Sarah Goodman: filmmaker and writer

For several years this was the website of Sarah Goodman, filmmaker and writer.
When the site's domain registration expired the site disappeared from the web. The new owners of the domain who are fans, have chosen to keep the integrity of the site by posting 2014-2016 archived content as well as other pertinent information from other outside sources.

FYI: To read the most up-to-date information about what Sarah Goodman is up to, go to her Linkedin page.



I’m a filmmaker based in Toronto, working in documentary and drama. I’d like to come up with a better term than hybrid for the place where both drama and doc overlap, because it’s often the in-between places that inspire. Film luminary Peter Wintonick described my films as “pop verité” and I loved that. Thanks for stopping by.


Sarah Goodman has directed two award-winning feature documentaries, a short drama, and is directing two feature dramas in 2013. ARMY OF ONE (Hot Docs Best Canadian Documentary Award 2004, Gemini Nomination for Best Director 2005) and WHEN WE WERE BOYS (Donald Brittain Gemini Nomination for Best Social Political Documentary 2011, Indiewire Top 10 Documentaries of 2009) launched Goodman’s career. Both films screened around the world in theatrical release, festival runs, and TV broadcast. Goodman’s first dramatic short HIDDEN DRIVEWAY premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2011. Goodman’s directed her first feature PORCH STORIES in June 2013. Now in post-production, it will be released in 2014, starring Laura Barrett and José Miguel Contreras. Goodman has another feature drama entitled BRIDGING, which is currently in development. Goodman has been honoured to have her work featured at such a-list festivals as Toronto (TIFF), Berlin, Amsterdam (IDFA), Hotdocs, True/False, Hamptons, Krakow and many others, as well as being invited to Talent Labs or as a jury member at many of the same festivals.

Goodman also writes and directs non-fiction episodic television for History Television, Discovery, BBC, Global, W Network, among others. Shows include: INTERVENTION CANADA, MIGHTY SHIPS, ANCESTORS IN THE ATTIC, THE NATIONAL PARKS PROJECT and GLOBAL’S upcoming CLOSE-UP series, as well as corporate videos for clients such as SAMSUNG, CONCORD, and RANDOM HOUSE.

photo credit Brian Liu


Sarah Goodman

Filmmaker and Writer

Sarah Goodman was born in Toronto and has lived in New York, where she began making films. She is currently writing on a new TV crime drama for CTV, which will premiere in 2018.

She is a recent alumna of the Canadian Film Centre's Prime Time TV Writing Program and has written and directed both narrative and documentary film. Her feature documentary Army of One, 2004 Hot Docs Best Canadian Feature Documentary; 2005 Gemini Nomination for Best Director, and When We Were Boys, Donald Brittain Gemini Nomination for Best Documentary; Indiewire Top 10 Documentaries 2009, led to her short drama Hidden Driveway (TIFF 2011) and her award winning, critically acclaimed first feature drama Porch Stories.

Her films have played at festivals such as TIFF, IDFA, Hot Docs and True/False, as well as broadcasting worldwide. Goodman has also written and directed documentary programs for television, such as the award winning National Parks Project, for networks such as BBC, Discovery, CBC, and History. She is an alumna of the TIFF Talent Lab, the Berlinale Talent Campus, and a member of the Film Fatales. Her next feature Lake 239 is in development with producer Karen Harnisch (Sleeping Giant.)

Update: Goodman has also written and directed non-fiction television for History Television, Discovery, BBC, CBC, Global and W Network, among others. She has taught film at Humber College and was the Director-in-Residence at Royal St. Georges College and the Toronto Public Library.




Singer/songwriter Laura Barrett mulls over some big -decisions in Porch Stories.

Porch Stories

Sarah ­Goodman's stories

Writer/director, Porch Stories


After making two documentaries, Army Of One and When We Were Boys, Toronto writer/director Sarah Goodman shifts to drama. Porch Stories, set on Argyle Street in the West Queen West neighbourhood, is a small picture centred on a young woman (singer/songwriter Laura Barrett) mulling some big decisions.

But the story expands to include a number of other characters on the street, and the rhythms of the neighbourhood become part of the narrative. Goodman sat down to discuss her film’s mood and structure in advance of its run at TIFF Bell Lightbox – where I’ll host a Q&A following the 6:45 pm show on Sunday (June 21).

Porch Stories has a very comfortable, lived-in vibe. How did you create that?

That’s my porch. I don’t live there any more, but I lived there at the time I was filming. I work from home, and I often want to get out of my house and be part of the world, but at the same time I still need to focus on my work. So the porch was perfect for me. I started observing, just hearing the little snippets of conversations going by.

That sense of an entire community existing around your characters makes the film feel much larger and at the same time more intimate somehow.

