This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

Over the last week there have been two livestreamed events I watched. With Orillia & District Arts Councils Culture Days, I started at home on my computer and later ended up at Creative Nomad Studios where it was streaming from. The other was the Orillia Fine Arts Association’s annual general meeting, which also originated at Creative Nomad.

The Culture Days program was stickhandled by Anitta Hamming and Michael Martyn. There were others who undoubtedly helped with setting up and marshalling the people who were going to be in front of cameras, but those two were in the director’s chairs.

Having done live-to-air programs many times, it’s one of the most full-brain involving things you can do. There were many times I wished for a second person to handle some of the chores while the program was running, and certainly more hands before and after. The point is , doing something live for public consumption is not as simple as it looks, and for everyone concerned to put 7 hours of program  out in as well a manner as they did – without a wealth of past efforts under their belt – is a great achievement.

They wisely had some previously recorded bits to insert to give themselves a break from the intensity, and of the ones I saw some were well done and some acceptable considering most people really don’t know how to do a video to a good standard.

Sure there were some technical things which given a second chance wouldn’t have happened because they are obvious, but what do you do when you are live? There were some other things to learn to avoid. On the whole though, there was nothing I saw from afar, or when I was present I would consider a channel flipping moment.

That the audience was a dedicated one, not casually stopping by, allows for some rough edges which won’t drive away the audience. The team also had some experience with using the video gear with the Essential Concert Series which helped; with the concerts there was some obvious improvement with each program as they learned what doesn’t work.

Tips For Your 15 Minutes
Angie Nussey
Angie Nussey

It’s surprising how much control of the final product is in the hands of those in front of the camera. This was less an issue with Culture Fays than it was with the OFAA AGM becsue many have performance experience. Regardless of whether you are doing a zoom conference, podcasting, or walking into a studio set you need to take care of your end because the folks on the back end of the camera have a wide variety of skill these days and you can’t leave it all up to them.

You can’t technical wizardry away poor subject matter. Let’s just say, if you are going to be in front of a camera there is no amount of rehearsal that is too much. This is especially important because the current situation means a lot more people are in front of cameras these days – even for boring office meetings (or council meetings) – than ever before.

For example, chose your background carefully, what people see is not much different from a painting, one you are in. So, set up your camera, which maybe your phone, or may be on your laptop, and look at the picture. See what is in the shot you don’t want and either remove it, move the camera, or pick another spot. Imagine where your face is going to be, or where you want it to be, as if an artist put it in the shot you established. If you can’t imagine it, you can record a bit of yourself in a shot well before time arrives and review it to make adjustments.

The worst looking things I’ve seen are too much empty space above heads, followed by too much below. Get those right and the sides almost take care of themselves. This kind of shot is called talking head for a reason, and why it’s not called talking head, gut and lap, or talking head and ceiling. Also don’t have the background too close behind you, lots of space is good. Mugshots are done up against walls, good looking videos aren’t.

As a performer, which you are in this case, you have at the most control over these aspects for remote video situations. As a director, you need to have stand-ins to set things so they look good. This is the simplest and easiest fix for about 90% of videos I watch online. You don’t need two, three, four or more cameras if the shot looks good to begin with.

Everyone owns a mirror, use one. Say your lines, plan your way through what you are presenting so you can see how it looks. You’d be surprised how much the visual aspect effects what it is you are doing and you can fix a ton of things before you even get in front of a camera. Mostly, be yourself, definitely not whatever you think you should be. All you want to do is tweak some things to smooth out you visually. You are going to say things wrong, everyone does, even the most experienced people. I’ve done it lots, I’ve seen every late night talk show host munch words, you will not be the exception, so don’t worry about it. But, you should still practice what you are going to say and do in front of a mirror a few times.

Culture Days The Show

Because of a series of unfortunate events, my plan to be at the studio to see Peter Stranks workshop on photographing art didn’t happen, so I watched it at home. For most visual artists, he gave a wealth of information to use. The good news is the video of the segment will be available to watch as many times as you need to on the ODAC website. Even for someone like me who has maybe a little more experience taking pictures (video is just 24 pictures a second at its lowest usable frame rate), there was something to learn. Lighting is such a misunderstood thing for many people and, there are tricks experienced photographers can learn from other photographers, which was the case for me watching the tutorial. Peter does his lighting differently than I usually do for this kind of photography, and his method of placing lamps makes a lot more sense to me. Watch the video for more lighting tips to make shooting your paintings or sculptures better.

Angie Nussey
Angie Nussey

I saw a Jacob Pearce and Graydon Martyn performing their music online. The difference between the two is performance experience, mostly how to use a microphone. Nonetheless, both came off very well. I was in the studio when Angie Nussey closed out the last hour of the program.

There was a moment after a particularly boisterous tune I remarked (well away from the set), “she really needs to sing louder.”  It got the intended chuckle because the thing about this performance is her keyboard and sequencer were sent directly to the mixing board and there was no room monitor, so unless she was using a guitar, the only thing any of us heard in the studio was her voice. Contrasting to the other times I’ve seen her perform with a full mix of musical accompaniment, the sheer power of her voice and control she has over it is a lot more evident without being part of a mix.

Craig Mainprize
Craig Mainprize

If you missed the program, you can watch some of it on Creative Nomad’s Youtube page, more segments will be added soon.

