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Project Proposal – Documentary              

Working Title: the Artists Country Band
Producer/Director: James Newman
Camera: Zachary Fay
Sound:
Editor: James Newman &
Research: Tom Graham, James Newman
Participants: Tom Graham, Larry Towell, Murray Leadbeater, James Newman, Gary Hall, et al.

     
         
Treatment: 

        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 of 5.
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?

Query: 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.

Concepts:
• 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?”

Production:

Interview and 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 friends/colleagues.
• 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.