Last year, Sled Island became Flood Island. The festivities were shut down, which caused all of us to add a few more tears to the already flooded streets of Calgary. At this year’s Calgary Underground Film Festival, Sled Island unveiled their festival teaser short, building on last year’s watershed events. As Gaetan Lamarre, the filmmaker behind the video, tells it, Sled Island has announced to the world that, this time around, nobody will rain on our parade.
BeatRoute: Were you approached by Sled Island or did you enter some sort of contest?
Gaetan Lamarre: The whole project came out of left field for us. ACAD tweeted that Sled Island was having an open call for proposals. I was at the festival last year and we got evacuated, so when the proposal came up, I jumped on it right away and [brainstormed] like I’ve never brainstormed before.
BR: What do you think made your video stand out from other people’s videos? What made it true to Sled Island’s vibe and spirit?
GL: I think our idea stood out because of the way we presented it. We had this crazy, way out of the box idea that fits with the festival. It is an eccentric island of culture bursting from itself that does its own thing without worrying about what anybody else thinks. And I wrote a cover letter to Sled as if the festival was an on-again/off-again girlfriend, instead of a regular cover letter. We took a chance, but the whole concept was far enough out there that the fit with the festival was perfect.
BR: Why the synchro swimmers? Does it tie in with last year’s flood?
GL: In the brainstorming road trip [we took], my original idea was to have a series of shots of downtown Calgary with band name graphics flying over and around the buildings. This year, the city was going to get flooded by music instead of water. We were bouncing ideas back and forth about the flood and how to incorporate it in the trailer when we hit a wall. All was quiet in the car because the ideas weren’t flowing and we really weren’t going anywhere. And then my friend had this amazing idea: synchro swimming. We thought it was just weird enough that it might just work. Our big three pieces to the metaphor are that both the festival and the swimmers work their asses off to show their island to the rest of the world, they want people to discover something new, both the sport and the festival and the sport are relatively unknown and that both have very colourful, eccentric and cultural ways of expressing themselves.
BR: How, when and where was it shot and how did you get people in the video involved?
GL: A friend of mine, Caroline, was a national-level synchro swimmer and we got in touch with her as soon as we had our concept, even before submitting to the festival, to see if she could help us out. She put us in touch with her former coach, who is now coaching an elite-level junior team, Excel Synchro (the one we ended up shooting with) and the U of A synchronized swim team. It was shot at the U of A over two days, during the teams’ training sessions (we owe them big). Before the shoot, we spent two training sessions watching the girls practice with the Wet Secrets blasting in our ears. It was a really cool creative process to see the swimming happening right in front of us while listening to the music and seeing how well the two naturally fit together. We got to hand-pick our moves from what the girls could already do. Between Teresa, the coach, the team and us, we had a custom choreography down. That process was one of the coolest ways I’ve ever been a part of developing ideas for a project. We were shooting those practice sessions and storyboarding on the spot as well.
BR: When you’re not Sled Island’s promo video guy, what other film projects do you do?
GL: For the time being, I’m working full-time as a cameraman in TV, but I’m working on three potential projects that I’ll be planning over the summer to shoot in [the] fall and a bit later on. Right now, my plan is to leave the full-time gig to shoot those three projects. There is a documentary on the Garifuna music scene in Livingston, Guatemala (where I am writing this from), a promo for a ski-touring company in Chile and another promo for a mountain touring company in Morocco. My dream is to travel and work as much as I need to fund my trips.
By Claire Miglionico