An Interview with Crystal Braunwarth, Unit Publicist and Assistant Business Representative at IATSE 891

“Never wait to be asked, and never be afraid to ask”– Crystal Braunwarth

From appearing as an extra alongside her Grandfather at the age of 4, Crystal Braunwarth always knew that film and television would be the right path for her. As an Assistant Business Representative for IATSE Local 891, Crystal has explored a lot of different avenues in her publicity role, from working on Netflix’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before 2 to running her production company Last Train Pictures. Crystal Braunwarth is an also award-winning short filmmaker and has been involved in union and non-union film and television in British Columbia for the last eighteen years.

We spoke to Crystal about her twelve years of experience as a unit publicist in a rapidly evolving motion picture industry in B.C.

How did you get started in the industry?

I was exposed to the entertainment industry quite young.  My Grandfather was involved on the acting side and so I was on my first set as an extra at the age of 4 in a movie that filmed in Alberta, called Betrayed.  I went to Capilano University Professional Film Studies program, graduated and began assisting producers and directors and making my own films. Included in those roles was script coordinating and clearances/product placement, which are a couple of non-union roles that people interested in film can explore to break-in.  From there, I joined the production office via IATSE 891, then mentored under one our wonderful ICG 669 Senior publicists, Lee Anne Muldoon.  I joined ICG 669 and became a Jr. Publicist and moved up to Senior.  That’s a short summary of a 22-year span!

What was it about publicity that sparked your interest?

What immediately appealed to me was the creative aspect of the job.  On some productions, the unit publicist is the first one to do a pass of loglines, synopsis and summaries, along with production notes.  That, and going through the reams of photography and choosing selects based on what best represents the show.  They are the images that will potentially accompany articles, magazines, social media…the list goes on. You get to really contribute in a meaningful way because you know the show intimately. Interviewing producers, directors and actors was a bonus, they have invaluable insight and knowledge of the industry that you don’t get in film school.

What is a semi-typical day like for you working as a Unit Publicist?

Every show is quite different.  Television is a very fast paced environment with changing schedules, block shooting and revisions, so you have to be on your toes.  You have to schedule stills days per episode based on what’s most important to cover, look for good days to have press on set, anticipate where your gallery shoot might fit in, constantly look for opportunities to interview cast and key crew members for production notes,behind the scenes shooting and special marketing requests.  For feature films, it is similar, but normally higher profile actors and producers, a little slower paced but just as intense in its own way.  You really have to experience it to fully grasp the nuanced differences, but those are the basics.

What are some of the differences between working on a domestic vs. foreign production as a publicist?

I find domestically, I have built up firm relationships with producers and content creators, so they often involve me more in a creative way when it comes to coming up with engaging special features/digital/web content and gallery shoot concepts.  I work with a solid team of photographers and shooters so they know whatever we deliver will be top notch.  On Foreign shows, there is a much bigger marketing machine behind the scenes that normally has predetermined the promotion path and it’s a matter of managing and gathering content on the ground during filming.

Could you describe a moment in your career where you felt like you’d reached that happy medium of balancing work with your passion?

I think that’s a constant balancing act as someone changes along with their career.  In 2015 I was able to attend San Diego Comic Con with the wonderful publicity team from AMC, promoting Fear the Walking Dead and The Walking Dead.  As a publicist, it was a wild and crazy few days of interviews and panels with both shows, crossing paths with Quentin Tarantino and the cast of Hateful 8, Jamie Lee Curtis and others.  As a filmmaker, listening to Tarantino give an interview two feet away was an interesting moment of my passion for making films and the career that led me to that moment, running head-on into each other!  Interviewing Ellen Burstyn and Harrison Ford were also two ‘pinch me’ kind-of moments.  A girl from small town Alberta sitting across from iconic, movie legends and having a conversation no less.  As I’ve worked very hard to get to those seats, I also recognize there is a certain amount of privilege that has been afforded me to get there.  I am grateful for the experiences and try to pass along as much knowledge as I can to anyone looking to break in.  As part of that giving back, I also developed the first of it’s kind unit publicity course offered earlier this year via ICG 669, and loved the experience of seeing people eager to get into the field, excited and prepared to go apply their new skills.

