Paul Pope remembered as founder of N.L.'s blossoming film and TV industry

·4 min read
Paul Pope, who died suddenly on Thursday at the age of 63, is being remembered as a giant of the film and television industry who strived to see the province's stories told on the biggest stages. (CBC - image credit)
Paul Pope, who died suddenly on Thursday at the age of 63, is being remembered as a giant of the film and television industry who strived to see the province's stories told on the biggest stages. (CBC - image credit)
CBC
CBC

Members of Newfoundland and Labrador's film and television sector are remembering Paul Pope as a giant of the province's industry, saying that without his contributions, there probably wouldn't be a local scene at all.

Pope spent more than 40 years working on hundreds of film and television projects in the province through his company, Pope Productions. He died Thursday at the age of 63.

But Pope did more than just produce, said St. John's actor Allan Hawco. He credits Pope as founding the $100-million industry now established in Newfoundland and Labrador, that has in recent years seen shoots for TV series like Hudson & Rex and the Disney movie Peter Pan & Wendy.

"Paul had a way of just looking at the world as a challenge that just needed to be sorted out. Nothing was impossible with him, and that kind of bled into his interactions with a young me," Hawco told CBC News on Monday.

"The industry has never been more robust and successful in terms of employment and numbers, and he was super-passionate about that."

Pope and Hawco worked together on numerous projects, from the 2006 TV mini-series Above and Beyond — the project Hawco says Pope gave him his first big break on — to other shows like Republic of Doyle, Little Dog and Frontier.

Hawco said he and Pope spoke just about every day.

CBC
CBC

Hawco will remember Pope's passion and his commitment to film and television in the province, he said, along with Pope's passion for helping young people in the industry.

Pope's work was recently recognized during the announcement of a new $10-million film and television production campus at the College of the North Atlantic in St. John's, something Hawco said Pope was pivotal in creating.

That announcement came one day before his death.

"I was texting with him that night about the success of the launch and how happy he was," Hawco said.

"I asked, 'Are you OK?' And he said, 'Yeah, we'll talk tomorrow.' Life is very short, and we have to love the ones we love. He's a giant who will be missed by so many."

I don't think there would be a Newfoundland and Labrador film industry without Paul. - Ed Riche

St. John's author and screenwriter Edward Riche worked with Pope on several projects, travelling the world with him as part of the Newfoundland Independent Filmmakers Cooperative, an organization that handles post-production services.

"Paul's contribution is central. It's pivotal. I don't think there would be a Newfoundland and Labrador film industry without Paul," Riche said Monday.

"He thrilled to build, and he took on the impossible task in a kind of patriotic way to make an industry here. The challenges were immense, [but] he had the nerve and the enterprise to do it."

Noreen Golfman, vice-chair of the Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corporation, a Crown corporation that works to boost the local sector, echoed those sentiments.

"He really saw the importance of building the foundation for the industry," she said.

"He was a driver in all of that, absolutely dedicated to making this place really boom."

CBC
CBC

Filmmaker Gerry Rogers was also part of NIFCO with Pope. He helped her create My Left Breast, an award-winning documentary that detailed her battle with breast cancer in 2000.

She remembered Pope as caring deeply about making sure stories from Newfoundland and Labrador that could be told on the biggest stages.

"Paul Pope really was the pope of our film industry here in Newfoundland and Labrador. He wasn't infallible, but he was pretty damn close to it," she said.

"Paul also very much was our bridge to Canada, to the big funders in Canada. He felt that we had a right not only to tell our own stories, but also to have a right to have access to the resources to do that."

Heavy lifting leaves a bright future

Rogers called Pope one of the best strategists she knew, who always had the confidence to know that things could be bigger and better in the province's film industry.

His shoes will be tough to fill, say people in the industry.

"It's a hole that's been created with his sudden death. So many people are going to be affected by it, and no one person will be able to fill it," Hawco said.

However, there is hope that Pope's foundational work will continue to grow in the years to come.

"I think the future is very bright, because of Paul Pope. He was instrumental in getting this new educational facility. The productions that he spawned have created trained crews, he's advanced the professionalism of the activity here," Riche said.

"He's gone too soon."

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