Last week’s opening of Nick Wernham ’02’s feature film directorial debut, No Stranger Than Love, was the culmination of an interest in movies that included watching and discussing them over pizza in Upper Canada College’s Film Club.
“At that point I wasn’t dead set on being a filmmaker,” Wernham says. “I wanted to be a novelist.”
Wernham studied English literature and cinema studies at the University of Toronto before dropping out to attend the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles, which he describes as an 11-month filmmaking boot camp that gave him the opportunity to experiment and do a lot of work in a short period of time.
“It was a great experience and confirmed for me that filmmaking was absolutely what I wanted to do,” says Wernham, who spent another year in L.A. writing scripts and working as an office production assistant as well as a photographer for a couple of films hat didn’t get off the ground before returning home to Toronto.
His father, securities lawyer and entrepreneur Richard Wernham (who along with his wife made a $6.9-million donation to establish UCC’s Richard Wernham & Julia West Centre for Learning in 2001), had just completed writing the script for a short film called Business Ethics and asked his son to direct it. He used the film, which he describes as “a quirky dark comedy about a man who ran a Ponzi scheme that looks at the dangers of greed and deceit,” as a calling card to try and attract cast members after he was offered the chance to direct No Stranger Than Love.
“It’s odd on a thematic level and it’s odd on a structural level,” Wernham says of his new romantic comedy, which stars Alison Brie (Community, Mad Men), Justin Chatwin (Shameless, War of the Worlds) and Tom Hanks’ son Colin Hanks (Orange County, Fargo).
“So in some ways the mysterious hole that opens up in the heroine’s floor is one of the least odd things about it. While the story kind of presents itself as a film about the nature of love and art and people’s relationships with those things, what I feel the film is actually about is the way in which a person needs to grow and become comfortable with themselves in order to understand what those things mean to them.”
Alison Brie and Justin Chatwin in a scene from No Stranger Than Love.
Most of No Stranger Than Love was shot in six weeks in the Greater Toronto Area. That was followed by editing and post-production and the film was completed by the end of September 2014.
Wernham’s younger brother Simon (on the left with Nick in the photo at the top of this article), who followed him to New York Film Academy, acts in No Stranger Than Love. He was also one of the executive producers along with his parents, who partially financed the movie.
“It had a modest budget even by Canadian film standards,” says Wernham, who wouldn’t disclose the exact figure.
No Stranger Than Love appeared in three film festivals before opening in one theatre in Toronto and London, Ont. as well as in 10 theatres in nine major markets in the United States on June 17. It was released through Momentum Pictures, a division of eOne, and Orion Releasing, a division of MGM. The movie also became available through video-on-demand services on June 17.
Wernham has just started casting for a feature-length version of Business Ethics, which is based on his father’s original script with some tweaks that the elder Wernham is involved with. Simon will also be a part of it and West, who moved from a successful law career into interior design, will work as a production designer on the movie. The plan is to begin principal photography in October, and post-production could be completed by next spring.
How’d it get to be the last week of school? With our camps gearing up and your summer plans set to kick off, it’s time for our annual year-end wrap-up—once again brought to you “BuzzFeed”-style, our version of the popular website.
This review of the year’s highlights is anchored by videos and links to our news stories from the past year, including incredible student and faculty achievement, plus some milestone events sure to go down in UCC history.
September means back to school — but it’s also back to Canada for our 19th principal, Sam McKinney. Originally from St. Catharines, Ont., and the son of school teachers, McKinney was deputy headmaster and head of senior school at St. Peter’s College in Adelaide, South Australia. He moves into Grant House with wife Rose and his three sons Jack ’17, Connor ’19 and Charles ’20 on July 1. We look forward to giving him a warm UCC welcome and he looks forward to getting to know you and all the boys in September.
#16 Board-chair baton is passed
Yep, it was hard to imagine what UCC would be like without Andy Burgess’ ceaselessly energetic presence and high-energy passion for the Think Ahead Campaign. But in a short time Russ Higgins has brought his own panache to the role—with his deft steering of the principal search committee and his impeccable presentation skills.
#15 We keep the medal haul coming.
Our athletes like the sound of the word “victory.” A big Blue Army cheer goes out to every one of you. Our recent spring successes include rowing, golf, tennis and cricket but we celebrated an incredible year across the board at the recent spirit of athletics assembly. (We only have room to list championship titles here, but a huge shout-out to every single one of our athletes.):
Prep: CISAA champions included U10C Soccer, U11B Soccer, U11A Soccer, U12 Volleyball, U14 field hockey (undefeated season) U14 and U16 swimming, U10 A/B/C Basketball, U12A Basketball (perfect 25-0 season), U12B Basketball, U12 (D3 Tournament Champions), U13B Basketball, U14 Lacrosse, U11 Basketball, U13 Rugby
#14 Our Model UN ups its game (if that’s even possible) on its quest to rule the world.
