Teaching gig just another way to be creative, Egoyan says

Canadian film director Atom Egoyan sees his three-year teaching stint at the University of Toronto as a way of extending his creativity into a new form.

Canadian film director Atom Egoyan sees his three-year teaching stint at the University of Toronto as a way of extending his creativity into a new form.

"I'm looking forward to exploring my own ideas with students who are creative and open," he said in an interview with CBC Radio.

Egoyan said his course, which begins in Septemberat U of T's faculty of arts and sciences, won't be "Atom Egoyan 101."

But his own films and a reading list will form part of the course material and he plans a series of artistic labs, where he and his students will work through the process of artistic creation.

"It's not a traditional course," he said. "We will look at how works translate from one medium to another, which is my area of interest."

Egoyan began his career in theatre and continues to take on theatre and opera projects, including a recent production of a Beckett play in London, as well as making films such as Where The Truth Lies and Ararat.

Egoyan hopes students will learn in a lab setting the dynamic potential of having an actor on stage while a camera follows his face, a technique he used in Eh Joe, the Beckett film he recreated on stage in Dublin and London.

Observers oftenquestion his practice of moving from successful moviemaking into other mediums, he said.

"I think for me the peak of it came around 1998 when I was nominated for the Academy Award for The Sweet Hereafter, but I was doing a premiere of a new opera in London, and at the same time I was doing this experimental chamber piece and there was this surprise that someone who's riding the crest of the commercial film world would be interested in these other mediums," he said.

"I just find that baffling because it's what nourishes what I do."

Egoyan's post at U of T is being called the dean's distinguished visitor in theatre, film, music and visual studies.

It is a flexible position that allows him to teach in a concentrated period of a few months or teach over a full academic year, depending on his other projects.

Eager to work with students

He has other work on the go. This November, he's agreed to participate in an anthology film project out of Germany that will see him do a 20-minute short inspired by a photo by Canadian photographer Jeff Wall, Morning Cleaning.

But he said he's excited at the prospect of working with students who grew up in the digital age.

The growth of the internet and low cost of digital filmmaking make moviemaking and the distribution of work more accessible than it was 20 years ago, when Egoyan himself was at U of T.

"There's immediacy and I think that that's a key issue that a young artist is dealing with now, is that there's nothing to restrict the transmission of an idea from the source of where the idea is coming from," he said.

"That creates an entirely different type of language and I think that profoundly changes the way we create drama and the way in which we create the filters through which we watch drama."

He said he's looking forward to hearing ideasof 20-year-olds, who are at a critical age when they are free to be creative without being overly concerned with commercial success.

"The discussions of how images affect our lives are as acute as ever," he said.