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Final farewell to prolific NFB filmmaker and producer Tom Daly

Final farewell to prolific NFB filmmaker and producer Tom Daly

Final farewell to prolific NFB filmmaker and producer Tom Daly

Distinguished Canadian film director and producer Tom Daly has died this past Sunday, September 18, 2011, after a long illness. He was 94.

Daly’s contribution to the NFB is rich and diverse. A filmmaker in his own right (he directed numerous wartimes films, 6 of which you may watch here), Daly is best know for his role as producer.

As the head of Studio B, in the 1950s and ’60s, he was involved in producing classics such as Corral, Varley, Universe, The Living Stone, My Financial Career and Circle of the Sun, among many more, including most of Arthur Lipsett‘s films.

Under his leadership, Studio B became the NFB’s most honoured creative arm and was home to some of Canada’s most brilliant filmmakers, notably Wolf Koenig, Colin Low, Roman Kroitor, Gerald Potterton and Norman McLaren. Daly was also the executive producer of Candid Eye, the celebrated 14-film cinema-vérité series made between 1958 and 1961.

Daly retired in 1984 with a legacy of more than 300 films, produced during 44 years of dedicated service. He will be missed.

I leave you with the legendary Daly-produced masterpiece In the Labyrinth, which became one of Expo 67’s most popular attractions and according to many, led to the development of IMAX.

In the Labyrinth, Roman Kroitor, Colin Low & Hugh O'Connor, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

Photos of Tom Daly by Lois Siegel

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  1. Gee, I didn’t know Tom was still alive.
    Just like him to live that long.
    I was one of the Canadian university students who attended a summer program at the NFB in 1967.
    Tom took us to Expo often.
    A fine man.

    — myna lee johnstone,
  2. I agree with Yves Dion. This is not a time for a tiresome self grandising rant. Daly was a master editor and should be remembered as such.

  3. Tom Daly was an inspiration and an enormous influence on documentary film makers and film students the world over. His intelligence and sensitivity permeated the work of Unit B, and the films had impeccable logic, coherence, depth, and sometimes even the unique Canadian style of understated wit.

    — Henry Breitrose,
  4. Tom Daly was fine and kind man. Generous. I know that because he helped some NFB colleagues and I spirit out from dreadfull China of the time, a film translator and her very sick daughter in order to get her needed medical treatment.

    But lets not forget some facts, at least as I recall them. The film board, at least in part because of Daly, immersed its filmmakers in a wet warm bath of uncritical embracing of Maoism, Castroism, pacificism, and exclusive embracing of “the poor” and denegration of “middle men” and “business”. Daly and his disciple Colin Low were adamant about that. It was self evident to them, that the NFBs job was social change, ie. “progressive” politics to the left. This tendency, and this stream of money, continued under the aegis of “Studio D” the women’s studio into the late ’80s.

    The NFB documentaries I am most proud of working on are the WAR series. Gwynn Dyer and I were the initiators of this project. The NFB funded it, bless its heart. But it did so not knowing that is was an incisive inquiry into a human activity, not as it expected a hymn for peace. One of the films got nominated for an academy award. The NFB is still embarassed by the success of a seven part film series that made TV and us and canada, but isn’t “if you love this planet” peace making.

    Tom Daly in his influential job and mentoring of all my contemporaries, has something to answer for. The NFB I inhabited and worked for was a totally ideological organization. In the films for which I was responsible, I worked against that political ideology, though I didn’t fully understand it at the time. I understand more now.

    — Michael Bryans,
    1. I am sorry to write this in french but it’s the language that I master best and it would be regrettable to be misunderstood.
      Michael Bryans a choisi ce forum pour déverser son fiel et ses frustrations et je le déplore.
      J’ai été l’assistant de Tom Daly sur le projet «Labyrinth». J’ai passé plus d’un an avec lui dans une salle de montage dans un hangar d’avion à Canadair. J’ai appris.
      Comme tant d’autres, j’ai appris, de Tom, l’art et la responsabilité du montage. J’ai vu son intolérance du travail mal fait, son intolérance de la malhonnêteté intellectuelle mais j’ai aussi vu sa grande tolérance des êtres humains et sa générosité.
      Des années plus tard, ayant des problèmes avec un producteur j’avais été lui demander conseil et il m’avait répondu, typiquement: «Help HIM!».
      Oui c’était un peu un rêveur et un utopiste et à travers les longues discussions que nous avons eu j’ai pu comprendre que son ambition, ce qui motivait ses actions, était surtout la communication et la compréhension entre les êtres. Si le rôle de l’ONF était «de faire connaître et comprendre le Canada aux canadiens», Tom, selon moi, interprétait ce rôle comme étant de faire connaître les êtres humains aux êtres humains.
      Mais ce que Tom avait surtout était de la «classe» et une élégance de l’âme. En ce sens, M. Bryans aurait gagné à le fréquenter un peu plus.

      — Yves Dion,
    2. sigh…. if you are looking for mindless ideology maybe you should look in the mirror.

      — Lee Boyko,
  5. As someone who is proud to have had Tom as one of my mentors, all I can say is that he taught me many things, most of which I have probably forgotten. I will never forget him.
    I vividly remember the time Tom was watching a cut of a film that I was involved in and when the screening came to an end, he stirred and immediately began to talk in great detail about what was working and what the problems were. Not surprising at all for he had a wondrous grasp of the structure of storytelling. However, what was surprising was that all of us in that room were convinced that Tom had been dozing during the last 10 minutes of the screening.
    Even so he was able to give us detailed ideas to how the ending could be fixed!!!

  6. Dad worked with Tom on many films over the years. Like so many of their generation, they were proud of Canada and proud of the role of the NFB in the countries culture.

    Wish the best for the future of the NFB.

    — Lee Boyko,
  7. Ah, this is very sad news indeed. A fine talent. Glad to have come to know him a little from his work.

    — M.E. Luka,
  8. Tom Daly about editing: Editing is about the little things… they add up. If you have little glitches, little mistakes, even though they are small, they will accumulate and give a bad impression. The audience won’t always know what is wrong, but they will know something is not working.

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