JOHN BERNARD November 19 1966


JOHN BERNARD November 19 1966

LET’S SAY YOU happen to be passing through Paris, just jetting around the hot spots, and you decide to ring up Jean-Luc Godard on the telephone. You don’t exactly know old Jean-Luc — 1 mean, how many people really get close to the master of the nouvelle vague movement in French films? But you dial his number anyway, to say bonne chance, or how's the grosses with Alpltaville or something nervy like that. Okay, you've dialed and you're sitting there in your hotel room waiting for Godard to pick up his receiver. Now my question is this, how is Godard going to answer that telephone call? What'll he say. his very first words? Just. “Allo?" No. More likely. “Ici Jean-Luc." in a soft, squashy artiste's voice? Or maybe a long, enigmatic silence . . . then click. he hangs up. That might lit his style. But however the Great One does it. you know it's going to be something intellectual, mysterious and marvelous.

Now — to move on to something I can verify — you're in Toronto, passing through or whatever, and you ring up David Secter. He makes movies, too — so far. an avant-garde short called Love With The Proper Guppy and two features. Winter Kept Us Warm and The Offering. He may be, at 23. the most successful independent movie maker in Canada. His films are boffo at the BO. as Variety says it — they earn their backers money. Secter's films have been shown at the Cannes Film Festival, and Sight And Sound, the highbrow English film quarterly, has praised him lavishly. It's all just Godard, the same credentials. So you dial his number. 927-0716. and he answers on the first ring.

“DAVID SECTER." he snaps into the receiver, crisp, aggressive, effective, in capital letters.

You see. we re into something different here after all. Secter answers

his phone like a keen ad salesman or a stockbroker on the make, or like Louis B. Mayer himself back there in 1918 when he was fresh on the back lots of Hollywood, not so long out of the Orpheum nickelodeon in Haverhill. Massachusetts. You drop around to Secter's office, which also happens to serve as his living quarters, or to Film House in Toronto, where he cuts and edits his films, and you find him. a young man with a strong build and a sand-colored beard, talking in rapid, unpunctuated charges, drumming his fingers relentlessly on the desk, badgering film editors, promising actors an audition for his next film, negotiating an opening in Los Angeles for Winter Kept Us Warnt, making plans, making dates, phoning, phoning, phoning. PRing furiously, bursting in and out of the door.

The thing is that David Secter is running hard — especially right now. with his most ambitious film. The Of-

fering. just into the can and ready for its world premiere at the Brno Filmforum in Czechoslovakia this month — and there's no time to make like a deep thinker of the cinema on the telephone. His films may have a touch of the avant-garde, but his personal style these days owes more to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer than it does to the nouvelle vague.

One reason for Secter's hurry is that he started from a long way back. When Louis B. Mayer arrived in Hollywood 50 years ago. he knew nothing about the technical details of making movies. Neither did Secter two years ago when he announced in the campus newspaper at the University of Toronto, where he was a student, that he was about to shoot "the great Canadian movie." Both men adopted the same technique for eliminating their ignorance: they bugged people who did know.

"1 didn't even know what a clap-


David Secter knew nothing about films, so he made “the great Canadian movie.” Two years of wheeling-dealing and polished skill later, he’s a world name — and a Canadian curiosity: his movies make money


board was when I started." Secter says. “So on Winter. I worked with one film editor during the day and another editor at night, and in between I had a composer come in so I could find out about scoring the film's music. It's simple: you learn or you get out. I figure I'm learning in a crash course. Meantime, 1 depend on the pros around here to cover up for my mistakes."

Another quality Secter shares with Mayer that guarantees him a good shot at success is a comfortable, unassailable ego. He's the kind of swinger who makes entrances at parties. He moves with beautiful girls at his elbow. He gets into the papers. You're aware of Secter. "The impression I have of David." one slightly catty lady friend says of him, "is that when he decided to make films the first thing he did was go out and buy a dinner jacket so he'd have something to wear when he accepted at film festivals."

This Sammy Click drive and ego have already paid off for Secter with a speed that obviously can't be all luck. From the moment it was completed. Winter Kept Us Warm, a film about two young male students at the University of Toronto who are attracted to each other on several levels, has rolled along from triumph to triumph. Secter chose the 1965 Commonwealth Film Festival in Wales for the movie's w’orld premiere and it enchanted the ciné-niks there. That success was enough to attract an audience when it opened commercially at the Museum Theatre in Toronto later in 1965. In a nine-day run. Winter netted $6,000. which, since the film cost only $8.000 to make, has meant that most of the later receipts, from showings to film societies and in North American art houses, are pure gravy. "The way things are going at the box office." Secter says, "Winter Kept Us Warm will be /

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How do you make an epic on a B-fi!m budget? Conning helps

the biggest money-making film ever produced in Canada by a Canadian.” Next, Secter carted Winter off to the 1966 Cannes Film Festival where Richard Roud, the man from Sight And Sound, gave it a rave notice: "Dramatically speaking, 11 he film) allows the director one of the most stunning examples seen in many a

year of audience peripeteia, of that moment when all of a sudden one realizes that one has got it all wrong, that something quite different is happening up there on the screen, but that that something is nevertheless completely convincing and right.” That review, and Seder's own wheeling and dealing at Cannes, persuaded a num-

ber of European film distributors that Winter was a pretty hot property, all right, and this fall Secter has been arranging showings in the foreign market.

Meanwhile back home, the jury at the 1966 Montreal International Film Festival in August showed how much it appreciated Winter by awarding

Secter the Special Jury Prize of $500. David showed up at Loew’s Theatre on the final night of the festival to accept the award, attired flawlessly in an elegant midnight-blue dinner jacket.

