November 29, 2005
Source: Concordia University:
Fall Convocation - Biography - Michael Desbois Spencer, BA, CM
MONTREAL/November 29, 2005 —
Michael Spencer was born in England and educated at Rugby School and Oxford University. His education was cut short by the war, which broke out when he was on holiday in Canada.
He joined Crawley Films in Ottawa as a cameraman and was involved in the production of several documentary films before joining the Army and becoming a member of the Canadian Army Film and Photo Unit, from which he was discharged with the rank of Captain in 1945.
He later joined the staff of the National Film Board of Canada as a producer and eventually became Director of Planning. In this position, he worked with the then Government Film Commissioner Guy Roberge on the establishment of an aid scheme for the production of feature films in Canada.
By 1966, Secretary of State Judy Lamarsh convinced her cabinet colleagues of the validity of the proposal to set up the Canadian Film Development Corporation.
In 1963, the Corporation began to provide funds to producers in the private sector to make feature films. Michael Spencer was named first Executive Director. Under his guidance, the Corporation took an early financial support position on such well-known Canadian films as Goin’ Down the Road, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, Lies My Father Told Me, Second Wind, Black Christmas, Outrageous, Who Has Seen the Wind and Why Shoot the Teacher. On the French side, there were such titles as Deux femmes en or, Kamouraska, J’ai mon voyage, Les ordres, Les males and La vraie nature de Bernadette.
Under Michael Spencer’s leadership, the CFDC invested in more than 200 features, and performed the essential task of getting the industry off the ground. There were—surprisingly, considering the pioneer nature of the project—quite a few artistic and commercial successes along the way. Some of the films were accepted at Cannes, Berlin and other international festivals. Many of them did well at the box office.
Retiring from the CFDC in 1978, Michael Spencer remained involved in the production industry. He was also a consultant to the Department of the Secretary of State as well as to the Department of Communications, Telefilm Canada and the Federal Cultural Policy Review Committee (Applebaum-Hébert). He was a member of the jury of the 33rd Cannes International Film Festival in 1980, and in 1984 he established Film Finances Canada (1984) Ltd., a completion bonding company, which has been taking up most of his energies ever since.
Michael Desbois Spencer is an honorary member of the Canadian Film and Television Production Association (CFTPA), the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) and the Association des producteurs de films et de television du Québec (APFTQ).
He is a member of the Academy of Canadian Cinema’s Rules and Regulations Committee on Film and the treasurer of its Quebec division.
He was appointed Member of the Order of Canada in 1989 for his part in the creation of the Canadian film industry and in 1990 he received an award for his life-time contribution to Canadian film from the Canadian Film and Television Production Association. In 1993, he received the Air Canada Award for his outstanding contribution to the business of filmmaking in Canada. In 2000, he became the Chairman Emeritus of Film Finances Canada (1998) Ltd.
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