An Interview with Kim Thé, Booking Representative & Artist Manager at Pebble Star Artists

Kim Thé gives us some incite into Pebble Star Artists, a full-service art management and booking agency for family friendly entertainment and young audiences. With a little help from Creative BC Kim talks about what the future looks like for this family built company and what exciting things we can expect to see from them in the future! Check it out.

How did you or your company get started?

My husband is children’s performer Will Stroet from Will’s Jams on CBC Kids, and I’ve been working as his manager and booking agent since he started performing in 2005. We formally incorporated our company, Pebble Star Productions, in 2012 when we landed a deal with CBC television and got into TV production. Over the years while managing Will, I was also working in marketing and communications in the private and public sectors. In 2013, juggling motherhood, our company work and a communications job became too much, so I started working full-time for our company to handle all the grant writing, event production, bookings, branding, merchandise coordination and marketing. After booking Will for more than 1,500 shows over the years and receiving more requests than I could fulfill, I decided to launch my own booking agency Pebble Star Artists in March 2017.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

Thanks to the support of Creative BC, I was able to launch a new website and attend a few performing arts showcases for the first time across the country last year to promote my roster. It was great to meet people face-to-face since I’ve only ever communicated by email and phone. I’ve had a successful first year booking shows for my artists.

What milestones have you achieved or are you focusing on now?

One of my artists,  beatboxer and livelooper RupLoops had a great showcase at Arts NorthWest in Oregon and I’m working on booking his first US tours for 2019/2020. Another one of my artists, Bollywood dancer Karima Essa, had a great showcase at ArtStarts, which resulted in a 50-plus show tour in schools this year.  I also worked with Will to build his new Will’s Jams Live multimedia show which has toured in China three times since July 2017. We’ll be working on building Will’s brand in China and Hong Kong to move beyond Canada. Will and I also raised $9,000 through Kickstarter to support  the recording of his new album, which will be launched at the Children’s Festivals in Vancouver, Surrey and Kootenays in May 2019

Are there any projects we should know about that we can promote for you?

Thanks to the support of Creative BC, we’ve been able to produce lots of new video content for Will. We recently  launched a new web series called Will’s World to build Will’s profile online. It’s a fun show for kids and their parents that can be described as “Wayne’s World” meets “Mr. Rogers” with a dad’s sensibility! ” We’ve also just started releasing French lyric videos for French teachers and students as well. I’m also really really excited to be working with local soul singer Krystle Dos Santos. We’ve developed a young audience show called  “A History of Motown,” which she’ll perform at the ArtStarts showcase in March, and will hopefully result in a significant amount of school bookings in the 2019/2020 school year.

If there is a particular individual currently working at your company or with whom your company has worked with in the past who has had notable impact, please tell us more about them…

With Creative BC’s help, we’ve been able to hire Mital Gorman as our marketing coordinator. She is the main producer and videographer for Will’s World who is full of great ideas and has helped me produce two successful Family Day concerts in February 2018 to showcase some of my artists. She also helps us with our social media planning and newsletters. It’s been great to have another person working with us on a regular basis to grow both of our companies.

An Interview With Ian Harper Producer of Inanimate Alice.

“We are trusting people to contribute to the story as is progresses”-Ian Harper

As an International Project Manager, Ian Harper spent most of his life travelling. He lived and worked in the Middle East, South East Asia, and Africa before settling down in Nanaimo, B.C. where he now produces the digital novel, Inanimate Alice.

Ian loves the fact that he can work from anywhere thanks to technology, yet he says technology doesn’t always benefit us. “Thirteen years ago, I was at Waterloo Station in London waiting for a train when a young woman bowled me over while she was looking at her phone.” That may have been Ian’s first experience of someone being so distracted by technology they lost grasp of where they were, but it was not his last.

Those experiences inspired him to explore the hold that technology has on us. It also challenged him to find a way to use technology to help people better understand their place in the world, rather than feel so disconnected. “The underlying dilemma for me was, who is controlling the conversation, who is driving the relationship?”

Once Ian started asking these kinds of questions, he was compelled to change his entire career. “By the time I was 50, I got to this moment in life where I realized I could do something else. I went back to school to learn to write for the screen. It was an eye-opening experience, and it sparked this need in me to tell an in-depth story involving technology and connectivity.

