’s book Paddle to the Sea into a film. This film, which is one to the most popular N.F.B. shorts, relates the story of a young boy who carves a wooden canoe called Paddle and sends it down the Great Lakes to the Atlantic. Audiences are always intrigued by the naturalness of the scenes, especially the ones involving animals which encounter Paddle.
Blake James, a friend of his was cast as the lighthouse keeper in Paddle to the Sea, and Mason was very please with the results:
“He did such a great job, I have used him in every film, up to the Bowhead Whale film. Blake also did some of the filming of me in Cry of the Wild. Much of the success of my films must be attributed to him. I am indebted to him for the enthusiasm and effort he put into my films and for the many times he risked his neck in the film Blake.”
Mason and James worked together to create the madcap short, Rise and Fall of the Great Lakes. Imagine James as a lone canoeist caught in an oscillating time warp between the Great Lakes as they were shortly after the ice age and now:
“I couldn’t just leave it as a film on the Great Lakes, so I wrote humour into it. They said it sounded pretty risky; do it both ways and if it works out, fine, but if it doesn’t we still have a film. So, I said, “O.K.” and as we shot the film they saw that it was working and we were home free.”
In 1968, he began working on Blake, which is a documentary on Blake James, shot entirely in the Gatineau Hills. Many critics thought that the film was fictional, but Mason insists that it was really a documentary. To illustrate this, he relates the story of a crash which took place during the filming in which James was not seriously hurt. In the film, he appears as a romantic weekend flier, who enjoys skimming the tree tops in his bi-plane. The photography, as in Mason’s other films is superb, with reflections of the passing plane in pools of water, deep in the forest. Blake went on to be nominated for an Academy Award in 1969.
The next project began when the Wildlife Service approached the National Film Board to do a film on wolves. The Board offered the job to Mason, who would eventually produce not one, but three films:
“I literally burned out a camera. I mean I wore out a Beaulieau (check Spelling) at 150,000 feet of film. This is why I was able to make so many films.”
In Death of a Legend, an hour long television special, he exploded the myths that have long existed about wolf savagery. The second film, Wolfpack, is a theatrical short which has not been released yet, but deals with the social structure of the wolf family. Finally, in Cry of the Wild, Mason takes the audience out to the wilderness for a glimpse of life in the open. Each film stands entirely on its own and there is only one duplicate shot in any of the three films.
Cry of the Wild has been seen by audiences throughout Canada and the U.S.A., grossing something between five and eight million dollars along the way. It is the most financially successful Canadian feature films to date.
I asked Mason what he thought of his film being sold to an American company, by the distributor and the N.F.B.:
“From my point of view, as a filmmaker, I’m ecstatic that the film is getting seen by people. I don’t care if they’re Americans or Canadians. The Americans have more problems with their diminishing wildlife than we have and a wolf is a wolf. I don’t care if he’s an American wolf or a Canadian wolf.”
His latest film, In Search of the Bowhead Whale, is also concerned with ecology and the extinction of the whale. Unlike his other films, which had storyboards laid out, as if he were making an animated film, this film was shot as an expedition. After its presentation on television, it was shown recently to raise funds for the Greenpeace Foundation.
At present, he is working on a series of four 30 minute films on canoeing, as well as completing an older project entitled Planet Earth, dealing with the creation of mountains.
As the interview drew to a close, I realized that our conversation had shifted from film to art and painting specifically. I noticed a familiar print on the wall and he indicated that the 19th century English painter J.M.W. Turner was his favourite artist:
“Not the Turner who painted sunsets, but the Turner who did these wild violent storms and man as a small part of the scene. I like that. I find that people give dimension to the land.”
Mason had decided to take a leave of absence for the N.F.B. and devote his talent solely to painting for a couple of years. Recently, his painting Freeze-Up was included in Visual Arts Ottawa, Survey Exhibition #1, a display of the best work by artists in the Ottawa area:
“I want to say through painting, the same things I’ve been saying through film. Now I have this incredible compulsion to draw, again. Maybe that’s why I put more work into these storyboards than is needed. I say that I’m an artist, I want to stay an artist. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life making films, as much as I enjoy it.”
Finally, he sums up his feeling toward film:
“I see myself as an artist who somehow got sidetracked into making films and having never regretted it. But there again, maybe it’s part of my nature, in that I always want to be doing something other than what I’m doing. I can’t help it. Maybe after a year or two of painting, I’ll want to get back to filmmaking. The dilemma was, I kept getting offered films. Finally, for the first time I’ve had the will power to say ‘No’”.
This I would say, is a unique situation in Canada. Most filmmakers are either unemployed or they are too busy lobbying the government to make films. Bill Mason is neither. He is an extremely creative individual, who has become frustrated with the medium of film. Unlike film, if you write a book - it’s your book. If you do a painting - it’s your painting. However, despite this, he has persevered and created some of the best films produced in Canada. Ultimately, he seems to be a unique combination of artist and idealist, which is rare anywhere, but especially in the Canadian film industry.
The red canoe has become synonymous with the Mason family. It started with Bill Mason, the author, artist, Academy Award nominated film maker and canoeing fanatic. Bill loved his red canoes and was rarely seen in anything else. His children share this love, so when it came time to create a family website it seemed natural to name it redcanoes. We hope that you enjoy the visual art, videos, canoeing lessons and all the related information here.