How to bang a pot and change the world

Pandemic, COVID 19, novel corona virus, respirators, PPE, lockdown, self-isolation, hand washing protocol … everyday words now in spring 2020. 

These days I reach out and grab hold of any moment of intimacy – no matter how small – because this pandemic has not changed the fact that our lives on earth are fully intertwined.

Staying at home rubs agains the grain. We want to bust out – spend time with friends on the patio; make a special dinner for our kids; get in the car and drive 10 hours to sleep in the guest room; hug our special people.

When my wife suggested I make a video about the daily pot-banging ritual on our street, I thought it would be a balm for my mind rubbed raw by the day-to-day, but it became much more. Each evening as I made my way to the front yard of a neighbour’s house to safely set up my gear, a new perspective was revealed. Each household drew from their life experiences to infuse the daily ritual with their unique meaning, the meaning passed from person to person and then united in the clanging. I felt a closeness to humanity I hadn’t experienced in weeks.

So, when we raise an arm to bang a pot with a wooden spoon, wave to an neighbour or blow kisses to the camera with our 3-year-old we tug on the threads connecting us – one to the other.

We are not only honouring the frontline and essential workers who risk there lives daily to keep us safe and care for the sick, but we are also remembering the importance of caring for each other.

If you like this video I urge you to seek out opportunities in your own community to connect safely and care for others. The story of our lives unfolds moment by moment. Each choice we make echoes around the world.

Puttin’ on the dog … the Elder Dog that is

My mother loved animals and she loved looking after them.

When I was growing up we had cats, turtles, dogs and backyard-chickens. After my sibs and I left home, weekend visits included a tour of her menagerie: canaries, budgies, rabbits, and fish, but it was her dog that always gave her the most joy and companionship.

One of the hardest moments for her was when she had to give up her beloved Katie, a loving, well-mannered miniature poodle she had trained from puppyhood. A stroke and other health problem made it impossible for mom to care for Katie.

But my mom was lucky. Her brother willingly took Katie into his home where she was well cared for, but this came with a price. Her brother lived hours away and mom rarely got to see her longtime companion and I now believe suffered because of it. 

While researching my most recent documentary project – “Dog’s Best Friend”, a 5-part series for BellMedia’s FIBE TV1 community channel – it became clear that pet ownership improves your physical and mental health. 41% of Canadian household include at least one dog; 37% include at least one cat.

Research shows living with a dog (or cat) lowers your stress, reduces your risk of depression and increases your physical and social activity. 

Dogs rule.

I also came across Elder Dog Canada an organization that’s all about helping older people   – like my mom and older dogs like Katie – maintain their relationship as long as possible.. 

Elder Dog Canada was founded by Dr. Adra Cole. Its values and programming draw heavily on Dr. Cole’s work with research partner Dr. Maura McIntyre.

Excerpts from its website explain:

“Our mission at ElderDog is to honour and preserve the human-animal bond through care, companionship, commemoration, and education.”

“Their research projects – including: Living and Dying with Dignity; Putting Care on the Map: Portraits of Care and Caregiving across Canada; and The Care Café: Understanding Caregiving and Alzheimer Disease across Canada – formed, in part, a foundation for Ardra’s thinking about the crucial importance of honouring the animal-human bond in the lives of aging people.”

I also discovered there are chapters – or “pawds” as the organization calls them – across the country; all run by volunteers. And the pawds closest to me in Kitchener-Waterloo, Guelph, Milton were holding a fall fashion show and fundraiser complete with doggie models at the Aberfoyle Community Centre.

I’m not one for dressing up dogs unless it’s for protection from the weather, but a whole event devoted to fashions for dogs, with the funds raised going to Elder Dog … how could I resist.

I packed up my gear and headed to Aberfoyle, a 30 minute drive from my house. The video above is what resulted. Please enjoy and consider supporting Elder Dog Canada.

