company / filmmaker
Director Stephen Low is one of the most experienced filmmakers in the large format medium, bringing to his work a unique storytelling vision and an understanding of the language, limitations and tremendous possibilities of giant screen 2D and 3D cinema.
Stephen Low never tackles the simple subjects. In working to push the visual and storytelling potential of the large format, this Montreal-based filmmaker has turned out more than fifteen remarkable giant screen audience experiences: He's strapped cameras to the surfboards of world-champion surfers (The Ultimate Wave Tahiti); he's put a camera right in the cockpit of a screamingly fast Indy car (Super Speedway); he's taken audiences closer than any camera has ever been to birds in flight (Skyward); delivered more experiences in the revolutionary IMAX 3D medium than any other director; and he's one of the few human beings privileged enough to have traveled to the abyssal depths of the ocean -- first, for his film Titanica, and then for Volcanoes of the Deep Sea.
Current Work. Low is currently at work on Rocky Mountain Express (to be released in September 2011). The film, stemming from his own passion for trains, takes audiences on a journey aboard a vintage steam locomotive to explore the epic building of Canada’s first transcontinental railway.
Recently Released. Released in 2011, Stephen’s most recent production,
Rescue 3D, plunges audiences into the hard, but inspiring work of saving lives in
the face of a natural disaster. Behind the scenes, the film follows a Canadian
naval commander, two pilots, and a volunteer rescue technician as they train for
action. When an earthquake strikes Haiti, creating one of the biggest humanitarian disasters of the century, the audience is swept along as these four responders travel to Haiti to provide aid.
The Ultimate Wave Tahiti, released in 2010, features nine-time world surfing
champion Kelly Slater and Tahitian surfer Raimana Van Bastolaer in a 3D film
about the art and science of waves and wave riding. Legends of Flight, a 3D
production on aviation, follows the creation of a next-generation jetliner and
transports audiences into the skies to explore the evolution of flying technology and its inspiration in nature.
The Underwater World. An accomplished diver, Low has always been fascinated by the prospect of filming underwater. Low's second IMAX film Beavers (1988), took audiences into the rivers and streams of the Rocky Mountains to capture the life story of a family of these amphibious creatures. Low undertook the underwater shooting for the film himself. His 1992 film Flight of the Aquanaut is the only underwater drama ever made for the giant screen. A year later, Low followed up with Titanica, a groundbreaking film that lit up the deep ocean and the Titanic wreck truly for the first time. The film documented the wreck site and captured the scope and drama of this maritime tragedy. The story in Stephen Low's Volcanoes of the Deep Sea (2003) is one he has wanted to tell for a decade: a science adventure unfolding amongst strange volcanic habitats in the deep.
Beginnings. As a child, Low was no stranger to film. His father, Colin Low, is a distinguished documentary filmmaker and cinema pioneer who's career at the National Film Board of Canada spanned over 50 years and garnered him a truckload of awards, including nine Oscar nominations.
Born in Ottawa, Stephen Low studied political science at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, graduating in 1973. For young Stephen, the business didn't have much appeal. “As a child", Stephen Low recalls, "filmmaking seemed like extremely boring stuff. Everything just took forever.” Eventually though, he too was drawn to the business. Low says the most important thing he learned from his father had nothing to do with technique. It was “a fascination with everything. There are a lot of things out there that are really interesting, and through filmmaking I could participate in them.”
“I had a fascination with everything. There are a lot of things out there that are really interesting, and through filmmaking I could participate in them.”
Low began his film career in 1976, working as a cameraman and editor in Newfoundland. After a few years crewing on films in various capacities, Low was itching to make one of his own. While sitting on a park bench, he read a story in The Globe and Mail about the Challenger jet being developed by Canadair. The company had sold 50 of them before a single plane had even been built. Low was taken by the story. He walked over to a payphone and told the company's head of public relations that he wanted to make a documentary about the plane. “Come on over,” was the answer he got. The film, Challenger: An Industrial Romance, was released in 1980 and wound up winning numerous awards. It was quite a debut. Once it was done, Roman Kroitor – one of the founders of IMAX Corporation – got Low involved in his first giant-screen project. He first experienced the unlimited possibility of the giant screen when he served as researcher on IMAX Corporation's space shuttle film Hail Columbia! In 1986, Mr. Low founded The Stephen Low Company.
The Third Dimension. Low’s work for the giant screen includes three ground-breaking films created for IMAX® 3DTM theaters. Produced for the Osaka '90 Expo The Last Buffalo captures nature's magic in the hoodoos and badlands of Southern Alberta. Across the Sea of Time (directed for Sony and Columbia Pictures) is a time-traveling drama about immigrating to New York City that introduces archival stereo images to the giant screen and demonstrates successful dramatic storytelling in the 3D medium. Mark Twain’s America (for Sony), retells the life of one of America's greatest authors and humorists, revealing in the writer's own words, the dramas of his existence and the marvels of his era.
Beyond directing and producing, Low has worked through his company to develop, adapt and apply, a wide range of technology and techniques for filming, from deep ocean underwater HMI lights to camera mounts for racing cars. In addition, Mr. Low was involved as writer for the IMAX film Jane Goodall's Wild Chimpanzees and as a consultant on the feature-length IMAX concert film Rolling Stones: At the Max.
'It’s unique and no one’s done it before,' describes Low’s approach to filmmaking. With the rare ability to balance honest, human stories with the technical wizardry necessary to tell those stories, he has built a reputation as a director who cares deeply about his subjects – whether they are the teeming life forms in hydrothermal vent communities, a family of beavers in the wild, or a father and son who share a passion for driving the world’s fastest cars.
“It's important to know your craft, but if you don't have anything to say there's no point. In documentary, your subject – not your technical skills – has to drive you,” says Low. “I know people whose interest lies purely in the technical side of filmmaking. You see that all the time. But I don’t think it’s valid. You’ve got to have something to say.” Low has clearly never lacked something to say in his films. He has always trusted his keen instinct for a good story.
Awards. His innovative approach to filmmaking has resulted in over 50 awards world-wide, including the prestigious Grierson Award for achievement in documentary film and most recently, the Kodak Vision Award for Lifetime Achievement, presented by the Giant Screen Cinema.
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