The accomplishments just kept coming for our Model United Nations club. Our team took the “best club” award what’s considered the “Super Bowl” of Model UNs, the University of California, Berkeley Model United Nations in March.
#12 Upper School unveils “classy” renovations and more.
It’s a big change from last summer—when our Upper School was a construction zone. Flexibly designed classrooms set a new stage for inspiration each day. A wide-open foyer unites the sightlines of our Upper School and boarding houses. Plus we’ve got revamped science labs, locker rooms, a new Prep playground and sportscourt.
Our tight-knit community translates online in a big way, including over 443,000 visits to our web sites, and approximately 21,000 likes on our Facebook posts. Thanks to you all for keeping up with us on social media, on our news page and on our new sports site Go Blues.
#9 Refugee crisis? We heed the call.
Thanks to you we raised $50,000 to sponsor a Syrian family (arriving this fall). We kicked things off with a panel discussion on the crisis helmed by UCC parent and journalist Susan Ormiston. We also invited Syrian kids, waiting for proper homes in nearby hotels, to join us for two play days—complete with Timbits and ice skating. The World Affairs Conference also tackled the issue. We can’t solve it. But we can do our part.
#8 Guys, we hope you appreciate your parents as much as we do.
NHL hockey player Colin Greening ’05 is back in Toronto as a Maple Leaf winger. The boys were thrilled to welcome him as a speaker at the recent year-end “Spirit of Athletics” assembly. You can read all about him on the “All-Star Alumni” section of our new Go Blues website.
Among other alumni speakers, Greg Eckler ’87 wins UCC’s “funniest assembly speaker in a long time” award. One of The Rick Mercer Report’s head writers, Eckler spoke in April.
We’ll brag on his behalf. Kaleem Hawa ’12 was one of 89 Rhodes Scholars selected worldwide in 2015. (Eleven were Canadians.) It’s perhaps the most prestigious academic award in the world and UCC has 25 alumni on the list. (Our archivist is working to confirm if that’s a Canadian school record.) Hawa heads to Oxford University this fall.
More than 1,000 curious Torontonians, would-be UCC families and even former faculty stopped by for a self-guided tour as part of the perennially popular province-wide Doors Open event on May 29. It’s the third time we’ve taken part—and everyone, even veteran employees, learned a thing or two about the College. (Did you know the bell in our chapel is one of the few surviving artifacts from our first school at King and Simcoe Streets?)
…and leading up to the big goodbye—some other big farewells.
Leaving UCC this year are longtime faculty members Marshall Webb, Mary Gauthier and Lorne Young. We sent them off with an outpouring of well-wishes and wished them all the best.
#1 You guessed it… Headlining our newsfeed this year—farewell to Dr. Jim Power.
If we’d done it our way there’d have been fireworks and much more. As it was, we sent our principal off with a low-key pop-up Starbucks kiosk in our newly renovated Bernick Family Foyer. He delivered his final assembly speech to the boys on June 6. Best wishes to Mary, Bridget, Patrick, Seamus, Liam, Aidan, Peyton and Jimmer. We’ll miss you.
Upper Canada College art department head David Holt practices what he preaches to his students, as he continues a busy art career outside of his teaching schedule.
“It’s what energizes and feeds my whole teaching practice,” says Holt, who taught at Marymount College in Tarrytown, N.Y. before moving to Toronto and UCC in 2005.
“I think it’s helpful because I can speak from my direct experience. Whatever challenge someone may be having with something they’re working on, I’m able to say that I’ve been dealing with the same issue or dealt with the same case before.”
Teaching also allows Holt to continue to learn, he says.
“Because I work with students whose interests are widely varied, especially in IB visual arts, I am always exploring a range of art forms, techniques, styles and histories. I am constantly on the lookout for artists and sources to share with individual students in order to assist them with their work. This helps enlarge my awareness to a wide range of ideas and influences that is also useful for my own work.”
Holt’s art consumes whatever spare time he has and he says he wouldn’t know what to do with himself if that wasn’t the case.
“It’s something I’m always thinking about and always doing.”
Holt has been a recipient of a painting grant from the Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation and an artist’s residency at the Ragdale Foundation. His works can be found in private collections in the United States and Canada.
Holt exhibits his work at private galleries approximately every 18 months, and his latest show is at Toronto’s loop Gallery. It’s titled “Zoology” and features paintings of living, extinct and imaginary animals playfully depicted in grid-like arrangements.
