By Josh Jensen and Andrew Smyth
The Scene: An Exploration of Music in Toronto is a documentary film project that chronicles the lives of independent musicians as they build their careers in the Canadian music industry.
We decided to pursue this subject for a number of reasons. We love music, we have friends in bands, and we’re captivated by the plight of artists creating incredible music, but receiving little or no recognition, and even less financial return on their investment.
It’s a struggle we know well.
We self-financed The Scene: An Exploration of Music in Toronto,
used our own equipment if we had it, rented or borrowed if we didn’t, filmed after work and on weekends, and relied very heavily on the sweat equity of some truly wonderful individuals (most notably David Killing, Adam Brandon, and David Koiter – our on-call camera crew) and the generosity of others, such as Sahar Shoja, who rallied support from friends and family to upgrade our camera gear, filmmaker Jay Ferguson, who let us borrow tripods, lights, and microphones, and some talented local musicians who donated their music for the film’s score, including MPSO, Tunturia, Ian Koiter, and Alex Pulec.
Now we’re in the marketing phase, submitting to film festivals, contacting media outlets, and negotiating with local theatre chains, in order to get the film in front of as many people as we can. By the time one factors in submission fees, poster printing, website design, and web hosting, even a no-budget film starts to get expensive.
Over the course of the production, we realized just how closely filmmaking can parallel the pursuit of a musical career. Both require artistic, technical, and financial investment, but offer few outlets for significant exposure, and even fewer opportunities for monetary gain. This made us even more sympathetic to the cause of indie bands in Toronto, and strengthened our resolve to get the film made.
We’re hoping the film will provide some exposure to the three bands we featured – The Ruby Spirit, The Alter Kakers, and Committed to Rhyme – and even more exposure to the issues raised in the film by music legends, chart-toppers, band managers, talent agents, radio personalities, industry experts, and a Toronto city councillor.
There’s no shortage of music venues in Toronto, so please, go see some live music, and toss some change in the pay-what-you-can jar when it comes your way.
An artist will thank you.
The Scene: An Exploration of Music in Toronto will be screening on Saturday, March 2nd, at Downtown DocFest in Belleville, and at the Royal Cinema in Toronto on Saturday, March 23rd, during the Canadian Film Fest.