Bringing big city talent to our neck of the woods
Derek Van Lint, Dan Akryod and The Muppets are just a few of the big names that Christopher Gentile has worked with over the years. From his time in the film industry to his career now as a commercial photographer, he’s done a lot of everything.
Gentile grew up in Prince Edward County and that is where he returned to after spending forty years working in Toronto in the film industry, including being a cinematographer. He transitioned into commercial photography and now has a studio in downtown Belleville.
He got his start when a film crew came to Prince Edward County to shoot an Ontario Tourism commercial as part of the “Ontario, Yours to Discover” campaign. They were looking for on screen talent to run around the beach. Gentile, who planned on attending college to learn film production, got a group of his friends together to be in the commercial and ended up connecting with the film crew, who ended up being higher up in the industry then he thought.
“It turned out they [the film crew] were a real major player in the film industry and my plan was to go and study film production at Sheridan College and these guys were like “if you ever want to work in the film industry, here’s our card, come and see us.” I gave it some thought and sure enough day one I started working with those guys.”
His first job was as a Production Assistant (PA), or Gopher, so called because PAs are the ones who “go for” things and are always running around sets. Gentile’s work ethic and dedication helped grow his career.
“You’re freelance, doing little projects all the time and trying to gain more experience and more experience…you work through all the categories and then instead of being a PA, you might become a Production Manager, or an Assistant Director and then I started working with talent more, directors more. It just kept growing and growing and growing.”
He hit a lucky break when one of his friends in the industry needed Gentile to cover a job for him in Australia.The job was for three days but he landed a position for a film company for ten years, and it gained him a mentor.
“This job was with Derek Van Lint, an amazing cinematographer, he worked with Ridley Scott on Alien, and was a great mentor to work with. He was really passionate about teaching people about his craft.”
Derek Van Lint isn’t the only talented person Gentile has worked with. Through his film career he worked on set with The Muppets and the Jim Henson Company. For those who do not know, The Muppets are an ensemble cast of puppets known for their variety sketch comedy.
“The best thing for me was that when The Muppets were out, they had to be alive, that was the golden rule. It was really funny because people would be walking by and these things would be interacting, they’d start touching you and looking at you. They really were alive. It was really incredible, they were real characters.”
Transitioning to commercial photography enabled Gentile to work with Dan Akroyd for his company Crystal Head Vodka. Gentile had shot a picture of one of the bottles while working with a friend and had it on his website. Crystal Head called after they saw the image and hired him to shoot more.
“It goes back to just practising and doing something and you know that kind of work does turn into paying work. There’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, hopefully. It does work. It does pay off.”
Having been based out of Toronto for most of his career, it might seem that moving to a smaller community would have been a big shift but Gentile has found that there is a large artistic community in the Quinte region.
“Belleville was this ideal location, a diamond in the rough. I think what people see here is that there’s a community of artists around and the more they come, the more we start connecting.”
He finds Belleville to be a beautiful backdrop for on location shooting. With the downtown core full of older buildings, many of which are limestone – it’s aesthetically amazing for photographs. Gentile also finds that there is a big demand for photographers here.
“I was really surprised by the amount of work in the area, and there’s enough work for everybody which I think is great.”
For more of Gentile’s story, check out the Quinte Arts Council Podcast Makin’ Stuff Up: The Power of the Commercial Photographer and Cinematographer available on Amazon, Audible, Youtube and Spotify.