Vanessa Gould brings the work of obit writers to life in her new documentary

Filmmaker Vanessa Gould discusses her latest project, Obit, which takes a look at the hard work of obituary writers.
Vanessa Gould and Laurie Brown in the q studios in Toronto, Ont. (Melody Lau/CBC)

Newsrooms deal with famous deaths differently from most people. They're scrambling to pull together a memorial that will honour the person's legacy. The responsibility of an obit writer, to get their tribute right, is huge. 

Filmmaker Vanessa Gould knows first hand how hard it is to put together an obituary. Through writing one for an old documentary subject of hers, she became fascinated with the process of putting together obits and the people behind it. This is the focus of her latest documentary, Obit.

"It does require a real constellation of qualities, from both utter professionalism and a certain sort of steeliness, to a real devotion to the truth and to finding those salient details of someone and figuring out how to put them into words," Gould says, of what makes an obit writer so special.

Gould also wanted to make sure her film focused on the nuts and bolts behind these things, as opposed to the morose nature of the topic. "It's not about tragedy, it's about the way the desk reports on the every man or the person below the radar, and the lives that were lived to the fullest." 

Obit is screening now at Toronto's TIFF Bell Lightbox.

— Produced by Sarah Grant


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