While it may have started out as a cool fundraiser for local institution Cinematheque, Bands vs. Filmmakers has evolved into an important cultural exchange for Winnipeg's art scene.
Here's how it works: Five local filmmakers are paired up with five local bands. Each filmmaker creates 20 minutes of new work to be premièred at the show, which takes place May 23 at the West End Cultural Centre. The bands, meanwhile, provide a live soundtrack to each short film. Teams can work however they wish. Some bands and their filmmakers work closely together; others are more hands off.
This year's lineup features local innovators from a variety of genres in both music and film, including post-rockers Les Jupes, who will be working with Matheu Plouffe; hick-hopper Ridley Bent, who is teamed up with Madison Thomas; indie/electro outfit Hana Lu Lu, which is working with Kayla Jeanson; indie-pop duo Mise en Scene, paired up with Tyler Funk; and MC Birdapres and Grey Jay (Andy Rudolph of prog rock act Mahogany Frog), who are working with Damien Ferland.
Now in its fourth year, Bands vs. Filmmakers grew out of a casual conversation between Weakerthans frontman John K Samson and Cinematheque programmer Dave Barber. "He agreed to come aboard and play and help organize bands to play a concert," Barber recalls. "(Winnipeg artist) Arlea Ashcroft, who was working at the Winnipeg Film Group, suggested bringing in a joint collaboration between filmmakers and bands."
In partnership with the West End Cultural Centre, Winnipeg Film Group, which runs Cinematheque, presented the first Bands vs. Filmmakers in 2011, featuring the Weakerthans, Nathan, Jaxon 3 and the Shallow End representing the bands and Heidi Phillips, Aaron Zeghers, Clint Enns and Mike Maryniuk repping the filmmakers.
"It was an amazing success, both artistically and as a fundraiser, and the audience just raved about how great it was as an entertaining program," Barber says.
"There isn't a lot of opportunity for people who work in film and music to collaborate, outside of the standard avenues of soundtrack or music, and definitely not in front of a live audience like this," says Birdapres, a.k.a. Dane Goulet. He says that he and Grey Jay are doing the doing the rap/drummer/sampler thing, while Ferland is repurposing "contents of two heaping bags of old VHS tapes live via some obsolete mixing device that probably came from a cable-access station in Idaho circa 1982.
"Every time I leave the rehearsal space, I think about the other participants and imagine some equally surreal situation taking place," Goulet says. "These sorts of things should happen more often."
Jeanson, an emerging local filmmaker who specializes in dance videography, had attended the event in the past and was inspired to respond to a call for submissions. She went in with an open mind.
"I didn't specify any band because I was interested in seeing who they would pair me up with," she says. She hasn't been disappointed with Hana Lu Lu. "They've been really hands off," she says. Without outside direction, the music from Hana Lu Lu's EP Keepsake -- and the music alone -- has guided her work, which will incorporate dance footage. (Featured dancers include Aureliane Bottero, Helena Colley, Brianna Fergusson, Warren Clelland, and Kelsey Todd.)
"Dance is my base for a lot of things," she says. "It's funny, because I like watching dialogue-based films -- but I love dance so much. It's so visual."
The film is representative of where Jeanson's head is at these days. She dropped out of the School of Contemporary Dancers to further her film studies at the University of Manitoba. Her classmates at SCD recently graduated, and Jeanson found herself asking, "What if I had stayed?"
"As I delved into the music, I sensed the theme of regret that I was interested in exploring," she says. "It's bittersweet."
As an attendee, Jeanson was impressed by the community spirit Bands vs. Filmmakers fosters.
"I found the energy in the room to be positive," she says. "People are so open to different kinds of film and music. And the length of each performance and film is perfect; because they're each about 15 to 20 minutes long, it keeps moving."
Bands vs. Filmmakers also doubles as a networking event. "You meet so many people who are into the arts in general," she says.
Barber says the event's success is owed to that spirit of collaboration and community.
"Winnipeg has an amazing independent music and film community with hugely talented artists in both camps," Barber says. "This event joins the two communities together and brings out the best in their creativity."