Bruce McDonald and Kevin Drew Talk THIS MOVIE IS BROKEN

Founder and Editor; Toronto, Canada (@AnarchistTodd)
Bruce McDonald and Kevin Drew Talk THIS MOVIE IS BROKEN
With the Canadian theatrical release of Bruce McDonald's This Movie Is Broken - a hybrid concert film / indie drama built around a live performance by Broken Social Scene - I had the chance to sit down last week with McDonald and BSS co-founder Kevin Drew to talk about the film. It was conducted round table style with a writer from Torontoist joining me in my questioning, but I present the full interview (pretty much) here:

ScreenAnarchy: Let's start at the beginning. What were the origins of This Movie Is Broken? How did you guys hook up and what was the thinking behind doing it this way? Because it's not really a conventional concert film or a conventional narrative but a hybrid of the two.

Bruce: Well, we met at Soundscapes record store a number of years ago and, you know, went for coffee ...

Kevin: He had finished Picture Claire and I was trying to get the soundtrack for it.

Bruce: We ended up collaborating on a number of things. I've always wanted to do a music movie or a concert movie, a movie that's more about listening to it than watching it, and when I found out that they were going to do this outside concert I thought, "Okay, that's the show we're going to do."

And that started it. Everybody came together and talked about it. Brendan wasn't crazy about straight concert movies, thinks they can be a little dull. "Okay, then we'll add a little story to it." A little story that weaves in. And Don McKellar came to be involved, he was a big fan of the band, and the idea was to cook up a story that was a simple as possible. Not too complicated. Not too verbose. So the music could always be front and center and underscore what was going on with the actors.

Torontoist: Were there any sort of logistical problems shooting with the concert originally supposed to be on the island but having to be moved because of the civic strike?

Bruce: Yeah, because we were going to do the island show but that show got canceled and we were like "Alright" ...

Kevin: We thought that island show was going south anyway. The tickets weren't selling very well and we were trying to figure out how we were going to be able to make it a special thing and then, boom, it was canceled. For us, on our end, we started thinking it had been a long time since we had done anything free - if you recall we'd done Harbourfront before and we'd done Dundas Square - so we decided, "Yeah, look, forget it. We've been trying to get people to buy a forty nine dollar ticket but let's just do a free show." And then we rescheduled it pretty quickly. Thankfully we knew the people at Harbourfront and they were into it and then Bruce said, "Well, alright. Let's bring the shoot there. Let's do that."

Bruce: Yeah. It happened pretty fast. It's one of those things that when the date was set, you just had to be there and shoot somehow. There wasn't a lot of lead time to be running around raising money and writing scripts and doing things so the Thursday before the show I actually ended up calling Kevin up and telling him "It's not happening. We tried our best."

Kevin: And I hadn't said anything to the band yet, it was only Brendan and I who had talked about it, and we kept saying "We'll tell the band when it's a sure thing." And we didn't know who was coming in yet. By that Thursday we knew that it was everybody and I was sweating a bit. And I thought ... I always presumed that Bruce was going to make a little forty thousand dollar art film, some little thing with Super 8 and sixteen millimetre and some digital cameras and then on Friday I got a call from Bruce, "It's back on! It's back on!"

Bruce: I had a guy walk into the office late Thursday night with a check, said "Here, I'm in."

Torontoist: This was the day before the concert?

Kevin: Yep. So the band didn't know. That's the irony. We went out for dinner that night and Brendan and I were supposed to say something and we started to say something but it just became this sort of magical night that wasn't about anybody else about us as a group of friends and I just felt like that wasn't the time to say it. And then we showed up ...

Bruce: And saw the giant cameras ringing the stage and I'm there on a scaffold ...

Kevin: And we're like, "Bruce ... Bruce is doing this thing." And on Monday it was announced that we had shot a film and everybody's managers called and they called and people were upset. And they had every right to be because we really dropped the ball in informing them that they were going to be part of this and you've got to be really careful in doing things with your friends so they don't feel that you've used them. And some of them were questioning whether they'd been used, which was ridiculous but the point is that we'd disrespected the idea of just letting them know what was going on. And at the same time, we didn't know how big it was and it just got bigger and bigger and bigger with more and more people, mo' money, mo' problems.

But the storm got weathered. And Bruce did what we did. He put together a community of people, he put together a great crew and everybody dropped what they were doing and did this because they were doing it for Bruce, they were doing it for the band, they did it because they wanted to capture the city. They all really got behind it. And that's the spirit you can see in the film. You have to understand that there are so many people who don't get credit for things and there were a lot of people who just said "Screw it, we're going to do this just for the sake of it."

