Cynthia Scott

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Cynthia Scott
Born (1939-01-01) 1 January 1939 (age 80)
OccupationFilm director, screenwriter, film editor, film producer

Cynthia Scott (born January 1, 1939) RCA, is an Oscar and Canadian Film Award winning filmmaker who has produced, directed, written and edited several films with the National Film Board of Canada. She is a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.[1] She is married to filmmaker John N. Smith.[2] Her work with the NFB is mainly focused on documentary filmmaking. Some of Scott's most notable documentaries for the NFB feature dancing and the dance world including Flamenco at 5:15 (1983), which won an Academy Award for Documentary Short at the 56th Academy Awards in 1984.[3]


Cynthia Scott was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She grew up in a self-described working-class family that fostered her creativity growing up.[2] She studied English Literature and Philosophy at the University of Manitoba, graduating with a B.A. in 1959, at the age of 19.[4]

Early career in media[edit]

After graduation, Scott worked at the Manitoba Theatre Centre as a second assistant director before moving to London, England where she worked as a researcher for Patrick Wilson and Douglas Leiterman on This Hour Has Seven Days.[2] In 1965, she returned to Canada and began working as a public affairs producer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation television program Take 30, where she stayed for nearly a decade.[2]

Filmmaking with the NFB[edit]

Scott's career took a turn in 1972 when the National Film Board of Canada hired her as a staff director. She immediately began directing, producing and sometimes writing both documentary and fiction pieces for the NFB, mainly slice-of-life documentaries with a mind for social issues.[4] In her first year with the NFB, she directed a 26-minute documentary named The Ungrateful Land: Roch Carrier Remembers Ste-Justine (1972). Her debut directing work would then go on to win a Canadian Film Award for direction in a TV Information program.[5] In 1976, Scott produced the controversial Barbara Greene documentary Listen Listen Listen (1976) for the NFB.[4]

Once she had been working at the NFB for about a decade, she co-wrote, co-edited and co-produced a NFB joint project titled For The Love of Dance (1981).[4] Over the next several years, Scott would work on several documentaries set in the dance world, including Flamenco at 5:15 (1983), which won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject.

She also researched and co-wrote First Winter (1982),[6] directed by John N. Smith (her spouse and fellow filmmaker), which received an Academy Award nomination for Best Live Action Short at the 54th Academy Awards.

The Company of Strangers[edit]

In the late 1980s, Scott began developing a full length docufiction film with the NFB featuring eight non-actresses, all but one of whom were senior citizens. The Company of Strangers (US title: Strangers in Good Company), released in 1990, features a heavily improvised script based on the real lives of the women cast.[7] The film was a huge success in both Canada and international markets; it became the highest grossing NFB produced film ever at the time.[8]

After career[edit]

Scott is currently[when?] recovering from cancer. Before being diagnosed, she was in development on an adaptation of The Stone Diaries, a 1993 fictional autobiography written by Carol Shields. She has said she plans to go back into development on The Stone Diaries once her health has returned to normal.[2]

However, in a 2004 interview with Sarah Kernochan, Scott described herself to Kernochan as "retired now".[9]


Director filmography[edit]

  • The Ungrateful Land: Roch Carrier Remembers Ste-Justine (1972)
  • Some Natives of Churchill (1973)
  • Scoggie (1975)
  • For the Love of Dance (1981) (co-directed with John N. Smith, Michael McKennirey and David Wilson)
  • Flamenco at 5:15 (1983)
  • Discussions in Bioethics: A Chronic Problem (1985)
  • Jack of Hearts (1986)
  • The Company of Strangers (1990)

Co-writer filmography[edit]

  • First Winter (1982) (co-written with Gloria Demers)
  • The Company of Strangers (1990) (co-written with David Wilson, Sally Bochner and Gloria Demers)

Producer filmography[edit]

  • Take 30 series (1965–72) (TV, 71 episodes)[2] (co-producer)
  • Man Alive: Jack Chambers (1971)
  • West series: Ruth and Harriet: Two Women of the Piece (1973)
  • West series: Every Saturday Night
  • Some Natives of Churchill (1973)
  • Listen Listen Listen (1976) (co-produced with Roman Kroitor)
  • Canada Vignettes: Holidays (1978)
  • Canada Vignettes: The Thirties (1978)
  • You've Got the Power: Arioli: Running (1979)
  • You've Got the Power: Teenagers (1979)
  • Man of Might: Fit In (1979)
  • For the Love of Dance (1981) (co-produced with John N. Smith, Michael McKennirey, David Wilson and Adam Symansky)
  • Flamenco at 5:15 (1983) (co-produced with Adam Symansky)

Co-editor filmography[edit]

  • For the Love of Dance (1981) (co-edited with John N. Smith, Micheal McKennirey and David Wilson)
  • Flamenco at 5:15 (1983) (co-edited with Paul Demers)

Awards and nominations[edit]

The Ungrateful Land: Roch Carrier Remembers Ste-Justine (1972):

First Winter (1982):

Flamenco at 5:15 (1983):

The Company of Strangers (1990):


Further reading[edit]

  • Cinema Canada. NFB fetes Hollywood heroes Scott and Symansky. Interview with Cynthia Scott, Adam Symansky. Cinema Canada, May 1984.
  • Cloutier, Anne. Sereine complicité. Interview with Cynthia Scott. 24 Images, no. 54, Spring 1991. [in French]
  • Currat, Joëlle, Élodie François, Anna Lupien, and Pascale Navarro. 40 ans de vues rêvées : l'imaginaire des cinéastes québécoises depuis 1972. Edited by Marquise Lepage. Montréal: Réalisatrices Équitables/Éditions Somme toute, 2014. Photographies, Anna Lupien. [in French] (pp. 232–234)
  • D'Arcy, Jan. Magic shadows: Cynthia Scott. Canadian Forum, vol. 71, June 1992.
  • Floyd, Nigel. Nigel Floyd meets Cynthia Scott. Interview with Cynthia Scott. Time Out, May 1, 1991.
  • Watson, Patricia. Cynthia Scott and The Company of Strangers: An interview. Canadian Woman Studies / Les Cahiers de la femme 12, no. 2 (1992): 109-114.

External links[edit]