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Building strong communities with Dustyn Baulkham, Founder of Rebellious Unicorns

Rebellious Unicorns Production Company is a Kelowna-based event company focused on creating unique experiences to build stronger communities. No stranger to Kelowna’s community-building events, Rebellious Unicorns hosts an abundance of events in Kelowna including Peak Pride at Sun Peaks Resort & Big White Ski Resort, FruitCake, the Okanagan’s only monthly drag show and inclusive club night, the MX, Kelowna’s monthly LGBT2Q+ community networking event, www.Kelowna.lgbt, and is also a partner in the Earth to Table Vegan Market, Dirty Mutter & the Black Mountain Cub Crawl.

This summer, Rebellious Unicorns launched QUSIC, Kelowna’s first LGBTQ2+ programming featuring emerging musicians coming out and onto the B.C.’s music scene. The livestream series highlights emerging LGBT2Q+ artists in concert, along with an intimate conversation with the artist. Dustyn Baulkham is leading the way with the LGBTQ2+ community in Kelowna, creating inclusive spaces for LGBTQ2+ artists. We spoke with Dustyn about QUSIC and the importance of online communities during the pandemic.


Dustyn Baulkham at FruitCake

 

Tell us about Rebellious Unicorns

Rebellious Unicorns Production Company Inc. is a Kelowna-based events, broadcasting and media production company, dedicated to leading positive change in the Okanagan and curating inclusive events, experiences, and programming that bring people together.

It all began with Peak Pride and FruitCake, two of our most well-known event series, which were created through a business partnership in January 2017 as a passion project. When my business partner decided to relocate to Toronto, the events evolved into the creation of Rebellious Unicorns Production Company Inc. in Fall 2017. Since then we have grown substantially adding new events and initiatives.

The majority of our events operate on the unceded, traditional territory of the syilx (Okanagan) people.

Rebellious Unicorns is nothing short of a multi-service production company, can you tell us about the various umbrellas and brands under Rebellious Unicorns?

Rebellious Unicorns produces Unicorns.LIVE, QUSIC, Peak Pride, FruitCake, the MX., Dirty Mutter & Cub Crawl, and Earth to Table Vegan Market.

Peak Pride is a multi mountain winter pride series, founded in 2017 at Big White Ski Resort. In the 2018/2019 Season, we added Sun Peaks Resort (March) to series, and thanks to a Canadian Experiences Fund grant through Western Diversification we expanded for the 2019/2020 ski season to include SilverStar Mountain Resort (December), and Red Mountain Resort (January). April 2020 would have marked the 4th Anniversary at Big White; however, this last Peak Pride in the 2019/2020 Season was cancelled due to COVID.

FruitCake was the first event that we ever hosted as an organization. It started in January 2017, partially as a way to help raise capital for Peak Pride. Up until January 2020, there were no LGBT2Q+ focused venues in the Okanagan, and so FruitCake was created as a monthly club night to offer the LGBT2Q+ a safe space to party and dance the night away.

Unicorns.LIVE was 100% born out of necessity during the early stages of the COVID lockdown. As we were trying to sort out how to keep QUSIC going, we noticed a high volume of online content being created. QUSIC was reimagined as a live-streamed performance series. In doing this, we realized that we could support more than just LGBT2Q+ musicians. 35% of all subscription revenue is paid out to creatives based on minutes viewed of their content. One thing that makes Unicorns.LIVE unique is that every single show is shot live and unedited. I believe that today’s society has become too filtered, edited, and “perfect”…it’s #authentic, but not truly authentic. Unicorns.LIVE introduces the reality of live performance, and that sometimes…not everything goes according to plan. The content is professionally shot and produced, but taking away the safety net of post-production to “polish” everything keeps it exciting, real, and truly present.

The MX. was created over 2 years ago to offer the LGBT2Q+ business community an opportunity to meet and network in a relaxed atmosphere. Pre-COVID we were operating monthly and 100% of the funds raised from participants is donated to Etcetera Youth Group which provides a safe weekly hangout for LGBT2Q+ Youth.

