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Food Network Canada cameraman Shane Geddes follows in the family tradition

Shane Geddes wins a Leo for Eat Street

HE won a Leo award for his cinematography on the food travel show Eat Street, but before that, making movies was what Shane Geddes did to avoid homework.

"They really didn't like taking French, so they talked their teacher into letting them make films instead of writing essays and then giving an oral French presentation," explains Susan Geddes, Shane's mother. "They ended up learning way more French than they would've anyway, and they also ended up learning way more film."

Shane laughs at the memory of Super 8 cameras and gangster movies during a break from Eat Street, which chronicles the cuisine streetside vendors sell across North America.

"We were kind of lucky enough that the films were good enough to let that slide by," he says of the drive-by shooting story with classroom dialogue woven into the plot.

"People asking where the bathroom is always made its way into the project," he recalls.

Shane, 30, has a disposition for cinema that has its roots in his father David Geddes' fascination with nature photography.

Shortly after graduating from high school in California, Susan spent some time on the road, ultimately heading north.

"I picked Dave up hitchhiking in 1969 when he was looking for work as a logger in northern B.C. and I was a California girl travelling in my Volkswagen van, hiking and seeing the country," Susan remembers.

"At the time, photography was my hobby," David says.

Shortly after deciding to pursue a career as a photographer, David enrolled in a two-year program at the North Alberta Institute of Technology.

"The second year of that course they introduced us to film and television production, and that's where I got the bug for film," he says, discussing the skill required to blend motion, depth, and story. "It's the ultimate photography."

With David working as a well-educated waiter after graduation, the newly-married couple decided to invest in the future.

"My mother let me use her house as collateral to buy my first 16mm camera and then we basically starved for the next 12 years while I built up my career," David says.

David accumulated unpaid experience until he got a life changing phone call from the CBC news program The Fifth Estate.

"They needed an extra cameraman just for one day. Fortunately for me I got the phone call. With that one day's worth of work, my career started."

"Dave ended up doing the usual kinds of things you do when you live in British Columbia: flying with water bombers, and swimming with whales, and he also got to spice it up by interviewing Margaret Thatcher and filming Charles and Diana when they were here," Susan says. "He did so many logging shows. . . we had to replace the logging boots he used when he was a logger."

David also picked up a credit on the sci-fi horror classic The Thing, as well as the teenage cop TV show 21 Jumpstreet.

"I started as the new camera operator on the first day of reshoots when some kid named Johnny Depp was introduced," David says. "So Johnny Depp and I started on the same day."

Asked when their two kids came along, Susan laughs and replies, "After the camera."

Despite the family pedigree, Susan, a painter whose artwork has been exhibited at several galleries, says she didn't think either child would follow in their father's footsteps.

"Both kids for awhile swore they would never go into film because they knew how brutal the hours were and how you always worry that you'll never get another job, and then when you get a job you always worry that you'll never see your family again," she says.

"When I was a kid I always said the last thing in the world that I want to do is become a filmmaker," Shane acknowledges. "The older I got the more I realized it was in my blood."

After graduating from Concordia, Shane found himself at the centre of Vancouver's booming film industry.

"I went straight out of university, being accustomed to sleeping in if I wanted to, going out if I wanted to, doing whatever I wanted to, straight to 16-hour days, five or six days a week," Shane says.

He also experienced the anonymous drudgery that can be synonymous with large productions.

"I wasn't really leaving a mark on anything that I was working on," Shane says, discussing the distinction between making a film and supporting a production.

Eventually landing a job on the Food Network's show Glutton for Punishment, Shane was able to re-shape his career.

"I transitioned. . . into the kind of shows that I'm shooting now which are more documentary and lifestyle television, and it's a much better world."

With Shane's sister Sorrell Geddes currently attending film school at Chapman University in California, the Geddes family is fully committed to film, which Susan refers to as "the currency of literacy."

"I think you can't grow up now without a background in film the way my generation couldn't grow up without a background in English literature," Susan says. "After (Shane) started at Concordia, he said, 'Mom, it's really cool studying film because it makes you want to learn about everything else, because they'd. . . screen things like Apocalypse Now. So he took courses in Asian history and religion."

But while film can serve as an entry point into a broader worldview, there is also something compelling about film itself for David.

"I love film. I mean film really still has the best look. It's that photochemical process that's still organic and that alone gives a sense of more roundness to the image, more of a threedimensional look to it. The built-in grain that you have with film also has a softening effect, so it has much nicer skin tones," he says. "Digital, because it's ones and zeroes, it really has a sharper edge."

In what has become a pattern in the Geddes family, Shane was too busy to pick up his Leo for best cinematography in an information or lifestyle series for Eat Street, leaving his father to accept the honour and make a speech.

"I was so thrilled for him that I teared up," David says. "It was passing the torch."

"In retrospect, that meant more to me than the award," Shane says of his father's speech. "I got some texts from people that I knew who were at the awards ceremony and they told me that his acceptance speech was the most honest and most amazing one of the night, so that was pretty touching."

The award is also impressive considering Shane's relative inexperience in television.

"It's actually the first broadcast show that I was the director of photography for, so it's a bit of a shocker," he says.

It's not the first time the father and son team have experienced winning a Leo.

"A couple years ago I won the Leo for best feature cinematography," David says, referring to the independent film A Simple Curve. "On that particular project I had Shane shoot the second unit footage for me. You know how they always show a short clip from the movie when they show the nominations? They used footage that Shane shot in the clip."

"A bunch of people approached him that night and they're like, 'The show was amazing, the snow footage was incredible,' and it was all the stuff that I'd done," Shane recalls, laughing.

Now working 10-hour days on Eat Street and toying with the idea of eventually creating his own shows, Shane says he's content with his lot in life.

"It's kind of the best of both worlds: it's travel documentaries that are focused on food," he says. "What else do you want to be surrounded by when you're at work?

"I'm having a blast doing what I'm doing and to be honest, I don't mind staying here for awhile. It's a really nice place to be."

jshepherd@nsnews.com