Bruce: Yep, yep. There was no rational reason for them to be showing up for work here. Nothing was really set. It was just "We're doing it on this day and if you can help us out, great." And then we worked out all the business after.

Torontoist: So did you retrofit the narrative elements after the fact? Did you shoot those after?

Bruce. No, no, no. We shot them at the same time and then over a few days after. If you add up the time - I don't know if this is something to brag about or be worried about - the actual shooting time was about twenty four hours from start to finish spread over three, four days. The first day was the concert with the footage that you see of the characters going to the concert, at the concert, back stage, that sort of thing. And then we had a few days where we would shoot them at their house, the different places that they appear in the story. So it's fast, fast. Again, very small crew and just kind of doing it.

ScreenAnarchy: Now, Kevin, you mentioned capturing the city in the film and that's one of the things that really struck me - that Toronto seems like as much of a character in the film as either of the main characters or as much as the band is and that it's Toronto as it really is. I was surprised at how visible the garbage strike was, how you didn't try to hide any of that at all!

Kevin: That was these guys. They went out and they shot it, shot footage of it.

Bruce: We tried. We thought what's happening in the city on July 11th? What's happening that day? There's a big garbage strike on and race cars down at Exhibition Stadium and sunshine and people doing stuff and walking around. So we tried to see what was going on grab little elements of that day, so that this would be a record of that day in this town with this band rather than trying to control everything or plant things or create things, any kind of spectacle or big sequences.

Torontoist: It's kind of the anti-Chloe. Instead of postcards of Allen Gardens you have piles of trash.

ScreenAnarchy: It's just fascinating to me because Toronto never gets to be Toronto. So much is shot in Toronto but it's always pretending to be something else or if it gets to be itself it's such a narrow snapshot presented in such an unreal way that it feels completely artificial to anyone who actually lives here. And both of you guys, in your respective fields, are very, very much rooted here and it was really striking to me that the city got to be the city the way it really is.

Kevin: Well, if I can say something, I was always saying to Bruce and the other people that he was making his love letter to Toronto. I know that's what you were trying to do with Claire. And as they were editing through stuff and showing different screenings of different cuts and edits I just said to Bruce, "This is becoming your love letter to Toronto."

For us, we're very vocal about how much we owe to the city for our success and getting us out there. We had a lot of people help us, a lot of people get behind Social Scene when it started because they wanted to see it work, they wanted to see us succeed outside of the city, and it happened at a really good time for us. We were such social people, we go out all the time in this town and have a lot of friends, and we built this little army and to see that happen again with this film ... Also, for me, I feel like a bit of an old timer now. I watch the upcoming generation growing into this town. They're taking it back from the people who tried to make it into something it's not, the people who tried to make it into a mini New York. Toronto just needs to be what it is and it's slowly just becoming that now. I think that has to do with a lot of the up and comers and the kids and the people and the fact that now we have all kinds of festivals going on and all kinds of people doing great things and people look to our city now the same way they look to others. It's just a fact.

Torontoist: When I heard you were making this, Bruce, it kind of made a lot of sense to me because of your history of rock and roll films but also didn't make a lot of sense to me because your history of rock and rolls films read like this history of productive nihilism and Broken Social Scene is about your rapport with the city and with each other and very friendly and feel good. So what drew you to this in particular? It's like the anti-Hard Core Logo.

Bruce: Yeah, I guess those early films I was more thinking about devils and dirt and pain and I thought that was romantic. I thought that was something.

Kevin: I got this one! I know it! Bruce got married and he has a kid. It's all about the love now!

Bruce: Kinda. At some point you go, "You know, the dark is a good place to visit sometimes and it keeps you on your toes ..."

Kevin: And please keep doing that because your dark is the kind of dark I like.

Bruce: Yeah. But I'm really proud of this movie, I really love this movie, because it is about the light and a beautiful day and community and friendship and kissing and making out. It's like, you know, there's nothing wrong with that. That's all fantastic. Nobody is punished for their pleasure, which is so often the case even in romantic movies or sensual movies, people have to be punished for their pursuit of pleasure. And in this one nobody is and it's refreshing.

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Bruce McDonaldKevin DrewDon McKellarGeorgina ReillyGreg CalderoneKjartan HewittLyndie GreenwoodDramaMusicRomance

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