What’s a common misconception about your field?

That ‘unit publicists’ handle the actual promoting of the show.  We really handle all the publicity garnered and gathered during ‘unit photography’, which is during the shooting process.  Some of us venture outside of it and join launch teams, and some have their own marketing companies, but it’s really the studio/network marketing engines that handle the splash of campaign pushes, in all aspects.

What advice would you give to people entering this field of publicity?

Be prepared to work hard.  It’s a constant outreach for contacts locally and Internationally and you must be proactive about finding them and keeping connected.  You have to apply that to your work ethic as well.  In most cases, you are a department of one on the ground and so you must be the one asking questions, setting up phone calls and making things happen.  Never wait to be asked, and never be afraid to ask.

Publicity and comms/PR can be notoriously busy industry, what do you do for self-care in such a hectic field?

I make time for my family.  I have a two-year-old now and so it is important not to get caught up in the grind of film hours.  I commit to 8-hour days on shows, and I’ve never had push back.  I think it’s easy to get stuck in film thinking you have to conform to certain structures and in some departments you do.  But in publicity, you have a little bit of flexibility and so I was able to make it fit in with my transition to motherhood. I’ve been fortunate as well to work as the assistant business representative this year at IATSE 891, a union over 9,000 members strong and it’s a role that relies heavily on my past experience and communications skills. It’s also a bit more stability at this time in my life, as production cycles can be a bit up and down when it comes to the demand of who is hiring a local unit publicist and who is using their own, in-house publicists.  Unit publicists are not a ‘mandatory hire’ as other positions are, so we’re not as protected in that sense.  That’s a draw back for sure, for local unit publicists here.

What’s a fun and unexpected bonus of your role?

What’s been truly fulfilling to me is the lasting work and personal relationships I’ve built over the years.  When you work in such a demanding industry, you go through the fire with colleagues from the moment you step on the ladder and move up.  Specific to my role, having the opportunity to work with the incredible talent that comes into this city and talent that resides in this city, in front of and behind the lens has been a tremendous influence on me.  From small art house shows, to big Hollywood films, every production has presented an opportunity for me to grow in all areas of my craft.  Passing that knowledge on to future publicists has been an honour and a privilege.

VIFF 2019 is Here at Last!

VIFF is back again exposing B.C. to the filmmakers of the world and proving that the motion picture industry here is thriving. With over 320 films spanning across the globe, exclusive masterclasses and creator talks, the integration of music, comedy and theatre this festival is one of the largest industry events in Vancouver.

Kicking this year off with the Opening Gala film “Guest of Honor” a Canadian psychological drama starring David Thewlis, Laysla De Oliveira, Luke Wilson, Rossif Sutherland, Alexandre Bourgeois and Arsinee Khanjian. Start planning your festival schedule now and take a look at the Creative BC sponsored events as well as the five Creative BC supported films we are proud to announce will be screening at this years festival. We look forward to seeing you there!

We’re celebrating B.C. at VIFF! Check out the some of the incredible work our B.C. filmmakers have to offer with over 25 films in this years B.C. Spotlight.

A special shout out to these Creative BC supported films:

The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open

Discovering Rosie (Violet Nelson), a pregnant teenager, sobbing and barefoot on a rainy East Vancouver street, Áila (Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers) swiftly intercedes, initially offering shelter in her own apartment before working feverishly to get the girl access to proper support networks so that she needn’t return to her abusive home. As these two Indigenous women embark on a revelatory odyssey to a safe house, they must confront society’s assumptions about them, overcome their preconceptions about one another, and reflect on their own respective self-images.

