As an annual fundraiser for Winnipeg’s Cinematheque theatre, Bands vs Filmmakers is quickly becoming an important tradition in our city’s arts scene. Now in its fourth year, Bands vs Filmmakers is about more than raising money or putting on a show. It’s about fostering creativity and establishing relationships between artists in different mediums who may not otherwise have the opportunity to work together.
On May 23, the event will be taking place at the West End Cultural Centre. The premise is simple: local bands are partnered with local filmmakers. The teams agree on a 20-minute set of original songs, and the filmmakers produce original films to be projected alongside a live performance from the bands. I sat down with local writer-director Madison Thomas, whose first feature This is Why We Fight won an award of excellence at the Los Angeles Indie Fest, and singer-songwriter Ridley Bent, whose new album Wildcard was just released in April, to get some insight into the creative partnerships that Bands vs Filmmakers helps form.
“It’s a great way to stretch your imagination as a filmmaker,” says Thomas, whose work prior to Bands vs Filmmakers consists largely of dialogue-driven, post-apocalyptic dramas. “It’s actually been a very nice challenge, to step back and be like, ‘How do I tell a story without dialogue?’ And, really, you have to get back to the basics.”
An experiment like Bands vs Filmmakers isn’t something one might think would facilitate narrative films, but Thomas and Bent are both storytellers. At first, the imagery of Thomas’s post-apocalyptic visions of urban decay may not seem like a natural companion to Ridley’s experimental country sound, but they find common ground on storytelling, and it’s clear their partnership makes a lot of sense.
“The thing about my music that goes well with film is that I’m very literal in my lyrics,” Bent says. “I tell stories, and they’re obvious. It’s not like they’re poetic or anything. If it’s a story about a gunfight, then that’s what it is. It’s a story about a gunfight. I’m not hoping for a literal film translation of the stuff, but I’m interested to see what the lyrics of the song would do to inspire a filmmaker to do something creative.”
According to Thomas, the inspiration is there. “When I first listened to a couple of his tracks, I thought, ‘Okay, he’s a pretty classic western artist’. But as I delved into his whole body of work, I saw that he actually dabbles a lot into hip hop, which ended up being a lot of the songs we chose.”
“It’ll be like an urban western,” Bent adds. “My first record was very urban, and we’ve chosen a song from that first record specifically so we can juxtapose the western with the urban.”
With such fertile creative ground in this one partnership alone, Bands vs Filmmakers is proving to be a vital ingredient in Winnipeg’s artistic community. And with four other acts on the bill, including heavy hitters Les Jupes and Mise en Scene, it promises to be an exciting evening.