Title: the Artists Country Band
Producer/Director: James Newman
Camera: Zachary Fay
Editor: James Newman &
Research: Tom Graham, James Newman
Tom Graham, Larry Towell, Murray Leadbeater, James Newman, Gary Hall,
This film focuses on the lives of five friends who were students in fine
arts at York University in the early 1970’s. Their time was divided
between art-school activities and their common love for playing music.
Often the day would end with the sound of guitars and piano as well as
numerous improvised percussion instruments echoing through the fine arts
building. The music surprisingly was not punk, grunge or heavy metal but
rather traditional country music tunes promoted enthusiastically by Larry
Towell, country boy, installation artist who has now become a much acclaimed
photojournalist and author of several photo collections. On graduation
the group dispersed to pursue various careers not always art related:
Tom Graham runs a general store for a few years before opening a communication/marketing
business; Murray Leadbeater designs and builds upscale houses for well-heeled
clients; Gary Hall takes on the position of director of the Toronto Photographers
Workshop (TPW gallery) and James Newman works in painting and video while
working in real estate to pay the bills.
Over a 30 year period the «Artists Country Band» reunites
every five years in the month of August for a weekend of playing music,
and catching up. Between these reunions the contact between these friends
is limited. The weekend culminates in the taking of the «official
photograph» which is a recreation of a shot taken in 1975. As there
is a photo taken every five years, this creates a sort of stop-action
movie of the chronology. The most recent reunion (30 year) is markedly
different in tone from the previous ones: the idea to record the music
for the production of a CD leads to a distracting emphasis on technological
problems and accentuates character traits of various members; there are
fewer children as they are mostly grown and have left home; and numerous
comments and jokes refer to aging and memory (what I refer to as the geezer
element). Someone suggests that the next reunion be held in 3 years instead
As we assemble on the lawn to take «the photograph», I wonder
about the 3 year plan, the new sense of urgency and the implied question:
what will happen when there’s a hole in the picture?
What are the private or individual reasons for the periodic reunion of
a group of friends (could be clubs, high schools etc): a voyage into nostalgia
(i.e. trying to recapture a pleasurable period of our lives); a reaffirmation
of our place in the life time-line (some sort of mirror); the renewal
of friendships and a search for new insights into old relationships?
The topic, ostensibly talking about the development and divergence of
a group of friends with a common launching pad of university fine arts
(and why would anyone choose this?) actually addresses the phenomenon
of a huge segment of western population reaching a period in their lives
where they undergo a transition, sometimes unproblematic, sometimes radical,
and where ultimately they will address the eventuality of their own demise.
• The term baby boomer is commonly used to refer to the generation
which demographic popularizers have identified with birth years from the
span 1946 to 1964 although arguments exist which confine this to a ten
year range 1946 to 1955.
• The phenomenon of the mid-life transition is well established
as the need to “reappraise previous life structures with an eye
to making revisions 'while there is still time'" Canadian psychologist
Elliot Jaques, who wrote an article titled "Death and the Mid-life
Crisis" referring to a time when adults realize their own mortality
and how much time they may have left in their lives.
• Finally, there is baseball great Sachel Page’s famous question,
“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?”
voice-over probably needs humorous elements
• Historical aspect is revealed through the players’ interviews
intercut with archival material using pan and zoom technique as well as
interviews with friends/teachers, etc
• Current activity is shown through walk-abouts and observed action
shots and references to published material as well as interviews with
• Future is projected through interview comments and images with
voice over as well as shots of kids and projects.
1. Huyck, Margaret H. (1993). Middle Age. Academic
American Encyclopedia, 13, 390-391.