CBC Digital Archives

Close-up on filmmaker Allan King

No one escapes death, but few confront it by making a film. For aging director Allan King, it was the natural way to come to terms with his own mortality. The result was Dying at Grace, an intimate portrait of five people at the end of their lives in palliative care. King came to wide attention as a filmmaker with 1967's Warrendale, a searing glimpse into a home for emotionally disturbed kids. In this 2005 conversation on CBC Radio's The Arts Tonight, King describes what he learned about death, how he got his start in film and how he turns multiple hours of footage into an "actuality drama." 
• Allan King got his start at CBC Vancouver, where he produced his first documentary, Skid Row. In the 1960s he worked on the CBC current-affairs programs Close-Up, This Hour Has Seven Days and Telescope.

• When making a documentary, King's method is to stay away from the action during filming; he is most hands-on in advance, when discussing the project with his subjects, and in the editing afterwards. There are no interviews and no narration in his films, and his crew consists of a camera operator and sound technician.

• In 2007 King was the subject of a 22-film retrospective of his films at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Included among the screenings was EMPz 4 Life, King's 2006 documentary following the paths of four young black men living amidst a culture of gangs and guns. 

• See a CBC Digital Archives clip in which film patrons react to King's film Warrendale and its strong language.

• "If I had been smart, or wise, or prudent, I wouldn't have made [Warrendale] after the first week," King said in 1997. "I would have realized there was no way to shut these kids up - no way this was going to go on television. But I have great fantasies of omnipotence, so I was sure I could find a way around it. Eventually I did, but it took a long time. It took longer to launch the film than to make it."
 

Medium: Radio
Program: The Arts Tonight
Broadcast Date: July 18, 2005
Guest(s): Allan King
Host: Eleanor Wachtel
Duration: 32:18
Photo: CP PHOTO/Adrian Wyld

Last updated: June 19, 2013

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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