EDITOR’S NOTE: This series of profiles of some of the creative Nova Scotians working behind-the-scenes in the film and TV industry at home and abroad was begun before the COVID-19 outbreak. We are running it now to highlight the talents of those who will be working to help get the cameras rolling again once things are under control, either with years of experience under their belts, or just getting started in the world of media production.
When Halifax-based film and television art director Matt Likely first heard that director Robert Eggers was considering making his gothic cinematic nightmare The Lighthouse in Nova Scotia, he thought it was too good to be true.
Likely had seen Eggers’ previous feature The Witch, and loved the care taken to make its 17th century New England setting come alive. He was also aware that its production designer
Craig Lathrop was an old friend who’d hired him on three previous projects, including the 2007 thriller Stuck, shot in Likely’s home town of Saint John by the late horror maestro Stuart Gordon.
Then came Lathrop’s phone call in November of 2017.
“He told me a little bit about the project and that they’d be scouting some locations in Nova Scotia,” recalls Likely. “He had all kinds of questions for me, he had never done a show here, so he was asking about local crews and whether there’d be enough people to do a project of this size.”
Lathrop told Likely they were planning to build a 70-foot lighthouse, and were looking for the perfect rugged coastline to place it on. Even with his enthusiastic sales pitch for Nova Scotia film crews, Likely thought it was still a longshot that The Lighthouse would come here, but that soon changed.
“Then Craig and Robert Eggers and some of the producers came in December, and toured some of the locations with Nova Scotia location manager Shaun Clarke,” he says. “He took them to Yarmouth and they looked at Cape Forchu, and they loved it.
“The harshness of it, the vista, all of it.”
In January, Lathrop returned and he and Likely were working on a budget, “trying to figure out a way to build this damned lighthouse.
“It was a combination of all kinds of different elements to build it, but Craig had a good idea in mind when he came to town, he’d been thinking about it for a long time, but he brought me in as the art director and I brought in more of the local crew like Kevin Lewis as the key scenic artist.”
Working on an Academy Award-nominated feature film is exactly the kind of thing Likely dreamed of doing when he had his first major assignment; as a graphic artist on the locally-shot remake of the 1970s figure skating romance Ice Castles in 2001.
He jokes that he didn’t even know how the film industry worked when he first got hired, working his way up from designing signs and building props to designing sets, “coming up honestly through the industry” to eventually becoming an art director.
His role is to help to match filmmakers’ visions for their projects in the sets and other constructions required, usually on a budget and working with locations that often need to be altered or dressed accordingly.
Likely says the most fun thing is to design and build sets, either in a studio or on location, starting from scratch to provide a unique background for a given scene, with a distinctive visual look.
“You’ve got more freedom,” he says of that approach. “There are always budgetary concerns, but at least you’re custom-making something for the script and making all the choices from the ground up.
“You’re choosing the trim for the door, or the type of wallpaper, the colour of the walls or the ceiling height. All of those choices dictate the kind of space you’re going to have.”
Following The Lighthouse, upcoming Halifax-shot projects bearing Likely’s stamp include the cryogenic lab he built for Seth Smith’s horror/sci-fi hybrid Tin Can and the post-apocalyptic streetscapes he sketched out for the miniseries based on Clive Barker’s Books of Blood.
“I’ve been lucky,” he says. “We had problems with the tax credit situation in 2015, and a few of my friends have moved away to work in Toronto and Vancouver. I had just bought a house here in Dartmouth and I wanted to make a go of it here.
“I had been working my way up through the art department, getting to design and art direct some smaller projects, and then I had the great fortune to do production design for Weirdos, for (director) Bruce McDonald, and I was almost pinching myself at the time.”
There was a lot about the Cape Breton-shot Weirdos that attracted Likely, from the fact it would be shot in black and white to the 1970s era it was designed to evoke. Soon after he’d be assigned to a project even more unhinged, the CBC-TV comedy series Cavendish, about supernatural happenings in a small Prince Edward Island town, dreamed up by former members of the Picnicface troupe.
“I felt like once (co-creators Andy Bush and Mark Little) saw what we could do, they were upping the ante each time,” he says of the series that presented a different challenge with each episode.
“Whether it was creating a wax statue of Fred Penner or an edition of the Necronomicon: The Book of the Dead. It was just one thing after another, and I feel so lucky to be able to work with such talented people.”
