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Rhymes for young ghouls

A Storytellers Journey

January 21, 2014

At 35, John Christou is already a veteran of the Canadian film industry, with over a dozen productions under his belt. His most recent film, Rhymes for Young Ghouls, was named one of Canada’s Top Ten Films of 2013 by the Toronto International Film Festival. Rhymes, which also received a Canadian Screen Award nomination for Best Actress, was released on January 31, 2014 at Toronto’s Yonge and Dundas Cineplex theatre. Directed by Jeff Barnaby, the film takes place in 1976 against the backdrop of the residential school tragedy.

John’s other credits include the Genie Award-winning film Up the Yangtze! and the TIFF-awarded short, The Colony.

The 2002 Advanced Television and Film grad was named one of the Top 20 Canadian Media Executives under 35 by The Hollywood Reporter in 2013.

Based in Montreal, John reflects on his path to the top of a tough profession.

In 2002, I was 24 years old and I thought I knew everything about producing films. With the ambition and bravado of youth, I started my own production company (Creative Matter Media) mere weeks after graduating from Sheridan’s Advanced Film and Television program.

That first company didn’t last (although I made two documentaries). But the lessons I learned by diving in, just calling myself a producer - not waiting for others to designate me one - were self-empowering.

Armed with experience and not too discouraged, I made my way to EyeSteelFilm, where they gladly took me on as a producer intern. It was a little humbling to go from company owner to intern but as weeks turned into months, I was performing all manner of tasks, big and small. And I was producing films: Bone, Punk Le Vote, The Colony and Up the Yangtze.

Since I was focused on documentary production at the time, I joined the board of the Documentary Organization of Canada (DOC), heading campaigns that have led to new documentary funding which I’m particularly proud of. (John is also a former Chair of the DOC).

But I still harboured a burning desire to run my own production company, so I started Prospector Films in 2008, which I run to this day. The first two years were tough. I forgot how hard it was to start a company from scratch, working from home with no resources beyond my wits and credit card. But we saw some progress: our short film, File Under Miscellaneous, was nominated for a Genie. Our first documentary, Last Woman Standing, premiered at Hot Docs 2013, and was voted #1 audience favourite among Canadian films and #5 overall. We now have five features in active development.

I am thrilled with the success of Rhymes for Young Ghouls. Of course, this being a first feature, we threw all our money on-screen which hurts financially, but I think the results are translated on-screen. I guess that’s a challenge of producing any film: finding the balance between resources and quality.

No matter what the project, every film I make feels like both an achievement and a stepping-stone. I hope that this is just the beginning because I’ve got a lot of movies in me.

John Christou  Rhymes for Young Ghouls trailer.