Image Source: https://www.thestar.com/
Charlie Hill and fellow Ryerson film student Max Mezo have pulled off something rather intimate and magical in the age of COVID-19. They persuaded 27 Toronto households — involving more than 60 people and two family dogs — to take part in a new music video simply by standing in the windows of their homes and then doing a little dance.
“We caught people in their natural habitat and I’m really pleased by the range of emotions. A lot of it was basically rolling and letting people do what they want,” Hill said.
Hill and Mezo first approached one of their favourite local indie bands, The Neighbourhood Watch, via Instagram and offered to do a music video for free as the band prepared to release its third album, “Lost in Bloom,” which debuted Feb. 4.
Lead singer Tristan Surman, who runs his own creative agency, said it was the first time in his career he decided to “outsource” something he would usually do himself.
“He (Hill) pitched me something brilliant and I loved it and we made it,” Surman said.
Drawing his inspiration from Japanese photographer and installation artist Shizuka Yokomizo’s photo project, Dear Stranger, Hill got 500 flyers and distributed them throughout the Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhood, telling people the concept and assuring them the filming would involve safe physical distancing. Initial results were disappointing: only one response.
So Hill went to a local Facebook group for the neighbourhood as well as a second Facebook group in the Scarborough Bluffs community and got plenty of interest.
“I think if we’d done it where I grew up in the U.K., we wouldn’t have gotten the same response. In normal times, people wouldn’t even think about responding. But there’s definitely an increase in awareness in helping out other people and the community,” Hill said.
“Also, of course people are stuck around the home and are kind of bored.”
Hill and Mezo set up a schedule allotting about 15 minutes per home, set up a tripod outside and communicated by speaker phone.
“We asked them to come to the window and stand there and then we asked them to dance any style they choose,” Hill said.
Andrew Weeks, who lives in the Scarborough Bluffs area, said he’s glad his family — including two reluctant teenagers and the dog — took part.
“It was something to do to break the quarantine up a little bit. They (Hill and Mezo) had posted online about it and my wife were kind of thinking this would be something fun to do, an experience and also to help out the guys because they’re going through school and trying to make these videos. Our kids are teenagers so it was something to get them out of their shells as well. It was just something fun to do,” he said.
Fenton Isaacs, a Yonge-Eglinton resident, said he works in the film industry and wanted to help the young filmmakers, despite dealing with his own anxiety issues during the pandemic.
“It was a strange experience having people out on the sidewalk with a video camera pointed at you in your living room,” Isaacs said.
“They didn’t tell me that I would be dancing on film, which was kind of like my nightmare. I don’t know how to dance, I never dance in front of people. But it was fun to do. Like most things I’m kind of scared to do, it ended up being OK,” he added.
The Neighbourhood Watch is made up of friends from high school who started making music in 2017 and Surman said he’s “super super excited with the video of the band’s song, ‘20 Year Dream,’ which he said is about “being happy for people who you used to love.”
“The thing about this video that’s so great is it really is about how love persists. When you’re 19, 20 or 21 years old, you can get lost in ambition and think that everything is about success and ambition. But it’s really about … that basic kindness and love makes life worth living. It’s community, man,” Surman said.