My Dads, My Moms and Me

In the 2007 documentary Fatherhood Dreams, Julia Ivanova chronicled the touching and challenging journeys of four gay men who each made the decision to become parents after Canada legalized same-sex marriage. Married couple Randy and Drew adopted baby Jack. Scott connected with a surrogate to have twins Ella and Mac. Stephen decided to co-parent his daughters Jazz and Zea with lesbian couple Coreen and Wendy. In My Dads, My Moms and Me, the filmmaker revisits the lives of these men and their children, now teenagers, with a decade’s worth of insight.

Red Snow

When captured by the Taliban, a Gwich’in soldier (Asivak Koostachin) must confront tormenting memories he believed he’d left behind in the Canadian north. In turn, when he strikes up an alliance with a Pashtun family, he discovers an affinity with these ethnic Afghans beyond their shared bid for survival. Shifting between striking arctic and arid landscapes, and tapping into a universal need for belonging, Marie Clements delivers an enthralling thriller that’s as poignant as it is pulse-quickening.

This Ink Runs Deep

All across Canada, Indigenous artists are reawakening traditional tattoo practices – and sometimes lending them a contemporary twist – as a way to reclaim their cultures and identities.

The Whale and the Raven

Journeying into BC’s Great Bear Rainforest, German documentarian and cultural anthropologist Mirjam Leuze investigates the potential impact of a liquefied natural gas exporting plant and increased tanker traffic on this stunning ecosystem. Not only are we introduced to the remarkable people who call this place home and oppose the plant’s construction, including whale researchers Hermann Meuter and Janie Wray and elders of the Gitga’at First Nation, but also the humpbacks, orcas, and porpoises who use the Kitimat fjord system as a feeding- and playground.

Creative BC sponsored events:

VIFF Immersed

A two-day conference (September 28–29), Immersed features case-studies, roundtable discussions and hands-on workshops with some of the world’s leading immersive content creators.

September 28-29

Pyatt Hall and The Annex

VIFF Immersed Exhibition

VIFF Immersed Exhibition is a public marketplace exhibition featuring the finalists of this year’s International VIFF Immersed Competition and special features from the creative nexus that is British Columbia.

Sunday, September 29

Pyatt Hall

VIFF Immersed – BC 

A day of valuable workshops for producers, directors, technologists and content commissioners wishing to understand multiple aspects of immersive production.

September 28-29

VIFF AMP

Over a three day summit, October 3-5, world-class experts will weigh in on subjects such as diversity in the music marketplace, the art of music supervision and how music rights management victories around the world are benefiting songwriters and composers.

October 3-5

Visit the VIFF website to get your tickets now!

BC Literary Festival Calendar: 2019/20

 

A Literary Adventure

As summer in B.C. begins to cool and fade into fall there is yet another festival season approaching. Literary festivals! That’s right. Grab your pumpkin spice lattes’, throw on your chunky knit sweaters and head out to one of these incredible festivals hilighting all things, book, poetry, writing and more.

LiterAsian: September 27-28 | Vancouver

Victoria Festival of Authors: October 2-6| Victoria

Cascadia Poetry Festival:  October 4-5 | Cumberland

VCON 43: October 11-13 | Vancouver

Whistler Writers Festival: October 17-20 | Whistler

The Vancouver Writers Fest: October 21-27 | Vancouver

Surrey International Writers’ Conference: October  25-27 | Surrey

Growing Room: March 11-15| Vancouver

The Creative Ink Festival for Writers and Readers: May 15-17  | Burnaby

 

 

 

B.C.’s Motion Picture Industry Remains Steady with $3.2B Contribution to Economy

Creative BC is pleased to report that 384 productions which qualified for labour-based tax credit certifications during the 2018/19 fiscal year have contributed $3.2 billion to B.C.’s economy.

