Concordia University

'A Concordian style still resonates in the films we produce'

GreenGround Productions pushes the boundaries of documentary film, winning awards at home and abroad
January 8, 2018
By Felipe G.B.


Aonan Yang (BFA 08), Andreas Mendritzki (BFA 08) and Nguyen-Ahn Nguyen (BFA 08), who met in their first year at Mel Hoppenheim’s Film Production program, always knew that in the film industry, strength lies in numbers.  

“It takes a lot of perseverance. You need to find collaborators that you can trust and that you can build relationships with,” says Mendritzki.

So when they graduated in 2008, they decided to pool their resources. They bought a groundbreaking Red One camera and started a production company – GreenGround Productions. Nine years later, their stick-to-itiveness has paid off.

GreenGround Productions made history at this year’s RIDM Festival: no production company has ever been represented by three films at the festival. Their films won Best Canadian Short or Medium-Length Film (IN THE WAVES, directed by Jacquelyn Mills), Best Canadian Feature (PRIMAS, directed by Laura Bari), and the festival’s Grand Prize for Documentary (TAMING THE HORSE, directed by Tao Gu).

What's more, Bari (BFA 08), Mills (BFA 08) and Gu (BFA 07), as well as directors of photography, Fish Yu (MFA 08) and Glauco Bermudez (BFA 09), are all Concordia alums.

A 'Concordia Style' of filmmaking

Yang believes that GreenGround’s emergent aesthetic, focused on human stories told by new cinematic voices, is heavily influenced by Concordia’s approach to film production.

“There is a school, a Concordian style, that still resonates in the films we produce. A lot of people we interact with are also graduates of Concordia."

"Concordia’s film school is a pretty big deal in Canadian cinema.”

Concordia’s particular approach to documentary filmmaking – that 'Concordian Style' – breaks formal boundaries and elevates the documentary through a poetic and essayistic approach.

It was the collaborative nature of the Film Production Program that allowed their style to emerge, Yang says. Four years of working and learning together, sharing innovative ideas and approaches to making films.  

“Concordia’s mentors, who are also filmmakers, allow for collaboration to influence our aesthetic impulses, and to slowly develop into a cohesive style; a signature style. Most importantly, people like Martin Duckworth taught us that filmmaking is about humility, and not about fame, nor riches.”

“The teachers that probably had the most impact on these films and on the overall path for our company, are Martin Duckworth, Federico Hidalgo, Dan Cross, and Peter Rist. Peter really instilled in us a deep love for avant-garde cinema,” adds Mendritzki.

Tao Gu wins the Montgolfiere D’Or

GreenGround films continue to do well internationally.

Following its success at RIDM, PRIMAS went to Amsterdam’s IDFA (the world’s biggest documentary festival) as Canada’s sole film in competition, and subsequently, to Mar de Plata Film Festival in Argentina where it won the Audience Choice Award.

Taming The Horse was also the only documentary amongst eight other films at the prestigious Festival des Trois Continents in Nantes, France. The festival, which launched the careers of such world-renowned directors as Iran’s Abbas Kiarostami, Taiwan’s Hou Hsiao-hsien, Hong Kong’s Wong Kar-wai and China’s Jia Zhangke, now counts Concordia’s own Tao Gu as one of the winners of the festival’s highest honour – the Montgolfière D’Or.

Forming a creative hub for filmmakers

After purchasing the Red One camera, they rented it out to other filmmakers, which led to the founding of CineGround, a sister company to GreenGround. CineGround is now one of Montreal’s biggest service and post-production companies. The company allows the films they produce to attain a more polished aesthetic, which Mendtrizki says is central to their award-winning style.

“Running CineGround remains a job in itself, but it definitely does allow us to make films that are hitting at a higher weight class.”

CineGround and GreenGround represent the balance between artistry and business – a necessity to really succeed in cinema, he adds.

“[The two companies] really form a creative hub for filmmakers, which was so important about Concordia; the bringing together of like-minded people” Mendritzki says.

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