Interview: My Lunch with Niv Fichman

I first met Canada’s Oscar-winning producer Niv Fichman during last year’s Busan International Film Festival at the Canadian Embassy film party. Ambassador David Chatterson introduced him to the gathering and asked that he say a few words. In the process of doing just that, a woman standing two rows back in the crowd felt it wise to continue with the few words she was having—rather loudly—with her friend. The alcohol is free and flowing at such engagements.

Crowd scanned, smiles tendered and pleasantries invoked, Fichman’s eyes soon fell upon the blathering woman. Employing a richness of profanity from the English tongue, he told the woman to pipe down. She wasn’t one to listen. Niv then waded into the throng, microphone in hand, demanding that the startled woman either zip it up or take the stage. Putting the mic in her face he told her if she wanted to talk, by all means do so.

I immediately loved the guy.

Originally from Tel Aviv, Israel, the 53-year-old co-founder of Rhombus Media is a tall, lanky character with unkempt salt-and-pepper hair and a hip fashion sense that belies his age. A veteran of the industry for more than 30 years, his name appears on over 200 projects including feature films, documentaries and several television series. Along with the Oscar he took home for The Red Violinin 1998, his work has garnered seven Emmys and a slew of varied accolades.

Mr. Fichman recently agreed to get together for a lunch interview while he was in town for this year’s Busan International Film Festival. He’d come to promote his latest offering, the Brandon Cronenberg film, Antiviral, a bio-horror thriller laced heavy with a theme of celebrity obsession.

After meeting in the lobby of his hotel, we chose a quiet coffee shop where we ordered a few sandwiches and coffee. As I set up for the interview, the little hockey puck-shaped flashing-buzzing device that alerts you when to pick up your order started dancing around on the table. This fascinated Niv.

“Is that a phone?”

“No, it tells you when your order is ready.”

“What a sophisticated modern society. Korea, this is fantastic!”

After grabbing our food and drink the interview began. I was first curious about what he did before going into the film industry. He tells me that he founded Rhombus Media with a friend at 19 years old and has been working there ever since.

So did he ever have a real job?

“The only other job I have ever had, I was as a stock boy at Loblaws, which is a grocery store in Toronto during high school. I was really bad at it. They thought I was kind of slightly handicapped because I was always thinking about movies. I wasn’t overly committed and I kind of liked it that they thought I was kind of dumb because I didn’t have a lot of responsibility. ”

What Niv’s old bosses called “handicapped”, an observer with the luxury of hindsight would call “inspired”.

His inspiration emerged shortly following the family’s migration from Tel Aviv to Toronto. Using his father’s movie camera, the nine-year-old Niv produced his first short film.

“I think it was called This is a City,” Niv recalls. “My dad is an engineer, but he used to make home movies, little stop action animation with a Regular 8 movie camera, so I kinda took that technique and I animated this whole highway traffic scene with this massive accident.”

While many young boys are want to recreate disaster in their playtime, not many film it—and even fewer are prescient enough to know it’s what they want to do for the rest of their life.

“I was seven or eight when I realized that my dad, who was generally miserable, was always happy when he was holding his movie camera. So in my mind it was like, ‘Oh, that’s a way to be happy. By the time I was nine I took over that movie camera, I was a very aggressive child.’”

Following high school he enrolled in the film department at York University in Toronto. Before graduation he had a film completed and ready to shop.

“It was called Music for Wilderness Lake, about some trombone players who play this crazy music around a lake in northern Ontario and all the animals join in. We raised some private money for that and sold it to the CBC. It did okay, and sold all over the world.”

Not bad for a first venture.

Read the rest at Branding in Asia Magazine.



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