An AWN tribute celebrating retired NFB producer Marcy Page’s lasting impact on a generation of artists, family and friends.
As a final tribute celebrating the career of NFB producer Marcy Page, who retired March 31, 2014, AWN has put together a compendium of recollections, pictures and videos from friends and colleagues, each a bit happier and wiser having had the chance to work with her at various points in their careers.
On a personal note, I’ve known Marcy since the earliest days of AWN, back in the mid-1990s. Like many, I’ve always been impressed by her easy going, confident yet subtle manner and the way she made the production of animation seem so civilized. For too many producers I know, producing is a contact sport. But not for Marcy.
But in looking back at my own recollections, what has impressed me the most is something she referred to in our last interview. Her role, her focus as a producer, was not to lead or wrangle directors as they struggled down the path of their short film’s production, but rather to support directors as they wandered around and eventually found their own creative path within their short film production. Her success, she felt, was judged not by the list of personal accolades or some professional score card, but by the success enjoyed by the directors, producers and creative artists she supported in their own efforts to realize their creative filmmaking dreams.
In essence, if she did her job right, you’d barely know she was ever there.
But I’m sure you’ll agree, for the many people whose lives she touched, there was never a doubt that for them, she was always there.
The following video, produced by Wendy Tilby, Amanda Forbis, Judith Gruber-Stitzer and Janet Perlman, was presented to Marcy at her retirement party on March 28, 2014 and shared with us for this tribute.
We were in a meeting. The project had everything going against it. I knew Marcy knew this going in and the animators probably knew it too. We were shown an edit. It was tense. I wondered how on earth she would respond. Marcy immediately honed in on the one positive aspect: a short sequence that was beautifully animated and captured the story perfectly. She celebrated that moment. The tone changed immediately. The animators re-inflated. New ideas came up about how to improve the film. She shifted the focus back to where it mattered most and where it had to be invested in order to fix everything else, creative and otherwise.
I remember leaving the room thinking: that was a master ninja move.
- Maral Mohammadian, producer, NFB
I've worked alongside Marcy Page for seven years. I have always admired the complicity she has built with the filmmakers. Few producers have that sense of risk, this sensitivity, this instinct and knowledge of animation and its techniques. We must celebrate her dedication to produce the best possible films. Marcy Page is a model for all animation producers at the NFB. Thanks Marcy!
- Marcel Jean, artistic director, Annecy International Animated Film Festival
I met Marcy during my very first film gig: an animated film for IMAX called Cyberworld 3D. The NFB was involved with the animation technology we were using called SANDDE (Stereo ANimated Drawing Device). Marcy, along with the NFB, was involved in furthering the exploration of the SANDDE system and they would come to champion it for many years. I was just starting out my film career, working as a coordinator for producers Roman Kroitor and Steven Hoban, but was immediately drawn to her energy. She would participate in meetings and discussions in such a unique way that no matter who was in the room, if they had something to contribute, Marcy would make sure that this person’s voice was heard. As I was just starting out my career at the time, often that person was me.
Several years later as my time at SANDDE drew to a close, I started working for one of the SANDDE studio co-founders and producers, Steven Hoban, as he was producing a unique short film with filmmaker Chris Landreth. Steve and Chris first met during Cyberworld in that Chris’s film Bingo was being considered for inclusion. Steve had been a longtime fan of Chris’ work and had been trying to find a way to work together for years. Steve would eventually pitch the short to David Verrall and Marcy at the NFB. The NFB came on board as a partner and Marcy as a producer on what turned out to be one of my proudest achievements in film, the Oscar-winning short Ryan.
It was during the making of this film that I really got to know Marcy. I had the task of attending regular meetings with the film’s subject, Mr. Ryan Larkin, and would meet with him, buy him a meal, share stories, and basically hang out. I would then report back on how Ryan was doing etc… Steve Hoban and Marcy Page decided early on in the process that I should be an actual producer on Ryan and made it so. Marcy was very supportive of what Chris wanted to do. Even as a representative of the NFB, she never held him back in his exploration of Ryan’s somewhat broken past with the organization. Marcy would navigate these political waters of working for a Federal institution while at the same time empowering filmmakers to push their limits creatively. Once we completed the film, there was this world-wind of buzz surrounding the film and I was fortunate enough to join my fellow producers in Annecy and eventually the Academy Awards. As I recall, Marcy seemed somehow more excited for the annual Chocolate Fosca party and being with people from the animation community in LA. Don’t get me wrong, she was very excited to be at the Academy Awards. But as always, she championed the underdog.
