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Richard Leiterman b. April 7, 1935, South Porcupine, Ontario; d. July 14, 2005, Vancouver, British Columbia
Richard Leiterman was among the best and most famous of Canadian cinematographers. His early work at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and on such landmark low-budget documentary and feature films as Allan Kings A Married Couple (1969), Don Shebibs Goin Down the Road (1970), Rip-Off (1971) and Between Friends (1972), and William Fruets Wedding in White (1972), virtually defined the look of early English-Canadian cinema hand-held direct cinema shot with style, grace and sensitivity. In their book, "Richard Leiterman", Alison Reid and P.M. Evanchuk state that Leitermans career "has been so closely involved with the mainstream of Canadian filmmaking that his work is practically illustrative of its trends, its tendency towards fiction film with a solid base in the documentary tradition."
The youngest of six children (his older brother Douglas is an accomplished producer), Leiterman grew up in Northern Ontario and British Columbia and worked as a garbage collector, logger, tug-boat hand, beachcomber and truck driver. At the suggestion of King, who was his brother-in-law at the time, Leiterman enrolled in a summer extension course in camera technique at the University of British Columbia when he was in his early twenties. His instructor, Stanley Fox, would later remark to King that Leiterman, though only a beginner, "held the camera as though it had been in his hands his whole life."
After the course, Leiterman sold his car to buy a camera and began shooting stock footage and selling it to broadcasters. In 1961, King invited Leiterman to London to work as second camera operator on a film about the European Common Market, and in 1962 the two founded Allan King Associates to produce news films for television. Leiterman got a big break a year later when he was hired as a camera operator on the American South documentary, One More River, which was being produced and co-directed by his brother Douglas. Though hired as a second cameraman, Leiterman wound up shooting eighty percent of the film.
Leitermans contribution to A Married Couple was so significant that he was credited as the films associate director; he has, in fact, been consistently recognized worldwide as one of the top five cameramen of the direct cinema style. Elaborating on the relevance of Leitermans contribution to direct cinema, Reid noted how, while looking through the viewfinder, he will scan "the surroundings for additional pertinent material ... [enabling] ... an easy flow through space from one purposeful image to another so that the dynamics of the situation are incisively inscribed ... [Leiterman has] ... an appreciation for the wholeness of a subject."
Leiterman won a Canadian Film Award for Cinematography for his work on Joyce Wielands The Far Shore (1975) and a Genie Award for Best Cinematography for Kings Silence of the North (1981). In 2000, he received the Kodak New Century Award from the Canadian Society of Cinematographers. During the nineties, Leiterman primarily shot movies for American television and taught cinematography at Sheridan College in Toronto before retiring to Vancouver. He died at age 70 due to complications from the rare disease Amyloidoisos.
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