The Juno Awards take place tonight but on April 2nd nominees for best music DVD and video gathered at the Bell Light Box to share the challenges and triumphs of making these nominated projects. The night was hosted by MuchMore’s Matt Wells and a portion of each ticket went to support MusiCounts.
“I went in wanting to make a story.”
Better Off director Ben Knechtel playfully admitted to keeping “a safe distance” from Ten Second Epic, a band famous for partying. Knechtel has worked with numerous bands, including Faber Drive and Carly Rae Jensen, but Better Off is his first full length film.
“I basically did this piece for very little money,” he shared with the audience. “It was a true passion project of mine. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it and my hard work paid off.”
After receiving a MuchFACT EPK grant to create video blogs Knechtel decided that he wanted to do something bigger. “In the back of my head I was like, ‘I’m definitely going to make a full documentary here,’ and they [Ten Second Epic] were into it from the start.”
An avid collector of bonus DVDs, Knechtel became frustrated with bands who were charging fans for haphazard footage. “It seemed like they just threw a DVD together with just scrap material of theirs,” he explained. “It kind of bummed me out because I just paid an extra 10 dollars for this bonus DVD and it’s basically nothing, just a compilation of random footage. So I went in wanting to make a story…”
That he did.
A full documentary inspired by a song.
Wells could not disguise his awe that director Andy Keen got to work closely with the legendary Canadian band, The Tragically Hip.
“You’ve done a lot of really cool things, man…but this is a really good gig,” said Wells, as soon as Keen took the stage. “How did you get this job? This show! And this is such a special day and it’s the Hip! They’re so exclusive about who they work with. ”
“It was really fun and I feel honoured to have done it,” said Keen who didn’t initially know how rare the opportunity to work with the band actually is.
Keen came to the attention of the band after his 2006 concert documentary film, Escarpment Blues, with singer-songwriter Sarah Harmer. The Hip wanted to document their show in Bobcaygeon, a small cottage town that inspired one of their biggest international hits by the same name. (“The band really put this town on the map.”)
The notoriously private group gave Keen access to them from the studio to moments after coming off of the stage but made it clear that they did not want the film to revolve around them but rather the fans.
“They were great,” concluded Keen. “If I can jar that feeling, it would be nice.”
“It’s sort of the craziest thing I’ve ever seen.” François Lamoureux
Pat Metheny is a legendary musician and you understand why after watching him in, The Orchestrion Project.
Mad Scientist meets musician, Metheny made his life-long dream to create a one man orchestra a reality. Using his guitar he developed (along with some help from MIT) the ability to control a symphony of instruments single handed, and coined it the Orchestrion.
Pierre Lamoureux and François Lamoureux, just coming off of a Harry Connick Jr. shoot, heard about Metheny and decided to see the man in action. After completing a 120 concert tour Metheny knew it was time to document his brilliant invention before the moment passed.
“After I do this tour I’m not sure when I’m going to play this stuff again,” Metheny shared with the brothers, who recognized this admission as an important sign that they needed to document the project. “It happened once when we were doing this Branford Marsalis project and he said to us, ‘Look, I’m playing “Love Supreme.” I can play it now but I’m not sure I can play it again.” So we got it documented. You really have to trust a musician of this caliber when he says, “…I can probably do it later but right now I’m really good at it…’ And when it’s a good work of art we have to capture it.”
The end result is the documenting of a genius.
The 3D film was taped in a Brooklyn church (a last minute, and very expensive, decision). “We decided to fund it ourselves and we spent a lot of money doing it.” From their scheduled three day shoot being cut down to two days after gear got stuck at the border or Metheny’s intense artistry (playing 12 hours nonstop and nearly exhausting the amount of tape they had), it was a project as big as Metheny’s talent.
“It’s the type of project where you don’t want it to go away. It was a magical thing and it’s hard to explain to people unless they see it.”
The self-funded project, like Metheny’s dream, was considered crazy by some but the collaborative effort elevated all involved. “Just watching this guy play you just can’t help but be amazed.”
Blues at its best!
The director was not in attendance but viewing the blazing live performance of John Hiatt and Joe Bonamassa performing the heavy blues song, “Down around My Place,” was enough.
“I’m always freaking out when the show is occurring.”
Shot at the Great Hall in Toronto, Kaeshammerlive! was a one-take kind of night but to get that one-take required lots of planning and came with frustrating obstacles. Over 10 cameras were required to capture as many angles as possible. The thirty-six foot stage, 300 audience member venue didn’t make that easy.
“The band would grow from 8 or 9 members to just 2 people and we didn’t have the ability to remove instruments and mic stands. Shooting in the round makes it really hard to hide anything.”
When asked if there was anything he would change:
“Oh, hundreds of things,” laughed Martin. At the top of his list was avoiding a venue that had thirty-six steps to the main floor with no freight elevator, a detail that made it pretty tricky to move a grand piano up to the main level. (The snow storm that morning didn’t help either).