Earth to Table Vegan Market is a three times per year vegan focused market that welcomes 30-50 local artisan vendors to showcase their vegan-friendly products. This is run as a partnership with Rebellious Unicorns, Allison Staten, and House of Rose Winery.

Dirty Mutter & Cub Crawl are outdoor obstacle course challenges done in partnership with Results 4 Life Fitness. For Dirty Mutter think Tough Mudder except you get to bring your dog with you and for Cub Crawl think the same except it is for youth and kids aged 8-14. In the last two years, we have raised over $18,000 for charities through these events.


Rebellious Unicorns Production Company

What drives your work with Rebellious Unicorns?

Since a very young age I have always volunteered and given back to my community. Having previously worked in banking for over 10 years, it was my escape from all the corporate challenges. When I left banking in 2014 and returned to Kelowna, I had no idea what I was going to do–I just knew that my strongest networks, closest friends and family were here and it was the best place to re-discover who I was. Since returning to Kelowna, I have worked with the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission as their Workforce Development Officer (yes, that’s quite the mouthful), the Executive Director of the Arts Council of the Central Okanagan, and I am going into my third year as the General Manager of the Kelowna Pride Society.

My time at the Arts Council has really opened my eyes to how undervalued the arts and culture sector is in our community and province. It really has pushed me to create events and experiences that elevate our creative people and ensure they are getting fair compensation. Non-profits have an important role in our communities, and yet they continually face growth-related challenges as many people operate in a poverty mindset which limits the growth potential of these organizations. Business needs to step up and take a lead role in growing our creative community and Rebellious Unicorns is doing just that.

What’s the best piece of advice you received during your career that you would pass forward to someone starting out in the industry?

Feel free to experiment. I love my family and friends but many are very risk-averse and are often trying to talk me down some of my grand ideas. You have to take some risk to create great things. You might fail 10 times before you succeed but that’s OK. Don’t hold back!

 


Peak Pride at Sun Peaks Resort & Big White Ski Resort

 

QUSIC launched earlier this year, can you tell us about the series and its birth?

About a year ago, I started to envision an LGBT live music program that would be of benefit to all musicians who identify as LGBT2Q+. The intention was to create a space that really elevates emerging LGBT musicians. Initially, we had planned on mini-tours around the province, with a few larger productions in 800 person venues that featured a well know LGBT2Q+ identified musician and having BC-based LGBT2Q+ musicians open for them. Shortly after we got the amazing news that Creative BC was funding this program COVID hit and everything came to a screeching halt.

Creative BC has been extremely flexible in how we offer QUSIC and we are incredibly grateful. Since COVID, we have invested heavily in technology to make QUSIC a hybrid model. Currently we are hosting a small physically distant concert at Friends of Dorothy Lounge, Kelowna’s first LGBT2Q+ lounge. We can safely have about 26 people in the venue. QUSIC is also livestreamed through our new Unicorns.LIVE platform so people anywhere in the world can enjoy the music and also tip the artists. The show begins with a 15 minute interview with the musician, hosted by our team member, Kris Johnson. Following that we stream two 30-minute sets with the musician. We have a professional sound technician and videographer that ensure we are producing a high-quality livestream experience.

 

What’s next for Rebellious Unicorns?

The majority of our events are very up in the air right now because of the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. We are very much hoping to at least get the event cap raised to 100 which will allow us the ability to bring back some of our events, with modifications in place and adhering to health and safety guidelines as laid out by the BC Ministry of Health and Dr. Bonnie Henry. Knowing that we are going to be in this pandemic for some time we are going full tilt with Unicorns.LIVE. It’s the best option for our business’ sustainability. We are currently in discussions with a number of theatres and theatre groups, various music groups and bands as well as others within the arts sector on monetizing their high-quality content for livestream shows. We are also creating more content that has a livestream focus with the ability for small in-person attendance as well. An example of this would be the Sunset Sessions that we piloted with the Anna Jacyzsyn Quartet in a backyard concert on July 4th.