 

British Columbia is world-renowned as a versatile and dependable hub for motion picture production. As a global competitor in visual effects (VFX) and animation, the motion picture industry is estimated to support full time equivalent positions totalling over 71,000 in B.C. [1]

These figures show that production activity levels are holding steady as indicated by the annual total budgeted production spend, which is slightly lower by 6% year-over-year. While the total number of productions certified by Creative BC this year is down by 68 productions year-over-year, the number of productions certified is dependent on certification submissions and timing.

With these production expenditures, direct industry jobs and labour income accounted for approximately $1.67 billion spent in British Columbia. B.C.-based creators accounted for 154 productions, with non-B.C. and foreign companies bringing 230 productions to the province.

A breakdown by program of the 384 tax credit certifications approved by Creative BC during fiscal year 2018/19 includes:

  • 154 tax credit certifications were issued under the Film Incentive BC Tax Credit Program (FIBC) for Canadian owned and controlled productions, with estimated budgeted expenditures in B.C. of $391M;
  • 230 tax credit certifications were issued under the Production Services Tax Credit (PSTC) program for international productions, with estimated budgeted expenditures in B.C. of $2.8B;
  • The Digital Animation, Visual Effects and Post-Production Tax Credit (DAVE), was leveraged by 152 of the total 154 FIBC claims and 218 of 230 of the PSTC claims respectively;
  • 139 productions of the 384 total tax credit certifications, or 36%, leveraged regional tax credits (outside the designated Vancouver area);
  • 61 of the 384 total tax credit certifications, or 16%, leveraged distant location regional tax credits (beyond the regional tax credit zone);
  • 7 FIBC projects accessed the newly established Scriptwriting Tax Credit.

A breakdown by format of the 384 tax credit certifications is below:

  • Feature Films: 95
  • Mini-series: 4
  • Movies of the Week: 84
  • TV Programs: 20
  • TV Series: 148
  • Web-based/other: 13
  • TV pilots: 20

For more information and detailed expenditures by production type, please visit: https://www.creativebc.com/motion-picture-industry-statistics


Highlights from B.C.’s motion picture industry during fiscal year 2018/19 include:

  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – Over 80% of the Academy Award-winning animated film was created by animation artists and visual effects teams in the Sony Pictures Imageworks’ Vancouver studios.
  • Ironwood & Fraserwood Studios – In April 2018, Whites Studios announced renovations and expansion for two distinct studios: Ironwood and Fraserwood Studios. Ironwood has 177,000 total square footage, including seven sound stages and office facilities and Fraserwood contains 119,000 total square footage, with four sound stages and a mill shop and paint shop.
  • A Million Little Things – ABC Studios’ A Million Little Things spent over $27M in B.C. in its first season and engaged more than 779 local businesses from 32 communities across the province. The show also used the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) to stand in for the Boston Garden.[2]
  • Last Kids On Earth – This year, Vancouver-based animation studio Atomic Cartoons signed a worldwide licensing deal for their upcoming Netflix series ‘The Last Kids on Earth”, currently in production.  The studio has also worked on Hilda, the British-Canadian co-production with Netflix, based on Luke Pearson’s graphic novel.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe – Much of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe has a Vancouver stamp on it with visual effects and post-production companies Industrial Light and Magic, Double Negative (DNEG), Method Studios and Cinesite working on Captain Marvel and Avengers: Infinity War.
  • Game of Thrones – Many British Columbians may have caught the Province’s screen credits at the end of episodes of the final season of Game of Thrones. That is due to the creation of the dragons that were visualized by B.C. studio Image Engine. This high-end creative work is supported by the Canadian Film and Video Production Services Tax Credit and the Province of British Columbia Production Services Tax Credit.
  • Unspeakable – The CBC drama examines the tragic circumstances in which contaminated blood and blood products infected thousands of Canadian patients with HIV. Unspeakable was created and written by BC-producer Robert Cooper and filmed on Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland.
  • Riverdale – Over three seasons, the Warner Bros. Television show Riverdale spent over $103M in BC, creating 1,785 jobs in the province. In season three alone, the show has spent $43M in B.C.[3]

 

[1] CMPA Profile 2018 estimates of direct and spin-off FTES, Exhibit 2-3

[3] MPA Canada: Economic Impacts of Riverdale, 2019

BC Music Festival Calendar: Summer 2019

Summer is here and that means the days are long, the sun is hot and the music scene is thriving!

