This still from the Southern Souls video for Allie Hughes’ “O, Chad” is one of the only times that filmmaker Mitch Fillion has appeared on camera in the series.
Filmmaker Mitch Fillion has been very, very busy since he launched his video project, Southern Souls, in September 2009. Inspired by La Blogotheque, whose Take-Away Shows capture musicians playing in unexpected public and private spaces, Fillion began filming impromptu performances by Hamilton- and Toronto-area music acts, all with the intention of sharing the music he loved with a wider audience.
Now, a little over a year later, he’s already past the two-hundred mark—204 total acts filmed, by our count, as of early December. (He’d long ago passed two hundred videos total for the series, since he also occasionally films concerts, and repeat sessions with artists he particularly likes, such as The Wilderness of Manitoba, The Balconies, and Steven McKay.)
We spoke with Fillion to mark the occasion before he headed out of town on a working vacation, and got his thoughts on a half dozen of the best Southern Souls videos, depicting artists playing everywhere from a quiet west-end street to the CN Tower’s glass floor.
“It’s been a lot of fun, meeting new people,” comments Fillion, whose videos are for many bands the best recorded representation of their live act (we used embedded Southern Souls videos for half of our recent Tranzac Transcripts subjects). The project has been a labour of love for him; for the first 150 artists, there was no set charge. “I’ve started charging in the last few months, just to cover my own expenses, though if I really like a band, we can usually work something out.” Fillion has been under-employed for much of the project, and has invested much of his own money into the series, in terms of gas money, equipment, and website expenses.
Future plans for Southern Souls include a web series that Fillion has shot a pilot for with Sandman Viper Command, and full collaborative projects. “I’m filming ten songs with The Olympic Symphonium in Fredericton this month,” says Fillion, who’s already posted the first of three parts on Southern Souls. He hopes that both projects might lead to commercial arrangements with television or online providers. Regardless, he’ll continue documenting diverse music acts in unexpected places. “I prefer not to film in living rooms; I don’t mind shooting those sometimes, but for the viewer, and for the band and I, it’s a lot more fun going out on an adventure.”
On Allie Hughes’ video for “O, Chad,” at costume shop Malabar’s:
“She’s really theatrical and creative, and had all these great ideas, like for a synchronized swimming sequence, but the series is supposed to be unplanned. So when she suggested costumes, I suggested a costume shop. We figured out the changeroom idea when we got there; the staff at Malabar’s were really receptive.”
“I never want to appear in the videos, even as a reflection, but this one was special. In some of the other videos, you can catch my voice at the end, or see my shadow, but it’s rare.”
On Dinosaur Bones‘ video for “Making Light,” on the glass floor of the CN Tower—the one-hundredth video in the series:
“The band already had an arrangement [with management] to shoot there—Sari Delmar of Audio Blood hooked that up. This video actually led to me being hired to film the Harlem Globetrotters there, a few weeks later.”
“People’s reactions during filming were great—the kids dancing? It was a really surreal experience. I hadn’t been up the tower myself since I was six years old.”
On Whale Tooth‘s video for “Vinyl Skin,” in Honest Ed’s:
“I don’t think we explored the whole store. We just walked in, didn’t tell the staff, went down to the basement, and saw this area that was caution-taped off. They were going to play in front of the caution tape, but then we said, ‘Well, we’ve gotten this far…'”
On Maylee Todd‘s video for “Pegwee Power,” at the Toronto Zoo:
“That was a lot of fun, spending the day with Maylee at the zoo—she’s just the funniest. Nowadays, I spend sometimes just an hour or so with the acts I film, but I spent the whole day with Maylee, walking around, checking out the gorillas and polar bears.”
On Hooded Fang‘s video for “Mutant Bear”:
“I’d just filmed Amos the Transparent in that neighbourhood, too. I’m not entirely sure where that is exactly, where the procession happened; many times, I’m ranging all over the place, and rely on my GPS entirely to get to where I’m meeting the bands.”
(The video was filmed near Dundas West and Dufferin streets; Hooded Fang, who we spoke to after their terrific CD release show last week, told us it was along Mackenzie Crescent and Lisgar Street.) )
On Make Your Exit‘s video for “Kids,” at Spadina Station:
“That lady dancing was really unexpected! I though she might dance for the whole song.”
“For the video for Muskox’s ‘Oceanic,’ I did a pan, and this one lady starts screaming at me. You can’t hear her, because the mic was on the guitar, but I had to work really hard to keep her out of frame.”
“That girl at the end of the ‘Make Your Exit’ video is really great. It is a great way for people to stumble across new music, when we’re filming. For Rebekah Higg’s ‘Little Voice,’ in the construction zone, people were asking them to keep playing. I could hear them still going, three blocks away, as I got in my car. So many bands, after the shoot, say, ‘we should do this more often—just play outside.'”