While studying film at Ryerson University in Toronto, I directed Jim Talks: A Portrait of Jim Allen, a short 16mm documentary on Jim who was a friend of my father's. Well received, it screened at local festivals and launched a revival of Jim's artistic life. Seven years later, another such revival was desired for both subject and director. The original crew came together to expand the short into a full documentary to dig deeper into the many chapters of its idiosyncratic titular character's storied life. A concept began to form: "Jim Lives!" We started shooting, ultimately spending 2 years interviewing Jim and his close friends as he moved into a new studio and pushed himself to create new work for the first time in years.
We captured him painting and shooting while struggling with his Bipolar condition, an unstable living situation, the dark spectre of tragedy in his past and the eternal question of inspiration. Between 2017-2019 Jim passed on almost everything about himself to our cameras, until February 17th when he passed on - providing an unexpected ending to his life and the film. I spent the next year pouring through his old interviews, searching archives for photos, and piecing together this documentary like a big puzzle, fitting for the enigma that was Jim. It became my mission to create a meaningful work worthy of the man and reintroduce the lost Toronto artist to a new audience. I hope the film conveys that while he is no longer with us, the art and spirit of Jim lives on.
Along the way the film also happened to capture the end of a particular romantic era of Toronto - old streetcars, old movie theatres, and old artists - all since phased out, renovated or retired. The doc's introspective tone places the viewer in a chamber of reflection much like the state Jim was inhabiting in the final years of his life. Influences on this project include Michael Apted's 7 Up series, D.A. Pennebaker's Don't Look Back, and The Devil And Daniel Johnston.
"Jim Lives" is an independently produced passion project which is currently seeking distribution. If you're interested, contact me here.
Director / Camera / Editing
Producer / Sound / Camera
Jim Lives (2020)
is a 50-minute documentary film exploring the art and life of acclaimed Toronto photographer/visual artist Jim Allen. Once known as 'Canada's greatest photographer", Jim shot portraits of Margaret Atwood, Ingrid Bergman, Jim Belushi, and many, many more. He experienced the dizzying highs of artistic and commercial success in the 80s art scene, travelling to New York, Paris, and beyond to hone his unique style - until his incendiary personality and struggle with his Bipolar condition led to his ostracism from the community that had celebrated him, and his retirement and later years as an artistic recluse.