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"PBS" 2005 Obituary


PBS o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2005-08-13 published
I Remember -- Peter JENNINGS
By Peter DESBARATS, Saturday, August 13, 2005, Page S11
Most of the public recollections of Peter JENNINGS have cited his generosity, particularly when it came to other journalists. I experienced an outstanding example of this.
It was near the end of the 1980s. I had been the journalism dean at the University of Western Ontario since 1981. A large part of this job, and similar positions in academia, was raising money. Someone came up with a brilliant idea -- we would gather together a dozen of the top Canadian journalists from home and abroad for a public celebration of their talent. It would be truly a "Gathering of the Giants."
From the outset it was evident that we would need the support of the "giant of giants," Peter JENNINGS. Clearly, he had achieved that status among Canadian journalists working in Canada, in the United States and elsewhere. He was in a class by himself.
So I flew to New York to have lunch with him. This had been surprisingly easy to arrange, despite the fact that our paths had not previously crossed. There is a camaraderie among journalists that I had experienced on assignment in many countries and Peter was a prime example of this.
We enjoyed an unpretentious lunch in the ABC network's cafeteria and chatted about mutual Friends before I made my pitch. After a minimum of discussion he agreed to be one of our giants. The rest soon followed: the two other Peters, MANSBRIDGE and GZOWSKI the two Barbaras, FRUM and AMIEL; Morley Safer from 60 Minutes, Lloyd ROBERSTON of CTV, Allan FOTHERINGHAM, Sydney Gruson of The New York Times, Jeffrey SIMPSON of The Globe and Mail, Henry CHAMP of CTV, Robert McNeil of PBS and Richard GWYN of the Toronto Star, for a total of 13.
Months later, after a tremendous amount of work by my committee in Toronto, we were approaching the big night at Toronto's Metro Convention Centre. There had been a few minor bumps along the way, but Peter JENNINGS was still on board. By this time I had learned to appreciate how unusual this was.
Peter gave me to understand that ABC wasn't particularly keen on anything that highlighted his Canadian background and citizenship. I also got the impression that his prominent role in this fundraiser was unusual and probably would not have been undertaken for a journalism school in the United States.
In the final weeks I began to worry about some major news event conflicting with our gathering and taking Peter to some far-flung but newsworthy corner of the world. He couldn't guarantee that this wouldn't happen but simply repeated that he would make every effort to attend.
My nightmare came true when the destruction of the Berlin Wall in November, 1989, unleashed a whole series of European events. I can't remember exactly which one conflicted with our gathering, only that it was significant enough to make me almost abandon hope. But Peter arrived on schedule in a private plane from New York, stopping for our event in Toronto before flying immediately that night to some European capital or other.
I watched him on the screen the following night in amazement, not so much for his profound professionalism but for his amazing Friendship and generosity.
But there's more. After our Oscar-type celebration of the 13 giants on the convention centre's main stage -- complete with video highlights of their careers and mini-interviews by 13 awestruck journalism students -- and after a lavish buffet supper ("food from the news capitals of the world"), the entertainment consisted of a mock newscast anchored by Peter JENNINGS, Lloyd ROBERTSON and Peter MANSBRIDGE. The rest of the 13 were in a nearby studio supposedly reporting from Washington, London, Moscow and other impressive datelines.
Peter gave my script for this tomfoolery his full attention, reading it carefully beforehand, underlining certain parts and rehearsing under his breath. The other two anchors quickly rose to the challenge, providing our audience with a hilarious display of competitive news delivery as they worked shamelessly to milk laughs from their appreciative audience.
The only restriction placed by Peter on this unique performance was that no one in the control room would make an unauthorized pirate tape of it. And as far as I know, no one did, because I'm sure it would have turned up by now.
We raised about $80,000 for the journalism school that night and I always felt that I had never thanked him properly. So thanks, Peter. You stood for everything that was thoughtful, professional and generous about journalism at its best.
Peter DESBARATS, a former Global television anchor, was dean of the graduate journalism program at the University of Western Ontario from 1981 to 1996.

