Friday, November 9, 2012

Ian Caddell, 1949 - 2012


If a friendship can be forged on differences, it speaks to my relationship with Ian Caddell – and the irony of (rightly) lionizing him for the Toronto Film Critics Association.

Ian was born in Montreal and created a rich life for himself in Vancouver (though never in the financial sense) – two cities that could hardly be further apart on many fronts. But it was in his DNA from both places to have an almost comical antipathy towards Toronto.

It was always cruel fun to get him started on a rant about the Big Smoke (with no rancor invested on my end because I love both Montreal and Vancouver). With the mildest jibes, I could also easily get Ian to rise to defense of the Vancouver Film Festival or the Vancouver Critics’ Film Circle (which he co-founded). He even loved the Vancouver Grizzlies.

To even things out, I also indulged his parochialism. One of our most fun days together saw us slip away from a New York junket, get on a subway to Queens and catch a game at Shea Stadium between the Mets and his beloved Expos – complete with a lengthy discourse on the various cosmic injustices that had been done to the ‘Spos over the years, and the World Series that would have been theirs had Major League Baseball not enforced a lockout during their most golden summer.

And yet, many of Ian’s best friends in the business were Toronto-based. And he was, of course, a regular sight at TIFF for more than a decade. That was business, and knowing Ian gave me an insight into the cruel practicality of the life of a freelancer. TIFF to him was a crucial component of his annual income – scores of interviews that could be sold at x-hundred dollars a pop. The same was true of the studio junket circuit, each one an exercise in numbers-crunching in support of the weird alchemy that saw him raise five sons who never left home, and of whom he was always immensely proud.

Sure, at times in his life, Ian had a “job” – most notably as executive editor of the industry mag Reel West. But mostly he had clients, who gladly accepted his work and may or may not have always paid full value. The Georgia Strait, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, even (and I smile as I try to imagine this) CBC’s Good Rockin’ Tonight.

Somehow, with perennially-strained finances, he bought a house, raised his sons - as a single dad in his last several years, though towards the end with almost-angelic support from his girlfriend Anja.

Practicality and duty dictated that he continue to work, even after bouncing back from near-death once (in 2011 he spent several weeks kept alive by feeding and breathing tubes).

He continued to attend junkets in 2012, gambling with health insurance and at one point administering his own oral chemotherapy while in L.A. One night at dinner (which he could no longer taste), he described the reality of his condition in clear-eyed terms. He probably wouldn’t be here in a year, “but I don’t have a choice, I have to keep going.”

When he didn’t show up at TIFF this year, I knew his situation had to have turned grave. As much as he could hold forth with his opinions, Ian was immensely kind and fiercely loyal. He would brook no malicious gossip in his presence about anyone he called a friend.

And that put a lot of people on the not-to-be maligned list. A remarkably large and disparate group of people called Ian Caddell a friend. They are all one good friend poorer after this week.

- Jim Slotek

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