With genres ranging from Alternative, Pop, to Hip-Hop, Country and everything in between, we have compiled a list of some of the best music festivals BC has to offer. With festivals spanning across the province there is something for everyone.

Indian Summer Festival: Jul 4 – 14 | Vancouver 

Carnaval Del Sol: July 6 – 7 | Vancouver

Khatsahlano Street Party:  July 6 | Vancouver

Okanagan Indigenous Music and Arts Festival: July 6 – 7 | Okanagan

Q’ƏMCÍN 2 Rivers Remix : Jult 6 – 7| Lytton

Atlin Arts and Music Festival: July 12 – 14 | Atlin

Bass Coast: July 12 – 15 | Merritt

African Descent Festival: July 20 -21 | Vancouver

Fort Langley Jazz Festival: July 26 – 28 | Langley

Squamish Consellation Festival: July 26 – 28 | Squamish

Luna Arts Festival: July 27 – 29 | Revelstoke

Rockin’ River Musicfest: August 1 – 4 | Merritt

Vancouver Mural Festival: August 1 – 10 | Vancouver

Hornby Festival: Aug 1 – 10 | Hornby Island

Mosaic Arts & Culture Festival: August 2 – 3 | Pender Island

Five Acre Shaker Musicfest: Aug 9 – 11 | Port Alberni

Shambhala Music Festival: Aug 9 – 12| Nelson

The Robson Valley Music Festival: Aug 16 – 18 | Dunster

Nelson Mural Festival: Aug 16 – 18 | Nelson

CULTIVATE Theatre + Music + Art Festival: Aug 30 – Sept 1 | Gabriola Commons

Denim on the Diamond: Aug 31 | Kelowna

Koksilah Music Festival: September 6 – 8 | Cowichan Valley

New Forms Festival: September 26 – 29 | Vancouver

An Interview With Brenda Bailey Executive Director of DigiBC, The Interactive and Digital Media Industry Association of B.C.

“I want people to trust that I will work on their behalf.”-Brenda Bailey

With training in business and law, a background in social work, and a degree in Arabic, Brenda Bailey has followed a unique career path. “Everyone expected me to do typically female jobs, when really, I should have been a technologist right from the start. But we didn’t know about those opportunities.”

Brenda grew up in a small town on Vancouver Island. “In the early 80s, arcades were all the rage. I think the arcade was a really integral part of growing up in a small town at that time. It’s something we did with our friends; it was our community.”

Back then, it never felt odd to Brenda to be a girl playing video games – it wasn’t seen as a male space, but that changed with the onset of first-person shooter games. “I don’t believe video gaming is an innately male space – I think it’s been a reflection of who’s making the video games rather than an innate desire to play them.” With that in mind, she set out to change the types of games being made by going into the video game business. “I wanted to build high quality games for girls, but it was tough as there weren’t a lot of concepts being developed.”

After working with several startups in the interactive digital media space, Brenda was asked to lead DigiBC, an umbrella association that supports people working in video games, animation, visual effects, augmented and virtual reality. It’s an amazing time in the interactive digital media world right now, and there’s been incredible growth in the digital media space because there’s so much technology and so many technologists coming outof the video game industry.

“We have the largest cluster of animation studios in the world. From Parksville to Kelowna to Victoria, there’s an incredible technology sector thriving in our province.”

Video games are no longer something that you need to access at your local arcade – the technology is in your pocket.There’s more ability to make and deliver games than ever before, and that gives rise to new voices. “It’s now about discoverability. The market is saturated with so much product that we need to help those diverse stories come forward.”

