Saturday, March 20, 2010

INDEPENDENT SCENE BLOG 8: A Word From the Producer

The creator and producer of “Independent Scene” Rob Tosh recently appeared on “Liquid Lunch” on to speak about the series.

Here is a video link to the interview

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


We first interviewed Alfredo for Cycle 1 of Independent Scene (check out the interview on Alfredo Salvatore Arcilesi is an independent filmmaker from Toronto, Ontario. He has written, produced, composed, edited and directed four short films, and freelances as a composer and production assistant for music videos.

Having a big idea is great and exciting; not having a big wallet isn't. When I sat down to write my fourth short film "Reverie Three," I knew that my budget would be pocket change. Having a preproduction plan conscientious of what you are able to acquire is a must, and will hopefully set you upon a smooth production and postproduction journey. The following preproduction plan contains tips based on personal experiences as well as brief insights into "Reverie Three."

1. Script:

Story is everything! If you have a solid story, a subject that you feel strongly about, then your passion to tell your story will come across to the viewer despite your budget; and that's what you want to do: connect with your audience.

2. Location: Weston Service (auto body shop):

The auto body shop is owned by my uncle, Eugene Arcilesi, and has been the setting for three of my four films. As much as I would love to "move out" of the body shop and shoot at other locations, the reality is that finding and securing locations is sometimes a long and difficult process, and if you want to make at least one film in the year, than it's best to use whatever you can get. Simply ask people if you can use their home or business, whether they are your family or friends. Sometimes a crew or cast member will offer their home or business. Just be honest with your intentions. Don't say that you plan on shooting for one day in the living room, when you really need to shoot for three days in bedroom and backyard. Personally, repeatedly setting my stories in the body shop has taught me to be creative. You will be surprised how many stories you can come up with by having them center around one location.

3. Gear/Equipment:

Originally, I anticipated shooting on my miniDVCam, the same camera I had used on my first three shorts. However, this time around, I had the support of Robert Toshoff who afforded me his HD gear, thus, turning up my production value by a marginal notch. To be honest, being so conditioned to shooting with lower-end gear and finicky department store tripods, I didn't know what I would do with the equipment I was provided. This brings me to an important point: if you are able to obtain higher-end gear, that's great, but don't feel obligated to make your production more complicated. Your gear should improve your production and help with your storytelling, not overwhelm your production and dictate your storytelling. I have spoken to many filmmakers who are more focused on their gear, rather than their story. They feel that if they don't have a dolly shot or a crane shot, their film will never be good enough. Don't worry about that! Look at all of the multi-million dollar failures that have come out of Hollywood and such. Dolly or no dolly, tell your story the way you see fit, and if that happens to include dollies and cranes, more power to you. Admittedly, with Robert's addition of a shoulder mount support, I was able to execute the long, single-take shots I had always wanted to attempt, but these were dictated by the needs of the story. Of course, if you have your own gear, than you're already saving yourself some dough. If you're not fortunate enough to own your own gear, or if you do, but you feel you want to step up your production value, there are many vendors and shops that you can visit. Be advised, though, that should you choose to rent gear, you may need to build your production schedule around gear availability.

4. Crew:

Finding people to commit to a low/no-budget production is not easy. People who are not being paid, or paid enough, may not feel obligated to the production, especially if a (higher) paying gig comes up. I shot my first two shorts entirely on my own until my third production. Now, I come from a do-it-yourself background, writing, producing, composing, editing and directing my shorts - among other tasks. It's a great learning experience, however, as your productions grow, you will need more help. Since "Reverie Three" was a more ambitious production, I enlisted the help of a few people who I befriended and supported my earlier works, including my own cousin, a photographer by hobby, who shot behind the scenes video and photos. If you have relatives in film or related fields, you just might have the help you're looking for. Again, on the subject of money, if you cannot afford to pay them, feed them! The motto is: a fed crew is a happy crew.

5. Cast:

There are many websites dedicated to the search for actors. I am a frequent user of Since my first short, I have created a talent pool, a team of actors who I trust to bring to my characters to life. For "Reverie Three," I chose to work with previous, multiple collaborators Kevin Carroll, Robert Nolan and Kimberley Curran, with two new additions, Greg Chociej and Silvana D'Abate. When writing, I keep specific actors in mind, while other times I keep my mind open to new talent. Like crew, if your cast is not receiving any compensation, it's best to accommodate them with food and/or gas money, and whatever other costs that may arise, such as wardrobe. Though it may be difficult to acquire good talent, persevere! Do not sacrifice a good script for the sake of not being able to find talent. I wouldn't have hired the above-mentioned talent if I didn't feel they were right for their respective roles, and considering all the time and effort you're putting into the rest of the production, it's just not worth throwing it all away.