 

Dirty Mutter

 

Learn more about Rebellious Unicorns:

Website
Facebook
Instagram 

Luke Campbell Knows How to Rally a Network to Help Others

In early April we saw ICG 669’s former treasurer, Luke Campbell, take swift leadership in a DTES meal delivery initiative at the peak of COVID-19. His actions were quickly aided with support from Teamsters Local Union 155, IATSE and DGC members, and every corner of B.C’s motion picture industry.

In concert with the non-profit, Potluck Café Society, Campbell, Teamsters and IATSE members work to supply Downtown Eastside single residential buildings. Luke and his team’s unbelievable determinism and steadfast commitment prove that it takes a village, and the motion picture ecosystem can work together to help when needed.

We spoke to Luke Campbell about the work he’s done to take this initiative off the ground, and his calls for the community to help as funding for the meals on the street have run out effectively today, and the community needs your help. You can donate directly to Potluck Café Society’s Charitable DTES COVID-19 relief fund here to help this initiative successfully distribute 102,000 meals by the end of the month.

 

We love seeing the unbelievable initiatives you are taking recently to deliver meals to the Downtown Eastside. Could you tell us a little bit about getting the initiative started?
I have few friends in Europe that were sharing how bad things were getting so I felt I was a little more prepared mentally that we needed to get into action fast, when our industry closed down on the Friday. I had noticed many of my favourite restaurants were struggling and closing and wondered if we could collaborate to have meals paid for via donation that would help the local restaurants and in turn help feed those in need. On a Monday morning I started by reaching out to the community and my contact at the GRVD Food Bank, Nicole Campbell, and heard back on March 24th. She put me in contact with six other groups in the community, I quickly realized that the need would be greater than what I could easily organize through aggregating meals from restaurants and with 3000 of the 5000 quickly closing, I also worried about the supply chain failing. So I shifted gears, I contacted Lorrie Ward from Teamsters and said there may be a demand for their members in the catering department and their trucks to provide meals, I just put a bug in his ear to get the wheels moving. He informed that membership in all the unions were tasking the offices pretty heavy as all were trying to get on EI, but ultimately the following Monday things should be at hand.

In talking with former board member Crystal Braunwarth Publicity Member at Large who is now the assistant business agent at Local 891, she suggested that we maybe should reach out to Meals on Wheels for logistic advice. I spoke with their executive director to gain some insight, soon after we realized the permanent catering kitchens that were idle just made more sense to use, but she shared that as more than half of her 600 clients had meals delivered by drivers that happened to be seniors and no longer felt comfortable doing the deliveries they had to cut their program down in half. I reached out to my social network and sent volunteers their way including two cinematographers Phil Lanyon and Ian Kerr.

I then reached out to other labour organizations inquiring who was in charge of COVID relief requests with 891, 669, the CLC (Canadian Labour Congress), the BC Fed, and a new group that I was not aware of the Vancouver and District Labour Council. The VDLC and other food bank networking brought me to join a COVID-19 meals program that was being chaired by Steve Johnston, the Executive Director of Community Impact Real Estate Society a social enterprise whom the City of Vancouver sits on their board. They were partnering with Naved Noorani, Executive Director of Potluck Catering Society who wanted to provide meals to those in need too.

Initially from this Friday meeting the request was for a one-tonne truck to pick up 1000 meals on Saturday and Sundays with Mondays to Fridays being delivered by Union Gospel Missions. Goodly, the largest catering partner happened to be close to my office so I jumped on driving those meals myself.

