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.

How to choose a carpet … Lingwood style

Anyone who – in their adolescent years – wanted to paint their bedroom walls black knows that putting your mark on a space makes it your own. 

Former president of the Kitchener-Waterloo Record, Paul Motz, had much more to play with when in 1970 his father assigned him to managing the interior details of the new Record building at 225 Fairway Road South.

One of his jobs was selecting the carpet for the space – not measured square yards, but measured in acres.

Although this clip didn’t make it into “Finding John Lingwood”, Paul’s detailed account of the process always fascinates me. Watch it below.

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.

Finally, the day has arrived: Return to Burnt Island

It feels like I’ve been planning this day forever.

Tomorrow, I am going to recreate a trip to the Lingwood Family Cottage on Burnt Island in Georgina Bay for my documentary Finding John Lingwood”.

Along with John’s daughter Lisa and her husband Jeff we will be driving the cross-country route to Honey Harbour and hopping aboard Larry Simon’s water taxi for a 20 minute ride to the cottage. It’s the only way you can get there.

On the way we’ll be stopping by the Dairy Queen in Alliston to shoot some scenes to Lisa ordering a milkshake, just as she did in her childhood when she made the trek in the backseat of her dad’s Buick with brother Cameron.

Designed and built by John beginning the late 50s, the cottage was a regular pilgrimage for John and family up until the mid-1990s. Daughter Lisa believes this was the place her father felt most at home – grooming the beach in the early morning before everyone else was awake.

There’s something about a journey that brings us closer to understanding how lives unfold. With Lisa as my guide I’ll visit the places that most inspired John and perhaps catch a glimpse of him on the shore, rake in hand tending to the sand … maybe sitting in the Teahouse or swaying in a hammock in the woods near the cottage.

I’m excited to be working alongside a skilled crew for this section of the project:
K. Jennifer Bedford – Videography and Drone Pilot
Gary Kirkham – Audio Guy
Katie Heath – Production Assistant and Stills Photographer

Meanwhile, in Waterloo Region lives are changed

As the world continues to swirl about us – political maneuvering, terrorist attacks, climate change – the quiet life in Waterloo Region carries on.  Ignoring the world is not the answer, but it is equally important that we hear and share the stories of how everyday people enrich the life we share here.

I finished producing this short video for House of Friendship last week. It documents the renovation of the agency’s Emergency Food Hamper Program building at 807 Guelph St. I started way back in August 2016, capturing daily time lapse sequences and live video. The real story didn’t emerge until the finally weeks, when we discovered that early in her career, Teresa O’Reilly a project manager for the job, depended on the program to help her make ends meet.

Watch as Teresa tells her story about how the Emergency Food Hamper Program changed her life.