video

VANCOUVER COLLECTIVE HOUSING DOCUMENTARY RELEASED THIS MONTH

collectivehousing_coverLast fall, I wrote a story about a locally filmed documentary called Better Together, which looks at collective living as a solution to Vancouver’s housing crisis.

As most of us are aware, housing in Vancouver is not easy to come by – unless you’ve got cash to burn, don’t mind living in less-than-ideal rentals, or have all the time in the world to spend hunting down an available apartment. And if you have a pet? Good luck.

That’s where collective living comes in. Collective living is a return to community living, where people choose to live in a family setting and commit to spending quality time together. It’s not just your average roommate situation.

The documentary was pitched by local video journalist Jen Muranetz as an introduction to collective living and how it might be a viable alternative for the many folks in Vancouver searching for a home. The documentary was entered into the Storyhive competition and ended up being one of 30 finalists selected to receive a $10,000 Storyhive grant.

The documentary was released earlier this month and you can watch it below. Congrats to Jen and everyone else attached to the project!

You can read my original story about co-housing here and learn more about Jen’s documentary here.

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Local Pinball Wizard star of new documentary premiering in May

Since I started working full-time as a journalist in 2011, I’ve interviewed dozens of people and have shared countless stories. Some stories stick with me more than others, for various reasons.

Among those is a series that I wrote and produced in the fall of 2011 for 24 Hours. It was titled The Top 24 Under 24. We had asked our readers across Metro Vancouver to submit names of teens and young adults who were at the top of their field, who stood out from the rest, who seemed poised for success and extraordinary things. Needless to say, many of the students we profiled that first year continue to enjoy great success today.

Robert Gagno was one of the students I profiled back in 2011. At the time, Robert was the top pinball champion across Canada, and was also ranked 13th internationally after competing for only two years. He had an indescribable talent for the vintage arcade game despite his autism.

Today, I learned Robert is the subject of a new documentary titled Wizard Mode that is slated to premier at Toronto’s Hot Docs Film Festival this May. The documentary is produced by Salazar Film and was partly funded by a successful Indiegogo campaign last year that raised $43,500. It is Salarzar’s debut feature length documentary.

The trailer features a brief glimpse of our 24 Hours two-page spread on Robert, which was first published in 2011. (You can spot the headline at 0:43!) It gave me a small sense of pride, not because I claim any sort of credit for Robert’s accomplishments, but because we played some small role in sharing his story.

It’s one of the reasons I love journalism and it highlights the favourite part of my job: We find interesting stories about wonderful people doing great things and we share that with the world. It’s exciting to see that Robert’s story will now be shared with even more people.

Congratulations to the team at Salazar and to Robert.

(PHOTO: Robert Gagno, who has autism and is pictured in this 2011 photo, is one of the top-ranked competitive pinball players in the world. He was also one of 24 hours’ Top 24 Under 24 students. CARMINE MARINELLI, 24 HOURS.)

Keeping up with Kanye’s new shoes

I’m always fascinated by celebrities and the power with which they can command an audience. Some drive their audiences toward charities that are close to their hearts, others drive their audiences toward their own brands.

Last week, I was sent out to write a story about why people were lining up outside the downtown Vancouver Holt Renfrew. Turns out – Kanye West’s latest collaboration with Adidas was about to be re-released.

I don’t know about you but I think the most I’ve ever spent on a pair of shoes was $120 and those were well-made boots that have lasted me two years and counting. I’m not sure I could bring myself to pay $225 for a pair of shoes designed by a celebrity, no matter how much I admired them.

No one man should have all that power, right?

Getting answers about short films

What if… Just what if you could have the answer to any question that has ever crossed your mind? Would you ask?

I recently wrote about the Crazy 8s Film Festival, taking place here in Vancouver. (You can read that story here.) The assignment opened my eyes to the possibilities and challenges of short films. Similar to what I do as a tabloid reporter, short films force filmmakers to tell their story without frills, without the luxury of length and time. You’re really tasked with picking out the most important aspects of what it is you want to communicate.

Back to my introduction. While discussing the Crazy 8s Film Festival recently, I was introduced to The Answers, a short film starring Daniel Lissing and Rose McIvor, and directed by Michael Goode. It explores that idea of what we’d do and how we’d respond if we had definitive answers for all of life’s most pressing questions. What would you ask? Would you want to know? It’s interesting to note what questions get asked in the film’s eight-minute duration. I suspect it’s not too far off from what most of us would wonder.

Watch the film below.

I bless the rains down in Africa

(This is a post dedicated to sharing the good message of Toto’s “Africa.” You’ve been warned.)

