Faculty of Animation, Arts & Design
Degree: Media Arts
Year of graduation: 1986
Journey from Sheridan to Survivorman
Barry Farrell spends most of his time working out of an idyllic studio in his house that overlooks the forest in Muskoka. The journey that got him to this place in life, however, took him through advertising and music, foreign locations and shoots closer to home — and it all began with his film studies at Sheridan College.
In Farrell’s role as senior editor and producer of the hit show Survivorman, he and his team still edit digitally using the same film techniques he learned at Sheridan in 1986. “Just because you know how to work editing software, it doesn’t make you an editor. What makes you an editor is the choices you make and how you make a shot work.”
Although the digital technology available today was merely an electronic twinkle in the eye of an engineer in the ’80s, the lessons about decisiveness in filmmaking that Farrell learned carry forward to his work today. “Sheridan was very precise and accurate as a teaching school for filmmaking, and now, with the digital age, it’s that accuracy and decision-making process that are essential,” he says.
Farrell was influenced by Sheridan professors Jim Cox, Vladimir Kabelik and Richard Kerr, whose experimental filmmaking techniques began his lifelong lesson in mindfulness in editing. “Everything was based on the story and how we perceived it all,” he says. “Experimental film was a really good process in that your freedom was 100 percent.”
After graduation, Farrell continued to hone the skills that would shape his future 30-year career by working on Thunderstorm Over Russia, a film about Ivan the Terrible, in the Soviet Union in 1990. Farrell returned to North America in 1994 to found Smash Editorial, with offices operating in New York, Los Angeles and Toronto.
Today, Farrell still draws on the mindsets he learned at Sheridan and strives to reinvent himself each day. To a large extent, Farrell credits Sheridan English teacher Maurice McLuhan (brother of the famed Marshall) with the idea of constant forward movement. “If you strip away all your accolades the day you start a new project, then you can discover things that you may not have thought of,” he says.
Farrell has grown his skill sets throughout his career, with music videos and TV series with Canadian celebrities such as Sarah McLachlan and Leonard Cohen, and by editing over 10 feature length films including Deepa Mehta’s Fire, Earth and Water, Behind the Red Door with Kiefer Sutherland and Kyra Sedgwick, and most recently, Billy Bates, released in 2015.
His work has been recognized with numerous awards from film festivals across the globe, including most recently, a Canadian Screen Award in 2016 for Best Lifestyle Program or Series for Survivorman, multiple Geminis, Genies, Cannes; as well as accolades from the New York, Chicago, Toronto, Vancouver, Verona and Barcelona Film Festivals. Farrell also has worked on two Oscar nominated films, (Water) and (Hardwood). He has also worked on Survivorman’s The Science of Survival and the documentary The Barn Sessions.
This drive has paid off — Survivorman has reached the top three all-time viewership for prime time in the US for specialty programming for the last seven years — and Farrell attributes his success to the journey that started at Sheridan. “You’re never at the pinnacle — it’s a constant process. Once you think that you’ve made it, it’s the worst day of your life because you’re always having to make it,” he says. “And if that seems like a hard thing, then you’re in the wrong business. You always have to inspire yourself.”
More about Sheridan’s Bachelor of Film and Television
More about Survivorman