multiracial

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.

After the Fundraiser Screening for HYPHEN

I can't believe almost a week has gone by since I was standing in front of a sold-out crowd, introducing my film "Hyphen" for the first time to an audience. Last Saturday, May 30th at the Arts Court Theatre, I watched as my guests filled the room, anxiously waiting for the screening to start. I had spent the day nervously getting everything ready to make sure the event was everything I wanted it to be. 

So, of course I made the executive decision to get my hair styled at a salon instead of worrying about it myself. I sat at Jet Black Hair & Studio, let myself relax and tried not to stroke my hair too much after (it was soooo soft!). I then set off to pick up fresh homemade deserts from Rebecca at Café Eddy (she made cookies with little hyphens on them because she's amazing!). After "taste testing" the treats, I packed up the car full of Lug-Tread beer from Beau's All Natural, tasty meats and cheeses from Seed to Sausage and all the goodies I'd prepared for the event. 

A BIG thank you to my amazing roommate Catherine for helping me set-up the room for the event. We prepped the wood-panel courtroom at Arts Court as the pre-screening mingling room. I had a playlist prepared for the evening, full of songs that played in my house when I was growing up; some Beatles, some Frank Sinatra, some Céline Dion. I set up a corner with my Artist Statement for the project, a photo album full of photos of my family and a map of the world. I asked my guests to place stickers on the map in the places they identified with.  We pulled in 60+ chairs in the screening room, and we were ready. All that was left to do was wait for my guests.

I wasn't even aware of the rain until people started coming in, soaking wet. And then everyone showed up. I have to admit that I am not the best at mingling, but knowing that everyone was there for me made it pretty easy to walk up to a group of people and say hello. Makes a girl feel pretty special!

A definite pinch-me moment was meeting people who had come out because they heard me speak on CBC's Ottawa Morning the day before. 

The time came to get everyone to move to the screening room to watch Hyphen. I got my parents and my brothers to go in first, so they would be able to sit in the front, by me. After Bradley Cayford introduced me on behalf of the Ottawa International Film Festival, I made my opening remarks. Seeing the room completely full (we even had to bring in some extra chairs) was overwhelming. I took my seat between my parents, and as the music started, I felt my mom reach out for my hand. And she held it, clammy and shaking, the whole time. I think I must have watched most of the film with my eyes closed, knowing it by heart but focusing on listening to the audience's reactions; I recognized some laughs. I was so terribly nervous to not only show my art for the first time, but to also share my story and be vulnerable to the comments and reactions of a crowd. 

But the lights came up and everyone started clapping. With tears in my eyes, I made my way back to the stage to get ready for the Q&A. Despite some "colourful" comments, I think the discussion went very well. I was able to answer questions about the film and my personal experience with the subject. But mostly, I got a confirmation that this film NEEDS to be made. And I can't wait for the next steps!

So what is next? Well, I am so pleased to tell you that we raised $2,010.40 (yes, $0.40!) which will help complete the film. I'm taking the month of June to reflect on the evening and plan my next step. I will apply to have the film shown in film festivals, locally and internationally, which will help in finding future funding opportunities. I will use this first part to help approach other families who may be interested in participating in the film. I am also planning the creation of an online forum for Hyphen, so people can share stories about their own hyphenated identity.

Safe to say, this project still has a long way to go and I am so excited to get to work! I would like to thank The Ottawa International Film Festival for hosting the evening. You can see more photos of the evening, all taken by the amazing Justin Van Leeuwen, on my Facebook page (that you can also follow to get news about Hyphen).

Keep an eye out for news about Hyphen; I am looking forward to the future!