The ‘real’ Vancouver is an elusive thing, a thing easily lost on outsiders. Between our city’s economic issues and the over-hyped Vancouver of reality television, our native city can blur into a strange cocktail of snowboarding and Botox, Yaletown and the DTES. In his new web series, The Real People of Vancouver, Joseph Klymkiw provides a glimpse into the Vancouver of everyday life, into the fascinating quirks of the artists and enigmas that populate our streets. “In general, I tend to really focus on the positive,” says the filmmaker. “Anything that shows Vancouver in a positive light is a good thing, and that was my goal.”
The series’ first episode (watch below) profiles iconic local street artist Ken Foster, following him around our rainy streets as he creates and sells his paintings in rapid succession – sometimes taking only 20 minutes to create a finished piece. Klymkiw, who originally asked Foster to participate as a way to square his debt on a piece he’d paid for, and been waiting on for weeks, says that he was surprised by the artist’s humour and charm. The subject of the series’ second episode should be instantly familiar to many – Mad Dog, the guy who rides around Main on his bicycle with the military hat-wearing pug in his sidecar. Klymkiw, who used to live next door to the punk rocker, says that he had wanted to film with him for a while.
Both of the episodes give a remarkably honest sense of the true, unrecognized Vancouver – whether it’s the bike ride down Main from Broadway to Terminal, or the graffiti goldmine of two-dollar paint pens at Tinseltown Mall. While watching the shorts, I found them intensely familiar – for the first time, I had the sense that I was seeing a Vancouver I actually recognized on the screen. Both videos have already begun to be shared on social media, as Klymkiw, after contemplating launching the series on a pay model, decided to just release it on YouTube, with an option to donate. “The donating has been slow,” Klymkiw says, “but I haven’t really pushed it, or cared,”
Klymkiw arrived in Vancouver 10 years ago from Winnipeg. Since then, he’s completed a documentary on Canadian hip hop, and works as Vancouver cameraman for the legendary music interviewer Nardwuar the Human Serviette. “I grew up watching Nardwuar, so it’s a dream come true. He’s taught me a lot and helped me a lot as well,” Klymkiw says. “He’s a Canadian icon. I spread the gospel of Nardwuar,”
The show will also feature the music of a different local artist every episode. The first is Ladyfrnd, who was ranked number seven out of BeatRoute’s top local releases for 2013. Klymkiw befriended the frontman, Peter Ricq of Humans and Gangsigns, after he “produced, and was a zombie in” a video for Gangsigns last year. The second episode features White Lung, who have already been reviewed in Rolling Stone.
Moving forward, Klymkiw says that the next upcoming guest must be kept secret, because “it’s kinda big.” With his company, Joi Productions, he is in the process of pitching a scripted comedy, set in Vancouver, about a young writer who can’t find work.
“I’m trying to show that Vancouver’s not all fake…just kind of show Vancouver in the people’s light, too,” he tells me. “There’s actually some really cool artists that are different from anywhere else in the world. That’s why I wanted to, for example, have Mad Dog talk about what it was like in Vancouver in the seventies, to raise awareness and show Vancouver how I see it,” he continues. “I want to give back, you know,”
Watch The Real People of Vancouver on YouTube.
By Genevieve Michaels