Tag Archives: Documentary

Indigenous songwriters take centre stage in APTN’s Amplify

I’m a huge fan of music documentaries and count Soundbreaking, It Might get Loud, Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage and Sonic Highways among my favourites. I’ll add Amplify to the mix.

Debuting Friday at 8 p.m. Eastern on APTN, Amplify was created by Métis writer, director, musician and cinematographer Shane Belcourt, and focuses on Indigenous songwriters and those that have inspired them. What sets Amplify apart is not only the subject matter—songwriter Cheryl L’Hirondelle (above) and author Robin Wall Kimmerer are showcased in Episode 1—but the look of each of the 13 episodes. Rather than simple talking heads inter-cut with performances, the series’ cameras pause on flowers waving in a breeze, a tumbledown barn in a field, or ripples on a pond.

We spoke to Shane Belcourt about how Amplify came about, and what he hopes viewers will experience as they watch it.

What made you create Amplify?
Shane Belcourt: The producers that I work with wanted to make a music documentary series. The default for that kind of music documentary series is usually the biography series, ‘Here’s the musician, here’s what they’ve done.’ I mean, sure I like them, but I want to watch a TV show that has some artistry behind it, that has some kind of uniqueness that I can’t get anywhere else. I was quite inspired by Dave Grohl’s HBO documentary series, Sonic Highways, as well as the Netflix series, a very popular one, Chef’s Table.

I thought, ‘There’s something about both of these documentaries, the way that they’re structured and the pacing and the points that they bring out.’ But the other big one was when you think about going to musicians and saying, ‘Hey, you’re great. Tell me why you’re great. Rolling,’ they’re going to be like, ‘Uh, no thanks.’

Shane Belcourt

But if you said, ‘Hey, what’s something that you’ve read recently or thought about, or something in our Indigenous world that you’re really excited to explore and think about that’s really shaped you? Will you tell me about that?’ And, of course, every musician is like, ‘Oh yeah, hey, you should read this and I love this part and that part. And here’s what it means to me.’ Through that micro focus, you get the macro feeling of who this person really is. So you get the biography, you get the feeling of who this person is through focusing on one thing that they’re excited to talk about.

One of the things that struck me were the times you’re showing a barn in a field or some flowers. Clearly that was a conscious decision on your part to make this different.
SB: Yeah. I’ve got to really tip my hat to the broadcaster, APTN. I sold them originally from the lookbook and from the pitch deck. I said, ‘Listen. I want to do something that has the pacing, like Chef’s Table, that’s very meditative, that takes time to linger on a shot. We’re in no rush.’

And to their credit, they said, ‘Great.’ One of my friends has this great saying. He’s actually musician. He said, ‘When the world runs, walk slow. When the world goes slow, start running. If you want to stand out, do the opposite.’ And so I think that there’s a history now of documentaries. There’s so many good documentaries. And I’m inspired by the visual treatment that we’re all pushing to.

How did you decide on the songwriters you were going to include?
SB: I work really closely with producer Michelle St. John, and she knows everybody. She’s great. We thought, ‘OK, well, we know what the recipe of the show is: Songwriter + inspiration = an episode.’ So we thought, ‘OK, well, who are 13 songwriters that we’d love to spend time with who we know are articulate, and also a mix between somebody who’s known like iskwē and someone who’s less known like Lacey Hill?’ We definitely wanted to make a list that had a lot of Indigenous female performers. So that was also a juggling act. You make your big list.

Author Robin Wall Kimmerer

And I would say 80 per cent agreed right off. We called them. They’re like, ‘We love this idea. Totally interested. We’re in.’ And while we made that list of songwriters, we also then made a parallel list of what director would be perfect to work with that songwriter.

One of the things that I enjoyed is you had each person introduce themselves in their Indigenous language.
SB: Yeah. So much of welcoming and greeting yourself and introducing yourself to the space or to the people who you’re sharing that space with is to express who you are and where you’re from and what your community and nation is. Who holds you, what group has brought you forward as opposed to, ‘I’m this isolated person named Dale or Bob or whatever.’ That was something that we wanted, too. It just made sense to do that. And the other thing too, is that the musicality of the language was something that we just love to hear. It just gives them a little flavour of something that just to me, sounds a little sweeter and pulls the audience in a little further as they read the subtitles, but hear the sound for most of the people who don’t speak Ojibway.

