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From L: Larry O’Reilly, Bruce Morrison and Toni Myers
From L: Larry O’Reilly, Bruce Morrison and Toni Myers

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WLU

Laurier’s Business of Film event draws large crowd

Communications, Public Affairs & Marketing

Feb 29/12

Hot on the heels of Hollywood’s most glamorous night – the Academy Awards – Laurier alumni, students and friends packed into Kitchener’s IMAX Empire Theatre to listen to three seasoned industry professionals discuss how to make it in the entertainment industry.

The Business of Film event was co-hosted by William Banks, acting dean of the School of Business & Economics, and Michael Carroll, dean of the Faculty of Arts, who introduced the evening’s entertaining speakers.

Laurier alumnus Larry O’Reilly (’85), who is president, worldwide sales of IMAX, spoke about his journey from a Laurier business student to an IMAX president as well as the journey of IMAX as a company.

O’Reilly knew he wanted to work at IMAX after seeing Stones at the Max, an IMAX concert film of The Rolling Stones. In just a couple of weeks, he spied an ad in The Globe and Mail for manager of international film distribution for IMAX.

“It was the sales job of my lifetime,” said O’Reilly, indicating he had very few of the qualifications IMAX was looking for. But through a bit of luck and a lot of determination – including calling the hiring manager directly and convincing him that the qualifications they were looking for were wrong – he convinced IMAX what they needed was a salesman, and he landed the job.

O’Reilly currently oversees all aspects of theatre sales and marketing, as well as the development and design of IMAX theatres.

“Take any job you can in your chosen field, whatever job you can get to get in,” he said. “Because when you meet with the people and you press them, who knows where it’s going to go.”

Laurier alumnus Bruce Morrison (’86), senior vice-president, retail sales and marketing for Disney, got his start at Hallmark as a “greeting card salesman.” After taking a risk and moving to Costa Rica for a job that didn’t pan out, Morrison moved back to Canada for a fresh start. Like O’Reilly, he saw an ad in The Globe and Mail for a company called BVA Video, which was Canada's Buena Vista Home Entertainment division for Disney.

“I sold Disney videos, which was the easiest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” said Morrison. “The first video I sold was The Lion King, and we couldn’t make them fast enough.”

Morrison became managing director for Disney Consumer Products Canada and then vice-president of retail business development in California, where he led the creation of U.S. key account teams against Walmart, Target, Toys “R” Us and Kmart.

Morrison then spoke about the key strategies for Disney and what his current job entails.

“Have some fun,” he told the audience. “Work hard, but take time to enjoy your family and friends, because that’s what it’s all about.” 

Acclaimed filmmaker and producer Toni Myers rounded out the evening. Myers began her career as an assistant editor to Donald Ginsberg in Toronto, working on commercials, the CBC series Telescope and the National Film Board's groundbreaking feature, Nobody Waved Goodbye, among many other projects. In 1965 she met Graeme Ferguson, who later became co-inventor and co-founder of IMAX.

Myers shared her involvement with the origins of IMAX; she was invited by Ferguson to edit the first all-IMAX film, North of Superior, which aired at Ontario Place in Toronto.

“I saw the first test of the projector, which was at McMaster,” said Myers. “I thought they were all completely nuts. There was this hulk of a projector that made more noise than a locomotive, and it was about the size of a locomotive and it was chewing up and spewing bits of film all over – but that’s all history that has a happy ending.”

Myers also brought along clips from some of the 14 films she has done in IMAX with Ferguson, including a deep-sea feature, the trailer for Space Station 3D and The Rolling Stones performing "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction” – from the movie that inspired O’Reilly to work at IMAX.

The evening finished with a question and answer period.

The Business of Film was a free community event held Feb. 28. The event was generously sponsored by Laurier’s Faculty of Arts, The School of Business & Economics and the Department of English and Film Studies.

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