Robin Spry

Director and producer

Canadian director and producer Robin Spry died March 28 in a car accident in Montreal. He was 65.

The Toronto-born, England-educated Spry, who moved to Montreal to join the National Film Board of Canada in 1964, directed a number of groundbreaking films in the 1970s, including the controversial NFB documentary feature “Action: The October Crisis of 1970.” He then moved into directing dramatic feature films, notably the suspense film “One Man,” which played the Cannes film festival in 1977, and “Suzanne” (1980).

Over the past decade, he made a major mark on the Canuck production business with Telescene Film Group, a film and TV production company he ran and co-owned. At its height, in the late 1990s, it was churning out around $80 million worth of production annually.

Spry also produced the Japanese-Canadian co-production “Hiroshima”, which won three Gemini Awards, the Canadian TV Awards, in 1998, including one for best mini-series of the year in Canada. It was a look at the development of the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima at the end of World War II.

“He was one of the seminal figures of that generation, the generation that included Claude Jutra, Denys Arcand and Allan King,” said Peter Pearson, a Montreal film and TV producer and former head of Telefilm Canada. “He could go to Los Angeles and command the respect of those people (in the Hollywood film and TV biz).”

From his October Crisis documentary “Action” to “One Man”, which was about deadly industrial polution, to “Hiroshima”, much of Spry’s work was pre-occupied with social issues.

Spry studied at both Oxford and the London School of Economics, and he moved back to Canada in 1964 to work at the NFB headquarters in Montreal. He first made a mark with “Flowers on a One Way Street,” a documentary about the hippie community in Toronto, and followed that in 1969 with “Prologue,” a look at the riots at the 1968 Democratic Party convention in Chicago.

His first fiction feature, 1977’s “One Man,” the story of a journalist who discovers a serious case of industrial pollution, won seven Canadian Film Awards, the predecessor of the Genie Awards. “Keeping Track” (1986) is a spy pic starring Michael Sarrazin and Margot Kidder, and he then directed “Obsessed.”

By the beginning of the 1990s, Spry was focusing all of his energies on production with Telescene and its series included the Fox series “Student Bodies,” teen werewolf spoof “Big Wolf on Campus” and the erotic horror series “The Hunger,” co-produced with Tony and Ridley Scott.

But Telescene over-extended itself in the late-1990s and, in December, 2000, filed for bankruptcy protection. Spry went on to produce projects for CineGroupe and, more recently, was at work on productions for Galafilm and Cineflix.

Spry is survived by a son, a daughter and a granddaughter.

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