Since then, I have had the pleasure of co-producing a few more shorts with Marcy (as has Steve): The Spine and then more recently Subconscious Password. I live in Toronto and Marcy in Montreal so most of my exchanges with her (which were very frequent during the making of those two films) were done over the phone. She would often come down to Toronto and participate in marathon production meetings with our crew. To think of Marcy no longer there at the NFB is sort of depressing for me as it will truly mark the end of an era. Whoever the NFB puts in place to carry on Marcy’s work, well, I feel very sorry for that person as it is an impossible task to fill those shoes. Marcy is a unique producer whose impact on the animation world is a gift that any young animation filmmaker should thank her for. I am very proud to call her my dear friend.
Now, she’s not dead, she is only retiring, and as such, I know that the animation world has not heard the last from her! I look forward to participating in her next big adventure even if it’s only as a passive viewer.
- Mark Smith, Producer, Copperheart Entertainment
Marcy's greatest lasting impression on me has always been her encouraging spirit and positivity. She seems to have an ability to simply laugh off any stress or adversity she faces, which begins to rub off on you. It was an honor to have been around at the NFB to witness her successes with The Danish Poet and Ryan. I turned to her for advice during the shortlist period for my film earlier this year and she gave me invaluable insight. Her legacy as one of the greatest NFB producers of all time will continue to provide inspiration to independent filmmakers in Canada and around the world for years to come.
- Jonathan Ng, filmmaker, Requiem for Romance
One lesser known fact about Marcy is that she sings like a bird! She was a key member of The Thumbs, a band of NFB animation studio types (and others in our orbit) who, back in the early 90's, would gather occasionally to jam or perform at the studio Christmas party. Fun times.
Thank you, Marcy - for your friendship and your infinite kindness, smarts and support.
- Wendy Tilby, filmmaker, Wild Life, When the Day Breaks and others.
What can I say about Marcy as an animation producer! The films, the fabulous animated shorts of every stripe and color, they come first to mind. But Marcy's smiling face quickly follows, because as important as the films are, it's her joyful approach to producing that sets her apart. She takes obvious delight in the art and folly that goes into producing short animation.
When I first approached her about co-producing my TV special, Penguins Behind Bars, her face lit up, she laughed and said, "Sure, let's go for it!" And this was despite the fact that the National Film Board of Canada had never before entered into a co-production agreement with Cartoon Network. She got right into the spirit of the film and joined our chain gang of tough penguins, singing our "Crack Them Rocks" song with great gusto! At our wrap party, she arrived with a huge cake that she'd made and decorated with an intricate icing rendition of her favorite character, Flotsam, holding her shrimp doll!
- Janet Perlman, filmmaker, Penguins Behind Bars, Dinner for Two, My Favorite Things That I Love and others.
I was Marcy's associate producer on this pilot project mixing dance, animation and stereoscopic 3D long before Pina or Ora. As with most of her productions, Marcy was eager to visit these yet unexplored animation territories with creators who had unlimited faith in her.
As I myself did.
For a full nine years - ending today, March 31, 2014, her official last day at the Animation Studio, I was like a thirsty sponge absorbing EVERYTHING this unique and extraordinary lady would say OR do.
But my most valuable memory from that day was not photographed. It was an image of Marcy the Great with a broom, sweeping the floor after the green screen tests were over.
Stunned, I looked away, thinking of Madame Tutli-Putli, a film produced by Marcy and nominated for the Academy Awards just a few days earlier.
Then I looked back at Marcy – she was still sweeping.
For a split second, I thought about our production budget – it was limited, I admit, but could I have hired a production assistant? Should I just grab the broom myself?
I finally decided to do nothing but secretly observe and learn. Only the greatest among the living give these simple lessons of modesty in life.
- Jelena Popović, producer, NFB
Lynn’s card to Marcy at her retirement party (the card collage shown above) included this note:
To a great producer and a very dear friend, I write this note with endless thanks.
When I see you finish an email and then send it off, you sometimes do a special seated dance.
