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Fest Track On Sirk TV Advance Print Interview: CINEFEST [Sudbury, Ontario]


Situated in Northeastern Ontario, close to the Georgian Bay, Sudbury is a small town only a small jump away from Toronto. With production elements ramping up with projects like “Letterkenny” as well as “Carter” starring Jerry O’Connell (check out our interview here with Jerry) already filmed and in the public eye, the area is only growing. Cinefest, which happens in Sudbury every September, is a natural continuation after the onslaught of Toronto International Film Festival just weeks before. Patrick O’Hearn, executive director at Cinefest, sat down with Fest Track at the company’s HQ in Sudbury to discuss initiatives, connection and evolution.

Every festival has an identity. Every festival has an idea who they are and who they want to be. Can you sort of talk about Cinefest in those terms?

We branded ourselves as the people’s festival about five years ago, and it’s a brand that we’ve tried to maintain and stick with because it’s true to who we are. It’s first and foremost about films, about engaging people with films, about making sure that our audience is, whether they’re here from Sudbury or whether they’re visiting from elsewhere, [that] they have a chance to interact with the films, with the filmmakers. They can take in as much as they want because we’re all in one venue. So the festival experience is really something that you live almost like you’re at a resort, secluded in a space, and you move from film to film throughout the week. People’ll take in to 30, 40 films because they’re film lovers.

Can you talk about the community of film first from the film festival perspective?

For sure. We see that, while people are waiting in line at the festival, while they’re sitting in their seats waiting for the films or afterwards at the reception, it’s all about reacquainting with people that maybe you meet on a year-to-year basis whether they’re here from Sudbury or from elsewhere, and sharing that kind of passion. Sometimes that passion reflects itself in, “Man, I really hated that film I just saw.” And that’s part of the dialogue. I think that’s what makes festivals anywhere, when they’re clicking and really taking off and doing what they’re striving to do. It’s about ensuring that that dialogue is taking place, that people are really experiencing and talking about art and what it means to them.

What does art in terms of film mean to you at this point?

It means a lot of different things. It depends on the type of film. As a programmer, having the opportunity to experience a number of different genres and styles, seeing a film with a limited resources really be successful and take off, and then seeing a film where they made a great film because they had all the resources they needed to pull off what they planned to do, it’s a feeling of excitement of knowing that achievement took place, that there was a artistic achievement that the story has moved me. [From there] I can picture it moving other people. It’s just always about trying to look at it through your audience’s eyes and see what they’re going to think.

Can you give a recent example that maybe was a Canadian-made film?

We had a great film: “Never Steady, Never Still”. It’s just a powerful performance. It had a number of powerful performances. [It was a] Canadian film that came from the west coast. It’s about a woman who’s fighting with Parkinson’s and she actually has to transition into taking care of herself because her husband dies unexpectedly. When I saw the film, I knew that it was perfect for our audience. I knew that they were going to connect with that emotional impact. There was a very high emotional impact. But they also were going to be really drawn in by the commitment of the acting and what was taking place. The storytelling was phenomenal. And it was a first-time director. I think that’s when you really know this is special. This is somebody that we’re going to be able to trace for 5, 10, 15 years because they’ve nailed it the first time they tried .

But they’re learning like we’re all learning. And that’s the key in any festival is that most people come into it either having done it for 20 years or if it’s the person’s first year. it’s about learning it and having that curve because you can always pick up new things. Can you talk about the educational aspect of the festival in that way?

What we try to do is bring those filmmakers into town, and make sure that they’re talking to some of our emerging artists. That’s been a commitment of ours since the very beginning is to kind of take the city of Greater Sudbury and transform it, to let people know that there’s opportunities to tell their stories, to show them behind the scenes how that process takes place, where they access funding, where they access some of the infrastructure or the tools that they need whether it’s crew-based or cameras or things like that. [It’s about] trying to educate them about the evolution of all that because it’s constantly evolving. For us [though], it’s really about taking that first kernel of an idea. Our job is to really light a fire and say, “Go off and tell that story”…write it, spend time with it from an editing standpoint. But also make sure that you’ve got critical eyes and ears right away who are looking at it, and who are being honest with you and upfront. I think one thing we try to get across to the filmmaker is not to worry when they fail in the original drafts as they’re looking at developing their concept. Failure can lead to opportunities. It can lead to new sparks of ideas. But it can also teach you that that won’t work. And you have to just move on from it as quickly as possible.

