Class of 2009 & 2010 – Innis; CSI
Christopher Heron has completed two degrees while at Innis College. After completing his undergraduate degree specializing in Cinema Studies and English, he hung around to complete his M.A. in Cinema Studies. He is a founder and current host/producer/writer/editor of the Toronto-based video magazine, The Seventh Art.
What were your programs of study while at U of T (i.e., minors, majors, specialist)?
Specialist: Cinema Studies
MA: Cinema Studies
What are some of the major differences between the undergraduate and graduate cinema studies programs at Innis College?
The graduate program allows you to determine and focus upon your precise interest in the subject, leveraging the resources of the program to begin contributing to that field. This is experienced in miniature through the responsibilities you have to your cohort, where your engagement with the coursework is directly applied to the discourse in class.
In a few words, please outline your career path. What inspired you to pursue your current career?
My degrees in Cinema Studies lead me to pursue positions within the media industry on a freelance basis, though this is a constant state of evolution that I would not have predicted and probably shouldn’t further prognosticate. I work both in digital media, conceptualizing and developing digital assets for a variety of platforms, as well as traditional media, tangentially, through The Seventh Art. Both rely to some extent on the writing skills, critical thinking and film history knowledge attained in my degrees.
How did your time at Innis College influence your career?
The level of expectation of the faculty and the program as a whole influences my career, where I apply the success I had when pairing a desire to explore a unique perspective with rigorous research.
What is the Seventh Art? What criteria do you use to select the individuals you interview?
The Seventh Art is a video magazine that focuses on long-form interviews and video essays, as well as an occasional screening series. Our interviews seek to blend an accessible format – set in a bar, less a question and answer format than a conversation – with an emphasis on questions and topics that the subject does not typically discuss (often pertaining to film form). As a video series, our interview subjects are obviously limited based on their physical presence in the city and our access to them, but generally involves a mix of our esteem and a general recognition of their work by a broader audience.
How do you prepare for your interviews? Who has been your most memorable interview?
Interview preparation includes being conversant with each of the filmmaker’s films (where possible), their position within film history, and an idea of the conversations that already exist surrounding their work. This varies depending on the length of the filmmaker’s career, either established or nascent, where each interviewee presents his or her own set of challenges.
It’s difficult to think of a favourite, given some of the significant names in cinema history I’ve had the pleasure to talk with (Barbara Hammer, Peter Bogdanovich, Margarethe von Trotta, Paul Schrader, Whit Stillman), as well as many younger or less well known figures whose work means a lot to me (Albert Serra, Mia Hansen-Løve, Matías Piñeiro, João Pedro Rodrigues & João Rui Guerra da Mata, Athina Rachel Tsangari). The two that probably stand as our most significant works as interviews, however, are probably our Christopher Doyle interview, which is less a standard interview than a portrait into his unique personality, and a late-night, in-depth discussion with Pedro Costa (forthcoming on our site), who was the basis of my Major Research Paper for my M.A.
What is the most important lesson you have learned during your career?
Working in new media and more broadly within a rapidly changing media landscape, it’s important to always be prepared to pivot in a new direction, while not necessarily sacrificing the subjects and approaches you value.
While attending UofT, which, if any, extra-curricular activities were you involved with outside of the classroom (e.g., clubs, teams, volunteerism, on-campus employment)?
I edited the Innis Herald for two years, where an absence of writing submissions pushed me to turn it into an experiment in form that perhaps did not make up for the content shortcomings. However, it did lead to me befriending a writer whose fiction impacted me a great deal and whose forthcoming debut novel has given greater retroactive importance to the whole endeavour.
What is your favourite memory from your time spent at Innis College?
Working more closely with certain faculty members during my M.A., which influenced my writing and thinking in a way that I still observe with some consistency.
Do you have any advice you would like to share with current Innis students?
Make sure you truly care about whatever it is you pursue. The benefits will be enjoyed during your studies, contribute positively to the experience of your peers, and you will notice the greater impact on your life regardless of whether your future is tied directly to academia or the field of study.