I have observed this…you tap your toes and wiggle your fingers in celebration.
So tap you toes and wiggle your fingers, Animation Producer, for a job so incredibly well done:
done with Love, Intelligence and Honesty
and then, being the artist you are,
done with unique and guiding creativity.
I will miss working across the hall from your office, dear neighbor.
So many memories!!!
We all love you!!!
I second that emotion,
and so …
with love and deep respect,
I wish you glorious times ahead!!!
The toe tapping incident represents the joy with which Marcy accomplished difficult tasks daily.
And then the elements I listed are a clue as to what you call her “golden touch.” They are:
- Love: her priority is always her directors and the films they are working on.
- Intelligence: she knows what is working and what is not and she knows when to let the director find his or her own way.
- Honesty: this is just who she is, at her very core.
- Also at her very core: Marcy is an artist with a guiding creativity and spirit.
And now, as I review what I wrote, I think I left out one important quality in my card…
and that is Generosity.
Marcy is generous with her time and her opinions and her support.
She is just the best.
Some people, (though few), are really that good.
- Lynn Smith, filmmaker, Soup of the Day, Siena, The Sound Collector and others
Lynn also sent us a new short she animated for Marcy as a tribute to her retirement. It's called Six Characters Now in Search of a Producer.
I first met Marcy Page right after she came back from the Oscar win with Torill Kove's The Danish Poet. I was freelancing in the NFB's animation studio doing anything I could to stick around. There was a dynamic and contagiously creative energy that was awe inspiring. I was just starting out in the industry really fresh out of school but Marcy took the time to find out how I could help her on some of her projects - soon after I got involved with Madame Tutli-Putli doing the offline conform edit with Chris Lavis and Macziek Szczerbowski. Numerous other projects with Marcy followed in the editorial and camera depts. By working with Marcy and her talented cast of filmmakers, I understood the commitment and passion that it took to craft a film.
7 years later, I was in the final throes of editing my independently produced documentary short film Letters from Pyongyang. I was as indie as indie could get at that point mostly working alone in the editing suite. I was stressed out and rather unsure about the direction the film was heading and wished someone could just tell me what to do. I suspect Marcy has some kind of spidey sense when it comes to this kind of stuff since (despite being quite the busy super producer with a healthy slate of films) she suggested and helped organize a studio screening to offer some feedback - and boy did I ever need that! I'm not even going to go into the fact that animators and animation producers are quite talented storytellers by nature so the genre doesn't even matter. Marcy is the type of person that takes a personal interest in watching the people around her succeed; there are times when I think back that had Marcy (among other key mentor figures) not been there in some instances of my career, I might have made different choices and ended up in a different place.
The film went on to win three jury prizes from international film festivals and really gave me a boost in doing what I love doing: making films. Thank you for being present Marcy.
- Jason Lee, filmmaker, Letters from Pyongyang
Producers are not supposed to be nice and kind. Producers are there to coerce, cajole, to sell, to bully, to have their way. If you are a director working with this archetypal producer, you can only hope that his/her way coincides with your way as well. This archetype is not Marcy Page. Marcy is a nice producer. Nice is not supposed to be effective. Nice guys finish last. Guess again. Marcy's power in creating and championing independent films was astonishing, over and over again.
I never knew Marcy to hard sell anyone anything. Her manner was that of a stalk of grass - bending when the wind blew, but ultimately standing up tall. I saw how tall she stood when she defended to the skeptical leadership at the NFB in 2002 something as crazy as Ryan, when all indications were that I was off-base for thinking of this project (the prevailing feedback from people at the time was that if I was to do a film about anyone, it should be of one of the successful Canadian animators, not a seemingly fucked-up artist like Ryan Larkin). Marcy prevailed, again and again. Marcy showed me that the grass does stands tall in the end.
- Chris Landreth, filmmaker, Subconscious Password, Ryan, Bingo and others
That was the first of many such encounters at festivals, both in Canada and Europe, where I was fortunate enough to spend time hanging out, eating, laughing and watching films. I loved talking about films with Marcy because of her monumental knowledge of both the filmmakers and the films.
And I looked for NFB films Marcy was involved with, I knew that they would have a wonderful integrity, craftsmanship and be incredibly interesting to boot!
