Concordia University

Alum Michael Pohorly is ready for his close-up

Canadian film director on the cusp of Hollywood breakthrough
September 13, 2017
By Richard Burnett

Canadian film director Michael Pohorly, BA (comm. studies) 95, is close to signing a big-name Hollywood actor to star in his feature film directorial debut, Hearing Voices — and he’s certainly excited by the prospect.

“I am an assistant director who is now moving into directing,” says Pohorly. “This is it, this is my moment, this is my chance to step up out of that matrix of film production.”

Wentworth Miller and Michael Pohorly Michael Pohorly, right, with Wentworth Miller on the set during a break while filming Fox-TV’s Prison Break: Resurrection. | Photo: Michael Pohorly

Hearing Voices’s screenplay was penned by Adam “Tex” Davis, writer of the Ryan Reynolds movie Just Friends (2005). The new film is set to be shot in Vancouver in 2018.

It has been a sure and steady rise for Pohorly, who has worked hard as an assistant director on 22 movies, including This Means War (2012), I, Robot (2004) and The Hulk (2003)

“As the first assistant director you handle the minute-by-minute running of the film set. You’re the person pulling all the departments together, while the film’s director focuses on the performances and camera,” Pohorly explains.

“As the director, you need to have a solid vision that can be executed by your crew. As assistant director I am carrying out the vision of the director,” he adds. “In many ways being a director is easier, though you are still responsible for the overall project. It either sinks or swims on your vision.”

With his own film company SlamJam Productions, Pohorly has also produced 200 event, fashion, digital and brand videos since 2011, in addition to shooting segments for various Discovery TV shows.

Overall career highlights include two stints with director Joe Carnahan, on The A-Team (2010) and The Grey (2011), both starring Liam Neeson.

“Working on these films felt like being back on the Concordia hockey team — a bunch of guys coming together under very demanding conditions,” says Pohorly, referring to his time as a defenceman and left-winger on the Stingers men’s hockey team.

That club was good enough to travel to Europe to compete against pro hockey teams in France and Slovakia in 1994-95. “We were great teammates,” he recalls. “These are guys I am still in contact with.”

Far from home

Pohorly, who grew up in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., says his time at Concordia helped shape him and his career: “Concordia was one of the best times of my life. It introduced me to a diverse world.”

He broke into the film business in 2000 as a production assistant on James Cameron’s Vancouver-filmed television show Dark Angel, starring Jessica Alba. In 2016, also in Vancouver, Pohorly completed work as unit production manager for Fox-TV’s current Prison Break: Resurrection series starring Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell.

Dominic Purcell and John MacDonald Pohorly worked as unit production manager for Prison Break: Resurrection, starring Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell. Purcell is pictured at left with his stunt double, John MacDonald, also a Concordia grad.

“Working with Wentworth and Dom was a wonderful experience,” says Pohorly. He also worked with Purcell’s stunt double and fellow Concordia grad John MacDonald, BA 94, member of the 1993 Stingers football team that was inducted into the Concordia Sports Hall of Fame in September 2016.

Meanwhile, Pohorly is especially proud of his recent short film he wrote and directed, Made in Bali, about a young man connecting with the father he has never met. The short played at 20 film festivals and won awards at two, along with the prize for the Director’s Guild of Canada Short Film for 2015.

“Making that film was a big confidence booster,” says Pohorly, who now looks ahead to his feature film directorial debut, Hearing Voices.

“Hollywood is a very competitive industry,” he says. “If you want to be an airplane pilot or a doctor, you go to school and there are plenty of job openings around the world. But few people actually make it in show business. To make it you have to really want it with everything you’ve got.”


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