6. Schedule:

Schedules can be tricky. One weekend might be good for you, but not for an actor. Another weekend might be good for the entire cast and crew, but not for the equipment vendor. And, of course, the weather just might decide to change everything completely. It's best to confirm dates as far in advance as possible, that way your cast and crew can make arrangements. Weekends are ideal shooting days as business locations may be available and cast and crew who hold regular jobs might be free. On "Reverie Three," we had one confirmed shoot date, that being the second shoot date. The first shoot date was confirmed only a couple of days prior to shooting because of a location that suddenly became available. In the end, the film was shot for a total of twelve hours spread over two days.

That is it for now. Of course, there are many other facets to take into consideration when planning a production, but the aforementioned categories are those that are most vital. There is so much that can be said, but only so much time and space to say it all. Remember that "film is the constant search for the perfect moment," and in order to find it you must keep making films!

Currently Alfredo is promoting Reverie Three which can be seen at


Jeff Beadle and Matt Rocca of These Three Cities first appeared on Cycle 1 of Independent Scene (check out their interview on We were totally impressed by how cool, intelligent and talented they were. Now they are taking their act on the road for a West-Coast tour and Jeff Beadle sat down for a phone interview to talk about what indie musicians should know about booking a tour.

How have things been since your interview?
Things have been progressing pretty well I would say; we’re recording a new EP- I think there’s going to be 7 songs on it. We’ve also been working on booking our West coast tour and we’ve played a ton around Ontario so we’re doing pretty well.

How does an independent band go about booking a tour?
I’m going to start off by saying we do it all ourselves, we don’t have a booking agent or anything like that. The first thing I did was pick a date when everybody was safe to leave, which was June 25 for us. Then I started on that basis and I started [booking] about 3 months prior to when the tour would start. I find people usually are booking [for] 2 months after the date that you would contact them. So, we picked a date; then with that I planned it all out on a map and a calendar on dates that would make sense for us. Then I would look up venues in the city by using Google or checking out other bands that are at the same point in their career as we are and see where they’ve been touring and see where they’ve been stopping. This way you’re not wasting your time trying to book a venue that’s too big for you that you can’t fill and that’s kind of how we started it off.

How do you get ready to go on tour?
Around here we played a lot of gigs ‘cause obviously we don’t like to take money out of our own pockets too often, so we made a bunch of money - we actually sold our old van and purchased a newer van from the gigs that we’ve been playing and we’re actually going to purchase a trailer as well before we go out. As for preparation, we’re still kind of in the preparation phases. We have places to stay and we’ve tried to negotiate with some of the places that we’re playing out West to give us accommodations as well, but if not bringing tents and stuff like that as well [laughs] the weather’s going to be pretty nice. There’s so much to it, you know? But I think we’re a fly by the seat of your pants kind of band, so we’ll see how it goes.

Any tips for bands going on the road?
Make sure you have a van that’s going to take you across the country because it’s a lot of driving! Make sure that you have more than one driver; all of the guys in our band have their licenses. So if we have any big 15-hour drives or anything like that you can make it to the next gig, you don’t have to stop driving. [For example] in between Banff and Victoria we only have a day to get there and it’s 25 hours so it’s about 5 hours of driving for three guys or however you want to split it up.

These Three Cities embark on their West Coast tour starting June 25th in Winnipeg at The Academy with Enjoy Your Pumas. Check out their MySpace page at for more tour dates and music.

INDEPENDENT SCENE BLOG 5: The Times They Are A-Changin’

Steven Cerritos appeared on Cycle 1 of IS promoting his film In Darkness (check out the video on Steven is an independent filmmaker living in Toronto, Canada--though originally from California. Like many independent filmmakers, he writes, directs and edits most of his projects. We asked Steven to write a post for us and this is what he had to say:

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Internet has and will continue to change the film industry. Take a look at the music industry, crippled by online piracy. The smart musician has already adapted by establishing an intimate relationship between fan and musician. There is now a premium on maintaining a niche fan base, as opposed to going total mainstream. It’s now the film industry’s turn to adapt. Just look at the newest X-Men debacle. Time will tell if the leak will hurt the film’s box office revenue. In my opinion, if the filmmakers respected the source and actually made a good film, the fan base will pay to see the movie, and good word of mouth will always recover the film’s budget. Taken anybody?

So how does this apply to the independent? Well, eventually we’re all going to be watching our favorite shows or movies over the Internet. It’s going to happen. What’s good about this is that it’ll even the playing field, within an independent versus studio context. The independent and the studio will both have access to the same audience. With HD equipment and editing software becoming affordable, the technical difference between the independent and the studios will become less significant. Suddenly both independent and corporate are vying for the same audience. It’ll pretty much
come down to talent, the creator’s artistic goals, and content. Pretty even to me.

