NC grad dreams of Genie


Shown above: Filmmaker Jay Cheel sits in a screening room in Lundy during a visit to NC in 2011.

It’s a beauty day for filmmaker Jay Cheel.

That’s because the NC grad’s documentary Beauty Day was recently nominated for a Genie Award in the Best Feature Length Documentary category.

This was the first feature film project for Cheel, who graduated from NC’s Broadcasting, Television, Radio and Film program in 2005. While he had completed several shorts, his work on Beauty Day inspired him to quit his full-time job at Silicon Knights and pursue his filmmaking aspirations full-force.

The documentary, written, directed and edited by Cheel, made its world debut at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art and its Canadian debut at the Hot Docs film festival last year. It zooms in on the life of Ralph Zavadil who shook up Southern Ontario in the early to mid-‘90swith his cable TV daring and hilarious stunts on The Cap’n Video Show.

I’m pretty surprised that the film was nominated and we’re all definitely thrilled,” Cheel said. “It’s nice to see the Genie’s giving a nod to a character-driven documentary that isn’t really socially or politically relevant.

“After having so much fun making the film, this has been a nice bonus.”

Cheel said he had always been passionate about filmmaking, which led him to Niagara College. NC not only equipped him with the skills to create films but with experience in pitching and raising money for them as well.

“I think that aspect of the program really separated those of us who were serious about filmmaking and those who weren’t,” he said.

During a recent visit to NC, Cheel said being back at his alma mater didn’t make him realize how far he’s come, but how far he still has to go.

“I know the reality of it all. I’ve made one doc and that’s great – it’s a tough hump to pass – but there’s still a lot to do.”

BTRF professor Andrew Stevenson, who formerly taught Cheel, said he was very proud of the success of his film.

“This kind of national recognition is definitely an inspiration to our current students because it shows what can be achieved by an independent filmmaker working on a limited budget in the local region,” he said. “All it takes is a great story and the skills to convey it effectively.”

The Genie Awards will be March 8 in Toronto.

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