I now know that nothing is completely new. The actions that I’m taking today are preceded by the actions I took yesterday, last week and last year. So while film making is ‘new’ to me, it is also something I’ve been working towards for a long time.
My studies in theatre production are closely related to film – they have a lot in common. You have different departments all coming together to serve the production and director’s vision. There is a lot of cross over (set and carpentry, paints, acting, props, sound, lights, electrics…etc) and there are a few departments unique to each medium (rigging and box office in theatre, camera and locations in film…etc.).
Leaving theatre school I began to network and look for as much experience as possible. A willing worker, I was a production assistant with Nasco Staffing Solutions where I worked on small and large productions like the Much Music MVA’s and even a Justin Bieber stadium concert. I developed more of the technical experience working with AV Canada: packing, delivering and setting up (mostly corporate) events. I also took the Director Training Course with the Director’s Guild of Canada which led me more into film with volunteer work at the Canadian Film Centre, odd jobs on productions, and a two movie stint with a small production company (Studio 7 Films) as a production manager and assistant director. Eventually I began to work on my own productions.
Still not a camera operator – I would focus on directing and editing. I gained some experience directing while I was in school, and in a failed short film production, but I hadn’t published anything until I started making music videos for my band Uforia. Below is a production from 2018 for the Uforia song, What It Means to You. This project was completed with a very small crew, which is something I’m quite used to. Not only did I write the script, cast and direct the actors, edit, and production manage, but there are many jobs that need doing. That said, this project would not be what it is without the expertise of Eric Soto on camera and lighting, Mae Sibley as assistant director/hair and make up/production photography set design and Michael Ursini and Melissa Aquino as production assistants. The production itself, which is distinct from pre- and post- production, were five consecutive 18 hour days. I’m happy to share that all this hard work did result in our video winning gold at the South Georgian Bay Film Festival.
Winning an award was an incredible start to my movie-making career, in the years that have followed this video still holds up as the biggest budget and highest production value that I’ve ever worked with. Making videos is costly. I decided that purchasing my own camera would be a good investment. Not only would it give me more control as a camera operator and allow me to save on my own productions, but it allowed me to take on work as a camera operator and film maker for others.
Following the advice I’d been given by Eric (the man who shot the above video) I got specific about what kind of videos I wanted to make. Knowing that camera kits are systems and get very pricey very quickly, I decided that my initial set up would allow me to shoot handheld in low light. I did not invest in gimbals or lights or tripods. I kept my expenses to a minimum and purchased a Sony A6600, two Tamron lenses and a backpack, batteries, and memory cards. It was specific and it helped me get started without blowing my entire budget.
I spent months researching cameras and lenses, comparing, testing and price shopping and eventually I settled on my kit. I wanted to have the camera by July 2020 so I could film a music production retreat I was attending. Myself and nine others rented a cottage in Muskoka for three days with the intention of producing as much music as possible. I was excited to document the whole process. I captured people during the recording process, and I interviewed some of the producers and asked questions about creativity, community and collaboration (a theme that a lot of my work serves and explores). What resulted, seen below, is a 15 minute documentary called The Cottage Crew. This project is my introduction to documentary film making, and helped me discover a new passion that I have for the art of the interview. I enjoy asking questions, and holding space for people to be their honest selves.
Another video where I explore documentary style film making is the next one below: How a Song Gets Made. It is a step-by-step look at the writing and recording process for Into the Light by my band Elemaria. As my art is very process-oriented I have come to enjoy documenting the process. A big part of the art is the journey to the final product and here we have an in-depth look at the journey. In these videos I tend to leave myself out. I focus on the others and let my role be the one who organizes their thoughts and opinions, I am however the one choosing what to show and what to leave out.
Another Elemaria video project is the Prayer music video. For this video Ashley and I went down to one of my favourite spots on Lake Ontario. It is a tree which stands alone and juts out of the rocks in south Etobicoke. The lyrics in the song talk about the light which is endlessly expanding and I thought it would be a nice visual concept to explore. The idea was to have Ashley gradually walk through the wooded area and out into the light. It was a fun and playful video that we shot on a summer afternoon. Then we ate pizza.
And so my experiments in film making take on many different forms as I work with others to help them achieve their visions and I also continue to explore my own imagination. To this day I have shot and edited live events and indie commercials, music videos and panel discussions, tutorial videos and the natural world. I am not limited by a specific genre, I allow myself to explore anything that excites me. This leads me to an unconventional project I created called Times Infinity.
Times Infinity is an audio-visual exploration of found material. Found material refers to pre-existing objects that one re-purposes in their artwork. In this endeavour I worked only with audio samples and stock video footage. That means that the entire project (which exists as an eight song EP with four music videos) were made from sounds and footage that I (legally) downloaded from the internet. The process still engages me as a composer, editor, director and curator, but I am not responsible for the actual recording process. It means sifting through massive databases of audio and video in order to stitch together something which is uniquely my own.
The Times Infinity project was intended to be an exploration of the universe from the very small to the very large. I wanted to create audio-video experiences that moved from the atomic level to the astral level. On the project I engage Abhinav Tyagi to help. Abhinav helped me story board and develop the concepts and also created the video for Ancestral Humn.
There is a part of me that continually feels the need to justify this as a creative act. Because the sounds and videos were recorded by somebody else, there is an idea of impurity in my mind. That this is not really me. None-the-less, I feel connected to the project. I had a lot of fun creating it, I do believe it is uniquely me, and it was a lot of fun to create in the style that I enjoy so much. Below is the audio-video experience for Welcome to the Capitol which is the fourth song on the Times Infinity EP.
I continue to create from a place of whatever excites me. Rather than focus on one area I’ve given myself some time to explore anything I am interested in so I can better discover what I may want to specialize in. This leads me to a lot of live performance videos, of myself and others. I started a series called Live at 85 (which refers to my home address), and contains anything I might capture here at my home studio.
Below is a live capture of myself multi-tracking an acoustic, instrumental version of Into the Light. This song can be heard as a full band tune with Elemaria, or as a duet with Ashley Gilmore, but here it is just me. It leaves me a lot of room to have fun with different guitar melodies.