Craig Mainprize also had some great new work hanging on the ground floor at Creative Nomad. He sold 2 pieces which is good. He’s got a reception happening November 12 with two times, 6 and 7:30 p.m. and an artist talk November 21. At 1 p.m. Both are at Creative Nomad.

OFAA In Good Shape

The news out of the OFAA AGM is they have more members this year than last. One would think they might have lost a few this year, so this is good. Financially they are in very good shape, a lot better than I would have imagined.

They are planning to keep the board as it is for the coming year. This is good thinking. I can imagine the uphill battle it would be with getting new board members up to speed right now, along with newbies trying to set in motion any things they think should be happening. However, there is room for a new board member to take on the membership position. They also unveiled a new logo, designed by Jesse Strong.

A Thought Or Two On Canadian Music

Whenever the king of the mountain steps away, there inevitably is another to step in. In my lifetime, Gord was king, then Rush, then The Hip and Barenaked Ladies. Yes, there are other great Canadian bands, but I think those folks were on a completely different plane. It’s only in the most recent years Rush and the Hip exited. Gord is still around, but despite the continued excellence of his music he is not commanding attention like he used to on a national or international scale

Enter Walk Off The Earth. Since the pandemic took over our lives they have been making a continuous stream of video releases and I have to say, in my mind they are the preeminent band on the planet.

They’re creativity musically and visually is unmatched by anyone, save for OK Go – but WOTE is ours. They were here just two years ago for Mariposa and I have witnessed no other stage performance that comes remotely close to the complexity and execution of what they do. Every tune they do is an adventure, they don’t often use the same instrumentation, and they rarely farm out playing different instruments to others. If each member of the band claimed to be able to play 24 different instruments, I’d believe them.

Their own song writing and arrangement of covers is unique in the field of all that is out there. They are pushing visual depiction into new territory, and it’s clear from their performances they are having a ton of fun naturally, rather than manufactured for a camera.

Welcome our new musical overlords. The best thing you can do for an afternoon, or a day, is go to their Youtube page and hit Play All. I don’t care what genre of music you like or think is best, you won’t regret it.

The Shorts

*  The Trunk or Treat event Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. at ODAS park only has room for one more vehicle – which you are going to decorate, right? To register go here. Just like at home, you stay put and the kids will come by – on a schedule, and you can give them something to make it worth their while.

The McGarvey’s, not quite 39 years ago.

*  Congratulations to Lucy and Will McGarvey. Last week they celebrated the 39th year of operation with The Shadowbox. I think it’s safe to say, without them, Orillia artists wouldn’t have it so easy making their art, and buyers wouldn’t either framing the stuff. Their former Packet & Times office building is an anchor in the Arts District. And from the timing is everything folder, it’s a good thing the 40th is next year when we can all properly celebrate.

*  The 2nd volume of Mariposa Exposed is out. There are 96 short stories, some by people you would expect to write and some from people with a good story to tell. I’ve enjoyed reading it. You can get a copy at Manticore Books.

 *  The next installment of the Mariposa Virtual Stage with Joni Mitchell is online here. The next one is Nov. 18 with Buffy Ste. Marie and Celeigh Cardinal.

*  I think we could all use a good laugh. Hopefully by Nov. 19 we’ll be ready to laugh because Mariposa Arts Theatre is doing Norm Foster’s The Christmas Tree at the Opera House. I don’t know much about this play, yet, but it’s Foster and around here Fosters are funny. Some of the members of the Orillia Silver Band are part of the production too. Get tickets here. There’s a two week run with matinees on Thursdays and Sundays.

*  Vern Bignell has his art hanging around at  Bakes by the Lake.

*  There are two youth center fundraisers happening to establish scholarship funds. One in memory of Jake Beers the Beers family calls hxmesweethxme. Check out their Facebook page for opportunities to contribute. Anitta Hamming also created an online raffle for two of the paintings created for the Metamorphosis project. You can get a ticket here, and you can also see, or buy, other art at that link.

*  OMAH has a Carmichael Lecture discussion of Carmichael by Wil Kucey of Canadian Fine Arts you can watch online. Oct. 21 another online event happens; the 2020 Virtual Carmichael Art History Lecture with Jim and Sue Waddington, who travelled to the places painted by the Group of Seven; It’s $10 to participate and you sign up at 705-326-2159 to get a link to the event. OMAH also has another round of the QuarARTine, 6×6 pieces for auction here and the gallery is open by appointment, 705-326-2159.

*  The Orillia branch of Dress For Success has a progressive, online, raffle called Toonie Tuesday. Tickets are $2 and you can buy as many as you like. Check their Facebook page frequently for updates on the jackpot and weekly winners.

Me with ODAC president Lynn Fisher; we are smiling.

 *  ODAC had their annual general meeting a week ago. I watched and found out they pulled a fast one. They gave me a Certificate of Recognition. I sent an email afterward and said, “Please pass on to everyone my thanks for recognizing me at tonight’s AGM. I’m just your storyteller, it’s folks who do all the work entertaining me and everyone else, and folks like those of you at ODAC who provide opportunities for artists of all kinds who are the award winners.” When everything is stripped away, I’m just the middle man, but it does feel good.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia; Images Supplied)

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