Writer and documentary filmmaker Michael Parfit says his two favorite things about SBCC were being accepted and how the experience completely changed his life. As he puts it, “I came out of high school with terrible grades, but some aptitude for writing (I hoped), and SBCC let me in and gave me a second chance at education. I learned to study and work at SBCC, and I developed a foundation of professional skills that I still use every day.” Michael is co-director, writer and editor of The Whale, a documentary film about a young killer whale who became famous when he tried to make friends with people in a remote fjord in British Columbia. The film is set to release in US theaters this September, 2011. Although he did not study film at SBCC, Michael says the fundamentals of fairness and thoroughness in journalism that were taught at SBCC were part of the standards he brought to his work writing and editing The Whale. Michael is a principal in Mountainside Films Ltd., an independent documentary film production company based in British Columbia, Canada, and a 2009 Realscreen "Global 100" company - voted one of the top 100 production companies in the world.
As an SBCC student, Michael was editor-in-chief of The Channels newspaper and his favorite instructor was Ray Canton, professor of journalism. “Mr. Canton was an uncompromising, enthusiastic, knowledgeable man with great energy and discipline. He gave me the chance to succeed, praised me when I did, let rip when I didn't and taught me to recognize what excellence meant. While many people at SBCC contributed to the changes in my life that led me on to a degree at USC and some achievements as a writer, he was by far the most influential teacher in my life.” From SBCC, Michael transferred to USC, where he received his bachelors in journalism. Regarding his transfer to USC, he says, “SBCC prepared me for moving on to a four-year university by giving me a strong grounding in journalism and good academic habits. When I moved on to the University of Southern California, I found myself prepared to meet the demanding standards of that excellent institution. SBCC also taught me the value of education in general.”
With his wife, Suzanne Chisholm, Michael directed, produced and filmed over 20 stories for the National Geographic Channel-US, on subjects as diverse as puffins, melting ice in Greenland, the Inuit of Nunavut, Newfoundland fisheries, rising sea levels in the Netherlands, ecological hotspots in the South Pacific, and minorities in Europe. Their work has been shown on National Geographic Channel, CNN, PBS, BBC, NHK, France 2 and CBC, and in film festivals worldwide. He is also a pilot with about 6,500 hours flown as part of his work in North America, South America, Greenland, New Zealand and Australia. Still, at his core, Michael is a writer. He wrote the script for the award-winning IMAX film Ocean Oasis, and co-wrote the script for the IMAX film, Antarctica, which has been playing continuously in IMAX theaters since 1991. He also co-wrote the script for Under Antarctic Ice, a WNET/Nature production. He has written four books and numerous articles for National Geographic, Smithsonian and other magazines. His work has been nominated for National Magazine Awards three times and his writing and photography have won numerous other awards. Among his books is South Light: A Journey to the Last Continent, which was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year in 1986. According to Michael, “The fundamentals of writing that I learned at SBCC are universal, as are the standards of work and excellence that Ray Canton taught in every class. I do not write a page without some influence from SBCC, mostly from Mr. Canton.”