It doesn’t matter what decade you were born in but if you currently have access to the Internet, a record collection, or a soft-hits radio station, you’ll know Toto’s “Africa.” It’s a great song all around and if I had any authority on music (which I won’t claim to have), I’d argue that it’s one of the best songs ever written and released. True or not, it sounds like a good argument though.

The song was released in late 1982 on Toto’s album Toto IV, which debuted earlier that same year. It hit #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart in February 1983, and got as high as #3 on UK charts the same month.

Most recently, actors and real-life couple Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell posted their own homemade music video tribute to the song, featuring footage from the couple’s trip to, yes, Africa. I already love the song and I love Kristen Bell even more so I’m a sucker for this video, obviously.

An online video of two guys performing in a pizza shop in South Jordan, Utah has also been dubbed “The Best Cover of ‘Africa’ by Toto You’ve Probably Ever Heard.” (h/t Michael Berry at KTRH)

The performers are Mike Masse and Jeff Hall, and the video was actually posted to Youtube back in August 2010, but the fact that the video is still being passed around just goes to show that Toto’s “Africa” is a timeless song.

So today’s lesson is: You’ll never regret hearing Toto’s “Africa” because it’s a great song that makes you feel good. That is all.

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Stephanie’s Top Albums of 2015

I’ll keep this short and brief. Insert here a disclaimer about how this isn’t an exhaustive list and is by no means definitive. It’s just me and my weird taste in music. There’s still plenty of other new music I haven’t even had the chance to sit down and listen to yet. Phew.

These are listed in chronological order by release date but if I’m picking just ONE top album for the year, it’ll be Death Cab For Cutie’s Kintsugi, hands down.

Purity Ring – Another Eternity
Released: Feb. 27, 2015 on 4AD
“Push Pull”

Modest Mouse – Strangers to Ourselves
Released: March 17, 2015 on Epic
“Lampshades on Fire”

Death Cab For Cutie – Kintsugi
Released: March 31, 2015 on Atlantic, Barsuk
“Good Help Is So Hard To Find”

Matt & Kim – New Glow
Released: April 7, 2015 on Fader Label
“Get It”

Muse – Drones
Released: June 5, 2015 on Warner Brothers/Helium-3
“Defector”

Tame Impala – Currents
Released: July 17, 2015 on Modular/Universal/Fiction/Interscope
“The Less I Know The Better”

Atlas Genius – Inanimate Objects
Released: Aug. 28, 2015 on Warner Brothers
“Molecules”

Big Grams (Big Boi + Phantogram) – Self-Titled
Released: Sept. 25, 2015 on Epic
“Fell In The Sun”

Featured Image: Marc Wathieu / Carnaby Records. LINK

“Get your radar out!”

Since it’s Father’s Day tomorrow, here’s a clip of my all-time favourite TV dad Danny Tanner teaching DJ how to drive. (Side note: My dad wasn’t as fragile or patient as Danny Tanner when he taught me to drive. There were a lot more commands being yelled but in retrospect, that’s probably helped me to keep a more level head while driving in the city.)

First Look: Wish I Was Here

The trailer for Zach Braff’s new film Wish I Was Here was released today and it is lovely. From Zach Braff: “Get ready to hear in the trailer the unbelievable, original song The Shins made just for our movie.  James Mercer saw our film and was so inspired he wrote an original song just for the movie. (It’s the second song you’ll hear…)”

First Look: Arcade Fire’s “We Exist”

Arcade Fire’s new video for We Exist is exhilarating. Andrew Garfield completely disappears into this character and even though the clip is only about six minutes long and there’s no dialogue, there’s more of a story here and more character development than in some full-length films. I absolutely love, love, love it. Just breaks my heart and fills it all at once.

First Look: Foster the People’s “Houdini”

If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, you know I’ve been a longtime fan of Foster the People. I’ve dedicated a couple posts to them over the last year or so and will likely continue writing about them in the future. They’re a quirky band with an interesting style, one I hadn’t seen in a long time. If you’re unfamiliar with this band, then you need to get out from the rock you’ve been living in and introduce yourself to them quickly.

Cultural commentary?

Their new music video for “Houdini” emits the same kind of quirky humour last seen in “Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls)” and “Call It What You Want.” There’s a lot of artists who aim for a ‘quirk’ but when it comes to Foster the People, I feel like there’s always an underlying commentary, something subtle but snarky that they’re trying to say.

