John Waters
Talk & Reception | Learn More
John Waters
Talk & Reception | Learn More


John Waters
Photo: Greg Gorman

John Waters was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1946. For those of you who don't know, Maryland can be a pretty strange place to grow up. Luckily for John, 1960's Baltimore had a few saving graces. Here he would meet the men and women willing to work in front of and behind the camera on his self-written, self-produced and independently financed movies.

Waters went from a local boy making cheap, underground movies to a local man making counter-culture Hollywood comedies. But don't be fooled by the veneer - all of his films were shot on location in Baltimore and with very modest budgets. The star power of his post-Hairspray films demonstrate his influence and clout.

Waters writes all his own films, and elements of filth and debauchery exist in all his screenplays. Also present in many of his films is the duality of sincerity and squashed innocence of late 50's and early 60's Americana: sweet mothers who make breakfast for a family of four versus cheap girls who have babies in the backs of cars.

John is also an accomplished writer, photographer and visual artist. He has published multiple volumes of his journalistic exploits, screenplay collections, and artwork.

Of course, he is most well known for breaking boundaries of acceptable filmmaking. Drugs, queers, abortion, religion - nothing is sacred in his field of vision. When asked about it, he says "secretly I think that all my films are politically correct, though they appear not to be. That's because they're made with a sense of joy." And perhaps that is why so many people from all around the world take such joy in his movies.

If you'd like to get an idea of Mr. Water's influences, check out these other directors: Edward D. Wood, Jr • William Castle • Russ Meyer • Kenneth Anger • Douglas Sirk • Ingmar Bergman • Kuchar Brothers • Rainer Werner Fassbinder • Andy Warhol • Herschell Gordon Lewis • Frederico Fellini

Click here for extended biography

Bruce LaBruce

Bruce LaBruce is an internationally acclaimed filmmaker, photographer, writer, and artist based in Toronto. Along with a number of short films, he has written and directed nine feature films, including his most recent, Gerontophilia, which won the Grand Prix at the Festival du Nouveau Cinema in Montreal in 2013, and Pierrot Lunaire, which won the Teddy Award Special Jury Prize at the Berlinale in 2014. As a visual artist he is represented by Peres Projects in Berlin, and has had numerous gallery shows around the world, the latest of which, called Obscenity, a photography exhibit, caused a national ruckus in Spain in 2011. His feature film L.A. Zombie was notably banned in Australia in 2010 after having been programmed at the Melbourne International Film Festival. It later premiered in competition at the Locarno Film Festival, Switzerland that same year. LaBruce has written and directed three theatrical works at the Hau Theater in Berlin, including a production of Arnold Schoenberg’s avant-garde piece Pierrot Lunaire at the legendary Hebbel am Ufer Theater. He adapted the latter project into an experimental film, incorporating footage from the stage production combined with additional material shot on location in Berlin. He has also directed theatrical works at the Theater Neumarkt in Zurich, Switzerland, and he participated as a director in the Hau Theater’s ambitious X-Homes project in Johannesburg, South Africa. Most recently, LaBruce has been honoured with film retrospectives at both TIFF/Bell Lightbox 2014, and at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, 2015. The MoMA retrospective featured all nine of LaBruce’s features as well as a program of short films. All of the films have now become part of MoMA’s permanent film collection.

Shawna Dempsey & Lorri Millan
Photo: Ruth Bonneville

Collaborators since 1989, Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan are among Canada’s best-known performance artists. They were catapulted into the international spotlight in their 20s with the performance and film We’re Talking Vulva. Since then, their live work and videos have been exhibited in diverse venues as far-ranging as women's centres in Sri Lanka, the Istanbul Biennial, Sydney Gay/Lesbian Mardi Gras and the Museum of Modern Art, New York City. This duo has also created installations (such as Archaeology and You for the Royal Ontario Museum), books (such as Bedtime Stories for the Edge of the World, Arbeiter Ring Press) and socially engaged public art projects (such as Winnipeg Tarot Co. for the Winnipeg Art’s Council.) Dempsey and Millan have contributed to publications as writers and editors, and have curated festivals, programs, and exhibitions for Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Centre, Buffalo, Gallery YYZ, Toronto, and the Winnipeg Art Gallery. However, performance remains their focus. Performance documentation and artifacts are held in collections including the National Gallery of Canada, the Canadian History Museum, the DIA Centre and universities throughout North America. Their live work has been acclaimed as “one of the high-points of contemporary Canadian artistic production” (Border Crossings Magazine). But to most they are known simply as the Lesbian Rangers, serving the lesbian ecosystem from dawn to dusk and well beyond.