”Inanimate Alice is an ongoing digital novel that progressively incorporates interactive media. It’s a collaboration between Ian, writer Kate Pullinger and developers Chris Joseph and Andy Campbell. Alice starts out as a young girl learning to use technology. As she gets older, the viewer experiences greater technological complexity through the unfolding story. “Each episode becomes more and more complicated, and you uncover things as you go. It leaves much to the imagination and encourages readers to find their inspiration within ideas. It’s a voyage of exploration, which is why I think kids are attracted to it.”

Ian is currently working with libraries to develop a unique model where people can access each episode on library servers and use their virtual reality headsets to interact with the series.

“This is a key moment for reading,” states Ian, “as libraries define their role in teaching digital and technological literacy in support of the new economy.”

With the support of Creative BC, Ian has been able to build partnerships such as with the Fraser Valley Regional Library, where Inanimate Alice is now available. “Creative BC has done a fantastic job promoting this series and helping us build relationships with libraries. Now we need support to complete the story.”

Inanimate Alice has been downloaded by at least 1.5 million people, with more and more teachers using it as a tool in their classroom. “We are talking about a story that inspires and opens up the imagination. Kids and teachers alike feel like they are coming along with us on the journey – they are part of the team.”

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 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 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.”

An Interview with Michael Cline Owner of Vinyl Envy

“We are building a music community where people trust each other.”-Michael Cline

When Michael Cline pictured his career, running an all-ages music venue was not exactly what he had in mind. Yet, it could not have turned out any better. “I’ve been a record junkie since I was 13, and I was booking bands in high school.” Running Vinyl Envy, a record store and all-ages music venue in Victoria, is what Michael was meant to do.

After working in the restaurant industry for 20 years and running a team of more than 20 people, Michael realized he was no longer enjoying himself. He wanted to have more fun in life, and so he opened Vinyl Envy to be surrounded by music. What started out as a record store has also become one of the city’s most popular music venues. “I’m having a crazy amount of fun! We do 75-100 shows a year and the store is open seven days a week.”

In the past, most all-ages venues haven’t been able to survive in Victoria. Yet, there was a gap that needed to be filled. “It’s like I’ve come full circle – I have 15-year-olds coming up to me now and thanking me for the opportunity to see a show. That was me at their age! I couldn’t get into the bars to see bands play – so for them to havethis place, that’s as good as it gets.”

Vinyl Envy attracts a wide array of people, but the one thing everyone has in common is a shared love of music. “Our shows are special – local musicians fill the room to support each other. There’s no ego, just a chill environment where people trust each other and can play music together.”

“Our shows are special – local musicians fill the room to support each other. There’s no ego, just a chill environment where people trust each other and can play music together.”

Vinyl Envy has become so much more than a record store or a music venue – it’s a place where people can be themselves. “This whole concept is best described as a soulful experience. Guys who gave up their record collections 30 years ago, are getting back into collecting records, and young kids with turn tables are just getting into it.” This is a place for everyone.

Michael’s vision is to be as supportive of musicians and music fans as possible, and to deepen the roots of Vinyl Envy along the way. He wants to continue to build up the community, and the best way to do that is by creating a trusting environment. “We give musicians a comfortable place to play. It’s a safe house for them, and I think the no- alcohol aspect is a big part. It changes the vibe – it’s like a house party.”

Vinyl Envy was able to get off the ground thanks to the support from organizations like Creative BC. “They supported me right from the minute I asked. They helped give us status as a venue, not to mention functional washrooms!”

Victoria is a city that draws an astounding calibre of musicianship, and Vinyl Envy is more than happy to host music that truly brings people together.

An Interview With Vici Johnstone Owner of Caitlin Press

“Trust for me is when people take the time to understand the value of our industry.”-Vici Johnstone

Vici Johnstone has worked in the arts her whole life, but it hasn’t always been a straight line. She went from high school drama classes, to working in theatre production, to being a rock’ n’ roll roadie for a sound equipment company. From there, she worked at the Banff Centre and then at CBC Radio.

Along the way, she met Howard White and started working at Harbour Publishing. “I worked my way up and learned the nuts and bolts of publishing.” Vici was given a crash course in the business of publishing, which proved serendipitous a few years later. While she was working at Harbour, Howard’s sister, the owner of Caitlin Press, sadly passed away. There was an opportunity for Vici to buy the publishing house, and she jumped at the chance to build upon its longstanding history.

