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Actors, screenwriters, alumni and students celebrate re-opening of Innis Town Hall

Alumna Sarah Gadon in conversation with George Strombolopolous (all photos by Gustavo Toledo Photography)

Acclaimed actress Sarah Gadon, a graduate of the University of Toronto’s Cinema Studies Institute, recently returned to Innis College to celebrate the reopening of its 200-seat theatre, Town Hall.  

Following a screening of David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars, Gadon reflected on her four years studying cinema as an undergraduate student and cited her classes in Town Hall as a driving inspiration to pursue a career in front of the camera. Gadon, whose first major role came while she was still a student (in Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method) said her time at Innis still influences the film choices she makes.  

“Great film stands the test of time,” said Gadon. “When you watch films from all over the world throughout the history of cinema, you learn to appreciate style, form, as well as the vernacular and theory. It informs everything, from the way I analyze scripts to the way I deliver my characters.”

In an intimate and varied discussion with CBC’s George Strombolopolous, she also delved into her numerous collaborations with Cronenberg and her recent roles, the state of Canadian cinema and the expanding role of women in film.  

“I think there are more and more excellent roles for women; just consider this film”, said Gadon referring to Julianne Moore and Mia Wasikowska playing lead parts in Maps to the Stars.

Gadon has worked extensively in Europe but has been largely a Canadian film-industry success story – intentionally choosing smaller, artistically satisfying roles and shying away from big budget, production-heavy films, opting instead to work with some of the country’s most talented auteurs on smaller productions. Her experience working with Denis Villeneuve on Enemy was “immensely fulfilling from a creative standpoint” while the big studio film Dracula Untold was “a big departure and deeply underwhelming,” she said.

“I guess you can notch that up to once being a student of cinema and understanding the importance of film as story-telling, and not only a tool of mass production.”

Before the Q&A, more than 250 guests – including Degrassi creator and U of T alumna Linda Schuyler – were treated to a special program demonstrating the transformation of Town Hall. The extensive renovations included audio-visual enhancements, new lighting, state-of-the-art projection equipment and sound-dampening architecture.  

Town Hall has always been “a magical movie place, a teaching space, and the centre of the College and the film community,” said alumna Pam Fossen. “It wasn’t known for its comfort or its aesthetic beauty.  

“With the recent overhaul, it could be rightfully known for both.”

Principal Janet Paterson of Innis College said she was pleased to see so many alumni, faculty members, staff and friends on hand to help celebrate this important milestone for the College.  

“The evening was a profound expression of the collective spirit of the College and the many brilliant people that form its fabric. I am immensely proud of everyone involved in this vital project,” said Paterson. 

Samantha Folliott, in her fourth year of cinema studies, thanked the donors and supporters on behalf of the students. 

“We feel incredibly fortunate to have this space to call our own, a home away from home. It connects us all as a place that every Innis student can be proud of,” said Folliott.

Innis College is about to embark on the fortieth anniversary of the Cinema Studies Institute. Beginning this fall, celebration events will be taking place throughout the year.  

The video below on the newly revitalized Town Hall was produced by cinema studies students Jessica Pronk and Chris Altorf

March 13, 2015

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