Gray Biography and Filmography
The nature films of Wilf and Margaret Gray combine
exceptional cinematography with efficient writing and tight editing. They pride
themselves on their spirit of independence, pointing out that, of the 152 films
they’ve made, only two were not wholly funded by themselves.
Born in 1930 in the British town of South Shields,
Northumberland, Wilfred E. Gray began talking still photographs as a boy, and
eventually took on the task of aerial film reconnaissance for the Royal Navy
during WWII. In the mid-1950s, he helped put one of Canada’s first television
stations (CFCF in Montréal) on the air, and soon moved to British Columbia,
where he made his first film, Mountains to the Sea (renamed
Northwest: Mountains to the Sea) in 1956. Wilf and his wife Margaret
established Wilf Gray Productions in 1964, in Victoria, BC. Many of their films
appeared in Journal Films' 'Natural Environment' series (credits: Directed and
photographed by Wilf Gray ; narrated by Bob Switzer ; edited by Bert Bush ;
location sound and research, Margaret Gray).
Wilf was one of the first academic filmmakers to insist
on using color film, and points to his feature film of 1973, Four
Seasons, as being the first feature relying totally on natural sound.
In spite of having a large library of natural sound and extraordinary footage,
Gray steadfastly refuses to rent these resources to other media institutions, as
he feels this will dilute the value of his films.
In making a film, Wilf acts as the cameraman and
writes the script, and his wife Margaret (also a native of Northumberland) does
the research, sound recording, and handles travel and location logistics.
Today, Wilf Gray’s films are out of distribution.
He occasionally makes them available to television, but contractually insists
that no footage be edited, and allows no more than two broadcasts. He is
investigating the possibility of making his films available again on DVD.
Wilf Gray is a filmmaker of the old school. “You
can only do a film from the heart if you finance it yourself… to be independent,
you have to make sacrifices. We are the only documentary filmmakers of note
that have never gone to the government for funding.” He eschews publicity (“We
don’t need publicity here, we’re only two people”), and modern conveniences such
as voicemail and email.
On one hand, he’s a throwback to an older, more
independent era, where quality of product and insistent on personal and
professional standards was paramount. On the other, his insistence on living
life at his own pace, rather than one dictated by the exigencies of business,
could either be viewed as futuristic, or timeless.
We are in the process of collecting data on Gray’s 152
films. The following films were distributed in the 1970s and 1980s by
denotes those believed (but not confirmed) to be Gray's films
Antarctica: Unowned Land (1979)
Canadian Spring (1982)
Desert Southwest (1979)
Farne Islands, The (1972?)
Florida Everglades (1977)
Four Seasons (1973)
Galapagos - The Enchanted Islands (1980)
Great Lakes, The (1981) Wilf Gray
Productions for Journal's 'Natural Environment' series. Describes the unique
characteristics of the Great Lakes as well the value of the lakes in terms of
food, transportation, recreation, and power.
High Plains: Caribou Country (1977)
Inside Passage (1974)
? Land That Came In From The Cold (1980)
Life of the Sockeye Salmon (1977)
Kluane, Yukon Territory (1973)
Northern Lakes (1978)
Northwest: Mountains to the Sea (1956, 1977)
Place to Be, A (1968) Shows various tourist attractions in Vancouver and
at Grouse Mountain.
Promise of Spring (1975?) Wilf Gray Productions/KEG Productions
(Toronto)/Produced with the cooperation of the National Audubon and Canadian
Audubon Societies - Series: Audubon Wildlife Theatre - Released in the US by A-V
Explorations - Director and photographer, Wilf Gray; Producers, G. Kedey, R.
Ellis, D. Gibson; consultant, G. Knerer, music, R. Harrison. Shows the changing
patterns of plants, animals, and elements in the spring, from the shores of
Vancouver Island to the alpine meadows of the Canadian Rockies and the rich
valleys of the interior.