Elder Dog website: http://www.elderdog.ca

Find your local Elder Dog Pawd: http://www.elderdog.ca/Pawds/FindaPawdClosetoYou.aspx

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Funded by BellMedia Fibe TV1: https://tv1.bellaliant.ca/fibetv1/

Sponsored by Rode Microphones: http://en.rode.com

 

Mystery House Found

Keith Shantz House

The John Lingwood mystery house was tracked down in a matter of hours after my recent post on here and on the Facebook page for my film “Finding John Lingwood“.

It’s perched on the very edge of the city, at 2219 Ottawa St., S. Kitchener at the intersection with Trussler Road. Based on information found in the Lingwood office project list it was commissioned by successful industrialist and owner of Morval-Durafoam Ltd., Keith Shantz in 1967.

Mr. Shantz married Winifred McLaren (nee Fitch) in 1973 – a second marriage for both. They were renowned for their support of the arts as founding supporters of Waterloo’s Clay and Glass Gallery, establishment of the Winifred Shantz Award for Ceramics,
the Keith and Winifred Shantz International Research Scholarship and other important contributions.

The home showcases some of John Lingwood’s favourite materials – field stone and wood. Also in the work, we see his commitment to complementing the terrain. This respect for the physical attributes of the building lot also shows up in the twenty Manchester Road houses that will be featured in the film (due out later this year). All the homes in this group have terraced lots. The houses are carved into the hillside with tall front windows that look out on a wooded conservation area.

Terrain also figures deeply in the Lingwood family cottage on Burnt Island in Georgian Bay – in the selection of the building site and the positioning of the cottage deep in the forest, where chunks of the Canadian Shield actually poke into the interior of the building. In the film, we make a return visit to the cottage with one of John’s daughters, after a 20 year absence.

In the Shantz house we see the influence of the great American modernist architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. The modest entrance is tucked into the back west corner of the house where you anticipate entering the expansive interior, speaks directly to Wright’s thoughts on compression and expansion.

The Wrightian influence is also present in Lingwood’s 1960 commission – the Carmel New Church on Chapel Hill Dr., Kitchener – another site featured in the film. However, he  bring’s his own vision of materials and meaning to this design resulting in a building that show’s John Lingwood at the pinnacle of his architectural mastery and positions Wright’s ideas as sub-text.

Screen Shot 2018-04-09 at 9.00.29 AM
Google maps areial view shows the extent of the woodlot

The Shantz house and surrounding property were purchased by Stephen Moxey in 2012 after Winifred’s death the same year. Mr. Moxey applied for, and got, a permit from the Region of Waterloo to clear the trees from the lot in 2016. Links to news stories from the Waterloo Region Record  below show how the work progressed.

Aug 3, 2016 – Kitchener property owner wants to clear three hectares of trees 

Aug 10, 2016 – Permit to clear Kitchener woodlot approved by region 

Oct 17, 2016 – Stop-work order issued for tree clearing at Ottawa Street property 

Nov 9, 2016 – Woodlot clearing investigation continues in Kitchener

Mr. Moxey was finally given clearance to proceed.

Keith and Winifred Shantz House

The house now sits on the cleared lot – a little forlorn and worse for wear.

I stopped by recently to let the owner know about “Finding John Lingwood“. I left my contact information with the hope someone would contact me and let me know what plans there are for the house.

Of course demolition is a potential fate for this 50-year-old piece of Waterloo Region’s modernist architecture. It’s not possible to preserve every building from the mid-century nor does every building warrant preservation. However, this house appears to be a significant building in John Lingwood’s body of work and is also deeply connected to the business and cultural life of the community through its former owners.

It would be sad to see it razed.

Project supported by:

Once a darling, always a darling

I’ve gathered at least 20 hours worth of interviews, additional hours of location video and 100s of photographs for my film “Finding John Lingwood.” The finished film … 55 minutes.

A mountain of information to work with and a lot left on the cutting room floor. It’s not quote as bad as you might think – logging all those clips, assessing their relevance and selecting the ones you think might be part of your story.

Not every word or thought an interview subject utters is compelling or fundamental to your narrative, not every photograph adds to the complexity of a scene. 

