Wilf Gray
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Wilf Gray Biography and Filmography


Wilf Gray Productions 

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 Journal Films:

 ? denotes those believed (but not confirmed) to be Gray's films

Amazon (1980)
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 and Conservation)
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 skiing.
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.

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