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HomeEntertainmentMuchMusic Documentary: How a Renegade Canadian Channel Took on MTV

MuchMusic Documentary: How a Renegade Canadian Channel Took on MTV

When Canadian specialty station MuchMusic launched in August 1984, founders John Martin and Moses Znaimer had about two hours of deliberate content material to fill six hours of airtime. Their technique? Pack the place with notable faces (Eugene Levy, Martin Brief), create a celebration ambiance within the management room “stage,” and let inaugural VJs Christopher Ward and J.D. Roberts determine the remaining as they went alongside.

Thus, the long-lasting “Nation’s Music Station” was born.

It was a scrappy, wild ambiance by which inexperienced however music-loving youngsters stepped in entrance of the cameras with free reign to experiment and play the movies they liked. There have been no guidelines and even much less construction, but it surely labored. On the top of its recognition, MuchMusic was the worldwide vacation spot for artists of all genres. And it was led by a various and history-making group of hosts who related these artists with followers in a brand new method—by way of the legendary studios at 299 Queen St. West in Toronto.

Many years later, filmmaker Sean Menard (“The Carter Impact”) brings that story to North American audiences with the SXSW debut of “299 Queen Avenue West.” The movie clocks in at slightly below two hours and options an incredible archive of footage that brings you proper again to the station’s glory days, instructed from the angle of those that have been there on the time.

“I wished to recreate a voice,” Menard explains. “I wished to recreate the expertise each for viewers who grew up with it and for many who don’t have any clue what MuchMusic was. I wished them to be immersed in that channel and one of the best ways to do this is to dwell within the area and the world of the archives and never reduce backwards and forwards to on-camera interviews.”

A few of these voices embody seminal VJs like Erica Ehm (who additionally serves because the movie’s consulting producer), Sook-Yin Lee, Michael Williams, Namugenyi Kiwanuka, Denise Donlon, Steve Anthony, George Stroumboulopoulos and Rick Campanelli, who believes within the doc a lot he flew out on his personal dime to affix Menard on the SXSW launch.

All through the movie, topics return to MuchMusic’s launch, then hint it because it grew and expanded right into a profitable station to rival (and arguably surpass) MTV in Canada.

“They got full freedom creatively, however they’d no cash to actually do something,” Menard says. “There was loads of magnificence in that and with the ability to make these choices with out having to get all these approvals.”

That frenzied enthusiasm reveals within the movie, as VJs recall heading on-air with zero expertise and giving followers unprecedented entry to world-famous artists on the road degree. A few of the most transferring moments of the movie come when VJs current fan artwork to artists or take questions from the group surrounding the constructing in the course of the “Intimate and Interactive” periods.

The archives masking such moments are spectacular, and embody an array of expertise starting from Kurt Cobain and David Bowie to Tupac, Justin Bieber and Britney Spears. Getting a maintain of that footage, nevertheless, was additionally Menard’s greatest impediment.

The filmmaker spent the previous six years attempting to get financing in place for “299 Queen Avenue West” with little response. Ultimately he put up his residence to be able to safe the money, and reduce a trailer from the surge of YouTube footage customers uploaded from outdated VHS tapes in the course of the pandemic.

That footage was sufficient to persuade Bell Media, the present channel proprietor, to open up the vault and strike a deal to convey the movie to Canadian streaming service Crave later this yr. (Bell Media’s VP, content material growth & programming, Justin Stockman, now serves because the movie’s sole government producer.)

“About 95% of this movie wasn’t digitized,” Menard says of the practically 400 clips, which have been culled from 10,000 earmarked ones throughout analysis. “That’s now altering as a result of they’re placing extra assets into digitizing all that footage from the beta tapes.”

Throughout that course of, Menard went by way of extra of a historical past lesson than he thought he would. By means of his interviews he discovered how “Electrical Circuit” host Monika Deol was the primary Indian lady to ever host a nationwide tv present in North America, for instance. Or that the legendary and ground-breaking sequence “Rap Metropolis” was the brainchild of Grasp T.

“Why can we not know this superb a part of our historical past and all of the magic that occurred at 299 Queen St. W? It must be identified and I hope I can play a component in it,” Menard says.

Heading into SXSW, Menard is representing himself in hopes of securing extra broadcast or streaming companions. Early suggestions from programmers has been that, although this can be a uniquely Canadian story, it’s additionally a necessary movie for any and all music lovers who bear in mind the times of MTV.

In the meantime, Menard additionally has his eye on one other movie pageant later this yr—one which’s a bit nearer to residence.

“This movie happened blocks away from TIFF headquarters,” Menard says, including {that a} splashy premiere there would remind these VJs that they and the instrumental interval of TV historical past they created aren’t forgotten.

“Throughout check screenings, youthful individuals have been blown away that you can simply stroll up and see these huge stars enjoying there without spending a dime,” he continues. “This existed. Some individuals don’t know. That’s the good half: to protect that and attempt to make one thing that’s consumed and liked by the individuals who skilled that point in Canadian historical past.”

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