Saturday, March 5, 2011 at 12:14PM
Well March 4th has come and gone and thankfully it was a quiet one this year. The date is an important one in my life for two reasons, one celebratory and one that is very much a negative. I will tackle the positive on this post and follow up later with a part 2 on the negative.
March 4th is the 78th anniversary of the birth of Patrick Spence-Thomas. Many of you may not know the name but most likely he has touched your life in at least a small way. He ran the first independent post production sound house in Canada, and if you have seen any Canadian Movies, Documentaries or archival news footage from the 60's - 90's chances are very good Patrick had a heavy hand in their coming to fruition. Sadly he passed a few years ago, but every March 4th a bunch of us, both his family and friends, get together at his favourite pub and raise a few glasses in his memory and tell the stories that make Patrick so vibrant in our minds still. A new limerick is written each year in his honour, and this years limerick touched on all his favourites, his homeland of Whales, his family and drinking. It was a great night and as usual I was honoured to be a part of it.
I came to know Patrick right out of College and I immediately was in awe of the man. I did my internship at his studio at the rip old age of 20, I was just getting my foot in the door of the industry and Patrick, on the precipice of turning 65, was making his final bows behind the mixing desk as he turned over control of the technical duties to his son (another great mentor and person) Richard. On my first day Patrick took me out to lunch at the Vox, although this restaurant is no longer around in the 90's it was the meeting place for all the sound post pros and Patrick was king there. Patrick walking into the Vox was like Norm walking into Cheers, he knew everyone in the place and they all loved him. We took our spot at the bar and ordered and throughout our meal there was a steady stream of well wishers coming up to Patrick to shake his hand and catch up, and as Patrick was always a gentleman he was quick to introduce me to all his friends and colleges. Without a single exception every person told me how lucky I was to learning at the foot of such a giant in the industry, as most of them had tales of how they had got their start the same way. It really was a magical first day for me, a kid basically in way over his head, to be told by so many people that I was on the right path. I ended up working at Patricks studio for 7 years and we shared more then a few more meals together and everyone was a memorable experience.
Patrick never mixed any blockbusters, never worked in the main room at Delux and never ran the table at any awards show, but this does not mean his influence is not far greater then those that did, so much so that the Canadian Society of Cinematographers honoured him with an award "for outstanding service contributing to the development of the motion picture industry in Canada" in 1998. He loved working with people just starting out, he loved ushering them through the process and helping their dreams come to life. He started more peoples rise to prominence then anyone else I have ever met. He was never too busy to talk someone through a hard time and he was always there with a funny story in the darkest moment. He was truly an amazing man.
After his passing a memorial was held, fittingly for Patrick it was at a pub, and it was the greatest celebration I have ever witnessed. Although a few tears were shed throughout the event it was squarely focused on celebrating the wonderful life Patrick lead. His friends and family took the stage and performed the songs that Patrick loved, stories were told that had the audience laughing so hard tears of joy were flooding the dance floor. One of Patrick's catch phrases was always loudly pronouncing "I am so blessed" whenever he was surrounded friends, but the truth is everyone who ever came in contact with him, we were the ones who were blessed.
PS I you ever see me and you are in need of a pick me up, get me to tell you the "Box of Shit" story involving Patrick and.... well....... a box of shit. One of the best all time stories I was lucky enough to witness first hand.