Discussion is very important. And that’s the great thing you get at film festivals. Could you talk about Cinéfest in that way especially since Cinéfest happens so closely after TIFF [Toronto International Film Festival]?

TIFF is neat because a lot of the discussion does start at TIFF. We see that with a number of programs who visit from other centers in Ontario. They’ll start to compare notes on films, and then they’ll actually drive each other to see some of the films that we’re showing that overlap. I think our festival is unique going back to a People’s Festival concept. One of the things we try to instill and reinforce is that you’re going to be able to access films. The cost is extremely affordable. You see one film, you move into the next theater and you’re seeing the next film. A lot of people inherently travel together. The dialogue never stops.

And are there places for people to stop in between the theaters to discuss. I mean, there’s obviously probably some local places.

We do see a lot of people stop in the corridors. Milestones is a great sponsor of ours. They take really good care of our client base. Sometimes you don’t have time necessarily to stop and grab lunch or even an order. So the conversation takes place in that movement and while people are traveling. It’s really neat to see especially if from a programming standpoint. From a logistics standpoint one of my roles during the festival is actually to move people as safely and quickly as possible [from point to point]. It can look like a just a very well coordinated ballet, but it’s chaos.

We’re talking about art. We’re talking about logistics. But it also comes down to commerce. The thing is that this is a business. Filmmaking is a business and, overall, film festivals are a business but it’s also about connecting the right people to move up to the next level. And considering what’s going on today in the distribution networks, film festivals I think are more important than ever for new talent without a bias. Can you talk about that and the evolving role of film festivals in that way especially here in Canada.

Our primary focus when it comes to promoting and fostering growth of the Canadian film industry is to market the films that we’re showing, to make sure that people know, first of all, what they’re going to have a chance to see and to really encourage them to go out and see it. But also who the artists are behind the film.

Does that balance in your programming in terms of what you select?

We definitely try to make sure that we’re introducing new filmmakers. I think that’s one thing that separates us from other Canadian festivals. We have a commitment to working with new filmmakers who are still honing their craft. Maybe it’s not a perfect work but it’s important that they’re able to test with an audience and see how their work translates with them. From a commerce standpoint, we just want to see the industry continually be successful so that also means making sure that our distribution partners — that we’re treating their product with a lot of respect and that we’re promoting their product in a way that makes sense for them and works for what their goals are. It’s about just continuing to drive and advance the industry. We have a lot of production activity that’s taken place here in Northern Ontario so it also becomes making sure that people are aware of the opportunities to work in the industry. It’s amazing how much job creation actually comes out of a film production. It’s something that we were always aware of but until it came into our backyard we didn’t have the full sense of the scope. Just in terms of hotel rooms that are booked. In terms of service supplies, crafts, catering, things like that…electrical. The incentives that some of the public sector puts into some of the production, and I know that’s different in the United States — it’s been a driving force to allow our Canadian industry to maybe actually compete with the American industry or at least to allow us to tell our stories and not be perhaps oversaturated with some of the American product. [That product is] fantastic. We love American films here as well. But it’s really important that each country’s able to tell their own stories.

By Tim Wassberg

Cinefest runs September 15th-23rd. To purchase tickets, visit this link.


Sirk TV Exclusive Print Interview: SIED VAN RIEL [Exchange LA – Los Angeles]

Catching up with Dutch DJ Sied van Riel has its distinct pleasures. Maybe the vodka and the top floor at the Standard Downtown LA helped but the conversation ended up being a very candid talk on the creative process and the future of the Electric Dance Music (EDM) movement.


Q: Let’s talk about your beginnings. After DJing in your room, you started to hustle to find gigs. When did you get your big break?

Sied van Riel: My big break was releasing my first single on a small Finish label owned by one of my closest friends. It was picked up by Tiesto, and right after that they asked me to tour with Tiesto, after just one release.

Q: Tiesto was your mentor?