Getting young people involved in technology, and helping stories be told, is what’s fueling Brenda now. She’s trying to incentivize the creation of intellectual property here in B.C., and she’s focusing on empowering and equipping the next generation. She’s exposing students to the plethora of opportunities that exist within B.C.’s interactive digital media space. “If it’s art you’re interested in, become an animator. If you’re a natural leader, become a producer.”

There are opportunities for musicians, mathematicians, even those kids who maybe don’t fit into any place yet.” What’s really exciting for Brenda though is the number of women leading this space to move forward. “If you look at the leaders in Vancouver’s technology and creative industries, it’s amazing – I’ve never seen so many women! So is it really a surprise then that the different tech industries are working together more and more, and collaborating? I don’t think so,” she says with a smile.

An Interview With Brian Hamilton Principal and Executive Producer at Omnifilm Entertainment

“We are nothing if not for the people who entrust us with their creative ideas.”-Brain Hamilton

Brian Hamilton’s hobby in high school was making Super 8 movies. He went on to study engineering at university but didn’t see himself as an engineer. “I convinced my supervisor to allow me to make a film for my thesis, and that film led me to the Banff Centre for the Arts.”

Brian turned his technical computer background into a more creative outlet, gravitating toward video editing. “I would watch movies and wonder if it could have been done differently, and that inspired me to get involved earlier on in the process.”

After working as a freelance editor, he was motivated to produce so he could have more influence on how a project would turn out right from the beginning. Moving to Vancouver in the early 1990’s, he approached Michael Chechik with his first TV pitch, who gave him the opportunity to produce his first pilot under the OmniFilm brand. “I knew I had found my home at Omni.”

Under the combined leadership of Michael, Brian, and Gabriela Schonbach, Omnifilm Entertainment has become a writer-driven company, putting writers at the heart of what they do. “We celebrate where ideas come from, and we are always on the lookout to promote B.C. voices.”

In addition to producing shows like Bletchley Circle: San Francisco, Brian has a passionate desire to see local storytellers attracting viewers and fans on the world stage. He set out to start a screenwriting school that will train screenwriters at an advanced level so they don’t need to leave B.C. to follow their storytelling dreams. “I see Vancouver as offering a wealth of opportunity in terms of growing our own community of storytellers. We are very skilled at helping others from elsewhere in the world come here to tell their stories, using our crews and our backdrops, but there’s so much more room for growth in terms of telling our own stories.”

The advent of streaming and videoondemand has had a massive effect on how viewers choose what they watch. “The middle is disappearing in this business, so you can’t produce the second best version of something. You need the budget to be able to measure up against the best in the world.”

Brian knows better than most how vital the local tax credit program is. “Tax credits are key; they allow us to do our filming in our backyard. Bletchley Circle San Francisco was mostly filmed in Maple Ridge where we also qualified for regional incentives. Omnifilm shoots projects all over B.C. and we are grateful for and we are grateful for the Province’s tax credit program.” But it’s not only about gratitude for Brian; it’s about keeping up with an ever-evolving industry. “Tax credits are a job engine second to none. They are part of why top studios and talent choose Vancouver – not just for the financial reasons, but for the expertise and experience of our crews, for our locations. We are working with people here who are at the top of the game.”

Brian was delighted to see the government’s recent decision for writers to be included in the tax credit program, which came about through a community lobbying effort. “Writers are a key part of the production process and we want to find ways to incentivize producers to use local writers.

“I want to see more local content getting made here in B.C.”

An Interview With Anoushka Ratnarajah Co-artistic Director at Out On Screen – Vancouver Queer Film Festival.

“I think that trust and respect are so important when it comes to artistic integrity.”-Anoushka Ratnarajah

Anoushka Ratnarajah has always been a creative person, even as a little girl. “My parents encouraged me and my brother to be creative – they really uplifted our creative expression.”

