Nicholas de Pencier is a Director, Producer, and Director of Photography working in documentary, performing arts, and dramatic film. He is President of Mercury Films Inc., the Toronto-based production company he shares with his partner, Jennifer Baichwal.
De Pencier was a producer resident in the Canadian Film Centre’s 1997 Producers’ Lab, and produced Jim Allodi’s feature film The Uncles, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2000, was distributed in Canada by Odeon Films, and named one of TIFF’s Top Ten Canadian films. He also produced the documentary Manufactured Landscapes, which won the Chum City Award for best Canadian feature at TIFF 2006, the Genie Award for best Documentary, and was distributed in 20 countries.
As a cinematographer, de Pencier regularly shoots factual TV series and documentaries for the CBC, PBS, Discovery, National Geographic and History. A detailed Director of Photography CV can be found at www.mercuryfilms.ca. In 2010 he shot the documentary adaptation of Payback, Margaret Atwood’s Massey Lecture on debt, which was selected for Sundance, 2012 and released theatrically in Canada and the U.S. De Pencier was admitted as a full member to the Canadian Society of Cinematographers in 2012.
As both producer and director of photography his credits include the feature documentary Let It Come Down: The Life of Paul Bowles which was nominated for a Genie, a Rockie, and won the International Emmy Award for Best Arts Documentary. The Holier It Gets, a documentary filmed in Canada and India, won Best Cultural and Best Independent Canadian Documentary at Hot Docs, 2000, and won Geminis for best writing, editing, and direction in a documentary series, as well as a nomination for The Donald Brittain award for best documentary and a Chalmers Award nomination. In 2002 he produced and shot the documentary: The True Meaning of Pictures about the work and world of Kentucky photographer Shelby Lee Adams, which premiered at TIFF and then played at Sundance. It was nominated for two Gemini Awards and won for best Arts Doc. This was followed in 2003 by Hockey Nomad based on Dave Bidini’s best-selling book Tropic of Hockey, which was nominated for a Banff Rockie Award, as well as three Geminis, winning for the Best Sports Documentary. He was also producer and director of photography on Act of God – a feature documentary about the metaphysics of being struck by lightning, which was the opening night film for Hot Docs as well as being in competition at the Karlovy-Vary International Film Festival in 2009. De Pencier was the Producer and Cinematographer of Watermark – a collaboration with Jennifer Baichwal and Edward Burtynsky – which premiered as a Special Presentation at TIFF and Berlin, won the Toronto Film Critics Award for Best Canadian Film, the Canadian Screen Award for Best Documentary, and was released theatrically in numerous territories around the world.
Aside from his work in factual series, de Pencier’s director credits include the feature documentary Four Wings and a Prayer, about the migration of the Monarch butterfly which won the Grand Prix Pariscience, the Banff Rockie Award for best Wildlife and Natural History Program, the Jules Verne Nature Award, and was nominated for Geminis for best Science Documentary, Best Cinematography and Best Direction in addition to an Emmy nomination for the PBS NOVA version (called The Incredible Journey of the Butterfly). In 2004 de Pencier was nominated for a Gemini for Best Direction for his performance film Streetcar, while the film’s lead, Peter Chin, won for Best Performance. His 2016 feature documentary Black Code about internet censorship and surveillance around the world which he directed, produced and shot, premiered at TIFF and was released theatrically in Canada in 2017.
In December 2011 de Pencier collaborated with Dr. Mike Evans and Illustrator Liisa Sorsa to direct and produce the short animated health video 23 1⁄2 Hours which instantly went viral and has been viewed by more than seven million people in many languages worldwide. Evans and de Pencier have produced more than fifty subsequent health videos for their YouTube Channel.
De Pencier’s video art installations include Watermark Cubed at Nuit Blanche cube at the corner of Bay and Richmond Streets in Toronto, Music Inspired by the Group of Seven with the Rheostatics in Walker Court at the Art Gallery of Ontario, and Ice Forms, an installation as part of the Lawren Harris Exhibition at the AGO in the summer of 2016, which was reprised in 2018 at the Art Gallery of Hamilton: all collaborations with Jennifer Baichwal.
With Baichwal, he is the co-director and DOP of Long Time Running, a feature documentary on the Tragically Hip’s iconic Man Machine Poem tour from the summer of 2016, which premiered as a gala presentation at TIFF 2017, was subsequently released by Elevation Pictures, and broadcast by Bell and Netflix.
The Anthropocene Project, Baichwal and de Pencier’s most recent collaboration with Edward Burtynsky, includes two complementary museum exhibitions at the Art Gallery of Ontario and National Gallery of Canada, a feature documentary film which premiered at TIFF 2018 and is now in theatrical release in Canada, an art book published by Steidl, and an educational program. For more information visit theanthropocene.org
He is a past president of the Board of Directors of Charles Street Video, a former member of Rogers Industry Advisory Group at TIFF, and currently sits on the boards of The Toronto Chapter of the Documentary Organization of Canada and the Hot Docs Festival.