Scriptwriter, editor. Originally trained as an editor at the NFB, Montreal-bred Gloria Demers was one of the pillars of, and unobtrusive lesbian creative forces within, the flourishing women’s Studio D throughout the 1980s. She first made her mark as the writer for the epic feminist documentaries Behind the Veil: Nuns (Margaret Wescott, 1984), Speaking Our Peace (1985), and Goddess Remembered (1989), all discreet explorations of the homosocial/homoerotic continuum.
Demers may be remembered chiefly as the scriptwriter for the hit homosocial docudrama The Company of Strangers (1990, dir. Cynthia Scott, Studio D/NFB, 101). One of the most critically acclaimed, canonized, and popular Canadian features of the 1990s, this feature follows eight elderly women marooned in the splendidly pastoral countryside of the Laurentians—Survivor before its time. Director Scott is queer-friendly heterosexual and only one of the characters is openly lesbian (Mary Meigs), but another, Catherine, is openly butch, talented at motor mechanics and, er, married to God. Nevertheless, Company was successfully marketed as part of the NFB lesbian and gay package of the nineties, perhaps because Meigs and above all Demers had vital input. Otherwise the film is less about explicit sexual identity than about the blurred boundaries within a Studio D “bomber crew” diverse community of women. Meigs’s coming out scene to her pal Cissy, while birdwatching in the marsh, is one of the most understated and sweet-tempered in queer film history (“That’s nice, dear!”). But otherwise Meigs is mysteriously absent when the others talk about such things as falling in love.
Demers’s recruitment of Meigs as the ensemble cast’s not-so-token “out” lesbian was affectionately recounted in the latter’s memoirs of the production after Demers’s premature death from lung cancer at the peak of her creative career. Company and both of the other NFB explicit dyke epics of the 1990s, Forbidden Love and Stolen Moments are all dedicated to her and that speaks.