Canadian filmmaker and author Barry Avrich laments lack of homegrown star system | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Canadian filmmaker and author Barry Avrich laments lack of homegrown star system

Film producer-director Barry Avrich is pictured in the projection booth at a Toronto screening room as he promotes his memoir "Moguls, Monsters and Madmen: An Uncensored Life in Show Business." on Tuesday May 3 , 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
May 11, 2016 - 8:42 AM

TORONTO - Canadian filmmaker Barry Avrich has spent decades documenting the lives of legendary showbiz titans but there's one aspect of the homegrown industry he still finds baffling: the lack of a star system in English Canada.

"I find it extraordinarily frustrating that if you ask the average person to name ... let's say, film directors in this country, you can't name five. Maybe you can name three. That's pitiful. These are artists," Avrich said in an interview at a Toronto screening room.

"You can name singers. You can name authors.... We can name some actors, but most of them don't live here anymore. Why is that? Why do we have to leave?

"If you see Quebec doing so well and building (its) own industry, why can't the industry and the public get behind this and say: 'You know what? I'm going to make them a star. And we're going to keep promoting them and promoting them until they're everywhere.'"

The Montreal-born producer, director and writer had no qualms about pursuing personal success, and credits his late father, Irving, for advising him to stand out rather than retreat into the background.

Evidence of his go-getter mentality is threaded throughout his new memoir, "Moguls, Monsters and Madmen: An Uncensored Life in Show Business" (ECW Press).

In addition to a knack for sales, Avrich writes of inheriting his mother's love of culture and dad's passion for showmanship. He was able to parlay his skills into work as a marketing executive, producing charity galas, and helming film and TV projects.

Avrich offers a glimpse into the development of documentaries, including biographical films on Canadian comic David Steinberg ("Quality Balls") legendary agent Lew Wasserman ("The Last Mogul") and Penthouse founder Bob Guccione ("Filthy Gorgeous.")

Avrich also doesn't shy away from telling stories that his subjects would prefer left under wraps. He describes the behind-the-scenes manoeuvring by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein to prevent Avrich from documenting his story in "Unauthorized: The Harvey Weinstein Project."

"I don't think we'll ever have moguls like the ones I've made films about because the world has changed," said Avrich.

"There will be characters, fantastic show business characters. But we'll never have moguls controlling every equation of an industry the way these people did."

Avrich also explores his complex professional and personal relationship with convicted theatre mogul Garth Drabinksy, including an inside view of the rise and fall of Livent.

"The film that I made about Garth Drabinsky was one of the most intimate films I've ever made about somebody because I had a front row seat.... I lived it for two decades," Avrich said in reference to his documentary "Show Stopper."

"He did not want to be profiled because he feels that he has a third act."

The memoir is also full of memorable celebrity encounters, like Avrich eating hot dogs from a street vendor with screen legend Lauren Bacall prior to her appearance at a Toronto gala.

Avrich has projects on the contemporary art world and the prominent Canadian Bronfman family in the works. And while he continues to work in the U.S., Canada will remain his home base.

"I've had the best of both worlds," said Avrich.

"I've spent a lot of time in Los Angeles. I love getting off the plane. I've stayed in the same hotel for 30 years. I love going there, I love working there.

"I wouldn't want to live there because then you're constantly on that treadmill of figuring out what your next project is when everyone in town is in the same industry."

— Follow @lauren_larose on Twitter.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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