Lex Vaughn
Photo: Sorrell Scrutton

Lex Vaughn is an AmeriCanadian, multi-disciplinarian artist living in Los Angeles. Her work is primarily character-based and revolves around queer absurdity and butch visibility. For 15 years, she lived and worked in Toronto as a member of the Second City Touring Company, and traveled extensively as a drummer for the bands Lesbians on Ecstasy and The Hidden Cameras. As her character Peanut Brittle, a geriatric dandy, she mounted two interactive shows at Katharine Mulherin Contemporary Projects in Toronto as well as a residency at the AKA Gallery in Saskatoon. Lex also co-directed and starred in the Peaches video, Rub, and provides voice work for multiple characters in the Instagram series Those Shoes and for Jill Reiter's film In Search of Margo-Go. She is one of three collaborators of Shaboom, along with Paul Soileau, that brought their sex-dumpster-petting-zoo-ship-sinking-vaudeville-cabarets to the 2016/17 OUTsider Festival and Fusebox Festival in Austin, TX. Acting credits include Shortbus, Queer As Folk, Tearjerker, and most recently Beards, as a butch stunt-woman from the 1960's. Graham and Diane, her ventriloquist act, has been grossing out live audiences and the internet since 2007.

Andrew Harwood

Andrew Harwood is a Toronto-based artist. He is a graduate of the University of Manitoba MFA, 2014. Harwood's works are in the collections of Queens University, University of Guelph, University of Toronto, Toronto Dominion Bank and the Bank of Montreal, as well as private collections in Canada & internationally.

Thomas Waugh

Thomas Waugh, is Concordia Research Chair in Sexual Representation and Documentary. His publications and teaching on documentary have touched on Quebec cinema, indie work from India, and committed cinema. His interests in sexual representation span queer film and video, pornography and homoeroticism in moving image media as well as photography and graphic art, Canadian/Quebec cinema, and HIV/AIDS. Waugh's books include the anthologies, Show Us Life: Towards a History and Aesthetics of the Committed Documentary (1984), The Perils of Pedagogy: The Works of John Greyson and I Confess: Constructing the Self in the Third Sexual Revolution (with Brandon Arroyo, forthcoming 2017); the collections The Fruit Machine: Twenty Years of Writings on Queer Cinema (2000) and The Right to Play Oneself: Looking back on Documentary Film (2011); the monographs Hard to Imagine: Gay Male Eroticism in Photography and Film from their Beginnings to Stonewall (1996), The Romance of Transgression in Canada: Sexualities, Nations, Moving Images (2006), Montreal Main (2010), and The Conscience of Cinema: The Works of Joris Ivens 1912-1989; and the edited art books Outlines: Underground Gay Graphics From Before Stonewall (2002), Lust Unearthed: Vintage Gay Graphics from the Dubek Collection, Gay Art: A Historic Collection, and Comin' At Ya! The Homoerotic 3-D Photographs of Denny Denfield. Waugh’s current research interests are an interdisciplinary approach to confessionality. He is also co-editor with Matthew Hays of the series of 19 monographs Queer Film Classics (Arsenal Pulp Press). He has been director of the Concordia Community Lecture Series on HIV/AIDS since 1993.

Peter Knegt

Peter Knegt is an writer, filmmaker and film curator. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toronto and Master of Arts from Concordia University in Montreal.

As a journalist he has worked for a multitude of international publications, including Variety, Salon, Film Quarterly, The Toronto Star, and, most notably, Indiewire, where he was the popular online magazine’s Senior Editor.

Outside of journalism, Knegt has been employed in various capacities within numerous film organizations, including Hot Docs International Canadian Documentary Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival. He also programmed the inaugural Reel Out Film Festival in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and in 2011 co-founded Picton Picturefest, a film festival and "cinephile retreat" that focuses on the idea of film as a method of both community building and youth education.

Currently, Knegt works at the Canadian Broadcast Corporation as their arts producer, spearheading a new initiative to expand and update the CBC’s arts coverage. His first book, a historical account of the Canadian queer rights movement, was released in September, 2011 through Fernwood Publishing and continues to be taught at universities across Canada. Knegt’s first short film, Good Morning, screened at over 30 film festivals around the world in 2014. His second, Plus One will premiere in summer 2017.

Noam Gonick

At the impressionable age of 18, Noam Gonick overnighted at a John Waters Film Festival screening marathon in Berlin. At the time, Gonick was performing in an Antoin Artaud nude theatre ensemble housed in a WWII bomb shelter. He later awkwardly tried to induce Waters into providing completion funding for his first feature Hey, Happy! In the interim, Gonick edited a book about Bruce LaBruce: Ride Queer Ride, danced as a go-go boy at the Boom Boom Room, created the Canadian TV series Retail - about an obnoxious makeup counter queen - that was not picked up for production, field directed episodes of the reality series Kink, directed the Johnny Weir Olympics documentary To Russia with Love and made new media public art works like No Safe Words, about waterboarding and police at Gay Pride and Commerce Court - a Nuit Blanche installation at CIBC world headquarters featuring a comic paranoid psychotic stockbroker. His Indian Posse gang war film Stryker is in the MoMA collection.