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Rob Stewart gets up close and personal with a tiger shark during the filming of Sharkwater Extinction. The film is produced and edited by UWindsor assistant professor Nick Hector. Rob Stewart gets up close and personal with a tiger shark during the filming of Sharkwater Extinction. The film is produced and edited by UWindsor assistant professor Nick Hector.

New UWindsor prof's shark doc premiering at TIFF

Nick Hector faced a daunting challenge.

How do you take more than 500 terabytes of raw video footage and edit a documentary that honours the director’s legacy while holding true to his artistic vision?

“Rob Stewart was just so earnest and genuine and there was no artifice about him wanting to change the world,” Hector said, a University of Windsor assistant professor.

“Seeing this person, who lived by the strengths of his convictions, have his life taken away as he’s trying to make the world better for all of us. I felt quite a responsibility to see his vision through.”

Hector, who joins about 50 new faculty members at the University of Windsor this fall as an associate professor at the School of Creative Arts, is a producer and editor on Stewart’s tragic final film Sharkwater Extinction.

Assistant Professor Nick Hector recently joined UWindsor's School of Creative Arts and has a film premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival next month.

Assistant Professor Nick Hector recently joined UWindsor's School of Creative Arts and has a film premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival next month.

Stewart drowned in a scuba diving incident in 2017 while filming off the coast of Florida.

Sharkwater Extinction will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival as a special-event tribute to Stewart and his work. The documentary is described as a “thrilling exposé on the illegal shark-fin industry and a rousing call to save an imperilled animal from the edge of extinction.”

Approached a month before Stewart died, Hector was left with no direct instruction on how the film was to be edited.

But Hector said Stewart had provided him with something even more valuable.

“Rob was a prolific diarist and his emails and documents relating to this film discussed what he liked in filmmaking,” Hector explained.

“He talked about everything from the big picture, ‘what is the goal of the documentary film,’ to tone, structure, music and sound effects. It was exactly what I needed.”

It was a process Hector had grown comfortable with working alongside renowned Canadian director Allan King.

“Allan wouldn’t be on set and he wouldn’t be in the editing room — and yet due to the fact that he had a clear set of artistic principles — there was no mistaking his authorial signature,” Hector said.

“I took it back to the Allan King method with Sharkwater Extinction, and what we needed to do, simply, was make Rob’s film.”

And that’s exactly what he did.

“This is the film that Rob was making,” Hector said.

“We do see Rob’s last day on Earth and it’s sad that we lose a hero, but ultimately, it’s an uplifting and inspiring film.”

For the last 30 years, Hector has worked in the film and TV industry, cutting more than two dozen feature documentaries and 100 TV documentaries.

He will be teaching film production with Communications, Media and Film and SoCA with an emphasis on documentary filmmaking and post-production.


By Dylan Kristy