As a kid growing up in Ladner, B.C., Anoushka was exposed to books like Anne of Green Gables and authors such as Jane Austen. “I think the thing that drove me into becoming a storyteller was that as a young, mixed-race, queer person I didn’t see a lot of stories about people like me, or families like mine. I didn’t have a lot of stories I could relate to, so I would write stories about characters I could identify with.”

After a degree in Creative Writing at UBC, Anoushka found herself in New York pursuing a Masters in Arts Politics. This degree allowed her to explore what it meant to be an artist with a social justice lens, and it encouraged her to work in various forms of art making. She met a friend in a performing arts training program and found her way into filmmaking. “I’ve always had a cinematic imagination – I see things in pictures, and there’s always a musical score in my mind throughout the day!”

When Anoushka was asked to be the coartistic director at Out on Screen, which produces the Vancouver Queer Film Festival, she was very excited. “I feel so fortunate to work for an organization that has queer people of colour on staff. There have been a lot of folks who have broken down doors for us in so many ways, yet there’s still more work to be done.”

This year’s festival will showcase many films by young trans or gender non-conforming filmmakers, perhaps a sign of what’s happening more globally when it comesto authentic representation of queer stories. There are also lots of local filmmakers telling their stories as part of The Coast is Queer series. “We are so grateful for the support from Creative BC because it encourages us to spotlight local artists and local content.”The Out on Screen society was founded 30 years ago when the Gay Games came to Vancouver. “Queer folks were hungry for visual representation of their stories,” Anoushka says.

The festival started off with films being projected in people’s basements and it has grown to become the second largest film festival in Vancouver and the largest queer film event in Western Canada.

Anoushka believes they’ve been able to do all of that because there’s been a continuing effort to build a reciprocal sense of trust with artists. “Film has a long history of untrustworthy narrators who tell stories that don’t necessarily reflect their own lives or experiences. Often times, especially with documentary films, there can be a feeling of exploitation. Trust building is essential to the work we do here, especially because we are working with communities who have had trust broken so many times. We need to realize that trust doesn’t just get built and then exist permanently – it’s a relationship, and we need to keep working at it.”

An Interview With Ricardo Khayatte Publisher and Editor-in-Chief at Vancouver Weekly

“People need to know they can trust what you put out there” – Ricardo Khayatte 

Ricardo Khayatte has an eclectic background. “In another life, I was a musician,” he said with a smile as he recalled his musical past. From an early age, Khayatte has been embedded in the local music scene performing with various bands, producing, and songwriting while having the unique privilege of being surrounded by great producers like Humberto Gatica, Mauricio Guerrero and even Canadian songwriting icons like Jim Vallance and Eddie Schwartz.

After high school, Khayatte moved to Boston to study songwriting at Berklee School of Music and then continued in the music industry writing for artists and performing in an alt-country folk band called The Reckoners.  When he returned to Vancouver in 2005, Khayatte launched his first company, IndieMV Media Group, in the hopes that he could figure out a way to provide independent artists with innovative monetization solutions for their art that truly made a difference. “I’ve always had a soft spot for the underdog and still believe that independent artists are key to a thriving music industry.”

Khayatte wanted to expose people to the underground arts scene happening in Vancouver and as a result, he started Vancouver Weekly, which has grown to become one of Vancouver’s top digital publications. “When I first started Vancouver Weekly, it was a small blog filled with my own writing. In a matter of months, I had 50 contributors who were out reviewing theatre, film, and music in the city and as it progressed further and our numbers grew — long-form features, profiles, and even cultural and social commentary emerged within the publication.”

Khayatte credits the quick uptake to the quality Vancouver Weekly’s team of writers has produced as well to the strong relationships in and amongst the creative communities in the city. “We like to support and work closely with festivals, music venues, theatre companies, and arts organizations in Vancouver — hopefully, we can continue to give locals and those visiting Vancouver, an alternative perspective on what is going on in and around the city.”