SvR: Yeah. In a way, he still is, but for the first two years of my career, he definitely showed me the way.


Q: What do you make of the big change in his music, moving away from trance to progressive house?

SvR: I’m not saying I could see it coming, but Tijs [Tiesto’s real name] has always been a person that strives forward, always trying to do stuff before others, so it didn’t come totally unexpectedly.

Q: What are your sources of inspiration today beside Tiesto? Who do you listen to? It doesn’t have to be electronic dance music obviously.

SvR: It comes from 80s music. It may sound very strange, but bands like Mister Mister, INXS, Lenny Kravitz, Nirvana… I also listened to The Scorpions a lot. I find those tracks fascinating: the mood, the technical side, the mixes and the production. The music ignites something in me that makes me different.


Q: Did you read the paper that Kaskade wrote a few weeks ago? He was basically saying that the advent of EDM did not happen overnight. It more explained how some of the roots are found in electronic music from the 80s.

SvR: If you look back at the 80s, with pop bands playing electronic music, the synthesizers became much more mainstream, and then it became dance music because there was a computer involved instead of a drummer. I have to agree with Kaskade that it did not happen overnight. Now we have DJs that rock every country when it used to be rock bands only. [A good example is that] today, when you listen to the radio, it’s predominantly DJs and electronic stuff, but it took at least 30 years to get where we are now, including all things that happened with the rise of major DJs like Tiesto, Armin van Buuren, Carl Cox or John Digweed. All of these guys are probably why we are here today. These guys are legends when it comes to synthesizer music. For instance, Enigma, whom I loved as well, it’s a shame you don’t hear them anymore. I have to be honest. Maybe, they still do a lot of stuff, but it’s not on the radio anymore.

Q: Well, some of those bands like New Order are active again.

SvR: That’s true. I’m also a big fan of the éVoid, which is South African. They do really different things. I think there should be more air time on the radio for these bands.


Q: That’s a problem in Los Angeles. There is no electronic dance music on the radio, except for the very mainstream stuff.

SvR: That’s true. We had that in Holland in the 90s. When it’s new, the masses pick it up. But as with everything, it’s a circle. And the circle always comes back to where it started though maybe in a different form or a different shape. However, a “pick”, a massive “pick” like we’ve seen in the past two years will always come down a bit again.

Q: What’s your travel schedule these days?

SvR: I’ve did a couple of gigs in Russia last week, and Siberia, and before that I was in Holland. After this, I’m going to Prague, then New York, Montreal, Scotland, and then another gig in Amsterdam.


Q: Are you on a specific tour?

SvR: No, it’s just gigs. I’m preparing a new compilation for 2013, a remix compilation for Armada, and then an artist album. [After that] is when I will actually start touring with a legit reason!

Q: You’ve released a number of tracks this year. What made you chose to release one track after another rather than wait a do a whole album?

SvR: Basically, what I released this year, besides that one track, was all I produced last year. I was working on an album but I didn’t feel like I was at the point where I felt comfortable producing releasable tracks. So what I did this year was to release a few tunes that were good enough in my mind and had my signature to get out there. I then postponed the album, worked hard in the studio preparing for next year and, all of a sudden, I had my spark back. For two years, I’ve had a bit of a writer’s block, so it all went really slow. I was feeling a bit insecure in the studio, which is all part of it. I did not want to just release an album just because I had to or because people expected it.


Q: Speaking of your creative process, how do you get started with a track? Do you hum the melody in your head?

SvR: Sometimes, when I’m in my hotel room, I hear a track, especially when the television or the music is loud. I hear a track with a certain melody, and I’ll start humming and recording it on my phone. When I get back home, I’ll just jam to it in the studio. One thing usually leads to another. Sometimes, I’m just creating beats or a bassline. I love filthy basslines and I can already hear the melody in the back of my head and take it from there. It’s a different process every time. The one thing I don’t do is save presets when I am DJing. If you do, you tend to do the same thing over and over again. I always start from scratch. It’s actually a headache because it takes time to get the sound up to a certain level, but it always works out. I think it’s better to put in more effort than just putting on the same track each night.

