Alex Trebek funded his student film, now he’s screening at Cinéfest

A cinematographer from Sudbury is living his dream as his new film screens at Cinéfest Sudbury.

Mathieu Séguin was the director of photography on the French film Ça tourne à Saint-Pierre et Miquelon (A Fishy Business in Saint-Pierre et Miquelon).

The movie tells the story of Céline, a French actress who accepts a role for a movie shot on the French islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, but soon finds out the movie’s famous director refuses to leave his cabin. So she must accept her situation and make the most of her time on the island.

Saint-Pierre and Miquelon are two small islands; a French territory located around 12 kilometres off the coast of Newfoundland.

“These images have rarely been seen in theatres,” Séguin said about filming on Saint-Pierre et Miquelon.

“There’s not many films that have been shot on these remote islands,” he said. “It’s a very interesting place to be. It’s strange because it’s Europe, but you’re in North America.”

Séguin said he got to capture the islands’ beautiful vistas in the film.

From Sudbury to L.A.

But it was a long journey for him to reach that point as a filmmaker.

In 2017 he enrolled at the prestigious American Film Institute, in Los Angeles. He was the only Canadian to be accepted in the cinematography program that year.

Séguin said the Sudbury community helped him achieve that dream. The portfolio he submitted to the school was made up of projects he had filmed for local artists. 

To pay the high tuition fees, he collected donations through GoFundMe. A generous donor from Sudbury covered half of his tuition fees.

Support from a famous Sudburian

But his favourite story was when he had to self-fund a short film he made during his second year at the institute.

“I reached out to the person that I knew was from Sudbury in Los Angeles, and it was Alex Trebek,” Séguin said.

He found an email address with Sony Pictures Television, which produces Jeopardy!, and figured he had nothing to lose. “I sent that in the ether and kind of forgot about it,” he said. 

When the short film was almost done, and he was starting to run out of funds, he had heard he had gotten a generous donation from Trebek’s foundation. The longtime Jeopardy! host got an executive producer credit on Séguin’s student film.

Former Jeopardy! host and Sudburian Alex Trebek provided financial support for Mathieu Séguin’s student film, when he was studying in Los Angeles. (City of Greater Sudbury)

After he graduated, Séguin returned to Sudbury, and has been a strong proponent for filmmaking in the north. Because of the recent growth of the local film industry, Séguin said he has access to the same equipment in Sudbury, as he would in Toronto or Los Angeles.

“That wasn’t even possible 10 years ago,” he said.

He now splits his time between commercial video projects for the mining industry, and film projects that suit his style.

Séguin’s movie, Ça tourne à Saint-Pierre et Miquelon (A Fishy Business in Saint-Pierre et Miquelon), is available through Cinéfest At Home from Sept. 24 until Sept. 29 at 12 p.m. 

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