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Oration honouring Paul Pope

Friday, May 28, 3 p.m.


The man who stands before you today is, amongst other things, a film producer. As a film producer he could not have chosen a better place in which to produce his films than this remarkable province. We have a history of actors and acting going back many years and continuing, unabated, to the present. Many here will remember the comedy team down at City Hall, the Dandy Andy Show, and there is, of course, the on-going soap opera up at the Building, the Canny Danny Saga, with its well-known theme song “Oh, Danny boy, the votes, the votes are calling.”

And as for actors, why, we have a superabundance of them here at the university. We have an acting vice-chancellor, an acting president, an acting vice-president (academic), an acting vice-president (research), an acting dean of arts, and we may even have one or two acting students. There’s plenty to choose from.

And now, of course, people are no longer sure whether to refer to this precious rock, set in a silver sea, as the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador or the Republic of Doyle.

But what manner of man stands before us today? I shall tell you. He is, quite simply, one of the most important figures in the development of the film industry in Newfoundland and Labrador, and we are talking here of an industry that generates some $25 million dollars each year. He helped found the Newfoundland Independent Filmmakers Cooperative (NIFCO) and remains permanently involved in it, and he has produced an astonishing number of independent dramas and documentaries, including Mike Jones’ Secret Nation, John W. Doyle’s Extraordinary Visitor, and John N. Smith’s Welcome to Canada.

In 1998 he formed Pope Productions, the largest film production house in the province, and his first major project was the award-winning documentary My Left Breast which brought Geminis for both Paul Pope and the film’s director, Gerry Rogers. This was the followed by Rare Birds, which remains recommended viewing for anyone who has had a hard day at MUN. I still come across an occasional American visitor looking for Tasker’s Sulphureous Duck. Then there are the miniseries Above and Beyond and Life with Derek, or the documentary series Legends and Lore of the North Atlantic and Going the Distance, or the Bravo! shorts, Baking Lessons and The Plumber’s Waltz. I could go on, and on, and on, but there is no need.

Suffice it to say that Paul Pope has directed, produced, or worked on over a hundred films and television productions, that he is a member of the board of directors of the Canadian Film and Television Producers Association and of the Resource Centre for the Arts, and is Vice-Chair of the Canadian Television Fund. Indeed, it has been said that the health and vitality of the film industry in this Province is a direct effect of this man’s tireless contributions, and so it is. And so it is our pleasure to acknowledge him here.

William Shakespeare has told us that all the world’s a stage, and there are few better examples than what you see before you. Seated at the front, in their black and gold, awaiting your adulation, are the stars of the show; behind them, awaiting their break, are the bit players, otherwise known as the faculty; in the audience are the all-important extras; and here, at centre stage, robed in scarlet and wearing a medieval hat, stands the producer, Paul Pope, who has of course, received many awards before now: awards from the Director’s Guild of Canada, the Writers’ Guild of Canada, the Atlantic Film Festival, the Chicago Film Festival, the Canadian International Documentary Festival, and in 2006 the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council bestowed on him the Rogers Cable Arts Achievement Award.

But it is time now to add our own acknowledgement of his remarkable talents and to confer upon him the highest honour our university can confer, and so, Mr. Vice-Chancellor, it is my pleasure and privilege to present to you for the degree of doctor of letters, honoris causa, this extraordinary visitor, this papal producer, this rare bird: Paul Pope.

Dr. David Bell
University orator
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