My favorite times with Marcy have been in the past few years when she and Normand (and often other wonderful filmmakers) would drive down to New York for the East Coast chapter of the Academy judging of the entries for Best Animated Short. It gave us a chance to hang out together without the crazy time limits of festivals. Here is a photo (originally taken by Helene Tanguay during this year’s judging) then drawn on by me to celebrate Marcy’s retirement. (L-R: Jacques Drouin, me, Marcy, Normand Roger).
I’m happy she’ll be able to pursue her other interests, but selfishly, I’ll miss her touch on the films she has been involved with!
Happy retirement, Marcy!
- Candy Kugel, filmmaker, The Last Time, It’s Still Me!, A Warm Reception in L.A. and others
Photo is me and Marcy at the NFB, upon hearing our two films (Dimanche/Sunday and Wild Life) were nominated for Oscars, January 2012. My first, her fifth. But we were both giddy that we’d finally get to share the Oscar experience together.
Marcy Page pre-dates me at the NFB by a couple of years, but we've been friends and colleagues for almost the entire twenty-four years I've been here. She became a producer shortly after I arrived, and I became a producer shortly after that. Both of us were hired, in fact, by David Verrall. We were a good fit, the three of us - an analytic, an expressive, and an amiable. And as animation filmmakers ourselves, Marcy and I shared many values and beliefs from the get-go. But we also had differences in approach and in temperament: quickly, consciously or not, we became yin and yang. We became two halves of a whole, guided and mentored by David. We’ve supported each other passionately. We’ve challenged each other respectfully. We’ve taught each other enormously. We’ve worked differently and we’ve championed from different parts of the production spectrum.
I guess these are the things Marcy showed me. That I hope we showed each other. How to make room for another. How to make a place secure, safe, and comfortable. When to rage with passion and when to reflect and calibrate. How to adjust one’s stride and pace to walk together. These aren’t lessons to be taught, but wisdom to be learned. This is what Marcy has always meant to me.
- Michael Fukushima, filmmaker and executive producer of the NFB’s English Program Animation Studio
Meeting Marcy for the first time during her San Francisco years, I saw her again at the 1990 Ottawa festival where she spontaneously invited me to come back to the NFB to propose a project at the English animation dept. I jumped on the occasion for I had been working in Holland for many years and was ready to move back to Montreal and have another go at making films at the NFB, this time working with her as a producer.
Animated shorts in general are produced by people who are not in it for the money but who care about the projects and their directors. Marcy was no exception but she was for me also the personification of what our much cherished Canadian Filmboard stood for and she allowed me all the freedom and support I needed to experiment with my ideas and expand my personal style. Of all the producers I worked with she was the most even tempered, always very reassuring and knowledgeable.
If I sometimes would push the envelope too much, be maybe somewhat tasteless in my storytelling (the Dutch are often less subtle than North Americans), Marcy would very tactfully make me understand that there might be other ways, that I could find different solutions. However, she would always respect my approach and help me to figure out how to make my often complex ideas accessible.
Besides, she was a good friend, sharing and appreciating the adventures of our trade, loving what I dedicated most of my life to, the animated short.
- Paul Driessen, filmmaker, Oedipus, The End of the World in Four Seasons, 3 Misses and others
The one called Saviour is based on the true fact that when I heard that Marcy MIGHT be considering the producers job, I got down on one knee, took her hand as if proposing marriage and said, “Please Marcy, will you be my Producer; soon we will have little films together…” I knew she’d be great.
This is a photo taken in Roz Schwartz’s back yard just after I retired. Marcy and me, just being friends.
…it’s a frame from a video of our musical group known as The Thumbs. We were rehearsing for an Xmas concert (1993) which we gave in the animation department. Other members included Wendy Tilby, Janet Perlman. Normand Roger and Chris Hinton…we jammed every Thursday evening at my house during the middle 90’s. The significance being that we did stuff other than films together…a bunch of friends who had fun and enjoyed each other’s company outside work.
- John F. Weldon, filmmaker, Noël Noël, Special Delivery and others
No one can dispute that Marcy Page is one of the most brilliant and successful producers the National Film Board of Canada has ever had. But I think of her first and foremost as a good and trusted friend. I have lovely memories of meals in Northern California, France, Portugal, on the KROK boat sailing up the Dnieper River in the Ukraine, all places where we have turned into two giggly girls talking away as our husbands (composers Normand Roger and Nik Phelps) chatted quietly about music.