Q: It was a big deal when you moved from Spinnin’ Records to Armada Music. You have been vocal about staying true to trance and not going to a more mainstream sound.

SvR: I’ve had a really good run at Spinnin’ Records, but their main objective wasn’t something I felt comfortable with. They had less and less room for trance, which is their choice. I respect that. Over the years that I was with Spinnin’ Records, I had many chats with Armin and Armada’s management. They wanted to release my tracks, but I was exclusive to Spinnin’. The minute I had a chance to do something with Armada, I grabbed the opportunity.

I’ve played in slow BPM, which is the more trance and housy stuff. I’ve explored every boundary Spinnin’ gave me, but at the end of the day, I’m a trance artist. I want to produce what I think is trance. Armada gives me that space. They’re very open and they’re very patient. They just said “do your thing.” If we think it’s good, we’ll push it out. If we think it’s not there, we will tell you. That’s what I need because sometimes, you think you’ve created the next hit, but it could be shit.

Armada’s Artist and Repertoire managers are there to guide me. As a producer, you often think black and white. I’m happy with Armada, now that they gave me the guidance I needed at this point in my life. I’ve had a good run with Spinnin’. They’re amazing at what they do, but I don’t think that my sound fits their profile at the moment.


Q: How do you see trance evolving? For instance, what do you make of Above & Beyond changing the name of their radio show from “Trance Around The World” to “Group Therapy”?

SvR: Everybody has to do their own thing. I, for one, am a person who never judges anybody, whether they do it for the right reasons or not. If they want to change the name of their show, that’s their call. I’ve always loved “Above & Beyond”. I actually used to be their driver in Holland before they were huge. They’re good friends and they can do whatever they want to do. If you follow your passion, wherever that leads you is okay. But, if you do things for the wrong reasons, then you’re better off changing careers.

Q: EDM is exploding. No matter what type of EDM record companies are putting out, it seems to find an audience. At some point, don’t you need to stop putting labels on this type of music and acknowledge that the public likes EDM?

SvR: With all the subgenres, it’s human to label things and put people in a box. But it also creates hate. It is the same as religion and countries, borders and skin colors. We should just enjoy what people are doing. The technology is there for everybody. Anybody can see how much talent is out there. It used to cost at least $20,000 to get in a studio, but now anybody can buy a computer, download the software and make a track. There are so many talented kids. I was talking to Ferry Corsten last week in Russia and he told me a signed a 14-year-old kid to his label. The track the kid made is unbelievable. 14! And that’s a good thing.

 By Emmanuel Itier and AD Darmon

Sirk TV Exclusive Print Interview: MARKUS SCHULZ [The Avalon – Los Angeles]

Trance denotes a variety of processes, ecstasy, techniques, modalities, awareness and consciousness. This is the definition as one can read it on Wikipedia but also also what happens to one happy soul when attending a performance by DJ extraordinaire Markus Schulz. Indeed one feels enlightened and almost can levitate when dancing in front of the stage. We caught up with Markus as he was prepping for a long night of full vibration and transformation at the Avalon Nightclub in Los Angeles.

One of the hardest working DJs in the business, Markus is on a plane on most days during the summer with daily performance across the globe…and he is known for his extra-long sets. While most celebrity DJs perform for a couple of hours at their show, Markus loves to play all night long. The night following this interview, Markus started his gig at 12:30 AM and kept the crowd pleased until 7 AM, save for a short break where KhoMha (one of Markus’ talented DJs from his Cold Harbour label), took over the decks. If that wasn’t enough, Markus is also about to release his new artist album “Scream!” on August 31, 2012.

What transpires when meeting this world famous DJ is how he remains so humble and fresh, and yet so curious about everything. There is a contagious Joie de Vivre when hanging out with Markus. You are given a welcomed feeling as one has to dance during his set non stop! Prepare yourself, open your mind, open all your senses and be ready to jump!

Q: So how is your life right now with this busy summer?

Markus Schulz: We are in the middle of the summer festival season. I usually start in Europe and I spend most of the summer doing the big festivals over there. Last week was Nature One and there was also another big Festival in Helsinki: Global Gathering. I also do a residency at Privilege in Ibiza called “A State of Trance Invasion”. It’s a very busy period.