“Part of the excitement of doing projects like this is the fact that it’s like putting on any live show, you don’t really know what’s going to happen. You can try to control it but things are always going to come up.”
In the end the final cut looks effortless. “Michael’s a great performer. When you watch him perform you just have to point a camera at him.”
“I love collaborating with really creative people who have so much fun doing what they’re doing.”
Photographer and director Margaret Malandruccolo had quite a bit to brag about. She is the only double Nominee for videos “Testify” (Alan Doyle) and “Fire It Up” (Johnny Reid). But she didn’t have to do much talking because Doyle and Reid were more than happy to sing her praises. (Doyle and Reid joined the conversation – via pre-taped video message and Skype – to discuss working with their nominated director.)
“There’s a reason why Margaret has shot almost every one of my videos…. I try to put my heart and my soul into the music and Margaret is able to do the exact same thing using a different medium,” gushed Reid. “She’s incredible. She always listens, which as an artist it’s one of the greatest things anyone can do, is listen to you.”
A tight budget (they spent half the budget traveling), helpful Icelandic friends, and resourcefulness helped Malandruccolo create Doyle’s nominated video (staring Russell Crowe).
“He totally knows what he’s doing. I was petrified, or course. I’m shooting an Academy Award winning actor with a digital SLR and no lights basically. I’m the wardrobe stylist and I’m the art director and he’s going to think we’re just like rinky-dink or whatever. But he was gracious. He’s professional. He was stern. He was there to do one thing. He was not there to exchange pleasantries so it was a very interesting experience.”
Crowe refused to take part in a baptism scene because he had just come from shooting a film where he was forced to be in subzero water (when he later learned that they filmed in the warm Blue Lagoon, he had a few good-natured words for his friend Doyle). Malandruccolo took the reins despite being initially intimated and was pleased at how receptive he was.
“He actually listened to me” she shared. “I just felt like this mousy little girl but I had to direct him in scenes and go, ‘Okay, let’s try that again’ and he listened…so we did it and he was amazing,” concluded the gracious director.
“It actually got crazier than that.”
“Videos don’t matter anymore,” said Drake to Director X during their initial conversation about HYFR, “But I need to make something that does. That people are going to talk about and get excited about.”
Director X’s 90’s epic videos, where some went as high as 1 million to create (including the “Thong Song” remix of all things), inspired Drake, who was only a kid at the time, to bring the same ambitious feel to his current videos. “One thing,” said X, “back in those days we put the money on the screen.”
If you’ve seen HYFR you know a party truly went down, something X confirms.
“It’s funny how many of them [artists] hate making music videos,” said Wells. “When I watch a video like that [ HYFR] I have to imagine that everybody there had the time of their lives.”
“Yeah everyone had a good time…I know the rock bands are like, “Agh! Videos! I don’t want to do videos. Videos suck.’ In Hip-hop, we like making videos…” said X, with a grin.
But even he had to admit this video was out of the ordinary.
“…Normally when you do a party video you have a bunch of kids and it’s like, ‘I just did Jay-Z’s video and now I’m going to do this one. And I’m going to leave because I want to go.’ Everyone’s over it because they do all the videos. These kids have never done a hip-hop video before and will never do one afterwards,” he explained with a hearty laugh. “So that part in the video where there’s Wayne and there’s the girl and everyone’s just freaking out, we just lost control. They said, ‘Fuck it. We’re never doing this again. I’m going in.’ She grabbed Wayne and people were standing on tables. This was not staged. It just literally went there.”
Unfortunately, we’ll probably never see bonus scenes of the height of faux Bar Mitzvah madness, X rolled out of film at its peak. But we can always imagine…
“The art team really killed it.”
“I think the thing that has always struck me is how you create these worlds in your videos,” said Wells to director Sean Wainsteim. “It’s a very unique style that you have for making music videos.”
“It goes back to being a kid and really liking handmade stuff and the artistry around it,” explained Wainsteim, who named Spike Jonze as one of his influences.
Wainsteim worked with, Walk off the Earth, who are well-known for their one take videos.
Little Boxes came together quickly with last minute hunts for gear, lighting, including hitting Queen Street looking for cardboard (much of it re-purposed). “I immediately called all the talented people I know that love working with cardboard…and they hated me for it.”
Written in 4 days, the band had half-a-day to learn the song. It was a mad rush to get all the ingredients together but it came together beautifully (and only in 8 takes).
Four minutes of wonder!
Shot against a green screen the Monsters and Men video, “Little Talks,” may be one of the most beautiful imaginative videos you will ever see. (Maybe it should be made into a movie or storybook.)
WeWereMonkeys were not in attendance but the band, speaking from Iceland in a previously taped clip, had kind words for them: “They’re the sweetest people in the world…at least in Canada.”
Watch the Juno Awards tonight on CTV!
Photo Credit: Image still from Of Monsters and Men video, “Little Talks.”