The Hyphen Roadtrip - Part II

I’ve always loved solo travel. You can get lost, spend 3 hours at a coffee shop, visit the museum of wallpaper (is there such a thing?), and it doesn’t matter. Apart from being happy I get to spend all this time on my own, I’m also very grateful for the connections I’ve made with strangers along the way. Meeting people at camp grounds, in vintage shops, in an Uber carpool, and talking to them about my film has been amazing. I’ve heard so many different points of view. But above all else, I recognize the complete excitement about my project; people want to hear these stories, there is value in this documentary and Canadians (for the most part) want to have this conversation and recognize that it may get ugly. So thank you, to all the strangers I’ve met and chatted with along the way, you are making this experience so real. 

Day 7 of the roadtrip, and I’m off to Montreal. I lived in Montreal during my undergrad and return as often as I can to visit my dad and my family. Despite being homeless for the next two months, I think I can definitely call Montreal home. I got to my dad’s late that evening, made dinner and had an early night. I have 3 participants in the city, although only 2 are available to interview during this roadtrip. I met Fred the next day at Laurier metro; the plan was to walk around the area. 

I guess I haven’t mentioned how exactly I plan on making this documentary. The first thing you should know is that I am not filming the interviews. What? Yep. I originally wanted to move away from the traditional way of making a documentary, which involves lots of on-camera interviews and then a selection of additional footage (also known as b-roll). Well my film will only be b-roll. I was a little scared to explore this concept, worried that audiences wouldn’t have moments to breathe, or that they would not be able to connect with the subjects if they don’t see them talking directly to them. But watching films like “Room 237” or “Thoth” reminded me that there is always room for new ideas in documentary filmmaking. And after producing the short film “Hyphen: Gabriela’s Story” about my own experience being mixed-race, I was confidant in pursuing this vision. Not only has it allowed me to be more creative in the way I shoot this film, it also lends itself much better to my one-woman team and my DIY approach. Doing on-camera interviews means having a light kit (which I don’t have), a lapel microphone, or a boom microphone and operator (which I don’t have), a tripod (mine has been duct-taped into place), and preferably 2 cameras (guess what, I don’t have that either). Making the doc this way means I can be flexible, in terms of where we shoot and how I get there. Relying on public transport to reach my participants is fine, because all I have is a small backpack with my DSLR in it. I also get to be more flexible in terms of how the interviews are recorded. I got myself a fancy Yeti microphone, that plugs right into my laptop. That means I can go to the participants’ homes, no need for studios and sound booths (I can’t even imagine trying to book those across the country during my roadtrip). I’m also including myself in the interviews; think of a podcast, like Serial or Invisibilia, rather than an interview, where you get to hear me ask questions and share my own experience. I’m also encouraging to have questions asked of me; it’s all about sharing and having a conversation. I am not an expert in any regards and it’s nice to have people question my own position on this topic. 

Ok, back to Fred. Fred and I met through a mutual friend. She grew up in Aylmer, a similar area to where I grew up. We talked about her time in Greece, her closeness to her family and her connection to Quebec. She definitely recognized her privilege of being white and was a great listener. We shared our different experiences and she made me think about how I navigate my Quebecer identity. Despite her mostly positive experience, she has dealt with internal struggles and society’s need to label us. 

The next day, I met Emma. Emma grew up in Montreal and lives with her parents near the mountain. We spent the morning at Jean Talon Market with her mom and went for a walk around the mountain with her dad. Emma is the youngest participant in the film, but that doesn't stop this girl from having some real depth. She's an artist and an ally and such a wonderful person to know. Her passion for learning and and exploring this topic is inspiring.

This was a great way to start the interviews. I feel incredibly lucky to have people be so generous with their time and their stories; I've been introduced to families, welcomed in their homes. I don't think I can say thank you enough. Working on this project from home for the past 2 years, it's been crazy to actually be out there with my camera, meeting the people who will shape this film.

I left Montreal and headed home to Gatineau/Ottawa. It was strange to drive through the city I left only 2 weeks before. But in retrospect, it was nice to have a break and be in a familiar space before setting off on the most intense portion of the trip. I got to stay with my mom for a few days, and was able to celebrate her birthday. We had a lovely lunch at Fraser Café and went to the Star Fleet Academy Experience at the Aviation and Space Museum. I had a fully packed amazing 4 days to see as many friends as I could before leaving for Toronto.

As a special treat, I got to meet with Rema, one of the participant of the film who lives in Toronto, but grew up in Munster Hamlet, just outside of Ottawa. I met her in person for the first time, along with her husband and brand new baby. We went for a walk in the woods and she told me a bit about her experience growing up black in a rural setting. 

And off to Toronto I go! As I'm writing this, I just wrapped up my 15 day stay in the city. I will definitely take some time to process everything that happened, so stay tuned for that.