Caitlin Press was originally named for Caitlin Thomas, the wife of Dylan Thomas, yet its feminist roots don’t end there. While Vici doesn’t solely publish books written by women, there is definitely a focus on women. “We have a stronger focus on women’s stories then the politics of feminism. The problem has always been that women’s stories haven’t been well documented. So much has been written about men, but I’m more interested in what lies in the trunks of our grandmothers’ attics.”

Over the years, Vici’s brought her own personality to Caitlin Press. She’s especially proud of her latest initiative, Dagger Editions, which focuses on queer women’s stories. “We’re trying to create a national voice for queer women. We want it to be a voice for the community.”She also hasn’t lost sight of one of Caitlin Press’s original mandates – to give voice to people in rural parts of B.C. “I’m especially interested in stories taking place in rural areas with connections back to larger cities.” Located in the coastal community of Halfmoon Bay, Vici understands the challenges of being both connected and disconnected from the big city. She also understands the importance of bringing the stories being told in rural settings to light. “The community is really supportive here on the Sunshine Coast, but export remains our biggest issue.”

Creative BC has been instrumental in helping Vici promote her books overseas. “Export is on everyone’s mandate because we’ll be the guest host at the Frankfurt 2020 Book Fair. Livres Canada Books and Creative BC sponsored my trip to Germany because they see the value in getting our stories out into the international market.”

Publishing is an art form, and there are so many nuances to consider. “I think publishing as an industry is really reaching outside itself – there are so many books now that are breaking the boundaries, pushing the edges. It’s not just love stories – our narrative here in Canada is different. There’s something like 10,000 books being published in Canada each year. What people read, what people write, it’s all changing. What doesn’t change is our desire to know people.” That’s what Caitlin Press continues to explore.

Publishing is an art form, and there are so many nuances to consider. “I think publishing as an industry is really reaching outside itself – there are so many books now that are breaking the boundaries, pushing the edges. It’s not just love stories – our narrative here in Canada is different. There’s something like 10,000 books being published in Canada each year.

What people read, what people write, it’s all changing. What doesn’t change is our desire to know people.”

That’s what Caitlin Press continues to explore.

An Interview With Robyn Haddow Freelance FUI Motion Graphics Artist.

“People trust me because I show up 110%. I’ve been in the trenches and I’ve done the work to get to where I am now.”-Robyn Haddow

As a Fantasy User Interface (FUI) motion graphics artist, Robyn Haddow is often the only female artist in the room. “I think I’ve worked with one other female in my field here in Vancouver,” reflects Robyn.

Recently, Robyn was invited to speak on the Women in Motion Graphics panel at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) conference in Las Vegas. “I didn’t have any female role models when I was starting out, so I know how important it is for women to be visible in this industry. I want young girls interested in this field to know there’s a real career path open to them.”

Motion graphics is growing out of its infancy, and the learning curve is steep, especially for women who might not see themselves represented. It’s not an easy industry to break into it, mostly because it’s so new and changing at a rapid rate. “In order to sustain yourself as a freelancer, you need to be a jack of all trades.”

Robyn’s specialty is FUI screen graphics, so whenever you see an actor interacting with technology on screen – whether it’s a computer, a smart phone or a hologram – she creates those graphics. The demand for her type of work has gone through the roof as the amount of technology on screen continues to increase.

“Five years ago, there might have been five builds needed in a scene – now with things like wearables, the content factor has gone way up. We often see 20 builds in one scene now.”

As a freelancer, she gets to work on all types of projects including the recent Ant Man and the Wasp with West Media. “I’m currently drawn to creating things that don’t yet exist. My favourite way to build is to draw influence from both the organic and mechanic worlds – if you can bridge that successfully, you can breathe life into something inanimate and make it so much more than just a machine.”

Robyn was attracted to the world of motion graphics because she wanted to push the boundaries. She studied graphic design at Vancouver Film School and then opened up her own design studio. After the recession hit, she started freelancing and creating motion graphics for video game trailers. Yet, it wasn’t until she worked on shows like The Flash, Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow that she started to define her niche. “I was really excited by the people who were pushing the envelope. There’s a huge arena for creativity and exploration in this field right now.”

Robyn hopes her work can help people access information in beautiful and interesting ways. Yet, more importantly, she hopes her work can inspire new people to enter the field. “I want to help create a warm, welcoming and easily accessible community.”

An Interview With Josh Nilson CEO of East Side Games

“Trust happens when you show up and share.”-Josh Nilson

For Josh Nilson, video games are a way of life. “I think for everyone born in the 70s, video games were a huge part of their childhood. You’ve seen Stranger Things? I lived that. We stayed out late and played video games all the time.”