But … 

  • The person whose backstory tugs at your heart strings;
  • The interview filled with clever turns of phrase;
  • The beautifully lit locations
  • Moments when you laugh or cry or scratch your head

The “darlings” I call them – these stand out in your mind as you begin to stitch together your story. The more you are play the clip the more it calls out to be included. Intimacy clouds your judgement.

So, it is no surprise there comes a time in the editing process when you must cut your darlings to honour the story.

But, once a darling always … well you know how that goes. 

I thought you might like to meet some of my darlings. 

As you wait patiently for the premiere of “Finding John Lingwood” later this year, I will – from time to time – be posting some the compelling moments that ended up on the digital trash heap.

First up, this clip from my interview with Eric Haldenby, professor and former director of the Waterloo School of Architecture. Here he talks about Lingwood’s command of the principals modernist design and his work on the home he created for Dr. Roy Howarth and his family in 1957.

Why I open my heart and head to critiques

I’ve finished the first cut of “Finding John Lingwood” and it’s time to find out if the John Lingwood I’ve come to know resonates with audiences. Over the next month I’ll be screening this version with test audiences to hear what they have to say.

It’s stressful, having your work critiqued, but it’s essential to getting the film ready for a premiere in fall 2018. 

I have had the help of some talented crew members from time-to-time during production, but the micro-budget for this project kept me working in virtual solitude – interviewing, shooting and editing.

Although this suits my nature just fine, this is where problems can start.

No matter how hard you to try to rein in your biases and experiences, their influence creeps into your process, particularly in editing.

You easily become convinced you’ve got it right:

  • The sweet little scene with a subject you’ve really connected with; 
  • The funny moment that makes you laugh each time you see it; 
  • The beautiful drone shot.

They all fight to find their way into your film. As editor you must guard and guide the story, making sure every moment, every cut, every visual advances the narrative. 

The ruthlessness required is simply beyond me.

This is when I depend on members of the test audience. They poke your soft spots, call you back when you wander from the storyline and question every awkward moment. 

Sometimes you just want to bury your head in the sand – pour a glass of wine and ignore the advice. But that is hardly useful. So when I do a screening, I strive to open my heart and head; I take notes; I consider every comment.

For the filmmaker, the challenge is not only to listen, but also to try to understand. Feedback can’t always be taken literally; improvements are often found by changing something other than the specific quibble. 

Here’s the thing: I have never found my work to get worse after a test screening. It has always …  always gotten better.

Not everyone can be part of the test audience so, as a thank you for reading this post, I’ve included a little taste of the first cut of “Finding John Lingwood” – a clip of my work so far on the opening credits.  

I’m hoping to achieve three things:

  • Evoke the period, 1955-1996,
  • Set a tone of the film,
  • Reflect the character of John Lingwood. 

It’ll be hard to judge these criteria without see the entire film, but I would love to hear your thoughts just the same. Please comment below.

Mystery House

Can you help me find this house?

Mystery House - Personal_72-8905_001

I found this photograph while researching my current film project – “Finding John Lingwood” – at the University of Waterloo Library Special Collections and Archives.

It’s actually a black and white copy of the a colour photography Personal Studios’ Bob Nicol made for John Lingwood, a modernist architect who practised in Kitchener 1955 – 1996.

The photo has been taped down to table top and we can see a bit of the photographer’s shoe in the upper lefthand corner of the frame.

I’ve been researching and filming for the past year to piece together a story about one of the Regions leading mid-century architects. Lingwood, along with six other firms, created the rich stock of modernist buildings that give Waterloo Region its distinct built environment.

I believe this house, that makes good use of John’s favour materials – stone and wood – is among his works and still stands somewhere in the Region.

I’d love to hear from its owner or someone who knows its owner or location. I’m sure there is someone out there who recognizes this place.

You can contact me here (see upper right) or on the Facebook page for the film “Finding John Lingwood.”

Please feel free to post this to your networks or pass the link on by email.

All comments, suggestions and clues are welcome.

Project supported by: