Top News

Bob Wakeham: Mike Jones was N.L.’s godfather of film

Mike Jones on the set of “Multiple Choice,” for which he was the director of photography.
Mike Jones on the set of “Multiple Choice,” for which he was the director of photography. — Submitted photo

Somewhere in the house, buried, I’m sure, amongst a mound of paper memorabilia, most of it retained for reasons long forgotten, there’s an uncashed cheque made out to me as payment for my only performance in a full-length feature film.

Bob Wakeham
Bob Wakeham

“Performance,” as you might have easily and quickly guessed, is quite the serious embellishment, given that I’m on screen during “The Adventure of Faustus Bidgood” for five seconds or so, in the role of a reporter — yup, a classic example of type-casting — attending a press conference being held at the Colonial Building by the new “president” of Newfoundland, the eponymous, fantasy-driven Faustus (played by wonderful actor, writer and comedian Andy Jones), and his scraggly-looking cabinet.

Glancing the other night at a few sections of “Faustus,” I managed to find my blink-and-you’ll-miss-it slice of movie fame: there I am, looking quite serious, notebook in hand, disgustingly youthful, sporting long brown hair and a dark beard that seems to stretch to my breastbone.

The scene was shot in the late ’70s, so just about everyone, as you can imagine, has shoulder-length hair and beards (at least the men do, and it is a predominately male scene), with the exception of the conservative-looking Bren Walsh of the CBC, the then middle-aged dean of local journalists, one of my press conference “colleagues.” (Also in our little band of reporters displaying their acting chops is Earle McCurdy, at the time a fellow Evening Telegram scribe, before his departure to what turned out to be a long career trying to correlate solidarity and cod).

Glancing the other night at a few sections of “Faustus,” I managed to find my blink-and-you’ll-miss-it slice of movie fame: there I am, looking quite serious, notebook in hand, disgustingly youthful, sporting long brown hair and a dark beard that seems to stretch to my breastbone.

There are cameos galore throughout “Faustus” by friends and colleagues of the makers of the movie, all of us rewarded with a share in the royalties, and ultimately, a few years later, a cheque for 20 bucks or thereabouts, if my fading memory is at all half-arsed reliable; the cheque I referred to earlier in this piece, the one probably resting in a box in our crawl space.

I never cashed the cheque — even though, back in the day, it could surely have funded a weekend on the beer at the Corner Tavern and the Ship Inn — because I became aware that that little scrap of paper was my personal link to an amazing cultural icon, “Faustus,” becoming, as it did, a critical element, a profound participant, in the cultural renaissance of the 1970s, largely driven by the arts community. It was indeed a resurrection of Newfoundland pride and self-confidence, a restoration of a belief in ourselves, a recognition of our uniqueness, most of which had been smothered since Confederation, if not since the ignominious, sheep-like acceptance of Commission of Government.

The reason for this trip down memory lane should be obvious to many: the director of “Faustus,” Mike Jones, Andy’s brother, died last week at the age of 73, and is being remembered, justifiably so, as the man who laid the foundation for what is today a mightily successful and highly-respected film and television industry in Newfoundland

Jones also directed “Secret Nation,” a fictionalized take on the enduring contention that all was not above board (an understatement, really) in the way in which Newfoundlanders chose, by the slimmest of margins, to join the crowd upalong. He was also behind the camera for much of the hilarious and satirical material produced by Codco, and was a founder of the groundbreaking Newfoundland Independent Filmmakers’ Co-operative, an organization that continues to promote the on-screen reflection of Newfoundland by Newfoundlanders, a concept non-existent before “Faustus.”

Perhaps way too many people, especially the 40-and-younger crowd, are probably unaware of Mike Jones’ immense contribution to the local film business, and to the artistic and cultural heritage of Newfoundland generally. Unfortunately, it took his death, its natural publicity, and the accolades that have been aired and written about his work — writer Ed Riche had an especially moving and insightful tribute to his colleague and friend in an interview with CBC’s “On the Go” host Ted Blades last week — to remind those who perhaps take for granted “Republic of Doyle” or “Little Dog” or the phenomenal output of artistic expression in Newfoundland, that Mike Jones was there in the beginning, that his legacy should always and forever be acknowledged.

I never knew Jones personally, although we travelled in many of the same circles, and had numerous associates and friends in common.

So I’ve heard enough of Mike to know that he was a real decent fella, grand company, and a Newfoundlander down to the very marrow of his St. John’s bones.

People like Mike Jones, his brother Andy, their sister Cathy, Mary Walsh, Figgy Duff, Gerry Squires, Ray Guy, Donna Butt, Lisa Moore, Alan Doyle, Allan Hawco — the list is endless — are all cut from that same cloth of Newfoundland pride, one that has forever destroyed the mythical image fostered on the Mainland of Newfoundlanders as a bunch of “stupid Newfies.”

So cheers, Mike.

And thanks for giving a lifelong movie buff like me at least one chance to hear and respond to a director shouting: “Action!

Bob Wakeham has spent more than 40 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at bwakeham@nl.rogers.com

Recent Stories