I remember the first time Doug Hoyer asked me if I wanted to work together with him on a video. It was early December, 2011 and we were at Old Ugly Recording Company royalty Joe and Beth Gurba’s old apartment off Saskatchewan Drive here in Edmonton, Alberta. It was a party of some kind; the one-bedroom was practically bursting with musicians and comedians and visual artists and general weirdos of all kinds. And Doug, who I knew but not especially well at the time, told me we wanted to do a music video for his terrific song “Oh, The Wind Will Blow” and he wanted it to be simple: black and white, one take. I don’t know if he knew at the time just how in-sync our aesthetic preferences were/are, but needless to say I was thrilled. A month later, we shot the video. It’s still one of my favourite things.
Cut to: March 2013. Doug is finishing a new album, and he has an idea for a new video. Also black and white. Also one take. And he says he’s talked to the wonderful people who make up the Good Women Dance Collective and that they’re already on-board to choreograph a dance for the video. He says he wants to incorporate and build on what he’s been doing with projectors in his live show. He says he wants me to shoot it in the summer.
The thrill of collaborating with other artists who inspire you is the best thing I’ve figured out how to spend my time doing so far. When those artists are not only terrific at what they do, but also among the nicest and most supportive people you’ve had the pleasure of meeting in your short life, it’s really something special. Shooting this video was some of the most fun I’ve had in a long time. I hope it does the song some small justice, and I hope it has a nice little life as this great album of Doug’s starts to circulate. Most of all: I hope we get to do it all again someday soon.
Today my friend Hans Olson and I drove out to his parents’ property near Armena, Alberta – about 15 minutes outside of Camrose. It’s called “Pretty Hill.” I was scouting the plot as a possible location for This Wind, and Hans was generously showing me the area around where he grew up while also hitching a ride out to his folks’ place for the weekend. I was expecting to drive out, drop Hans off, snap a few pictures, and turn right around and come home. But of course, Hans’s parents greeted me with far too much hospitality for my visit to be a short one. We ended up eating hot dogs on the porch as the sun started to set and a thunder storm started to creep in on us from the south. Hans and I sipped cups of coffee and smoked clove cigarettes and talked about films we love like The Spirit Of The Beehive.
I first met Hans in the summer of 2011 when I got my first ever film job in Alberta working as a production assistant for one day on a National Film Board documentary called The Auctioneer. Hans was the film’s director. Since that day, I started seeing Hans everywhere – At The Metro Cinema; The Film And Video Arts Society; coffee shops we both frequent; on the street. Often we’d bump into each other and start talking about filmmaking, and it became more obvious with every conversation that we share very similar attitudes about storytelling. If all goes well, I’ll be working for Hans on his next project: an independent feature film shooting in Edmonton in the fall.
It seems cliche, of course, but in all honesty: nothing puts me at peace quite like the quiet Albertan prairie at dusk. When I moved back to Edmonton from Vancouver in early 2011, I don’t think I fully understood why I was doing it. I knew I wanted to be closer to my good friends and family again, that was certain. But I don’t know if I fully appreciated how much this landscape means to me. I know that it’s another cliche for Canadian artists to only ever want to talk about the land and how the land informs everything that we do. But it does. I think the particular beauty of the prairie is that the vastness of the sky is a permanent reminder of our extreme insignificance. This is so healthy. It prevents us from becoming too self-important. And the land is a blank slate, an empty sheet of paper, waiting for you to leave a mark on it somehow, to create something. It’s a creative proving ground. It’s home.
Walking around out in the country, I told Hans that I dont’t just want to make one film out here; I want to make ten. We’ll start with one for now. I think we have our location.
So far it’s been the busiest summer of my life, and it’s not slowing down any time soon. And that couldn’t be more fine with me.
Over the last month or so I’ve had the pleasure of working with both Layne L’Heureux and Doug Hoyer on new music videos. Both artists came to me with concepts they had developed already and from there we worked together on realizing their ideas. I much prefer to work this way with musicians when it comes to putting images to their songs. I’ve never been good at suggesting video concepts to musicians; it always feels like an imposition to me to tell an artist what their own song means. I realize every video is just one interpretation, and that ultimately the listener still gets to decide what the song makes them feel or think about. But there’s no denying the power of the image, and a song can get so closely linked to its video that it always feels like a substantial responsibility. In any case: both videos have been shot and the clips are sitting on drives waiting for me to finally get a chance to edit them, which will be soon. Hopefully the end result for both will be as close to what Layne and Doug each initially envisioned as possible.
As a side note: I had the distinct pleasure of working with the Good Women Dance Collective for Doug Hoyer’s new video, and I just want to mention how inspiring it was to collaborate with them. I’ve been a fan of theirs since I played a set after a dance of Ainsley’s at a Nextfest Nightclub last year, but getting to meet them all in person and see how passionate they are about doing what they love for a living was something else. I think being a professional artist often requires a delicate balance of taking yourself very seriously, but never seriously enough to result in an over-inflated ego. I don’t think anyone I’ve met negotiates this balance better than the Good Women. I can’t wait to see more shows of theirs, and I hope we get another opportunity to collaborate in the future.
In other news: Pre-Production continues on This Wind, I’m writing a pretty interesting (I think, anyway) film with my friend Georgia, and helping to produce another music video for yet another Edmonton musician (more on that to come). Working away…working away. Busy but happy. Busy but very happy.
As I mentioned in my last post, it’s a short film about two lost souls who get drunk and commiserate in a field in late 1940’s Alberta. Was fortunate enough to receive a grant for this film, so we’ve got a bit of a budget for once and we’re hoping to turn that into something special. Ironically, having more money can often be constricting; more money, more problems. But what it does is allow me is the opportunity to hire people better than myself to work with me, and I couldn’t be more excited about the prospects.
Returning as Director of Photography will be my good friend Aerlan Barrett. He shot my last film, Cities And Plains, with basically no lights and some of the cheapest glass known to mankind and did, I think, a fantastic job. We’re both happy to have the opportunity to shoot with a bigger camera, bigger lights, and better glass; I think this film calls for all of those things. Check out some of his photography and frames he’s curated from some of his favourite cinematographers here: http://aerlanbarrett.blogspot.ca/
And producing the film will be my good friend Katelyn Mann. Though we already knew each other tangentially from Edmonton circles, we really became friends when we attended film school together in Vancouver. After graduating, she stayed on the West Coast while I returned home to the prairies, and we’ve each slowly been building our credits in our own little ways ever since. I’ve wanted to work together on something for years, and now we finally have the opportunity. She runs a tight ship! Couldn’t be more pleased to have her on board.