I then attended a logistic meeting while a doctor tended to my “annual” physical and quickly out of this meeting it was asked if we could set up a logistics distribution centre and staff it with six people per day, to which I said absolutely. Shortly after an additional request to provide four delivery vans with drivers 7 days a week was put in. I quickly reached back out to Lorrie at Teamsters 155 and asked for help with an industry special on one truck and four vans, he partnered us up with Miranda Luyten at Discount Cars, and then he proceeded to find a crew of four drivers including a captain.

I reached out to Rhonda Taylor 2nd AD / UPN DGC who we had talked on set months earlier about our skills being transferable for disaster recovery and asked if she could come on board and help run the operation with scheduling the volunteers I was rostering. I was having a hard time getting an onsite production coordinator to come on board, so I turned to my friend Abigale Flint from the commercial world with the “just get it done” attitude.

I then reached out over the weekend and the following Monday morning to three different locations providers for table, chairs, tents, trash bins, cones, and fans to stock the distribution centre. All were supportive but Jason Cox with Whites LES was able to accommodate us and provided everything we need. I had my sole employee who was in travel quarantine reach out to Panavision to borrow a pallet jack and ramp for my weekend deliveries, and they were happy to accommodate.

On Tuesday, March 31st I started moving vans, and then the Teamsters business agent Shawn and another volunteer came to help, I picked up the location supplies and we got the distribution centre ready with the help of Darcy from Potluck. Then we waited for the city to issue the purchase order for the food. Two days came and went and then finally on Thursday morning in early April, the meals started flowing.

Who are your partners, volunteers and supporters that help you carry this out?
Darcy Green, Potluck Café Society Operations Manager
Rhonda Taylor, Directors Guild of Canada BC Team Leader
Abigale Flint, Abigale Flint Commercials, Scheduling and Team Leader
Darla Chibi, Milita Ouellette, Mike Farley, Brandon Tutt Lorrie Ward, Shawn Henter, Teamsters 155
ICG 669 members
DGC and members
IATSE 891 members
Actors Guild
ACFS
Rey Torres, Union Gospel Mission
Navid, Ian, Prashant, Cornelious, Potluck Catering Society
Aart Shuurman Hess and team, Goodly Food
Adriane King and team, HAVE Cafe
Whites LES
Panavision
Discount Cars
and B.C’s commercial film community

 

How many volunteers were able to help you with this?
We have a total of 29 Volunteers, we usually crew 5-6 for the lunch service and a team of 2-3 for the street dinner service. As people’s commitments have changed, or they have moved to be with family, we’ve been training one team member a week to replace outgoing volunteers.

How many meals have you delivered so far?
Approximately 85,575 meals as of May 20th.

What have been some memorable moments working on this initiative?
My weekend pickups from Aart and his team at Goodly, hand-passing the meals at our centre thinking that more than 55,000 meals have personally gone through my hands (I’ve taken four days off). I used to provide a few meals directly on Main Street, it was very heartfelt, I came to know a few members of the community by name. Now that I’ve hired more industry friends to help get my business ready to come back, and we’ve merged our “family units” it’s too high a risk. I’m very thankful for the month that I was able to do this, it was extremely humbling to call strangers sir, or ma’am, offering them a warm meal, and see the joy and true gratitude in their eyes. I’ve gotten so much more from this effort than I could have possibly known, and honestly, it’s going to be very difficult for me to go back to our industry. This has been an awakening for me, I had planned to do more community service and disaster relief in five or so more years when I felt I would slow down in our industry and look for a change, but now I’m going to need to find a way to balance this most important and rewarding work with work within our industry.

Finally, the most important for our film community has been offering the opportunity for others to be of service, to help out, and try to do something meaningful during such strange times, as well as letting them connect with other film members between the rush of the meals.

What would you like everyone to know about this initiative? Are there ways anyone can help?
There are some really caring people in the DTES community, members living on the street, members who were on the street, and those helping to support them, even some of the first responders. You get back so much more than you put in when you help people in your community. Help us deliver meals to the end of the month by donating directly to Potluck Café Society’s Charitable DTES COVID-19 relief fund here.