But for art and money success, for sheer spectacle, Secter firmly believes that The Offering will make Winter Kept Us Warm look like an entry in Louis Mayer’s old nickelodeon circuit. The Offering is an East-West love story; it tells how' a beautiful young Chinese dancer with the Peking Opera, on tour in Canada, meets and falls for a stagehand at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto. And it calls for 30 speaking roles and a cast of . . . well, not thousands, but hundreds. It is, in fact, a kind of Canadian Cecil B. de Mille epic or, better, a cold-war West Side Story. But at $50,000 it has a budget more appropriate to something like a Japanese B movie and this means that Secter has been playing his Sammy Ci lick role more diabolically than Click's creator, Budd Schulberg, ever imagined.

ITEM: The locations Secter’s script demanded — an airport, a theatre opening, a big-city newspaper office, the top of a skyscraper, a city hall council chamber — would take a couple of million dollars in sets. So Secter conned his way into the real thing — the Toronto International Airport, the opening last July of the comedy Like lather, Like Fun at the Royal Alex, the top of the gigantic 56-story Toronto-Dominion Bank Centre, the offices of the Toronto Telegram, the mushroom-shaped council chamber at Toronto City Hall. The conning wasn’t always easy: it took most of the Secter persuasion to convince the Toronto Transportation Commission to let him shoot a scene in the city’s subway. As it turned out, the scene was almost a disaster: a battery went dead and the cameraman was forced to film with an old-fashioned antique hand camera.

ITEM: With Secter’s baby budget, he had to work with nonunion labor, but first he needed to make peace with Labor. He almost didn’t. “1 went around to all the unions beforehand to ask for their co-operation,” he says. “But they really weren’t prepared to make any concessions. One union told me our script wasn’t up to their standards. Can you imagine? What standards? What feature movie have they made lately? It looked for awhile like we were going to be picketed when we were shooting the Royal Alex opening, but we got around the problem. Anyway, all the nonunion people gave us great work.”

ITEM: Finding a beautiful Chinese girl who could act and “a dynamic, virile Canadian male” to play the stagehand was probably Secter’s toughest job. Paul Hoffert, who wrote the film’s score, found the heroine, an incredibly lovely, willowy girl named Kee Faun, on the elevator at the CBC in Toronto. She had hardly any acting experience — a Jade East commercial and a bit in Hawaii—but Secter drilled her fiercely and in the end she revealed, under her inexperience, a shining natural film presence. The male lead came harder. Secter auditioned 40 actors but, he says, "there's a shortage of dynamic, virile Canadian males.” He finally found his star, a

young out-of-work actor with a made-

SHOCK continued

“Adults have to work for a buck, and junior should, too”

scoline, which paralyzes him almost instantly. No forewarning is offered. Suddenly, the patient has no muscle control, his breathing stops and the most he can manage are agonized gestures toward his choking throat.

Inevitably, after the one - minute effects wear off and the patient is revived with oxygen, he will exclaim. “I thought I'd died.”

To critics of the manipulative approach. the most debatable application of behavior therapy is the use of electric shock on children. A psychologist in California, Ivan Lovaas, uses shock to force schizophrenic children, who have withdrawn from all human contact. to make some tentative contacts with the people around them. He takes the most intractable cases — children who bash their heads against walls, screech or pick at themselves incessantly until they bleed — places them on a floor grid between two adults, and turns on the voltage. Only a move into the outstretched arms of either adult brings relief. The child's initial motive for moving is to escape pain, but gradually the pleasurable relief he feels becomes associated in his mind with the friendly adults around him.

At Thistletown Hospital in Rexdale. Ontario, a similar relief-from-shock program is being tested. The advantages of shock to treat autistic children are being compared to a program of pure reward (candies) for effort, to see which approach works best in individual cases. The results of this comparison research will form the basis of a new' treatment program.

Until now', manipulating behavior with rewards and punishment has been concentrated on cases of extreme deviation. But now at the new' Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, three psychologists. Dr. Harvey Narrol. Dr. Hy Day and Dr. Stewart Wilson. are devising a program of systematic behavior control for the normal classroom. It does not, of course, involve applying electric shocks to young children. The emphasis will be on the application of rewards to produce more efficient learning. They are observing classes of small children to discover w'hich behavior teachers generally reward and which they punish. On the basis of these observations, they hope to be able to train teachers to control behavior more systematically — always rewarding desired behavior (with pats on the head, prizes, treats, or gold stars beside the student's name) and just as consistently letting undesired behavior go unrewarded (no fussing over a child having a tantrum, for example) or, if necessary, punishing it (with a sharp reprimand, a visit to the principal's office, or a note home).

The psychologists are also considering an experiment using tokens as more tangible rewards, handing them out lor good behavior — three tokens lor good math, perhaps; two for doing last-night's homework. The student would collect as many as he could each week, then cash them in for prizes. He would thus learn to work because it pays off and would soon be concentrating his efforts on earning more and more. Narrol sees nothing

repugnant about such an approach. “After all. adults have to w'ork for a buck; perhaps junior should, too."

Richard Steffy at Lakeshore Psychiatric expects that the more punishing techniques, such as shock and drugs, will continue in use only for extreme cases because of their distasteful aspects. “Behavior therapy

connotes opportunism." he says. “Anything goes so long as it works. The other camp argues that we are being unethical and mechanical in our approach. and that all we're doing is curing the symptoms. But to critics who say we are being superficial, palliative. and possibly harmful, you have to ask. what about the harm done to

the patient by not curing him at all? You weigh that against the benefits of at least curing his symptoms.”

How do patients feel about the doctor who inflicts pain on them? “You'd expect the patient would loathe the therapist," says Steffy. “Actually, it's not so. The patient who continues with treatment has a strong desire to be rid of his symptoms and looks on you as someone interested enough to share an unpleasant and degrading but necessary experience." ★