Josh started working in the video game industry 11 years ago, and he’s seen some great success. He launched East Side Games seven years ago and currently employs over 100 people. They’ve had 40 million+ installs across their various games, and they’re currently making a game for the hit series It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Yet, while he’s currently riding the wave of success, he admits there’s been lots of failure along the way. “Lots of our games may have been popular but they weren’t always successful. We failed for years, and then Trailer Park Boys hit the market at the exact right time. We saw a huge opportunity to make a game for people who didn’t have much time by making it easy to play and hard to put down.” He believes everyone is a potential gamer because they can play on their phone when they’re waiting for the bus or grabbing a coffee.

The industry is changing quickly, and video games aren’t what they used to be. When Josh started East Side Games, he saw a lot of panic in the city. “The narrative of our video game landscape then was all about which big companies were leaving town or closing down. Sure, big companies are needed in our ecosystem, but what we really need is small companies that keep people here.”

The narrative is now shifting, with more locally owned studios than ever before. Amongst those studios, Josh sees more collaboration here than anywhere else in the world. “There’s a bunch of successful, home grown studios now, and we all meet up and share data and information. Creative BC can help us do that even more, connecting us not only with each other, but also with the other creative industries. Together, we can really make an impact.”

East Side Games isn’t only about making games, it’s about building and supporting communities. When they outgrew their Gastown office, they moved to the Cambie corridor, and while technically they’re on the West Side of Vancouver, the connection to the East Side remains strong. “I’ve lived in East Van for 22 years. For us, it’s all about supporting the neighbourhoods we work and live in. We have a charity initiative that focuses on buying local – from our furniture to our swag, our coffee to our beer, we make choices every day to keep our money in B.C.”

The video game industry is great at rallying around people when they are in trouble, yet they aren’t always great at celebrating success.

“We need to tell the world just how successful we are here. I think we have the best gaming ecosystem in the world. We could have opened our second studio anywhere, and we chose Nanaimo, B.C. because we see tremendous growth and opportunity across our entire province.”

An Interview With Kathleen Gilbert Vancouver Island South Film and Media Commissioner

“Connection is at the core of the trust we build.”-Kathleen Gilbert

Working in the film industry isn’t a typical nine-to-five desk job; for Kathleen Gilbert, it’s a pursuit of passion. “I was going down a different path when I found film,” reflects Kathleen. She was studying communications and women’s studies, and working with the Anglican Church on projects surrounding homelessness.

Yet, it was as a spokesperson for the Calgary branch of the Voice of Women that she got her first real introduction into film. “There was a big rally and encampment at Cold Lake, Alberta and I ended up staying with the film crew, which happened to be all women. I would listen to them talking about their shots, the angles, what they saw. I was so enthralled with the whole process that I knew at some point in my life I would end up working in film.”

When her husband got a job in Victoria, B.C., Kathleen decided to pursue a formal degree in film at Camosun College. She worked on several local productions as a locations scout and then as a locations manager before taking on the role of Film Commissioner for the Vancouver Island South Film and Media Commission in 2010.

The Regional Film Commission plays an important role in Greater Victoria’s film industry. “While Creative BC is the overseeing body for film production in B.C., no one knows our region better than we do. We add that extra layer of knowledge of our communities.”

Making people aware of the benefits and opportunities the film industry brings is Kathleen’s goal. “Perception is our biggest obstacle. I’ve had people ask me if there’s a grocery store on Vancouver Island! We need to continue to get the message out that we are an island the size of England!”

She’s also working to increase the crew base on the South Island, including getting into schools so that young people can see how much opportunity there is in this industry. “Last year, we had 1,800 people through our career information fair. We’re also reaching out to experienced film people in whatever ways we can, encouraging them to come here.”

“Part of what makes the film industry on the South Island so special is the support from the local community.”

Kathleen is capitalizing on that support with a campaign called We Love Film Too. “We want productions to know that we are passionate about their projects, and that local businesses are too.” The campaign introduces window decals with the branding We Love Film Too so local merchants can display their support, and hopefully be supported in return by the industry people spending time in their community.

For Kathleen, an important next step is to help local producers and filmmakers tell their stories on an international stage. “There are amazing independent filmmakers in Victoria quietly doing amazing work. We believe that telling our own stories and celebrating who we are in Canada, and in B.C., is so important.”