The paintings are part of an ongoing series of works inspired by natural history museum displays and illustrated atlases, subjects that Holt first became interested in during the 1990s when he was broadening his artistic horizons.
“My experience in painting was in the traditional academic model where you work with models most of the time, and maybe do some still lifes and landscapes in terms of subject matter.”
Holt’s exhibitions generally include 20 to 30 paintings, depending on their size, and he always has several more on the go in his studio in advance of his next show.
“Since I am always working on my own studio pieces, along with sketchbook and research material, I share the same kinds of excitements and frustrations that the students have with their works in progress,” he says.
“Zoology” opened on May 21 and the early response has been positive. Those interested have until June 12 to see it.
Upper Canada College Grade 5 students put two months of research and preparation into their Primary Years Programme (PYP) projects, and the payoff came when they were exhibited on May 6.
The International Baccalaureate leaving projects were issue-based and represented student-driven inquiry and action. Eighteen small groups of boys from the three Grade 5 classes took part in the exhibition, which began in the Prep School’s Weston Hall with an explanation and introduction of what the event was about and a cleverly written song describing project topics performed to the tune of Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off.”
With the opening ceremonies over, the boys spread out around Weston Hall and the Bitove Lounge to talk about what they’d learned about issues covering the environment, obesity, cancer, toxic waste, body health, genetic modification, child labour, human rights, animal rights and more. They did an excellent job of presenting their points to around 100 parents and other parties.
“We’ve got students here from The York School and Branksome Hall and lots of parents,” PYP coordinator Dianne Jojic said while taking a quick breather from walking around and seeing that things were running smoothly. “The joint is jumping.
“The boys seem pleased with their exhibits and the response to them.”
The boys received assistance from faculty and staff mentors leading up to this day, and there was a lot of written information on display at the exhibition stands. Many groups went further by including quizzes that observers could take on laptop computers, interactive games and other methods to draw attention to their knowledge and ideas.
There were also art displays where each piece was accompanied by an artist statement. Among the subjects covered were pollution, religious equality, climate change, bullying, animal testing, racial discrimination and coral bleaching.
One classroom had an animated French display while another screened short student films about deforestation, water pollution and recycling.
Budding Upper Canada College moviemakers put their work on display at the sixth annual IB Film Festival at Toronto’s TIFF Bell Lightbox on April 27.
Groups of three or four IB film students collaborated on each of the short flicks, and the night featured 10 films from Grade 11 UCC students and six from those in Grade 12. The films account for 50 per cent of the final mark for the Grade 12 boys.
Students from Branksome Hall and The York School also had their movies shown.
David Crawford and some of UCC’s filmmakers at TIFF Bell Lightbox.
“Branksome and York are both IB film schools along with us, so we show them all at the same time,” says UCC film and digital media head David Crawford. “It’s the culmination of the year for all of the hard work they’ve done.”
Three hundred people came out for the event and were pleased with the results.
“The turnout was very good and the films were very good,” says Crawford. “It was a fun night and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.”
Crawford offered high praise for two UCC films in particular: Room 106 from a group of boarders at Wedd’s House; and one from a group led by Aidan Power called Always Brothers. Both of those films were also shown earlier in the month at UCC’s Nuit Bleue spring arts festival.
Upper Canada College’s three Prep bands received first place gold awards at the Montreal Heritage Festival on April 23 and 24 at Concordia University’s Oscar Peterson Hall.
Under the direction of music teacher Paul McGarr, the concert band and wind ensemble both received marks of 92 per cent while the jazz band was right behind them at 91 per cent.
The concert band and wind ensemble also received the Sweepstakes Award for the top two scoring bands from one school, and all three received the Festival of Gold Award. The concert band and wind ensemble were also presented with the Adjudicator Award for outstanding performance.
Percussionist Owen Anderson received the Maestro Award for exemplary musicianship and sensitivity.
“Twenty of the boys started learning an instrument this September, and their progress has been exceptional,” says Kathryn Edmondson, head of the Prep music department. “Congratulations to the boys and Mr. McGarr for their hard work and dedication to Prep music.”
This most recent success follows impressive performances at the Feb. 13 Ontario Band Association Festival, where the wind ensemble received the gold award and Yamaha Percussion Excellence Award and the concert band took the silver award. The jazz band was honoured with the gold award at the Feb. 17 to 19 Humber Next Generation Jazz Festival.
All three bands will perform at the London Festival of Music on May 6 at Western University.
Nuit Bleue consistently dazzles, year after year, showcasing the best in student, music, art, film, theatre and more. Here are some highlights of the big night, Thursday, April 14.