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PBS o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2005-09-27 published
Richard LEITERMAN, Cinematographer: (1935-2005)
In 1969, the pioneer of cinéma vérité was among the first to use a technique that today's television viewers know as reality television
By Allison LAWLOR, Special to The Globe and Mail; Globe and Mail archives, Tuesday, September 27, 2005, Page S11
The cinematographer Richard LEITERMAN -- best known for his work in such films as Goin' Down the Road and A Married Couple -- was told by a teacher early in his career that he might have been born holding a camera.
Mr. LEITERMAN first picked up a camera because his then brother-in-law, filmmaker Allan KING, was making documentaries. Working in film seemed a lot more fun to Mr. LEITERMAN than the assortment of odd jobs -- from a forklift operator to a dish washer -- he had done for money since dropping out of university. He asked Mr. KING if he could get a job hauling gear around, but was told to learn how to use a camera instead. Later on, he referred to Mr. KING as his mentor and as someone who "took me in when I was very, very green."
As a pioneer in cinéma vérité filmmaking, Mr. LEITERMAN's work with Mr. KING created some landmark, low-budget documentaries, including A Married Couple (1969), a raw and at times disturbing look inside the strained marriage of an ordinary Toronto couple.
"He had a great relationship not only with people but with machines," said filmmaker Don SHEBIB, whose first feature film was Goin' Down the Road, a 1970 low-budget movie about Maritimers down and out in Toronto which has become a Canadian classic. "The machine was so close to him. I don't have the same relationship with the camera as he did. He played it like a violin and always did."
By the end of his career, his work had become a barometer against which the development of Canadian film Could be measured. In their 1978 book, Richard Leiterman, Alison Reid and P.M. Evanchuk wrote that his career "has been so closely involved with the mainstream of Canadian filmmaking that his work is practically illustrative of its trends, its tendency towards fiction film with a solid base in the documentary tradition."
Born near a small mining community near Timmins, Ontario, Mr. LEITERMAN was the youngest of six children. Raised in a strict Christian household, his father Douglas worked as a bookkeeper at the local mine. As a young boy, the family moved to Vancouver.
Initially, Mr. LEITERMAN studied engineering at the University of British Columbia. The move was in response to his talented and artistic older siblings, who all went into the arts and intimidated him. He soon learned that engineering wasn't for him and dropped out. He headed to Europe where he worked in restaurant kitchens, drove trucks in Germany, sailed charter yachts on the Mediterranean and served coffee in trendy cafes. It was at one such coffee shop in London where he met his future wife, Margaret. They married in 1960 after returning to Vancouver.
At the suggestion of Mr. KING, Mr. LEITERMAN enrolled in a summer course in camera technique at the University of British Columbia when he was in his early twenties. He jokingly referred to the course as "Be Your Own Film Director in Six Easy Weekends." His instructor, Stanley Fox, would later remark that Mr. LEITERMAN, while still a beginner, "held the camera as though it had been in his hands his whole life."
After taking the summer course, Mr. LEITERMAN bought a Bell and Howell 16 mm camera, shot some footage of a storm and sold it to Canadian Broadcasting Corporation News in Vancouver for $35. Now a professional, he and his wife returned to London and he worked as a news stringer for various networks. Soon after he went into partnership with Mr. KING, helping form Allan King Associates, in 1962.
The documentaries Mr. LEITERMAN and Mr. KING made together took them from the Arctic Circle to the civil rights marches in Mississippi and Alabama and through war-ravaged Vietnam. In the late 1960s, he followed anthropologist Margaret Mead through New Guinea and American writer Norman Mailer at a protest march on the Pentagon.
"Richard is not as splashy or spectacular as most cameramen who work with the hand-held camera, but he's incredibly secure with what he sees and responds to. He has unique vision and great integrity," Mr. KING once said of Mr. LEITERMAN's techniques and style. "He never grabs at a subject; he doesn't push but responds to what's happening in front of the camera, with the result that he gets more respect from his subjects than anyone I know. If there was a shot I had to get, I'd give it to Richard."
