Guest Blogger | Sound and Vision Director: Azed Majeed
For the past few years I've been working on trying to complete two feature length documentaries. The thing about docs is that they take a long time and they are crazy-making projects. You spend a lot of downtime away from shooting, your days filled with a routine of researching, editing, re-editing, crying, contemplating suicide, more editing and eating junk food by the barrel.
So in order to do something, save my sanity and get out into the world, I proposed to my friends and colleagues that we embark on a filmmaking challenge. The rules were: pick a song to give to one of the other participants. Use this song to form the basis of a short film. And the film needed to be finished in two weeks. Really, it was an attempt to "just do it" because we are easily brainwashed by corporate slogans, and it was a rebellion against the notion that filmmaking requires money, a lot of preparation, and schmoozing. Well the results were amazing! We completed 3 rounds of our self-imposed challenge and I found the whole process creatively freeing. The notion of having some strict rules, in terms of inspiration, time constraints and also imposing a "no budget" policy while leaving the creative options completely open to interpretation of the song, reminded me of the punk motto, D.I.Y. You can check out some of these shorts out on our Youtube channel.
I bumped into an old colleague Ian Daffern, TV1 Producer, and I showed him these shorts. He suggested that if we could amend the concept slightly to incorporate Toronto we might have a show for TV1. So I thought lets ask emerging Toronto bands to provide us with an original song, use local filmmakers, and use iconic Toronto neighbourhoods as the backdrop. As the concept started to take form, I realized that we would have to have a core crew to provide the filmmakers with a crew and post-production facilities. So, I pitched this to my creative partner, Jay Wolting who came on board as a producer, editor, crew member, assistant, coordinator and all around reliable dude. Pushing past his existential ennui and misanthropic contempt for all humans and most animals (except Gophers, for some reason), Jay became the go-to guy for our participants and a sounding board for the creative direction of the show. He also suggested we utilize the skills of his cousin, Andy Wolting as our in-house cinematographer. So with this skeleton crew in place we started researching bands and filmmakers. After literally scouting dozens of potential participants we settled on the artists in these 5 episodes.
Producing the show, which we initially-and foolishly-thought we could make into 10 minute "mini-sodes", was a lesson in humility. Each episode required us to do a profile of the band, a profile of the filmmaker, the revealing of the filmmaker's song and neighbourhood, following the filmmakers through rehearsals, camera tests, finding costumes and props, getting permits to shoot (which we didn't always get...shhhh), begging favours from friends and family and all sorts of other pressure filled preparations, the shoot, the editing, the sound mix and colour correct and finally the screening. A lot of segments for a proposed 10 minute show! Soon it became clear that what we had here was a half-hour show, and a fascinating and fun template that we are hoping to replicate in other major cities across Canada.
Working with the folks at TV1 has been a blast. Apart from the extremely supportive producers, Ian Daffern and John Buffone, there are the amazing team of people who helped us realize the project. Special thanks to Unit Manager, Irene Kassapidis who had to put up with a lot requests and last minute changes. Also, the amazing TV1 freelancers who crewed with us, camera operator extraordinaire Hernan Morris, self-proclaimed sound chick, the awesome Trisha Harris, camera operator Ron Dhaliwal, sound recordists Jason Porter and Tim Lue and the excellent PA's Nick Emtsov, Clara Chan and Brandon Wong. Also a shout out to Community Outreach Coordinator, Cela Wasserman for marketing and promotions stuff. TV1 is a small operation but they are an amazing generator for creatively risky and edgy shows. In my over 10 years in television production this has been the most creatively satisfying experience so far, so thanks to the team at TV1.
Finally, Sound and Vision is a show about artists making art. Artists who are compelled to make art despite any external rewards. The five bands and filmmakers who took part in this challenge taught me something about the creative spirit and how we can sometimes get stuck waiting for permission to make and distribute our original creations. Art for art's sake is sometimes understood as a negative phrase but I understand it now as a way of engaging in creative work for the pure and vital meaning it provides. Nothing is more rewarding than imagining something and then seeing it through to completion. Enjoy the show, and hopefully you will be inspired to go out and "just do it".
Watch Sound and Vision on TV1, channel 1217.