“Nuit Bleue never ceases to amaze; it’s a night to marvel and enjoy all that the boys and their teachers have in store for us,” says Arts Booster Club co-chair Amelia Rattew. “It is incredible to see how talented the boys are and how supportive the community is,” says fellow chair Laura Dallal.
IB1 art was featured along the main hallway leading to Laidlaw Hall. And the Noche Azul Spanish café was decorated with Grade 7 art, featuring printmaking and poetry. For the first time, Spanish boarders from Bishop Strachan School and students from Havergal took part. Guests were also invited to read poem and stories, handed out in the second annual Blue Caller publication.
The signature “mocktail” beverage for the evening in the student centre was Aramark’s “The Blue Thunder.” (Our intrepid reporter Heather McCall got the skinny on the recipe — blue Kool-Aid plus tonic water, plus two fresh blueberries per glass.) Students served up Greg’s Ice Cream, roasted marshmallow and double chocolate, along with goodies from Aramark. The cooking club served up fresh spring rolls and there was candy bar, courtesy of the Arts Booster Club. Free wings from St. Louis Wings & Ribs were to be had in the Blue Zone lounge.
One extremely eye-catching piece was an actual working rain cloud fountain by student Carr Norton. First installed in his backyard as a “site-specific” piece, it was moved and set up temporarily using kiddie pools as makeshift basins.
The theatre performances in the lecture theatre featured the varsity improv group. They opened the program with a few activities and games to get the audience warmed up, asking them topic suggestions for inspiration. In the exercise “Space Jump,” the action of the scene is abruptly halted, a new actor enters the scene and changes the characters and setting in strange and unusual ways. So, a man digging a grave becomes a rifleman at a shooting gallery and an arrest morphs into a dance lesson.
The Y2 students each presented a monologue or a scene from an established play. Jeremy Cait delivered an impassioned plea as Biff Loman, son of Willy Loman in the play Death of a Salesman, for his father to stop expecting him to be something he’s not. William Shakespeare was delivered expertly by the FY and IB1 students, with a notable performance from Chris Cusinato as Richard III’s doomed brother Clarence. IB2 Umid Abduragimov stole the show with his dramatic interpretation of a passage from the novel The Idiot. It didn’t hurt that he was able to start the scene in his native Russian before transitioning to English for the audience.
On the film front was the One-Second Project from College Film. These included CSiDiv, a spoof of CSI starring Intermediate Division Head Derek Poon as David Caruso’s CSI: Miami character. (Remember, he pops up out of the recycling bin to catch students skipping out on class?) Also, the IB1 fight scene project had film studies teacher David Crawford engage Simon Fon, a professional fight scene choreographer, to work with the boys and learn the tricks of the trade. Boys then choreographed and filmed their own fight scenes. There were also sneak preview of two IB2 films that will be showcased at IB2 Film Festival at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on April 27.
Finally, musical talent had the first and last word. The UCC community band kicked off the afternoon with teacher Jeff Hill belting out some Bon Jovi, to much acclaim in Laidlaw Hall. And our talented musicians ended the night with a concert in Laidlaw Hall.
Congratulations to IB1 student Max Fingold who took home a door prize, presented by Cookie–a mini digital keyboard. And congratulations to all for an innovative, expansive and creative celebration of the arts at UCC. Watch this video for a great recap of the evening.
April 6 was unofficially “Horizons Day” at Upper Canada College, as the learning partnership program to assist students from Toronto inner-city schools was involved in four separate events on campus.
The day got underway with girls from Thorncliffe Park Public School taking part in a “swim to survive program” in which UCC boys were in the pool with them and acting as lifeguards. IB1 student Benji McLean came up with the idea, and he received support from his twin brother Nathan. (See full story here.)
Fifty-three students from G.B. Little Public School enjoyed some macaroni and cheese and then received math tutoring and assistance with some of their classroom work from older UCC students during the lunch period.
All UCC Year 1 students have taken part in this program. One class took part in the program starting at noon that day, spearheaded by CAS director Craig Parkinson and civics teachers to help the boys develop empathy and a respect for learning differences.
“They worked with younger students with special needs from a developmental disabilities class for kids from Grades 1 to 6 who have something that affects their learning,” says Sehgal.
“It could be Down syndrome, autism or something congenital. It doesn’t matter. It’s about boys working with younger kids who learn differently.”
The boys spent about 90 minutes with their “little buddies,” eating lunch, doing table activities and helping the kids with a circuit program in the gym involving various physical and mental activities.