At the end of the decade, Mr. LEITERMAN threw himself into another Allan KING project, A Married Couple. It was an early example of what television viewers today think of as reality television. The couple was Billy and Antoinette EDWARDS of Toronto. A camera crew visited their Rushton Road house for about 10 weeks and recorded their conversations, their ferocious arguments, and their moments of tenderness.
Mr. LEITERMAN told Billy and Antoinette: "Don't recognize us, don't give us a cup of coffee in the morning. We won't tell you when we're coming. We won't say goodbye when we leave."
He installed light brackets on the walls and put photo floodlights in the table lamps. Then he and Chris WANGLER, the soundman, showed up with their equipment. And waited for something to happen.
The film, whose obscene language created trouble with Ontario film Censors, was a hit. Clive Barnes in The New York Times called it "quite simply one of the greatest films I've ever seen."
Many thought it opened a new period in documentary film; it was shown at festivals and much discussed. In the United States, it was imitated by the producers of An American Family, which ran in the 1972-73 season and became perhaps the most popular series ever made for PBS. Mr. LEITERMAN's hand-held, swish-pan style was eventually adopted by fiction films, including Woody Allen's Husbands and Wives.
That same year, Mr. SHEBIB, then a young Toronto director asked Mr. LEITERMAN if he'd like to shoot a low-budget movie about Maritimers down on their luck in Toronto. Having agreed to be part of the three-man crew, Mr. LEITERMAN brought his documentary eye to fiction filmmaking with Goin' Down the Road. During the filming, he says he learned "a hell of a lot" about transition, priorities and collaboration.
"It was a learning experience for both of us," he told an interviewer, referring to himself and Mr. SHEBIB. "We shot it with minimal lighting, we shot it at 16. We would look around and see what there was in the script and see what the weather was like. Sometimes there was just nothing to shoot, and we'd say to the two lead actors, 'Okay guys, go out and do something. It's snowing, the sun is shining, it's a beautiful afternoon, let's do something.' So they'd go out and have a snowball fight. It's what the characters would have done. They would have said, "To hell with job hunting, we'll go for a walk in Edwards Gardens and throw snowballs at each other." Mr. LEITERMAN and Mr. SHEBIB went on to collaborate on several more features and documentaries including Rip-Off (1971) and Between Friends (1973). Along with making films, a concern with labour practices within the industry led Mr. LEITERMAN to help organize the Canadian cameramen's union. When he wasn't working, Mr. LEITERMAN loved to sail on his eight-metre boat. Every summer he would take a 10-day solo trip to B.C.'s Desolation Sound. But sailing wasn't limited to summertime. He was also known to take his boat out in the midst of a winter storm. "He was a person who lived on the edge," said his widow Margaret LEITERMAN.
Mr. LEITERMAN won a Canadian Film Award for Cinematography for his work on Joyce Wieland's The Far Shore (1975) and a Genie Award for Best Cinematography for Mr. KING's Silence of the North (1981). In 2000, he received the Kodak New Century Award for outstanding contribution to the art of cinematography, from the Canadian Society of Cinematographers. Recently, Mr. LEITERMAN shot movies for television, directed episodes of the Vancouver-shot series Cold Squad and taught cinematography at Sheridan College in Toronto. By all accounts, he had a reputation for demanding the best of his students.
"If you are going to carry on in this business, then the most important thing is to keep the faith," he liked to say. "Be passionate."
Richard LEITERMAN was born on April 7, 1935, in South Porcupine, Ontario, and died in Vancouver on July 14, 2005. He was 70.
Cause of death was complications from the rare disease amyloidosis, in which the body's organ systems accumulate deposits of abnormal proteins. He was diagnosed in December and spent the last few weeks of his life confined to a wheelchair.
He is survived by his wife Margaret, son Mark, daughter Rachel, granddaughter Clara and siblings Elaine, Phyllis, Catherine and Douglas, also a filmmaker.
His ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean.

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