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N.K. filmmaker herds Sheepdogs
The bulk of a rockumentary was completed at a home base in North Kildonan.
Director John Barnard and his company, Farpoint Films, were commissioned by cable network Super Channel into making the documentary on Saskatoon rockers The Sheepdogs a reality.
The 35-year-old acknowledged he didn’t know about the band at the time Far Point was hired in 2011, but then again, Canada was just becoming acquainted with the group. Barnard began work on The Sheepdogs Have At It just after the first big break of the band’s career, winning a contest to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in August 2011. The foursome has since become rock-radio mainstays with hits like "I Don’t Know", "The Way It Is", and "Feeling Good".
"It would be more interesting after the contest, because all of a sudden, they had something to lose," he said.
The film follows the band across North America, including their homecoming show, opening for the Kings of Leon at Credit Union Place, after winning the contest. The doc also meanders to Nashville as the band records its new album.
For his first feature-length documentary, Barnard noted he wanted to diverge from the norm of similar movies, delving more into the band members’ family life.
"I had more access to the guys’ parents than most of these kinds of films did," said Barnard, who had profiled locals like Sierra Noble and Crash Test Dummies drummer Mitch Dorge for smaller projects. "I think their parents were pretty instrumental in supporting them when they were a fledgling band. They played and toured for years before the Rolling Stone contest."
Barnard acknowledged it was tricky getting the four group members — singer/guitarist Ewan Currie, guitarist Leot Hanson, bassist Ryan Gullen, and drummer Sam Corbett — completely onside with the documentary. He noted their previous experiences in front of the camera ranged from jokes falling flat to being the butt of the comedy for their scraggly style.
"I felt I needed to be straightforward and gain their trust a little bit," Barnard said, noting he thinks his Winnipeg roots were a benefit. "It took almost to the end before they really figured out that I was 100% legit and I was working in their favour, that I wasn’t doing some kick-in-the-door gonzo journalism, trying to figure out what they were smoking in their hotel rooms."
Barnard felt the turning point happened in New Orleans near the end of the tour on Halloween night on what he describes as one of the most bizarre 24-hour periods of his life, as he found out his grandfather had died earlier that day.
"I rented the hotel room, and they could come up to the balcony and throw Mardi Gras beads at people with costumes," he recalled. "A couple of them fell into this almost hypnotic lust for bead-throwing.
"It was so surreal to go from the trauma of death in the morning with this man who was almost my second father, to getting hit in the head with Mardi Gras beads in the evening."
Barnard, who did the bulk of editing at his Kimberly Avenue home, attended the film’s premiere in Toronto on June 21, and has showed it in Whistler, Newport Beach, California, and most recently, at the Gimli Film Festival on July 25. He hopes to release it on iTunes soon, and it will air on Super Channel in the near future.
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