But how does one monetize on online content? Especially when it’s free?! It’s still being figured out but ad placement seems to be in the forefront. Think about it. Corporations spend millions to get their brands in front of big audiences. The Internet is no difference. It might be you getting that big ad placement contract, as opposed to Fox.

However, let’s forget about capitalist culture and look at how this benefits the artistic independent community. Just like the music industry, I believe filmmakers and creators will have to look to establish and maintain niche fan bases. Being active in the artistic community will be essential. Getting out there and meeting your viewers face-to-face will be pivotal. Suddenly it’s become a people’s medium, it’s become organic; it’s become all about the art. A community relying less on technology? O' the irony!

Steven is currently developing and promoting his newest project, The Mister Serial Killer Web Series. The first webisode can be seen at


Independent Scene first featured Jasveen in Cycle 1 (check out his video on All we can say is that he is astounding. His eerily accurate readings of the crew and our host Irene had us all talking for days. Check out what he has to say below:

This past week I have had the pleasure of working with an event management firm that I recently signed with and that had booked me for a variety of events. It all began with an encounter I had with their talent manager at a coffee shop where I was able to convince her of how my mind reading abilities could be a wonderful source of entertainment. An entertainment agency is definitely a big boost to any struggling artist when it comes to landing gigs. It throws at you a variety of events that challenges and forces you to adapt to new circumstances constantly. You really never know what you are going to get.

I believe it is important that the artist be the enigma. The artist can be from any line of work. Whether it be painter, writer, juggler or a mindreader. But when the artist creates a sense of mystery and wonder about what he does, then it creates intrigue in the mind of his target audience and they are fascinated. Think about it! Why is the Mona Lisa one of most famous paintings today? Is it so much the painting or the painter?

When I have an idea seep into my mind, I dwell on it. If you dwell hard enough on it, the idea will eventually manifest into reality. Many months back when I had the idea of predicting the EURO 2008 finals on radio, I never knew how I was going to go about doing it, but I knew I wanted to do it. Eventually, I found myself connecting with an established Canadian mentalist and soon enough found myself landing a media spot which only led to more opportunities. Staying in the limelight is very important, and as for me, I just want to continue to mystify.


Jasveen Puri

To learn more about Jasveen or to book him for an appearance check out his website,

INDEPENDENT SCENE BLOG 3: Seven Pieces of Showy Wisdom for the New Band or Solo Musician

We first interviewed Chris White for Cycle 1 of Independent Scene (check out the interview on Chris is the creator of the Brantford-based solo acoustic act Fire Star, as well as the guitarist and backup vocalist for the Toronto quintet, Benhur. An amazing talent, he wowed us all with his roof-top performance for Independent Scene. Below, check out what he has to say to indie acts about booking shows.

Shows: they’re the mainstay of any musician worth their salt, and the backbone of a band’s ability to gain exposure and make money to further their endeavors.

How the hell do I get a show?!? (you, the newly minted musician say)
Good question! So, you’ve got a band, or you’re a solo artist just starting out?

Yeah! Should I go to an open mic night?
No! Don’t go to open mic nights. Open mics are for people who can’t put an actual show together, or find a show on their own. It's one thing to go to an open mic to see what’s you’re capable of, hone songwriting skills, or get over stage fright, but once you know you've got what it takes it’s time to go find yourself a real show.

Alright! Who the hell do I call?
Anybody! Look close to home first at local clubs, bars, and cafes that have live music; most will want to support local artists. Once you’ve tried everything in the immediate area, branch out to other cities and towns. As a general rule it’s best to stay within an hour’s drive. That gives you a big net to cast for little travel cost. Selecting the right venue may seem like common sense, but it’s important to keep in mind where your audience is. Make sure you find out what a venue is looking for. Do they want 4 hours of cover tunes or 30 minutes of originals?

I want to play my own songs! I don’t want to play covers!
Don’t be averse to playing covers. We all have great art that we want to promote, but you have to accept that, at least in the beginning, the average person may not take an interest. A good way to get people interested is by playing familiar songs. There’s nothing wrong with it; other people's music is what got you into music in the first place. Besides, playing covers at bars, cafes, weddings and other events is a great way to make money and promote your music. I've sold many a CD at gigs where I was playing purely covers.

