Reel Career Profile Series: Sean Garrity

The Burning Season (2023) / Dir: Sean Garrity

Award-winning filmmaker, Sean Garrity (MY AWKWARD SEXUAL ADVENTURE, BOREALIS, I PROPOSE WE NEVER SEE EACH OTHER AGAIN AFTER TONIGHT) is just between last year’s 200-cinema theatrical run of his hit comedy THE END OF SEX, and the much smaller art-house release of his newest film, THE BURNING SEASON, slated for this May (his 9th and 10th features respectively).

His films have been sold around the world, translated into more than 15 languages, selected by some of the world’s most prestigious festivals, and the subject of numerous remakes.

Sean lives in Winnipeg.

When and how did you start in the industry.

A band I was playing in got money for a music video – I had been to film school, so they asked me to make it for them. That music video lead to another one, which lead to another, and soon I was also directing short films. Then one short film I was developing got so over-bloated that it grew into my first feature: INERTIA in 2001.

INERTIA (2001) / Dir: Sean Garrity

What area of the film industry do you work in now?

I am a filmmaker. So, I direct feature films, and I often end up writing and editing them too. And, when I can’t trick someone else into producing it for me, I do that as well.

What has been a substantial change in the film industry since you started?

I made my first short films in the late 90s – shooting on film, recording sound on analog Nagras (onto half-inch tape!), physically cutting the film on a Steenbeck, getting a lab to print out the finished film onto reels, making VHS screeners, and chiseling our posters out of stone slabs!

(One of those things I may have made up.)

If you could give yourself advice today to yourself in the past, what would it be?

Eat more salad.

What advice would you give to someone starting in the film industry who wants to do what you do?

Make your film.

The industry is full of people who will tell you that you can never direct, that it’s impossible to make your own work – much less get it seen, and especially as a Winnipegger – people will tell you that the obstacles to filmmaking are overwhelming, the path is long, and it’s better to not waste your time.

Don’t listen to these people, just make your film.

Borealis (2016) / Dir: Sean Garrity

Why is learning and training important?

Somebody really smart once said: the only constant in life is change.

I feel like, in our industry, everything changes so fast – not only technology, but also the kinds of stories being told and how they’re being told, the financing models, the Canadian and international markets, the path your film needs to take through those markets to find its audience – it’s all changing all the time.

The second I stop learning, I’m dead.

What are some of the films, TV series or even books that have inspired you?

When I first started out, I was heavily influenced by a cinematographer I did a few projects with. He had been a professor at the Beijing Academy, and was a real formalist. He had a profound sense of the way that colours, lighting, camera moves, lenses and compositional choices had to grow organically out of the content, and turned me on to a bunch of movies from China’s much-celebrated Fifth Generation. Films like “Farewell My Concubine” “The Story of Qiu Ju” “Yellow Earth” and “Blue Kite” were really influential on me, but I watched as many Fifth Generation films as I could get my hands on (thanks, Movie Village!).

I think “To Live” by Zhang Yimou is still my very favorite film.

Blood Pressure (2013) / Dir: Sean Garrity

Is there something about you that you’d like to share with your colleagues?


My latest film, THE BURNING SEASON comes out in theatres across Canada in May! I’ll be doing some kind of event to celebrate opening night here in Winnipeg. It’s already won a bunch of awards on its festival run, and people can check out the trailer right here:

C’mon out to the cinema to see a movie!

Is there someone within the film industry you would like to work with and why?

If there’s anyone left in Winnipeg I haven’t worked with yet, I would like to work with them!

I guess that means mostly new people – which is great. I like my crews to be a combination of experienced people who are amazing at their craft and enthusiastic newcomers excited about making a movie.

Where do you see yourself in ten years from now?

My best film ever is always the next one. Right now, I’m putting something together that I hope to shoot in the summer – it’s my best film ever!

10 years from now, I hope there is still a next one.

I Propose We Never See Each Other Again After Tonight (2020) / Dir: Sean Garrity

FTM is a non-for-profit charity and member of the Province of Manitoba’s sector council program (through the Department of Economic Development and Jobs). FTM conducts workforce development and training to build a highly skilled and adaptable film industry to support the activities of Manitoba production companies. FTM collaborates with members of the film and television industry to identify the training needs within the community.