That’s really the impetus of the film – the idea of those interstitials, little moments of lives you don’t know, and you’ll never find out what happens to them. But somehow everything does seem a bit interconnected in the atmosphere of this neighbourhood. Maybe that’s the documentary part of me; I just wanted to be able to capture what actually exists there, because also it’s changing. It’s even changed from when we shot that film.

How so?

A month after I wrapped, my landlords decided to sell the house, [and] it’s not like they would have waited for us to finish shooting [laughs].

The leads are Laura Barrett and José Miguel Contreras, two musicians who’d never acted before. What led you to cast them?

I’ve always been around a lot of musicians, and they tend to have a natural stage presence – it’s a kind of acting, to be a musician onstage. It’s a persona, a kind of presentation of themselves. And I knew Laura a little bit and thought she was super-cool and had a great look, and the character didn’t seem that much different. It wouldn’t be a huge stretch for someone who hadn’t acted before. With José, I didn’t actually know him, but I knew people who knew him. He was suggested to me, and I did a little bit of research. It was very unconventional casting: I was just sort of sourcing out my friendship networks and who the musicians were out there.  

PORCH STORIES, a film by Sarah Goodman, is about love, indecision, and life on porches. The stellar cast is made of a talented motley crew of Toronto's best musicians and other unexpected stars.


Shot a few blocks north of the Drake, Sarah Goodman’s Porch Stories is a delicate study of lives bouncing off one another on the side streets of downtown Toronto.

As Emma (Laura Barrett) and her fiancé, Stefan (Alex Tindal), get ready to move house, she unexpectedly reconnects with Gabriel (José Miguel Contreras), an ex just back in town. Next door, neighbour Brianna (Hallie Switzer) wrestles with a crush on a family friend, while down the street an older couple (Uerania Silveira, Sergio Sarmento) comment on all the activity.

Shooting in black-and-white widescreen, writer/director Goodman – best known for the documentaries Army Of One and When We Were Boys – invests the goings-on with a playful, sly energy, eavesdropping on passersby (including local author Shawn Micallef) to give us a sense of the larger city bustling around her characters.

An odd, sweet little social study that captures some really nice moments. 


When We Were Boys


Army of One

Jan 27, 2005 | Dana Stevens | New York Times
Sarah Goodman's first feature-length documentary, Army of One, puts a bitterly ironic spin on the Army's best-known recruiting slogan, 'Be all that you can be.'


Jan 27, 2005 | Rating: 3/4 | V.A. Musetto | New York Post
Anyone thinking of enlisting in the Army might want to take a look at Army of One, a compelling documentary by Canadian Sarah Goodman.


There's no lie like it

Jul 28, 2004 | Rating: 5/5 | S. James Wegg |

“The idea of war can be glorious, but war isn't.”
—Nelson Reyes, November 2001 following the beginning of the U.S. bombardment of Afghanistan.

“It would be cool to get a combat badge.”
—Sara Miller, January 2003 waiting at Fort Bragg for deployment orders to Iraq.

“The best Christmas present I ever had was getting out of the [U.S.] Infantry on December 23.”
—Thaddeus Ressler, June 19, 2004.


Army of One should become required viewing for all troubled youth, their uncertain parents, the military establishment and their detractors or supporters.

Made on a shoestring budget, Sarah Goodman's film follows three idealistic young Americans from their decision to enlist in the army through the struggle to survive boot camp—all in hopes of discovering themselves. They abandon the relative safety of their families for a much larger one that extols “one set of values,” the mantra “we are beasts,” and relentlessly drills in such useful facts as the best way of garrotting a fellow human being is to “jab between the second and third rib.”

Goodman's approach is to stand back and let the recruits tell their own stories. What could have turned out to be a propaganda piece (either adulating the military or slamming it) soon places the army into the background and brings the evil twins of slick marketing and rudderless youth under the microscope.

Reyes joins the “world's biggest gang”—not just to get out of the [NYC] neighbourhood,” but to gain the respect and admiration of his parents and peers. When he returns in uniform that has been pressed, polished and puffed-up he hopes that its sameness at the do-as-you're-told barracks will make him stand out in his private world. Initially, all is beautiful. Then his hidden-away personal demons send him AWOL—into an unstoppable downward spiral that has yet to touch down.

Miller, supported by her constant-companion Phuong, has trouble keeping up with the guys, but perseveres and is voted squad leader (“I'm not a born leader,” she remarks). Having survived the ravages of her father's seven-page caustic letter, she seems to find comfort in the military and waxes philosophical (with a cup or two of rationalization) about her chances if shipped out to battle: “If you're not meant to die today, you won't.”

At this moment, and many others, the superb work from music and sound supervisor Daniel Pellerin, along with composers Mark Stewart and Paul Watson underscore the unfolding human psychology with a score—particularly the tribal drums—that reflects the angst and dilemmas facing the rookies.