Enjoy Portugal but don't forget that you will be greatly missed at the NFB and in the festival world. Hopefully you will pop up at a festival from time to time if for no other reason than to make us envious of how tanned and relaxed you look.
- Nancy Phelps, animation historian and writer
Marcy - You might not know this but you taught me so much about animation, producing and especially you showed me how to work with animators. Marcy, thank you for teaching me the ethics of producing, thank you for showing me that it is never over till it is over and thank you for your demonstration that this job can only be done with passion. I am a big fan… and I will always be. See you at the Oscars.
Marcy loved animators. She would always take the side of creation rather that budgets, time or deadlines. The film always came first… and with that the animators, creators, writers and directors. Usually those functions are only one person. Marcy was the mother, the guardian, the inspiration, the coach, the producer and most of all a friend. Marcy only has friends…
Marcy and I flew to Phoenix to record Leslie Nielsen for the film Noël Noël. After the first take of 23 minutes, Mr. Nielsen wanted to leave. He was sure it was a good take and that he had fulfilled his contract. The take was good, but not perfect. The charming Marcy convinced Mr. Nielsen that there was still some work to do… reluctantly he recorded at least 5-6 more takes. Who can resist Marcy?
- Marc Bertrand, NFB producer
It is a generalization that there are two types of producers, the creative and the administrative or managerial. It is probably correct to say that film directors, if pushed, prefer the first, or more ideally, an amalgam of the two with the emphasis on the creative.
At the National Film Board of Canada, the emphasis has definitely been on the creative producer. It is a system that has worked well. The studios at the NFB have always been fortunate to have a very high caliber of studio administrators or budget officers, and support staff. The existence of this infrastructure has played no small part in the NFB’s success. It has permitted producers to develop a close and creative relationship with the directors they are producing. I have worked with Marcy Page on several occasions, most notably on two feature-length documentaries and two current McLaren Centenary projects.
I am not an easy person with whom to work. Marcy has displayed extraordinary patience. That patience does not just lower temperatures but is also creative. It leads one to go away and think about the matter in hand. “If Marcy is calm and thoughtful, why can’t I be the same?” And it paid off. Through a process of osmosis, I find myself making changes along lines being suggested by Marcy. Film directors frequently look on producers as an encumbrance. But after only a moment’s reflection I grasped that Marcy was as smart as I was, if not more so.
Marcy always seemed to have time for me – it made me feel that I was her only production. Which, of course, I wasn’t. And I know all her other directors felt the same way. Where Marcy found the time is beyond me. Not only did she produce for me, but also found time to create some animated sequences for my documentaries.
Yes, Marcy is a producer, but is also an animator. I regret that this side of her got pushed to one side by the demands of the job. Yet, paradoxically, it was also a choice. She made a decision that her function at the NFB was that of producer and that she would do the very best that she could – even if it meant sacrificing some of her dreams.
I am not putting down her successors if I write that Marcy will be sorely missed. Each person has his or her own qualities, and Marcy had her own distinct mix of intelligence, insight, patience, kindness, humor and creativity. And I was one of those lucky enough to experience that mix.
As for comparisons with other producers, well, my experience at the NFB has been a good one. My producers have all been admirable, each with their own strengths. It all balances out - one may be stronger in the cutting room, but the other will have a better ear at the mix. And so it goes. But all are imbued with love of the NFB.
- Don McWilliams, filmmaker, Creative Process: Norman McLaren, Crazy, Quilt and others
Marcy is truly a special person. Her humor, her wisdom, her integrity and her caring (I've never once walked into Marcy's office without receiving a welcoming smile and her full attention).
But what sets her apart as a producer is what I call a certain creative 'radar' when it comes to film projects. She calmly and confidently senses what's right and good in the half-baked ideas or jumbled material you present to her and she effortlessly filters out all the rest. It's a skill that can't be learnt. It's something in the gut. She just knows and she's always right-on. That's why so many of her productions rise to the top.
- Sheldon Cohen, filmmaker, The Sweater, Snow Cat, Poets on Film No. 2 and others