Foster the People – “Houdini”

Houdini

The “Houdini” video starts by showing the band members on set of a new music video – turning the focus on the process itself. Only seconds into the clip, a lighting rig crashes down on the set and all three band members are killed – but only in the storyline, of course. While the video crew freaks over the band’s concert the next day and wonder, ‘What the hell are we to do?!’, a secret crew led by a wise-looking Mr. Miyagi-style character receives the call. Instantly, they appear on set, like some secret department of the FBI, and get to work ‘re-animating” the three corpses.

Agents in black body suits begin puppeteering the band members against a black backdrop, positioning them at their instruments, arms flailin’ and feet stompin’. The crew quickly realizes there may be a way to save the show after all instead of having to cancel and refund all those tickets – phew! They get to work filming the band’s new music video and on-set hijinks ensue (including a hilariously staged scene where a band member is bent over suggestively in front of an agent, busy taking a snack break).

The agents also get creative and even hoist the band members into the air, giving the impression of anti-gravity as their instruments ‘explode’ into the air and then reassemble. Though the crew is already impressed, the agents go another step further and even kick in some fancy footwork. The guys are suddenly swapped into white outfits, reminiscent of the Backstreet Boys’ video for “I Want It That Way (Tell Me Why)”.

Performing live

Suddenly, it’s the next day, the crowd is packed, the girls are screaming, the concert experience is shiny and flashy – but let’s be real. When was the last time you were at a concert that exciting? How about never? Yeah, I didn’t think so. The band appears on stage, dressed all in white and the music video scenario is then performed live on stage. The audience is none the wiser that the band is actually dead and that they’re being reanimated by puppeteers! Ack!

However, the concert is a success, the crew is ecstatic and one hell of an after party swings in action. The band doesn’t miss a single beat but of course, being the dead corpses that they are, they’re left slumped – and likely rotting – on a couch in the green room as everyone else enjoys congratulatory high-fives all around. Confetti!

…or playing dead?

When I was in elementary school, we did a Halloween poster project that featured scenes of a graveyard, complete with tombstones. On one, I wrote ‘STEPHANIE IP’ and then put my birth year and the present year. My teacher left it on the wall with all the other posters but when Halloween passed, I collected the poster and brought it home to show my parents. I remember so clearly what my mom said when she saw my tombstone: “Well, that’s messed up. Are you telling me you’re going to die in the next two months?”

As a kid, I thought nothing of it but there is definitely something morbid about dating your own death, even as a joke on a Halloween craft project. That’s why I thought it so peculiar that Foster the People would enact a version of their own deaths in “Houdini.” Sure, some people are superstitious and some aren’t – but I wouldn’t want to tempt the fates either way. Foster, however, are able to find hilarity and a sense of lightness in joking about the afterlife.

‘We’re a real band!’

The video also brought up some interesting points about the role of a ‘star.’ What’s the value of a rock star? Who’s qualified for the job?

In “Houdini,” it’s almost as if Foster the People are downplaying their own success. Anyone could do this. Anyone can orchestrate this level of success, they seem to be saying. The rock star lifestyle is so easy, you could do it with your eyes closed! Heck, you could even use a puppet and still create the same image! Whether you can extrapolate that into commentary on the role of record labels in the creation of an artist… well. That depends whether you think record labels are big, horrible monsters or a legitimate part of how the music industry works.

The music video – that is, the one being filmed within the video – and the concert went off without a hitch, even when its star players were down and out for the count. It could be interpreted as drawing a spotlight on all the aspects that go into a successful band. Or it might be interpreted as illustrating how mindless being a pop star these days can be – just sing some songs, have the right image and the rest will show up on a silver platter.

Disappear

You can draw your own conclusions about what Foster the People meant to say with the video but if you take a look at the lyrics of “Houdini,” there’s a loose explanation.

Got shackles on, my words are tied,
Fear can make you compromise,
Fasten up, it’s time to hide,
Sometimes I wanna disappear.

Much of the lyrics focus on the narrator’s “ability” and feelings of adequacy. It appears the narrator is constrained by some unknown figure’s expectations and challenges – you could use the context of a relationship or if you want to tie it more closely to the video, the context of pop culture and what it expects from its artists. The expectations are so tough that the narrator just wishes he could evaporate like Houdini, and constantly tries to tell himself “it’s up to your ability.”

In a way, the song and video is a white flag of surrender. It’s the idea that, yes, even wildly successful people still face expectations that they don’t always feel like they can measure up to, expectations that are tough to meet. When things get that difficult, the natural instinct is often to run in the other direction, to wish that you could just “disappear,” to remove yourself from the equation and hope that things will continue on.

Featured Photo and Video Stills: Screengrabbed by Stephanie Ip