On and off the set, Likely works hand-in-hand with construction coordinators, scenic artists, set builders and props masters. “The craftspeople I’ve worked with here are incredible,” says the art director who was amazed at how quickly things moved for The Lighthouse once it was a go, and Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson were slated to star as the film’s two combative “wickies.”
“But I was most excited by the thought of what we were going to build, it was all beyond what I had ever managed as far as being an art director goes,” he says.
“It just came together so well. We did it, we had paint drying just before the camera started rolling, it was unbelievable.”
With Tin Can and Books of Blood about to see the light of day, and the Stephen King-inspired mini-series Jerusalem’s Lot waiting to begin production once things return to normal, Likely calls The Lighthouse a game-changer that should continue to build momentum for the film industry. “We needed a win, basically,” he says.
“Even without the Oscar nomination for cinematography, the popularity and the reception of the movie in terms of the reviews and so on were huge for us. We’re always wanting to prove ourselves here, and maybe there isn’t as strong an opinion about the industry here as there would be somewhere more established, in Toronto or Vancouver or the States.
“But for a film like that to come here, which required all these skills and trades to not only deliver what was required but to have it be praised so highly after the fact. That sort of thing is huge, and certainly builds confidence for anyone who wants to come and film here.”
'Stealable Art' exhibit in Tokyo invites theft – CTV News
The Tokyo art exhibit opened to enthusiastic visitors, but many of those circulating weren’t just there to soak in some culture — they were casing the joint for a midnight raid.
Hours after the gallery closed for the night, a crowd had gathered ready to pounce on the artworks. The police station was nearby, but officers only intervened for crowd control, because all the pieces at the Stealable Art Exhibition were up for grabs.
The event was intended as “an experiment”, to alter the relationship between artists and visitors, organiser Tota Hasegawa told AFP.
It was originally conceived as a low-key event that might attract some covert thievery, but word spread so fast on social media that a crowd of nearly 200 people packed the streets near the gallery hoping for a chance to grab a prize.
Would-be robbers were told they could raid the gallery from midnight, but the crowd was so big that the theft started half an hour earlier, and the exhibition that had been billed as running for up to 10 days was emptied of art in less than 10 minutes.
Yusuke Hasada, 26, was a rare winner, gripping a crumpled 10,000 yen ($93) banknote in a frame, which was part of the “My Money” installation by Gabin Ito.
He arrived an hour before midnight only to see a crowd had already formed.
Since there was no apparent queue, he manoeuvered himself into a spot right in front of the gallery.
“The moment the staff said they should open early due to the big crowd, people rushed in from behind me. I was in the front, and I almost fell over,” he told AFP.
“It was scary.”
Hasada said he plans to hang the work, among those on display supplied by 10 contemporary artists, in his home.
But not everyone stealing the items appeared to have the same idea, with several artworks appearing on online auction sites within hours with price tags as high as 100,000 yen.
Even after the exhibit was emptied out, would-be thieves continued arriving, forcing a nearby police station to dispatch officers for crowd control.
“You are blocking traffic!” officers shouted.
Yuka Yamauchi, a 35-year-old systems engineer, showed up 15 minutes before midnight but was too late.
“I entered with my husband and it was just packed with so many people… We saw larger artworks taken out by those who came earlier,” she said.
“I haven’t seen so many people in a long time as we have been refraining from going out due to the coronavirus.”
But Yamauchi didn’t leave completely empty-handed.
“I’ve got a clip… It must have been one of those used for the cloth installation. I found it dropped, so I picked it up as a souvenir,” she said with a laugh.
Yamauchi recognised the clip because she was at a preview of the artwork six hours earlier to “case” the venue.
She said she would happily come back for a similar “participatory” art event, where some of the artists showcased work that was purpose-made for those hoping to make off with it.
Naoki “SAND” Yamamoto’s work “Midnight Vandalist” was composed of a stack of peelable pages with printed illustrations.
Another work was a large cloth printed with lines to be cut along with scissors.
But would-be thieves were responsible for organising their own getaway vehicles. A notice was posted at the entrance: “We do not assist art thieves with packing or transporting artworks, so you are responsible for everything.”
Organiser Hasegawa told AFP he later met with police — perhaps not used to such large-scale larceny in Japan, with its ultra-low crime rate — to clear up any misunderstandings about the event and the crowd it attracted.
He said the budding thieves had proved to be “well-mannered.”