Q: How do you explain that lately there is such a craving for EDM festivals and performances?

MS: I think it’s because of this new generation with the younger crowd taking the scene with a new energy. It started here in the US but now it’s spreading all over Europe as well. You can see a generation shift . They love the music and the vibe, and are really into it.

STV: Tell us about your new album “Scream”.

MS: My new album is about to come out indeed. There will be 23 tracks. Usually I make 20 tracks and pick 13. But with this album we literally got into fights at the office. We couldn’t figure out which tracks to drop. The fight got really bad. We threw stuff at each other! But because iTunes is so big and physical copies are hard to sell I didn’t see what was stopping us from putting out all these tracks. So we put [them all out]. Half are vocals and half are instrumental. This album is really for everybody. You can find “your” perfect album with your 10 favorite songs from this album. If you like more vocals, they are there. There is cross over stuff as well with a good mix of commercial tracks.

STV: Tell us about your production and creative process?

MS: I make all these tracks with no pre-conceived idea about what the album will sound like. I’m just going with the feeling of the moment. If I feel darker, I will make something darker. Or if I’m at a big music festival, I will end up doing a big music festival track. I never feel the need to do this or that; I just create. And then at the end I figure out how it all fits together. An entire artist album like “Scream” took me two years to produce.

STV: Do you think the tools to create tracks are different now? Was any new software created for this new album?

MS: No. Mostly I use what’s available to everyone. But the most important thing for me is the vision and the vibe. I make tracks for my shows so I have certain ideas in mind about the visuals and the lights. I think, in terms of performance, the tracks are built with queues in it.

STV: What is the seasonal mood of the moment? Darker? Lighter?

MS: As an artist you grow. Some artists change. I believe in staying true to who you are and evolving. The last couples years, my music, for sure, got a little more aggressive. I got tired of the typical two minutes breakdowns. It felt uncomfortable to look at people on the dance floor staying still for 2 minutes before [the track] kicks back in. Then 3 minutes later there is another 2-minute long breakdown. I got tired of that. [Because of that], I started looking for [different] tracks, and editing and making my music with more momentum and drive. Right now I’m focused on my live shows, with certain themes and riffs, or a vocal with a message I’m trying to send to the audience. The focus is different.

STV: In term of growth, how do you see the genre evolving in terms of next steps?

MS: I think there are so many more exciting new things being added to live shows. Right now we’re putting [together] the album tour. It will incorporate lots of new technological ideas people are coming to me with. The shows are going to be more and more interactive and visually stunning. I just saw this Cirque du Soleil [performance] with Tupac on the screen so everything is changing with live performances incorporating new technologies.

STV: Do you think the business has changed lately?

MS: Well…what happens now [is that] lots of people are in it, and it’s very cutthroat and political. You have more enemies. I have been friends with so many DJs [over the years] but sometimes you hear bad things coming from management to management. I understand the scene is growing and I understand there are more opportunities. But yes, there is some back stabbing and hopefully it doesn’t happen too often. But it’s highly competitive right now indeed…

STV: You were born in Germany and moved to US with your parents as a teenager. What does your heart belong right now?

MS: I feel like a “Citizen of the World”! I’m comfortable wherever I’m at. This is in my blood: this business and the touring. When I was young I remember being so amazed [where I was]. But now I feel everywhere at home, whether it’s in the Middle East or Asia.

STV: LA has become quite the scene for EDM. Do you find time to hang out in the city?

MS: I love to hang out in LA. I always take notes when I visit new cities because I know I will be back so I can feel at home by exploring new restaurants and lounges. This is why I feel at home everywhere because I take the time to explore and appreciate every city.

STV: What do you do when you don’t create or listen to music?

MS: I love sports! I follow sports a lot. That’s my escape. And I love to chill. Also I Iove to listen to classic rock as well as ambient because I love to listen and dissect tracks to find out what instruments they are using.

STV: What keeps you going and inspires you?

MS: The dans keep me going and inspired! You can be tired and jet lagged but I know the minute I’m on the stage with the crowd with their faces full of energy, the adrenaline will kick in. I will take off and fly all night long!

 By Emmanuel Itier and AD Darmon

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