Actor/Writer/Director/Painter/Poet GORDON PINSENT

“Actor/Writer/Director/Painter/Poet Gordon Pinsent, one of Canada’s great artists, epitomizes the Canadian identity. When I came to Canada as a young girl, I would see him on TV and later in feature films and always, his stories and his acting would speak to me about Canada. When I first met him, I was struck by his outgoing and generous spirit and his own special way of telling stories that held you rapt and had you laughing uproariously.”

Director/ Producer/Writer - Brigitte Berman

A Portrait of Gordon Pinsent


Multi-award-winning actor Gordon Pinsent is one of Canada’s most beloved performers, directors and writers, and after an illustrious six decade career, he shows no signs of slowing down. This feature documentary is one of the first of its kind implementing motion capture on film, portraying Gordon Pinsent’s unique storytelling gifts as he relives his stories at the major crossroads of his life. He entertains with his special humour and moves the audience with his unflinching directness and honesty.

Academy Award-winning filmmaker Brigitte Berman has been inspired to turn her lens to Pinsent’s in-depth story, a story filled with humour, passion and complexity. In the telling, she explores and probes the inner layers of Gordon Pinsent’s life and career. By utilizing state of the art motion capture technology, younger versions of Gordon ARE magically brought to life, as performed by Gordon himself. Family, friends, and international industry heavyweights, further illuminate the inner drama of this extraordinary artist. In this way, life, creativity and art ARE interwoven together to tell not only the story of Gordon Pinsent, but also a universal story about the human condition.

Director’s Statement


Actor Gordon Pinsent, one of Canada’s great artists, epitomizes the Canadian identity. When I came to Canada as a young girl, I would see him on TV and later in feature films and always, his stories and his acting would speak to me about Canada. When I first met him, I was struck by his outgoing and generous spirit and his own special way of telling stories that held you rapt and had you laughing uproariously.

The performer side of Gordon Pinsent and the inner person are vastly different and this difference results in a highly complex individual. This human complexity has always interested me as a filmmaker. After turning my lens in my feature documentaries on American icons like Bix Beiderbecke, Artie Shaw and Hugh Hefner, I was especially eager to make this documentary about a Canadian treasure in a unique and original style.

It quickly became obvious that this new film could not be yet another biopic in the usual documentary format that would portray the arc of Gordon Pinsent’s life. Having directed and produced well over one hundred documentaries, I see this now as my chance to make an innovative “new form” documentary, a uniquely personal film – fresh and original in form, style and content, while imaginatively integrating state of the art motion capture technology to achieve that purpose. Gordon Pinsent is enthusiastically participating in this documentary and he is particularly excited about our idea to feature him today – interacting with his former, younger selves through the magic of technology.

Kierkegaard’s quote “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards”, has always held a special meaning in my life and has influenced me to make important decisions by looking both backwards and projecting myself forwards as much as possible. In this documentary, I explore the personal human journey of an artist in both the early and the latter stages of his life and explore how closely creativity inspires both the life and the artistic journey.

I have created a vibrant and complex portrait of the artist and human being as a younger man and as an older man, in a film that not only tells the story of

Gordon Pinsent, but also a universal story about the human condition and the life journey, a humanizing journey filled with many crossroads and roadblocks, each involving challenges, difficult decisions and painful consequences that must be overcome. And it’s this difficult journey that makes us more human.

Curated archival clips from Gordon Pinsent’s films and TV shows emphasize his imagination, talent and stature as a world-class Canadian artist. I interweave many of his extraordinary paintings and sketches, which often depict people* and moments from his life. We re-visit some of the places that have played an important part in his life, particularly Newfoundland and Los Angeles, highlighted with meaningful motion capture moments infused with highly original visual effects and CGI, enhancing the stories Gordon is telling and that we are bringing to life for the audience.

I interviewed a selection of people from Gordon Pinsent’s life, people like his daughter Leah from his second marriage with the late Charmion King; Beverly Pinsent and Barry Kennedy, Gordon’s son and daughter from his first marriage, writer Richard Ouzounian who has known Gordon for over forty years, and actors Christopher Plummer, R.H. Thomson, Krystin Pellerin and friend and esteemed fellow Newfoundland – actress and comedian Mary Walsh. Their voices illuminate Gordon’s stories, casting insight into the complexity of Gordon Pinsent, the artist and the person.

The film begins with a young Gordon, portrayed in motion capture, as he invites his young friends to listen to the sound of a horse fly, captured inside a molasses puncheon. This depicts his early journey into the world of the imagination, as a nine-year old Gordon, already an entrepreneur, charges money to pursue his early passion to go to the movies, his favourite pastime.

A teenaged Gordon sits on his favourite rock by the river Exploits, dreaming about journeying down the river into a world of adventure. Wanting more out of life than Grand Falls could offer him, he plots a way to escape the typically suffocating future of industrial small town Grand Falls. Gordon worked in the local paper mill for a short while and told himself ‘no, thank you, won’t do this for a living.’ Just before Newfoundland officially became a part of Canada, a Young Gordon sits on that rock and dreams solely of his overwhelming ambition to become an actor, to go “to Canada” to pursue his dream.

Thus begins Gordon’s life journey in our film, a journey that follows the course of that river. Thus also begins Gordon’s creative journey, as expressed in his paintings, his writings, and the characters he has played throughout his life.

Both journeys will flow together – always moving forward with the storytelling.

Throughout the unfolding of these stories, we will also explore with Gordon the lure of fame, the mystique of acting, focusing on: Where does acting stop and reality begin? Where does an actor/writer/painter find his motivation? And how does an actor and artist sustain his motivation? Viewers get a special encore performance by watching Gordon re-enact some of his most memorable characters.

In the final scenes the older Gordon will meet with his younger self, and as the two connect with each other within a single glance, they both look out at the source of their inspiration – The River of Their Dreams. In this way, the present Gordon beckons to the younger Gordon to follow his OWN dream. I have chosen the best of Gordon’s stories to create a film that is filled with humour, drama, insight and deeply moving moments, but always filled with humanity, revealing once again that real life can indeed be “greater than fiction”.

Motion Capture and Animation Strategy

Through the imaginative use of state of the art motion capture technology, CGI and modern animation techniques, we will be exploring the key moments of Gordon Pinsent’s journey as an actor, writer and storyteller. The most revealing personal stories about his life will be brought to life in this innovative time travel cinematic tour de force.

Motion capture technology was developed and designed for capturing the nuances of the existing facial features, distinct body expressions and movements of designated actors (in this case Gordon) to then morphing them with any visual enhancement desired. Existing features of Gordon’s face and body will be morphed at key chosen moments to allow him to play his younger self. He will be re-living “key moments” as the highlights of his personal journey are brought to life.

In order to enhance the visual language of the scenes from the past, we apply current methods employed in special effects to re-create the worlds both real and imagined that his stories will conjure up for us from his vivid memories and imagination.

The visual FX artists and animation artists selected specifically to complement and further enhance the motion capture material with CGI (Computer Generated Images), along with other appropriate animation techniques bring these select stories and inner thoughts to life on the screen. This will allow us to time travel and explore the inner emotions and thoughts of this most accomplished Canadian actor on a very special cinematic journey from a most unique and gripping perspective