 

 

Vancouver Weekly has become a training ground for aspiring writers and budding journalists. It has also become a community of, and for, writers. It’s a bit of an incubator in a way and gives writers the opportunity to learn from each other, to explore style and tone, and to develop relationships that will see them through the next step in their career. “So many of our writers and contributors go on to work for major publications and come back to say that they not only got their training here, they also got to immerse themselves in what was happening in Vancouver at that time.”

While Vancouver Weekly remains a digital publication, Khayatte holds on to the idea that it may one day translate into a print publication. “There’s something romantic about print, especially as a writer. Digital is often about instant gratification – you skim stories and access things immediately. With print, you absorb the information differently. Both have their advantages, and both are needed.”

Like with most arts endeavours, funding is Vancouver Weekly’s biggest challenge. Khayatte sat on the board for MagsBC and saw just how hard it is to find support for both print and digital publications. “We aren’t just competing against local publishers – there are more and more US publications infiltrating our market, and we need to think about what the Canadian voice is going to be moving forward.”

As new media journalism continues to shift, Khayatte continues to seek innovative business models and unique narrative themes to bring to the public. He is launching a variety of new media projects this year, including a new social audio app called Sayy.it that he co-founded with a team of engineers Kiky Tangerine, Patrick Sears, and Barry Steyn.

“The goal behind Sayy.it is to bring together the world’s most influential thinkers onto a social audio platform that sparks unique discussions on a number of topics from environmental sustainability to mental health, technology and business, and of course, a genre that will always be close to my heart, the arts.” — Ricardo Khayatte 

An Interview with Musician Nadine Tremblay

“I didn’t always trust myself, or my voice. That trust came with a lot of practice.”-Nadine Tremblay

“I really wanted to be Shirley Temple when I was four years old,” recalls Nadine Tremblay. “I started as a dancer and then moved to vocal lessons.” After getting a degree in opera and a certificate in musical theatre, she cofounded Iron Mountain Theatre in the Kootenays. Nadine wrote six musicals in 10 years, and toured Canada many times over. “It was hard though, people on the team would leave to get real jobs, but there I was, trying to keep the dream alive!”

Nadine chose the name Sexton Blake for her musical persona as a nod to the fictional British detective. “As a musician, I felt a bit like a private investigator. I would take themes and ideas and then analyze them and turn them into art. I think there was also a sense of feeling like a fake. I had this idea that I had to fake it until I made it, when really I just needed to get out there more.”

One of the challenges to making art in a small town is finding people to learn from and look up to. “The pool of talent is smaller here; there aren’t that many people pursuing music as a career. I learned by making mistakes, but I wish I had asked more questions, found more mentors.”

It can be quite isolating being an artist in rural British Columbia, especially when trying to get the word out. One of the things Nadine hopes for in the future is more face-to-face time with other musicians. “It’s really special to have the in-person get togethers. We don’t get a lot of opportunities to meet up, which is why the Kootenay Music Awards are so special.” And of course, she also hopes for more funding as it’s hard to make a proper album or music video if you can’t pay people a competitive rate.

“Creative BC helped me make an amazing video and it was really successful because of the quality of people on board. It was nice to be able to pay people what they are worth and not just offer a small honorarium.” The video “Go Outside” had 20,000 views in a matter of days and was nominated for best music video at the Kootenay Music Awards. “I wrote the song to encourage people to put themselves out there, to step outside their comfort zone and try something new.”

And that’s just what Nadine did with her music career. “Having a small community means having a small family. I really know my community, and they know me. I didn’t realize I had so much support until I was nominated. The love was overwhelming!”

According to Nadine, the key to producing a great album is trust. “You need to trust your team and you need to trust your instincts. It’s a small miracle when everything works out on a creative project, and for that reason your heart is consistently on the line.”