They might have been there to stage robberies, but when “someone lost a bag with a wallet in it, it was passed onto a staffer and safely returned to the owner.”
Métis artists launch summer public art series – paNOW
On Friday afternoon, a small crowd gathered to watch the pair create a large chalk mural in front of the Mann Art Gallery.
“It’s a way for us to have a conversation about the Métis culture,” Dorion told paNOW. “Between ourselves, but also with the community.”
In the coming weeks, the duo plans to unveil a new installation every Friday. Over the course of the summer, the public can expect to see a herd of buffalo on the riverbank, a live Giving Tree at Kinsmen Park, and a willow labyrinth near the Field House.
Dorion explained they carefully considered the pandemic in their planning. That meant making considerations for safety, but also simply recognizing the public’s particular need for uplifting messages and accessible art at this moment.
“We wanted to share something very positive and public and outdoors,” said Dorion. “So people could be out in the fresh air, in the sunshine and the elements, and be able to easily social distance.”
The Intergenerational Métis Artist Mentorship Program builds off Dorion’s previous work with the Mann Art Gallery where she’s facilitated various community workshops. Castle is the gallery’s Art Educator.
Dorion sees the program as an important opportunity to transfer knowledge to a fellow Métis artist and art educator.
Castle is similarly enthusiastic about the project.
“I’m extremely grateful for this opportunity and experience,” she said. I’m just really excited to get out there and make some art.”
The interactive element will be an important part of all five installations, and Castle said they hope to further continue the conversation online through the Mann Art Gallery’s social media channels.
“We still really wanted to connect with the community,” she said. “But because of COVID, we can’t physically do the art with groups of people. So, at least this is a way we can engage.”
The Intergenerational Métis Artist Mentorship Project is funded by the Aboriginal Arts and Culture Leadership grant from Saskculture and the Community Initiatives Fund.
On Twitter: @alisandstrom
'Gerryfest' to celebrate Gerry Atwell's music and art, but also his advocacy against systemic racism – CBC.ca
A festival celebrating the life of the late Gerry Atwell is taking place in Winnipeg next month — but the night will be about more than just music and art.
Atwell, a Juno Award-winning musician known for playing the keyboard for the Winnipeg band Eagle and Hawk, died after suffering a heart attack in late November 2019.
Family and friends knew they would celebrate his life with a music festival this summer. But with people in North America demanding change once again, a key part of the daylong festival will be focused toward the fight against systemic racism — a cause Atwell long advocated for.
“We’re all missing his humanity when it comes to these types of issues,” said Judy Williams, Atwell’s sister.
“He always had a different message for the different audiences he might have been speaking with,” she said, and were he alive now, he would say “something profound, but something that would be inclusive, whether he was going to encourage someone to take some action, or think of other people.”
Atwell also would see the positive opportunities that will come through the conversations being had, added Louise May, executive director of the St. Norbert Arts Centre, where she worked with Atwell for about 25 years.
“Even though it’s coming from such negativity and such a negative event, there is so much hope through it, and so much burgeoning awareness, and ability to talk about it and ability for people to confront themselves with it,” said May.
“It’s a very, very hopeful time and I know Gerry would be pushing us to see that hope and to really manifest it.”
Gerryfest will take place on Aug. 14 — Atwell’s birthday — at the St. Norbert Arts Centre. Both Williams and May said they felt his presence during the process of organizing the event.
“Even the term ‘Gerryfest’ was Gerry’s idea,” said May. “It was something that we talked about many times, kind of in a joking way. But I knew he always wanted to really do it, which was to have a day when all of his bands played back-to-back-to-back-to-back.
“To which I always said, ‘Gerry, what, you’re going to play for seven, eight hours in one row?'” she said. “That was going to be the very best day that he could imagine for himself.”
Although Atwell won’t be there in person, his presence will be there through former bandmates and other lives he touched, May said.
The planning of Gerryfest started before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Manitoba. So the original plan of a weekend festival has been whittled down to an afternoon and evening of music and art dedicated to Atwell.
“I really think we can just keep his work alive and keep building on it year after year with this,” said May, adding that this will be the first of an annual festival.
The festival will also raise funds for the Gerry Atwell Memorial Mentorship Fund, an endowment fund that will have musicians and artists mentoring young people, just like Atwell once did, said Williams.
An invitation is needed to attend the event at the St. Norbert Arts Centre, but people can tune in through livestreams online, said May.
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