UCC hosted young Syrian refugees for the third time when about 90 of them who are living in the Plaza Hotel until their families can find more permanent accommodations arrived at 2:30 p.m. to either skate at the William P. Wilder ’40 Arena & Sports Complex or take part in art activities organized by the Prep School.
It marked the first time on ice for most of the kids, who ranged in age from three to 13 and used skates and helmets donated to Horizons by the Prep Parents’ Organization as well as those collected during the annual drive on Association Day. Upper School history teacher Reem Aweida-Parsons speaks Arabic and was on hand to translate and break down any potential language barriers, while five instructors from Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment joined UCC and The Bishop Strachan School students to ensure that the skaters were safe and had fun.
“The tutors were so patient and warm and inviting,” says Sehgal. “You see the full range of what they’re capable of.”
There are two more major Horizons events coming up at the College this month.
The first is a computer science conference hosted by 14 UCC students who will lead 55 Grade 5 and 6 students from Sprucecourt Public School from noon to five p.m. on April 12. They’ll all have lunch and then engage in rotating sessions covering topics including virtual reality, software planning and web development. Google and the University of Toronto’s science department have been supportive and donated items that will be given to participants.
UCC hosted the Ontario Model United Nations conference on April 16 and 17, and 15 Horizons participants from The Elms Middle School who’ve been part of a six-week program to develop debating skills and learn more about Model UN will be part of it. Several students from the Horizons high school program, who’ve gone through all three Horizons summer programs and are now in high school, also took part.
“It’s been a busy term, but there’s been a lot of support for these programs from the faculty, administration, parents and the boys,” says Sehgal of what Horizons has to offer the UCC community and the students from other schools who benefit from it.
“It’s a synthesis of all the good that’s going on around here. It builds character. It involves community outreach and awareness of the different lives that people are living.”
Nicholas Mountford won the contest with his “smallest face” entry. (See macro view below.) Featured image shows “farthest away” face by Takoda Kemp.
A concern by Upper Canada College art department head David Holt that people spend so much time staring at screens that face-to-face communication is suffering led him to create a fun contest to show how important faces are and encourage people to think about them.
“Kids will look at you as if you were a screen and they’re not really reading your face expression,” says Holt. “They hear the words but they’re not really reading your expressions.”
This phenomenon isn’t restricted to young people however, and Holt believes this “lack of appropriate behaviour” can have an adverse affect on both individual relationships and a larger sense of community.
Holt made a presentation at a Feb. 26 arts assembly where he talked about the “communicators” component of the International Baccalaureate learner profile and why paying attention to someone’s face during a conversation is important. He pointed out that many muscles of the face connect directly to the skin, allowing an array of meaningful facial movements to accompany vocal intonations.
Early French neurologist Guillaume Duchenne de Boulogne pioneered using electrical charges to stimulate facial muscles, producing the appearance of different emotional states that were recorded in photographs that Charles Darwin used in his 1872 book The Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals.
Some researchers think facial recognition is less about familiarity and more about how the proportions of facial features relate geometrically to one another. Such patterns are the basis for the facial recognition software you see being used on television shows like Bones and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.
The importance of facial expressions has also been long recognized in dance and theatre, where masks conveyed forceful emotional messages in the days before film close-ups.
All of these points, which Holt illustrated with examples and graphics, led him to introduce the concept of pareidolia: the imagined perception of a pattern or meaning where it doesn’t actually exist. It’s this idea that accounts for people’s propensity to see faces in inanimate objects.
Pareidolia sparked Holt’s conception of a contest where people could take photos of things that they see faces in and then email them to him in hopes of winning a $20 prize. Holt contributed several photos, even though he wasn’t eligible for the contest, and about 30 other entries were submitted by students and staff members.
The photo chosen as the best featured the smallest face submitted. It was announced in assembly on April 11 that a shot of a face on a cactus made IB1 student Nicholas Mountford $20 richer.
Greg Eckler ’87 is in the running for UCC’s “funniest assembly speaker in a long time” award. One of The Rick Mercer Report’s head writers, he spoke on Monday, April 11.
He had a hilarious bit about being exclued from UCC’s Wikipedia page. Perhaps, he suggested, we might unceremoniously replace our Oscar winner Melvyn Douglas (1913) on Wiki’s UCC list of illustrious alumni. Greg, we heard you and we attempted to enscribe your name-especially because your famous Mercer spoof of Capital One’s “Hands in my Pocket,” called “Knee in my Package,” is Oscar-worthy (see below). Sadly, the good folks at Wikipedia deleted it. (Our resident web guru Simon McNeil understands the adjudication process; for a full explanation, please feel free to ask him directly. In the meantime, this address is awesome: