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Movie magic: Glace Bay brothers find calling in movie industry

Four of the MacDonald brothers. From left: Fabian, Scott, Cam and Mickey. CONTRIBUTED
Four of the MacDonald brothers. From left: Fabian, Scott, Cam and Mickey. - Contributed

GLACE BAY – Gene Mcdonald couldn’t believe what he found.

Earlier this year, the Glace Bay resident was tasked with going through the house and possessions of his late uncle Scott MacDonald, who passed away in January at the age of 60.

Mcdonald was already well aware that three of his uncles had left Glace Bay as young men and would spend their entire adult lives working in the movie industry.

But he wasn’t expecting to find his Uncle Scott’s personal photograph collection just waiting to be viewed.

A young Wayne Gretzky shares a smile with Scott MacDonald at an undetermined event. - Contributed
A young Wayne Gretzky shares a smile with Scott MacDonald at an undetermined event. - Contributed

“It was like he was going through them, maybe reliving some old memories, before he died,” mused Mcdonald, who added that his uncle tragically died after a fall.

“These aren’t public relations photos or media pictures, these are just mostly from Scott’s personal collection, just pictures snapped throughout the years — I’ve always kept track of the movie business because my uncles were in it and they told us all these amazing stories about what they did.”

Mcdonald reveals that Scott and brother Fabian followed older sibling Cameron (Cam) into the film industry when they were both young men in the early 1980s. Cam would go on to work on dozens of projects as a cameraman, while Scott and Fabian worked as grips. Collectively, the brothers worked on scores of films in countless locations.

“They were from a big family, at least 10 kids or so, and it wasn’t all rainbows for those guys growing up – they left home with no education and they ran headfirst into the film industry and what a ride they had,” he marveled.

And the evidence speaks for itself.

Whoopi Goldberg poses with Scott MacDonald. - Contributed
Whoopi Goldberg poses with Scott MacDonald. - Contributed

The photographs include many candid shots of Scott, who mostly worked as a key grip, with movies stars such as Sophia Loren, Tom Cruise and Whoopi Goldberg. Other shots include photos with former Prime Minister Jean Chretien and hockey superstar Wayne Gretzky.

“One of my favourites is Scott with Kelsey Grammer because Scott is front and centre in the chair and it looks like Grammer is trying to sneak into the picture with him,” laughed Mcdonald.

“Scott had his own gravity and he would just pull people into his orbit — these people had no choice but to love Scott. Everybody would always light up when Scott walked into the room.

“He was amazing with children – I know because when I was a kid, this guy made me feel like I was the most important person in the world. I thought it was incredible that he would come home after working on the set with Tom Cruise and then take me fishing, that was cool.”

Scott’s older brother Cam is now 82. More than 20 years senior to his younger sibling, Cam has spent most of his adult life residing in British Columbia.

He recalls how he accidentally found his way into the movie business.

Cheers and Frasier Star Kelsey Grammer with Scott MacDonald. - Contributed
Cheers and Frasier Star Kelsey Grammer with Scott MacDonald. - Contributed

“I had been logging up north in British Columbia and a buddy of mine got a job driving truck and convinced me to do the same,” he remembered. “To drive I had to join the Teamsters union and then one day they needed someone to drive a wardrobe truck so I did that and the rest is history – I just stayed in the business and worked my way up from that.”

Cam’s wife, Janet, was a makeup artist and at one point the couple established a Vancouver-area salon they appropriately called The Cutting Room in a dual reference to both haircutting and film editing.

“It was a very interesting career and I have no regrets,” said Cam.

The only brother still working in the business is Fabian, who resides in Mississauga, Ont. According to Cam, a fourth brother, Max, also worked in the business for a short time.

Meanwhile, back in Glace Bay, nephew Gene Mcdonald remains fascinated with the lives lived by his movie industry uncles.   

“Before CGI (computer-generated imagery), they did some incredible things on the sets they worked – it was hard work, especially for grips like Scott who did a lot of grunt work over the years,” he said.

“But judging from those pictures it looks like he was appreciated.”

And it appears Scott felt the same way. In a 1985 interview with the Victoria Times-Colonist, he said: “You feel needed and when it’s over you feel proud.”

And, cut. That’s a wrap.

Key grip Scott MacDonald, left, works with cameraman brother Cam, center, on the set of April Fool’s Day, a 1986 horror movie filmed in British Columbia. - Contributed
Key grip Scott MacDonald, left, works with cameraman brother Cam, center, on the set of April Fool’s Day, a 1986 horror movie filmed in British Columbia. - Contributed

Scott MacDonald with the Olsen twins. - Contributed
Scott MacDonald with the Olsen twins. - Contributed

Working mainly as a grip, Scott MacDonald sometimes found himself in front of the camera. In this photo from the set of Police Academy, Scott is in the centre wearing a white armless shirt. - Contributed
Working mainly as a grip, Scott MacDonald sometimes found himself in front of the camera. In this photo from the set of Police Academy, Scott is in the centre wearing a white armless shirt. - Contributed

Scott MacDonald looking cool on the set of Lonesome Dove. - Contributed
Scott MacDonald looking cool on the set of Lonesome Dove. - Contributed

Scott MacDonald, right, is shown on the set of Cocktail with a very young, and slightly apprehensive looking Tom Cruise. - Contributed
Scott MacDonald, right, is shown on the set of Cocktail with a very young, and slightly apprehensive looking Tom Cruise. - Contributed

Scott MacDonald cuddles up with Italian actress Sophia Loren. - Contributed
Scott MacDonald cuddles up with Italian actress Sophia Loren. - Contributed

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