Salmon Research: Water Pollution (1973)
Sea to Sea (1975)
Voyage to the Arctic (1978)
Water: Life to a City (1975)
Wildlife Conservation Officer (1972)
Yukon Territory (1977)
Other films made by Wilf Gray
Big Game Camera Holiday (1963, for British
Columbia. Dept. of Recreation and Conservation) Accompanies the members of a
picture-taking expedition into Canada's Tweedsmuir National Park and follows
their pursuit of big game. Pictures a giant grizzly bear at the water's edge,
big-horn sheep and mountain goats, caribou, white-tailed deer and elk.
Breath of Spring (1966, British Columbia. Dept. of
Recreation and Conservation)
British Columbia: Mountains to the Sea (1970)
Canadian Spring (1972)
East 1, West 1 (1966, for British Columbia. Dept. of Recreation and
Conservation, Photographic Branch) Traces the Trans - Canada Highway from
the foothills of the Rocky Mountains to Vancouver Island.
Highway One (1975) - Wilf Gray Productions - Producer, director, and
photographer, Wilf Gray; writer, Marg Gray; narrator, Bob Switzer; film editor,
Bert Bush. Shows Trans-Canada Highway from Calgary to Victoria, consisting of
1,000 miles of changing scenery and points of interest.
Indian Days (1963), National Film Board of Canada/British Columbia, Dept.
of Recreation and Conservation - Director, Wilf Gray; script, Julia Gosling;
narrators, George McLean, Jim Nielsen; photographers, Wilf Gray, Peter
Parsons. Pictures and describes Indian Days, a mid-June event in Kamloops every
year. Includes views of its main street parade and rodeo with wild bronco
riding, steer roping, and bull riding.
Land of the Overlanders (1975, made for British Columbia. Dept. of Recreation
Last Frontier (1970?)
Place of Opportunity, A (1971, for British Columbia. Dept. of Industrial
Development, Trade and Commerce). Presents the main economic features in BC,
with emphasis on future opportunities. Includes scenes of the British Columbia
International Trade Fair.
Play it Safe! (1962, for BC Dept. of Recreation and Conservation.
Photographic Branch). Training in the safe handling of firearms, gasoline and
explosives on land and on water. Includes hunting safety; safe transportation of
firearms; the perils of handling blasting caps and dynamite; and what to do if
unexploded naval ordnance is discovered on the beach.
Rogers Pass (1960, for BC Dept. of Highways). Story of the work and
exploration of Major A B Rogers, who discovered a pass through the Selkirk
Mountain range in British Columbia, making east - west traffic across Canada
Possible. Poses the idea that the United States might today have more than 50
states if Rogers Pass had not been discovered when it was.
Tied to the Sea (1969), Wilf Gray Productions/NFB. Describes recreation
that proximity to the Pacific gives to the people of British Columbia and
Vancouver Island. Includes views of Victoria and Vancouver, and shows the people
as they sail, water ski, fish for salmon, and enjoy cookouts.
To Catch a Trout (1971, for British Columbia. Dept. of Recreation and
Conservation). Illustrates how the Fish and Wildlife Branch operates hatcheries
throughout the province to stock lakes with young fish. The film shows egg
collecting, hatchery operation and stocking procedures. The Kootenay Trout
Hatchery is shown.
Ski B.C. (1967, for BC Dept. of Travel Industry. Film and Photographic
Branch) Shows skiing facilities at Grouse Mountain, Mt. Whistler, near Rossland
(including shots of Nancy Green), and near Revelstoke, as well helicopter
Valley of the Swans (1964, for BC Dept. of Recreation and Conservation.
Photographic Branch). Migratory birds at Duck Lake bird sanctuary, and
attractions near Creston in the Kootenay Lake region
Vancouver Island (French version: L'ILE DE VANCOUVER, 1964), NFB/British
Columbia Dept. of Recreation and Conservation - Director, Wilf Gray; writer,
Marjorie McKay. A tour of Vancouver Island,
showing views of its scenery and places of interest.
Wildlife Conservation Officer (1972). In a province as vast and
diversified as B.C., the work of a conservation officer is varied and demanding.
This film shows the many tasks that are part of that work -- from aerial census,
tagging and tracking of animals to enforcement and court appearances.