An uncharted path


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Forest Hill C.I.’s Alan Zweig decided to change his career path in high school

Alan Zweig changed directions in high school. He was supposed to be sensible and become a lawyer. He was supposed to have a stable job and work for a big firm. But he decided that route wasn’t for him. Instead, this Forest Hill Collegiate Institute graduate became a filmmaker. He didn’t pick up a camera until university, but it was his years at Forest Hill that inspired him to take the path less travelled.

“I didn’t want to do what was expected of me, and I think that was reinforced by the time in which I grew up.… For me there is no doubt that if I had gone to a different high school and not explored another side of me I would have ended up a lawyer.”

One teacher in particular threw the young Zweig off his charted course. Mr. Ricciardelli, the Latin teacher, was the first person who told the budding filmmaker that he could be whatever he wanted to be — a seemingly strange concept for Zweig, who had never thought of becoming an artist.

It wasn’t until university that Zweig found an outlet for his creativity.

After a friend asked him to help on a film, Zweig discovered his artistic talents. His chosen career path has certainly been interesting, but it’s not always easy, and every so often that practical lawyer dream surfaces.

“There is zero security. You’re never sure if you’ll get to make another film. As much as I love it, it’s an extremely insecure career.”

With a distinct, reflective film style, Zweig has had a successful, if at times uncertain, career.

He had his first big hit in 2000 with a documentary called Vinyl, which has a cultlike following among film enthusiasts.

After the success of Vinyl, Zweig released I, Curmudgeon, in 2004, and Lovable in 2007. Due to the introspective nature of these three films, critics often refer to them as Zweig’s mirror trilogy. In 2011, Hot Docs  paid tribute to Zweig and his trilogy through Focus On, an event which celebrates Toronto filmmakers.

His next film, 15 Reasons to Live, is showing at this year’s Hot Docs film festival.

He is also working on another project that explores his identity and how his Forest Hill upbringing shaped his life.

“My creativity didn’t quite flourish there, but my inspiration to let it flourish was reinforced at Forest Hill.”

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