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Canadian Cameron Tremblay followed his dream of making movies to film school and the sets of several television series. Writer Dave Gerow takes us on the journey, which had an unlikely beginning.
Text by: Dave Gerow
Country: Canada

n 2009, Cameron Tremblay was selling refrigerators in a small city in Ontario, Canada, but he wanted something more fulfilling: He wanted to make films. He had a massive DVD collection, and had grown up with parents who owned a photography equipment shop – movies had always been his passion. Today, at the age of 27, he’s in the early stages of a new career in the industry he’s always dreamt of. He’s worked on Fringe, a popular American TV series, and is about to begin shooting an independent film on which he’s both producer and director of photography. Not a bad improvement from just four years ago.

Tremblay had been working for a refrigerator and freezer manufacturer for two years by 2009. “I started as a temp,” he says, “and was quickly hired on full-time in the customer service department. The sales department got word of my work ethic, and I was offered a position with preferable work and better pay. I had essentially started a career there without noticing.”

What might have become a permanent situation was cut short quite suddenly; the company declared bankruptcy and the plant was shut down. “Not only was I out of a job,” Tremblay recalls, “but so were all the people who had committed their life to that company. Pensions, owed vacation pay – all was lost in the bankruptcy.” Tremblay, however, was young and ambitious enough to roll with the punches. He saw the company’s closure as a sign to take the next step in his life. He counted up his savings, took out a fortune in student loans and began researching quality film schools in North America.

“I narrowed it down to two schools: Vancouver Film School and the New York Film Academy. Both had very good reputations and success stories, so I left it up to the cities. Which felt like a place I could live?” Tremblay took a trip to New York first. His first experience of the Big Apple wowed him. He spent five days as a tourist, visiting all the sites he had grown up seeing in a thousand of his favorite movies. But despite the atmosphere and mystique of New York, Tremblay was destined to make his home elsewhere.

“My fiancé and I went to Vancouver next, and I fell in love all over again,” says Tremblay. “The city was so beautiful in a very different way from New York. New York has so much history and architectural beauty, whereas Vancouver has natural beauty.” He was also extremely impressed with the facilities at Vancouver Film School. After much discussion with his fiancé, the decision was made: “We decided to fly west to find gold, so to speak.”

Vancouver Film School’s program lasts one year, during which work never ceases. Everybody graduates having worked on several short films. The students do everything from location scouting to shooting, from editing to hauling equipment. Local actors are recruited to play roles, or the film students do the acting themselves.

Tremblay remembers his time there fondly. “I learned a lot about the art and the craft of filmmaking, and I met a lot of people who I can collaborate with.” What’s more, it gave him the credentials he needed to get a job in the industry. Within weeks of finishing film school, Tremblay already had his first job. He was called in at the last minute to work on a new TV series, The Secret Circle.

Needless to say, I was very excited. This was a real film set!” But much to Tremblay’s disappointment, he spent the first four hours on set just standing by the catering truck, watching. There seemed to be no work for him at all. Then, suddenly, he was frantically called to set.

“I thought, ‘This is it! I’m going to see some action!’ I jumped into a cast shuttle – normally reserved for the cast, but I didn’t know the difference – and was speedily taken to a light down the street, which they told me to guard. Essentially my job was to make sure no crack addicts tried to mess with our lights. Very glamorous.”

Tremblay’s next steady job was as a production assistant on Fringe, another American TV show filmed in Vancouver. Sometimes his job requires him to watch over gear, and other times he does something enigmatically referred to as “lock ups”. “A lock up,” he explains, “is when you ask people on locations to stop so they don’t appear on camera. Usually people in the background of films and TV wear only grey and brown. In real life, people wear all sorts of colors, so we try to keep normal people out of the frame.”

Of course, the name of the game in the film industry is perseverance, and Tremblay doesn’t lack work ethic and ambition. By the time Fringe shot its final episode, he had become a prep production assistant, which meant communicating with the owner of whatever property the crew might be shooting on. It was another step up the extremely long ladder of show business.

The next step for Tremblay is to work as the director of photography on an independent film written and directed by Nick Szostakiwskyj, one of his classmates from Vancouver Film School. “Nick and I have been working on Black Mountain Side for over a year now and we are gearing up for production next month. We’re both very excited – look for Black Mountain Side to be released in early 2014.”

It takes time to make it to the top of the movie industry, but Tremblay can certainly be satisfied with the progress he’s made so far. He’s not quite being nominated for Oscars yet, but he’s certainly come a long way from his accidental career as a refrigerator salesman.

Vancouver and the film industry

Films shot in Vancouver: 2012; Liar, Liar; Hot Tub Time Machine; Rise of the Planet of the Apes; Rocky IV; Watchmen; Scary Movie.

TV shows shot in Vancouver: The X-Files; Smallville; The L Word; Stargate SG-1; Fringe.

Show business stars from Vancouver: Pamela Anderson (Baywatch); Raymond Burr (Rear Window); Tommy Chong (Cheech & Chong); Michael J. Fox (Back to the Future); Sandra Oh (Grey’s Anatomy); Evangeline Lilly (Lost).

Notable films and TV shows which Vancouver Film School graduates worked on: Lord of the Rings; District 9; Battlestar Galactica; Stargate; The Vampire Diaries; SpongeBob SquarePants


Behind the Scenes .

Cameron Tremblay at the age of 27 decided to start again and follow his passion, filmmaking. When the company where he was a customer service employee went bankrupt he decided to count up his savings, ask for a student loan and start a career in the filmmaking industry.

He moved to Vancouver, to study at the Vancouver Film School and soon he was working at some sets, such as the Secret Circle and The Fringe. Nowadays he is shooting his own film with a friend and he is positive that even the way is long he is on the right path.



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