Thaddeus grips our attention every time he's on the screen. At first, he's in heaven, chanting with glee—eager to put his budding rifle skills at the service of his country. Later, when his efforts are rewarded with a truck-driving assignment and latrine-cleaning duty, he finds solace in alcohol and—in a scene that won't fade away anytime soon—exchanging and savouring a severe whipping with his buddy who wants to “refresh” his fading welts from a previous beating (cross-reference below). Escaping tedium through pain demonstrates the level of desperation in a way that resonates when any act of torture is reported.

Andy Bowley's and Alexandra Martinez Kondracke's mix of film and video camera craft is wonderfully “close” to their subjects; unforgettable is the night-manoeuvre scene where the light's reflection through the eyes of the commanders creates an image of vampires in battle gear preparing to pounce on their prey.

Throughout it all, there are voice-overs from the likes of U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld or nameless lackeys whose job it is to sell the military's actions and—simultaneously—lure America's children into its deadly ranks.

That unspoken—but felt—irony can readily be found on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border. Imagine the outcome if as much energy and resources were dedicated to enticing those old enough to vote into polling stations instead of theatres of war. In this national election year for both countries, cynicism—necessarily—runs deep: politicians clinging to power would rather scare impressionable young minds into fighting for the homeland, than defeating those who have ruined it. JWR


Hidden Driveway

2011 ‧ Drama/Short ‧ 5 mins
Hidden Driveway is a short film written by award-winning filmmaker Sarah Goodman and award-winning musician/actor/writer Brad Hart. Influenced by films like Noam Baumbach’s The Squid and the Whale, and work by Gus Van Sant and Richard Linklater, Hidden Driveway is about two young brothers who try to make sense of family dynamics when they feel left in the dark. Alex, 11, and Chaz, 14 are hanging out in the park when they get a call from Mom to come home for a family meeting. As they walk home, they wonder what the hell it could be about…

It’s a simply constructed, character driven, six minute short that takes place in the time it takes the brothers to get home. It’s a poignant and funny look at the culture that brothers create with each other separate from the world of adults.

Hidden Driveway...kickstarter promo for short film




Days of Destruction Days of Revolt



Film Reel

Film Reel


National Parks Project





National Parks Project – Clip 2



Ancestors in the Attic



Ancestors in the Attic – Pangnirtung Episode



Mighty Ships



Tosca: Flexing at 49



For the Love of Dog



Puente de Luz Promo



Samsung Corporate Video




In Development


Book of Judith

In Development







Army of One

“Sarah Goodman’s first feature-length documentary, Army of One, puts a bitterly ironic spin on the Army’s best-known recruiting slogan, ‘Be all that you can be…’” Goodman achieves an almost shocking intimacy…”

- Dana Stevens, NEW YORK TIMES

“A riveting and timely documentary. its a testimony to this Army’s raw power that one is left wanting more”

- Ken Eisner, VARIETY

“Sarah Goodman’s excellent entry has the economy and force of good poetry and the momentum of good fiction. Goodman’s style is so deftly understated you might not hear the cry of anguish until days later, when scenes from the film are still floating around in your head.”

- Wendy Banks, NOW MAGAZINE

“Should become required viewing for all troubled youth, their uncertain parents, the military establishment and their detractors or supporters.”

- James Wegg, FILM THREAT

“Anyone thinking of enlisting in the Army might want to take a look at Army of One, a compelling documentary by Canadian Sarah Goodman.”

- V.A. Musetto, NEW YORK POST

“Sarah Goodman’s “Army of One” is an arresting festival entry that charts the recruitment, training and fate of three very different individuals.”

- Jan Stuart, NEWSDAY


When We Were Boys

“Absorbing…Goodman is able to show a strange intimacy among the boys…fascinating.”


“Affecting and impressive… fascinating, indelible characters… one of the best films screening at Hot Docs”


“What Lord of the Flies would have been like if the characters played Guitar Hero.”


“Consistently engrossing…(Goodman) uses her camera to build empathy, not pass judgement.”


“impressively long-term verite doc about life among the young, privileged, white and male.”


“Her ability to intertwine the awkwardness of peer grouping and the intimacy of teenage friendship without interfering through narration, voice overs, or a back story is delightful.”


“Goodman steps back to let Colin and Noah tell their own stories, at their own pace.


“Goodman smartly narrows her focus to the friendship between two boys: Gentle striver Noah and laconic class clown Colin.”



Hidden Driveway

“Sarah Goodman’s short, Hidden Driveway, premiered at this year’s TIFF”


“..a wry study in sibling dynamics”

- Jason Anderson, TORONTO STAR


“Sarah Goodman is a self taught auteur and her career is a testament to passion and persistence.”

- Gary Rusak, blogTO

“Festival debut ‘freaks out’ up-and-coming filmmaker”

- Wendy Gillis, The Star

Filmmaker Interview Series: Sarah Goodman – Army of One