Jacob Potashnik to share his expertise with screenwriting workshops at Atwater Library

By Mike Cohen

Montreal author, screenwriter, producer and educator  Jacob Potashnik has had quite a prolific career, so it is enlightening to hear that he will be sharing his expertise via screenwriting workshops for the Quebec Writers’ Federation (QWF) for eight consecutive Wednesdays, March 6 to April 24 (8 pm to 10 pm), at the Atwater Library (1200 Atwater) entitled Whose Story Is It? From Prose To Screenplay In 8 Painless Lessons.

Potashnik’s most recent publication is called The Golem of Hampstead and Other Stories, a collection of short stories written over 30 years about Montreal and other places is in the tradition of Saul Bellow, Mordechai Richler, and reminiscent of the work of Isaac Bashevis Singer and Sholom Aleichem, among others. It was shortlisted for the 2017 QWF Concordia First Book Prize.


The jurors stated the following “Steeped in the texture of Jewish immigrant Montreal from the 1950s through to the present, from the culture of survival and working-class collaboration with the Québécois, to the spiritual perils of the nouveau riche, Potashnik’s tales are not only beautifully written, they combine a sense of heritage with the potential, along with the impoverishment, of everyday lives.These richly detailed and multilayered stories draw a picture of a Montreal that is both mythic and tangible. his is a confident, self-assured, muscular book. Potashnik writes in an effortless, fluid, clear, compelling prose. This is an author who revels in language. There is a filmic/visual quality to the storytelling, which is always, deft, sharp, witty and smart. Potashnik writes fully realized characters who exude personality and spirit.”

Potashnik studied communications at Concordia University and cinema at New York and Columbia Universities. In his youth, he travelled, and lived in Europe, working primarily as a sous chef. He has spent 36 years in film, television and new media production, starting from the bottom and working his way up through production manager and assistant director to director, line producer and producer for some of the best known production companies in Montreal, Toronto and Los Angeles. In 1996, at the behest of Denys Arcand, he co-wrote the WGC award-winning feature film Stardom, which closed the 2000 Cannes film Festival and opened the Toronto festival that same year. Since then, he has co-written the screen adaptations of Leonard Cohen’s Beautiful Losers and wrote the English adaptations for Arcand’s Poverty and Other Delights, Jean Bergeron’s award-winning documentary on M.C. Escher, Achieving the Unachievable and the narration for Donald Sutherland’s voice-over for Jean Lemire’s, The Last Continent. In 2009, he translated the web ite content and museum texts for Le Jardin des Glaciers in Bay Comeau

The workshop fee is $160 for QWF members and $190.For more information, or to register call 514.933.0878 or email workshops@qwf.org.

A People’s Soundtrack: special preview of film on Montreal’s greatest tenors and sopranos

By Mike Cohen

Montreal has long been known worldwide as a center of cantorial music. The Jewish equivalent of classical music, it enjoyed its cultural craze in the 50’s and 60’s but subsequently came to be known as a lost and dying art. When the late cultural icon, singer / songwriter and native son Leonard Cohen returned to his Montreal Jewish roots with his final Grammy award-winning album You Want It Darker, his collaboration with renowned Montreal Cantor Gideon Zelermyer thrust the ancient art-form back into the spotlight giving it widespread attention.

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Cantor Gideon Zelermyer

A People’s Soundtrack explores this long and rich musical history and its relationship to both Montreal and its, celebrated, Jewish history. Mixing rare photos, intimate interviews, candid family moments and performance footage from some of the city’s greatest, Jewish tenors and sopranos, A People’s Soundtrack celebrates the unique ways the active voices of today are fighting to keep the ritual observances and emotional expressions of their communities alive.

Mountain Lake PBS and ONTIC Media will present an exclusive sneak preview of the new film on Saturday, March 2,  ( 7:30 pm) at The Segal Centre for the Performing Arts  (5170 Cote St. Catherine).Seating is limited so those interested must reserve early at emb@onticmedia.com. The  program will feature renowned Montreal cantors Sidney Dworkin, Rona Nadler, Adam Stotland, Daniel Benlolo  and Gideon Zelermyer. A People’s Soundtrack will premiere on Mountain Lake PBS on Tuesday, March 5  at 8 pm

The documentary is executive produced by Marvin Rosenblatt and directed by Evan Beloff (2017 Canadian Screen Award finalist for his documentary “Kosher Love”, and more recently “Daughters of the Voice” for CBC’s documentary strand “Absolutely Canadian / Absolutely Quebec”).

“The cantorial profession is a sacred calling,” said Cantor Dworkin, “The cantor is able to go into a whole different realm with the music, a very holy place. The cantor, who is the leader of prayer, is a messenger of the people. Our real function is to gather the prayers of all the congregants and to present them to God on high.”