These bookers never return my calls and emails!
Be persistent, and by persistent I mean be prepared to harass the shit out of people. Some people (for reasons unbeknownst to me), when asked about performing at their venue, will simply not respond. This is BS and you should not stand for it. I've sent one poor person emails that were actually titled "harassing email # 1 through 7 before they relented and sent one back, I'm now on number 4 again. Another gig I booked just recently required over 15 emails and phone calls just to get the booker to give me an answer (that was fortunately positive), and I still not sure they ever even listened to the tracks. However, you should be prepared to take no for answer: some places have plenty of bands, for some you aren't the right style. Just don’t take no answer at all for an answer. Above all, you should always be professional. Being courteous and patient will sometimes be the edge that gets you a gig with less hassle.

I want to get paid, dammit!
Do ask about compensation (and yes, compensation is the right word to use). You're playing music, you're good at it, and what you do has value, any venue or person who thinks you should play for free (or worse, "pay to play") can do the biologically inappropriate thing of your choice. Keep in mind some places have different budgets and different clienteles. Some places have a built in draw, other don’t. Again, be prepared to be accommodating. Typical compensation schemes are the rare and coveted flat rate (eg. $200 for 4 hours playing), the more common and fair till percentage (eg. you get 15% of the bar sales during the time you’re playing), and the door cover charge (eg. charge what you want at the door, you keep it).

They want me to draw a crowd out, where do they get off!?!
Some places will only let you play if you have a mystical thing called a following. If you have one, or have a group of dedicated friends and want to use it as leverage to get a show, that’s fine, but don’t lean on your friends for every show. They'll support you, yes, but traveling long distances or paying $10 every weekend to see someone they've known their whole life do something they've done their whole life will wear thin, real fast. After multiple shows, even true fans will get a little tired. Play shows sparingly if you must, no more than once a month in the same city with the same crowd.

I just saw this great opportunity on Craig’s List …
Be very careful with what you find on the internet. Online searches and postings are valuable tools, but it sometimes takes a keen eye to spot a genuinely good opportunity. Don’t ever take a gig where the promoter requires you to sell tickets, PERIOD. There is a word for those kind of shows: they are called scams. Gigs that only rewards you a dollar or two (or whatever) based on your draw aren’t much better, but aren’t the end of the world. Just keep an eye on the ratio of compensation. Charity shows are not a bad bet either, but be sure they’re legit. More than a few people have made off with money by calling their show a charity (which is, of course, illegal).

As always, make sure you capitalize on every show opportunity you get by having things handy like a mailing list, merchandise, CDs or samples, and business cards. If you’re just starting out, don’t worry, it seems like it’s tough to do, but with a few tries you’ll soon get the hang of booking yourself shows and getting paid to do what you love.

If you want to check out Chris White live (and we highly recommend you do) check out his MySpace at for upcoming show dates.


We first interviewed Michael Close for Cycle 1 of Independent Scene (check it out on He impressed all of us with the simple and elegant way he spoke about his art. Independent Scene spoke to Michael again in April about making visual arts a career and this is what he had to say:

On his beginnings I think was interested in art since I was a kid because it gave me a sense of freedom and worth…it gave me a way of feeling better about myself and opened up a world of possibilities I don’t think I would have had if I have gone the route my other friends did in the Regent Park area. It took a little bit of encouraging later on in high school where I had a very sympathetic art teacher who encouraged me to continue in art and that’s all I needed. I decided to try out for OCAD and my first [solo] show was at OCAD at Gallery 76.

On getting his art seen
One tries to arrange an exhibition somewhere and there’s many ways of doing it…for example if you want to have a show [that is] fairly easy to arrange, try a public library, they often have space there. You do that show, then you go somewhere else and you present at the gallery with the list of shows that you had and other things they might also find interesting.

On travel
I think young people should do it because they are at that age. All these experiences help to make the artist and to make the artist interesting to other people. Take a little bit of money - I would even say don’t even bother showing in Toronto because the galleries charge you. So take that money and travel. Take a portfolio with you - you never know! You may end up getting a show somewhere that you wouldn’t have expected. That’s what happened to me.

On maintaining artistic momentumThere are a few things I think are important. It’s good to have a project because if you have a project…it keeps you focused and working. You’re trying to communicate with people; it keeps you going. I think one of the most important things is you have to try to get a project. I have seen other people do one painting here and one painting there with no goal other than just to do the occasional painting. I don’t work like that. I need to have a project.

Words of wisdom
There’s a Latin phrase that translates to ART IS THE TOTAL MAN (nowadays we would say PERSON) so I think that it’s important to stay open to always try to learn…I think it’s important to develop a self-discipline and to stay focused and try not to get discouraged.

Next up for Michael are plans to travel and show his works in the United States as well as across Europe on his way to the Mother Teresa Memorial House in Skopje, Macedonia which opened earlier this year and contains his series based on her life. You can find more of Michael’s art and info on his exhibits on his Facebook fan page and at