Six Questions for Jay Middaugh

Jay Middaugh, Kingston, OntarioJay Middaugh was born, like everyone else, just outside of Toronto, but was lucky enough to mostly grow up in Muskoka, where he learned to build snow forts, play music, and make movies. He met his wife Sienna while tree planting, and moved to Kingston in 2003. Jay runs Sleeping Giant School of Music, coaches youth basketball, and tries to keep track of his three young children. He’s always hiding under stuff and then jumping out suddenly.

1. Tell us about yourself and your background with respect to writing, directing, and movie making? How did you get into the business?

My father bought a big heavy RCA camcorder in 1986 for a cross-country vacation – I was 6 and as soon as he’d let me I started making little videos and stop-motion movies with my toys, in high school I’d use any opportunity to replace a presentation with a short film. After High School I went to Humber College for Film and Television production. It was an interesting time in video technology — we were still learning to shoot and edit on film stock, with tape and grease markers, but the school also had the precursors to modern computer editing. Skip ahead a few years and it’s so amazing that almost anyone can shoot and edit video on their own computers — people call it the “no excuses” era for filmmakers. For the past 5 years or so I’ve been mainly doing music videos with local bands, kid’s web series, small documentaries, and commerical/industrial video work.

2. At the 2017 Kingston Canadian Film festival (KCFF), you will be premiering LIVE in Kingston, a romantic comedy that provides a snapshot of downtown Kingston’s live music scene. What inspired you to write a script that’s uniquely and proudly all about Kingston?

Before anything else, almost everyone involved in the production is a musician, and I think a huge factor in all of our motivation to make the project is the promotion and exploration of the Kingston music scene. I wrote the script about 5 years ago. At the time I was shooting fairly low-budget music videos, really taking advantage of how shockingly professional DSLR video could look — suddenly a $700 camera could look like a movie — especially using prime lenses, shallow depth of field, and some other tricks — you could make something that was visually captivating so quickly and affordably. It’s normal now that everyone’s vlogs look amazing, but at the time it was really a revelation. I was also shooting this web series called “Baking with Peja“, which was a comedy disguised as a cooking show, and I really enjoyed making the little comic vignettes that drove the episodes. The idea of using a comic plot to move through an exploration of the music scene seemed really fun and interesting. I wrote a few drafts of the script, and then wife and I had our third child, and I totally forgot about it for a few years. In the fall of 2015 I shot a music video with the Gertrudes, in support of the Wellington Street X movement, and afterwards Greg Tilson asked me if I had any other video project in mind we could work together on. I suddenly remembered the script, and Greg, with all his great connections with the music/arts scene, was just the perfect person to work with on this project.

3. Racing between twelve concerts in six nights, the film’s main character takes us on a journey, which ventures into some of the city’s best venues for live music. How did you approach the direction and actual filming of these live performances?

The scale of a project with 12 performances was pretty overwhelming at times. We ended up using a wide range of production models, depending on what bands, venues, and audiences we were dealing with. Our first shoot was last March at the Brooklyn, and we filmed our final show in November at the Elm Cafe. Working with our sound recorder Matt Rogalsky was a huge factor in the success of our project — his ability to set up quickly, interface with a huge variety of sound set-ups, and capture the authentic sounds of the bands and venues, all while being calm and friendly and helpful. I just can’t imagine any of it happening 1% as smoothly without Matt.

4. The trailers for LIVE in Kingston feature breathtaking, sweeping aerial shots of downtown Kingston, which make the city appear big and bursting with action. How do these aerial drone shots fit into the overall plot?

Because the city of Kingston is such an important character in our story, it made sense to have these wide sweeping vistas — the only way to really see it as a whole. The movie is about trying to collect and present these disparate parts, our characters, the bands, the venues, as a unified whole, and being able to pull up away from the ground was such a perfect visual way to represent how we all live together in Kingston. It’s like a super tiny version of the first earth-rise photos from the Apollo missions! No? Too far? Fine, but they do look neat.

5. As a musician, you’re no stranger to the local music scene, and the many talented musicians that Kingston continues to foster and promote. What was it like being both a filmmaker and spectator at these shows?

I just felt so lucky at all these shows — not even as a film-maker, but as an audience member. It was really rewarding to know that we’d documented so much of the music scene – and that it would be shared and preserved. If in 100 years, someone wonders what live music was like in Kingston in 2016, maybe this film will still be alive, and I think it paints a pretty great picture.

6. Looking ahead to this year’s Kingston Canadian Film Festival, what do you hope audiences will get out of this film? Beyond this year’s festival, where else and when can we expect to see LIVE in Kingston screening?

I really hope the festival audience enjoys it — that sounds overly simplistic, but a film is a kind of performance, and if people are willing to give us their time and buy a ticket, my biggest hope is that they have a great time, laugh, and maybe learn a bit about some great bands and great actors that call Kingston home. We always knew it’d be a tight squeeze to get the movie done for the festival, (in 5 minutes I have an editing meeting with one of our Producers) so our applying to other festivals will start after the premiere. There are great independent festivals in Sudbury, Montreal, Toronto, and across the country that we’ll be applying to. Following the festival circuit, and depending on how distribution gets set up, we’ll have some kind of commercial run, so LIVE in Kingston will hopefully be back at The Screening Room, and following that run we’ll do a DVD/Blu-Ray/Video On Demand / Download campaign.

Harvey Kirkpatrick

Harvey Kirkpatrick is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. His features curiously explore urban planning, what if scenarios, the local food scene and notable Kingstonians. Loves playing tourist and listening to rap music. Learn more about Harvey...

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