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Farewell the Cinéaste

Gordon Sheridan: 1971-2024

By Barry Coulter

A bright, joyous light in the Cranbrook and area arts community has been extinguished.

Gordon Sheridan — script writer, director, media teacher and producer— possessed a wicked sense of humour and an encyclopedic knowledge of the most hidden corners of cinema, especially its darker, kitschier corners. His great joy was to share these and other gifts with the community at large.

Gordon passed away March 18, 2024, after a 16-month battle with pancreatic cancer, but his warm, rich personality will live on in the community which he engaged. Very much a people person, his love of filmmaking and cinema drew people to him and his projects.

“Gordon didn’t see obstacles — he would charge ahead with projects,” said Galen Olstead, of the Key City Theatre, a friend and associate. “It was always exciting to see what Gordon was going to do next.”

Gordon Donald Sheridan was born and grew up in Hamilton in 1971. He moved to Cranbrook with his wife Rhonda and son Parker in 2017 — after a previous trip to visit siblings and in-laws already in situ, the family decided Cranbrook was the place on Earth they wanted to be. After a long circuitous route through North America they arrived, and Gordon immediately started plying his trade as theatrical impresario.

He took work as manager and creative director of the Wild Horse Theatre at Fort Steele Heritage Town and set out to reinvent the vintage facility as a centre of classic and repertory cinema for the Cranbrook area, while creating special community events, such as a two-day talent show of local performers.

Under his motto “I just want to entertain you,” he shared his passion for and expertise of cinema through his film series — the REP — at the Studio Stage Door in Cranbrook. A family business, the REP featured cartoons or shorts before each feature film screening, popcorn from the concession, and an introductory lecture to start the evening.

He produced and directed short films for the Kimberley Horrorfest, and served as producer on the Cranbrook Community Theatre play “The Fighting Days” in early 2020.

He took on the role of programming director at the Cranbrook History Centre, where he set about to feed Cranbrook’s hunger for dinner theatre by writing and producing “We Are Not Amused,” a murder mystery set in the Royal Alexandra Hall. The announced production sold out so quickly that a second show was planned, which also sold out — in a day.

Sheridan had plans to make the Royal Alexandra Hall murder mystery dinner theatre an annual event, but the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in late 2022 put that on hold.

“Gordon had such a sharp and somewhat absurd sense of humour,” Olstead said. “He was a huge fan of theatre and cinema, with an extensive knowledge of unique and lesser-known films from the 1950s through the 1970s and beyond.

“His fascination with the concept of the auteur was particularly evident, as he admired filmmakers like Kubrick, Tarantino, Lynch, and Russ Meyer — directors who are known for their comprehensive approach to filmmaking, handling everything from writing and directing to producing. Gordon admired them for their ability to craft distinctive, unconventional stories outside the mainstream film industry.”

Gordon was a prolific writer of scripts, for graphic novels, television and feature-length films.

“His interest wasn’t merely academic,” Olstead said. “Gordon was also drawn to exploitation films, which he saw as celebrations of creativity and independence from the traditional film industry. This admiration for innovation and originality was evident in his own work. As a writer and director of his short films and theatre pieces, he embodied the spirit of the auteurs he looked up to, creating unique and thought-provoking works that reflected his individual perspective and creative vision.”

And as educator, Gordon taught English, History, Literacy and Law, but Media was his especial love. He taught video production courses of his own design at Columbia International College in Hamilton, and as an instructor of the City of Mississauga he taught Scriptwriting, Creative Writing and Writing for Children’s Literature, to both children and adults. In Cranbrook, he taught a script-writing course at the College of the Rockies.

In his short time here, Sheridan created a warm cinematic light for Cranbrook that will continue to glow. A celebration of his life is planned for a later date.