When people tune in and watch Amplify, what are you hoping that they do? Do you want them to hit up iTunes and look for this music and start Googling these artists and the people who inspired them?
SB: That’s just it. You just nailed it right there. The hope that someone watching the show is that for a half-hour TV block, they get to sit down and be transported into a place that has these unusual and new characters and voices and sounds. And then at the end of it, they’re just thinking a couple of things. One is, for something like in the pilot, ‘I have to go buy a copy of Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book. I want to read it.’ That’s what you hope because it’s such a great book. And then, ‘Oh, I want to check out Cheryl L’Hirondelle. I love the sound of her stuff. It’s so interesting.’ I’m someone who as an artist, I guess ultimately whenever I watch a great movie or a great show, I want to make something. It inspires me to be creative and do what I do. So I hope, ultimately, people watch it and go, ‘I want to sit down and write a song,’ or whatever it is that they do to get out there and just be creative.

Amplify airs Fridays at 8:30 p.m. Eastern on APTN.

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Link: CBC’s Girls’ Night Out is a patronizing, fact-adverse travesty

From Leah McLaren of The Globe and Mail:

CBC’s Girls’ Night Out is a patronizing, fact-adverse travesty
Vaguely based on the book Drink: The Deadly Relationship Between Women and Alcohol by Ann Dowsett Johnston, the documentary takes a complex and multilayered topic and reduces it to an episode of Girls Gone Wild narrated by church ladies. Girls’ Night Out is a patronizing, fact-adverse travesty, the broadcast equivalent of TMZ’s never-ending gallery of D-list actresses staggering out of nightclubs, lipstick and bra straps askew. Continue reading. 

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Comments and queries for the week of November 6

The Nature of Things explores obesity and our guts

Just doing a little fact checking, and the host of the show states there are more microbes in our gut, 100 trillion, than there are stars in the sky. Conservative estimates of the number of stars are around a billion trillion, and a new study from researchers at Harvard and Yale suggests there are a mind-blowing 300 sextillion of them, or three times as many as scientists previously calculated. That is a 3 followed by 23 zeros. Or 3 trillion times 100 billion. I wonder if this was just a slip, or is it an indication of a lack of understanding of very large numbers? —Dave

Will this show on obesity and the gut rerun? —Reta

All of the past The Nature of Things episodes can be re-watched on the show’s website.


Georgina Reilly: Why I left Murdoch Mysteries

Dear Miss Reilly: Excuse the pun but, thank-you for “Gracing” us with your performances on Murdoch Mysteries. The show has always been excellent right from the first season, but when your character made her first appearance a few years ago, the fans took notice and endeared you to their hearts both as Emily and Georgina Reilly. Thank you, and I hope you come back someday. Take care. —Rob

Well I can’t wait to see her back as a special guest star and I don’t care that they went off the books a bit … it is still a good show. —Brenden

It’s great that they didn’t choose to kill her off and left the door open for future guest appearances or perhaps a recurring role. As much as I would love for it to, MM won’t last forever. I am sure the entire cast ponders on what they will so when this show ends and how much further they would like to go. Emily can always return in the end. Perhaps for George. I am an avid fan of them as a couple after all. :) —Tibou

I m glad to see Miss Reilly leave Murdoch Mysteries as she was the weak link of the show; best of luck to her. I have watched all the episodes of Murdoch Mysteries and love all the Canadian content. Thanks to the writers and producers for such a good show; Murdoch is my favourite character along with Inspector Brackenreid. —Dee

 

Got a question or comment about Canadian TV? greg@tv-eh.com or via @tv_eh.

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Canada In Development: LIL’ WARRIORS

Spinning off the success of the MMA events that have taken the world by storm, Shaw Media & Global TV are bringing us LIL’ WARRIORS, a one-hour documentary that follows kids 8 & under and their families, to provide an explosive behind-the-scenes look at competitive fighting in Canada and the US.

Currently in the treatment writing and casting stages, LIL’ WARRIORS will take a look at the ambition, and competitive nature of martial arts coupled with the personality of each lil’ warrior, going behind the scenes to see what really lies beneath the surface of kids competitive martial arts.

Shark Teeth Films is an independent production company which incorporated in late 2008 by Tom Mudd and Adrian Carter.  They produce content for both film and television and have recently expanded to include to live-action, animation and visual effects.

Written by Tom Mudd, Adrian Carter, and John Turner (who will also direct) LIL’ WARRIORS is part of Global’s Close Up strand – a series of one-off documentaries that looks at the unusual that lies just beneath the ordinary right outside our doors.

The Documentary Series is slated to begin in January of 2013.

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In the news: This Beat Goes On and Rise Up salute 70s & 80s pop

thisbeatgoeson-poster.jpgFrom Bill Brioux of the Canadian Press:

  • Two docs, one sweet musical ride
    ” Two new documentaries exploring the Canadian music scene in the 1970s and ’80s sound like they could be a bad trip in a hippie van, packed with a mullet band and a punk hitchhiker. But chill, dude. Nicholas Jennings takes viewers on one sweet, tune-filled ride with This Beat Goes On and Rise Up, two two-part docs that add up to a fun, four-hour salute to Canadian pop music.” Read more.
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