Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

Michael Lennick, R.I.P.

by Rob - November 8th, 2014.
Filed under: Milestones.


My great friend Michael Lennick passed away yesterday. He’d been admitted to hospital a month ago, and was diagnosed with a very aggressive brain tumor. His wife and business partner Shirley Guilliford made the decision to have him taken off life support yesterday afternoon, and he was gone within minutes. Michael was 61.

Michael and I had known each other for 19 years. He was one of Canada’s leading science documentary makers, and he interviewed me often for segments he produced for Discovery Channel Canada’s nightly science news program. He also used me in the special features he produced for the Criterion Blu-ray of Robinson Crusoe on Mars, in his documentary 2001 in 2001, his documentary series Rocket Science, and more. Michael and I co-wrote the original CBC Radio drama “Birth,” which aired in 2005.

Michael had my novel Illegal Alien under option for much of the last 18 years, and had come close several times to getting it made.

As a special-effects producer, Michael worked on the films of David Cronenberg, on the TV version of War of the Worlds, and on many other projects.

Michael’s mother, Sylvia Lennick, was known to generations of Canadians as a member of Wayne & Shuster’s repertory company; she most famously played Julius Caesar’s wife, with the immortal line, “I told him, Julie, don’t go!”

Michael attended the 30th-anniversary party for Hydra, Canada’s first association of science-fiction professionals, at my place on May 31 of this year; that’s where the accompanying picture was taken.

Michael always signed his emails, “With the love.” And I loved that gentle giant, and will miss him until the end of my own days.

Chris Darling wrote the IMDb bio of Michael; here it is:

Michael Lennick was born in Toronto, Canada, the son of Canadian actors Sylvia Lennick and Ben Lennick. He and his siblings, David and Julie, were raised in the wings of numerous Canadian stages and film sets following their peripatetic parents’ careers. Michael read a ridiculous amount of classic science fiction and hard science books during this period, an infusion that informed (if not triggered) most of his eventual careers.

Michael co-created, co-wrote and directed the Canadian cult TV classic The All-Night Show (1980), one of several television series he was a part of during that period. (The original ANS team recently re-grouped for a feature-length anniversary special.)

After a two-decade run creating visual effects for such films as Videodrome (1983) and TV series like War of the Worlds (1988), as well as writing and directing episodes of numerous Canadian kids’ shows (including the multi-season PBS/CBC series OWL/TV, where he created and performed the role of the talking skeleton Boneparte) Michael gradually shifted full-time to the parallel career he’d begun in 1976: producing, writing and directing science and history documentaries.

In the early days each of his documentaries was shot and completed on film — a long, arduous process (especially the money-raising part.) The mid-90s revolution in high-quality, inexpensive video production and non-linear editing facilities, coupled with the explosion of specialty cable channels, changed everything, making documentary production a viable full-time trade.

Michael is currently president and CEO of Foolish Earthling Productions, which produces space and technology-based documentary series and specials for The Discovery Channel, PBS and others. Their productions have won top prizes at numerous film festivals worldwide.

Michael and Shirley split their time between Canada, Los Angeles and Alamogordo, New Mexico, their adopted home-away-from-home and production hub of many of their recent documentary projects. The rest of the time they live with a couple of rambunctious dogs in deep-woodsy splendor about two hours north of Toronto, where they also churn out books, articles and special projects for DVD companies such as Criterion (Robinson Crusoe on Mars, First Men Into Space), as well as space and science museums around the world.

Rest in peace, my friend. Rest in peace.

Added later:

Just some of the online coverage of Michael’s passing:

The Hollywood Reporter
The Toronto Sun
Video Watchdog
The Criterion Collection
The Globe and Mail

Robert J. Sawyer online:

3 Responses to Michael Lennick, R.I.P.

  1. Thank you for saying it so beautifully, Rob. We miss him too.

  2. I first met Mr. Lennick as a panel guest at Maplecon, the Ottawa Science Fiction Society convention @ 1980-something. I got back in touch @ 2007 & he still remembered me! Always ready to talk, with a kind & witty comment.
    RIP Dude.

  3. Beautifully said, Rob.

    I met Michael @ Ontario Place back in the summer of 1971, and from then on enjoyed many years’ of fun & giggles. What a bright man, truly remarkable, and so funny.

    We had not spoken in about a year, not unusual as we both carried on with our different lives. But I often thought of him, & figured it was about time to get back in touch. Then Anthony & Marlene called. What a shock!

    Shirley, he was a lovely spirit. Thinking of you ias you must miss him terribly. Keith

Leave a Reply