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A passion for cinema

Laurent Gariépy is screening the classics at City Cinema

by Dave Stewart

Laurent Gariépy (photo: Dave Stewart)Anyone checking out City Cinema’s schedule over the last few months has probably noticed the presence of more and more classic films. It’s an opportunity for all of us to expand our viewing experience and knowledge, and to see some of our favourites on a large screen with an engaged audience. And it’s all because of Laurent Gariépy and his love of cinema.

After studying film at Université de Montréal, operating a video store there, and working as a film critic at Cinémaniak, Gariépy came to PEI as a French teacher with Université Sainte-Anne. He brought his passion for movies with him, and his desire to share them with Islanders on the big screen.

When asked why, Gariépy replies, “Because I live here.” This, I think, makes a lot of sense. “I’ve lived here for the last three years, and if I don’t do it, there’s no one else doing it.”

Following up, I ask how he chooses the films he screens. “What I want to see” is his answer. This makes sense to me, too.

As a fellow movie fanatic, the chance to see favourites, or films I’ve wanted to see for years, on a big screen where they dominate you, to share them with like-minded individuals, is a gift. For anyone with an interest in films and filmmaking, it’s an education. For Gariépy, its obviously the result of doing something because of a passion for it. Since he began his screenings in May of 2018, audiences have been treated to films as diverse as Kurosawa’s Rashomon, Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, and Hiller’s Love Story.

“I came [to PEI] and I thought it would be nice to have a blog or something to write about [films],” says Gariépy, “but I think the last entry was in June or May. I’m also on the board of the Charlottetown Film Society. For the 50th anniversary of Telefilm, Louise Lalonde ran a series of films at City Cinema, but that came to an end.”

And that’s where Gariépy came in. Hosting screenings at City Cinema as L’Ipéen (a riff on the French name for PEI), Gariépy rents the screening space, and needs an average audience of 30–35 per screening to break even. Is there a secret to achieving that magic number?

“I don’t know why a lot of people came for Rashomon, and didn’t for Fellini’s 8 1/2 or Lumet’s Serpico or Dog Day Afternoon. I think Japanese animation will bring people. We had two screenings of Princess Mononoke. One was sold out and the other had maybe ten seats left. We’ve made movies for the last 120 years, so there’s a lot to see, a lot to show too,” says Gariépy.

L’Ipéen screenings are $10. You can follow the schedule on Facebook and in The Buzz.

Warping the Music

Reconnecting with an old musical friend

Profile: Sam Shalabi
by Dave Stewart

Sam ShalabiSam Shalabi is one of the most personally influential people I’ve ever known. A musician who splits his time between Montreal and Cairo, he was born in Tripoli, Libya in the mid-1960s, and as a child moved with his family from Alexandria, Egypt to Charlottetown. We met in elementary school as outsiders circa 1972, and to this day Sam continues to be a gateway for music, movies, books, anything and everything. His career as a musician is no less adventurous, and has taken him to points around the globe, whether playing the guitar or the oud, but it began here on PEI…

Says Sam, “I’m very promiscuous in my musical tastes, but I think there has to be that abstract feeling of ‘Punk’ in everything I like. In Montreal I got into free jazz and jazz, and then about 15 years ago I rediscovered Arabic Music in a deep way, and that’s become a big part of what I do.

“My ‘career’ though is really a series of instinctive decisions. It’s about being surprised, excited and experimenting; kinda still the punk rock attitude. I just try to experiment and learn, and if that means writing a pop tune, or an Arabic psychedelic tune, or an hour-long noise piece, or a mix of all three, it’s all good.

“Charlottetown in the late ’70s was, to put it mildly, not so interested in punk music, and so there was a certain isolation until I started meeting like-minded friends who I connected with and could trick into playing music with me. In terms of the isolation, the downside was the obvious I guess: being a brown, weird kid into punk rock there wasn’t a very cool thing at the time, and there was a certain amount of racism involved, or just around the corner, from ‘the public’.

“Chas Guay was a major influence on every level. He was the first person who encouraged me to play, and he might have been one of the only established players I met during the late ’70s/early ’80s who liked, understood and respected punk rock, and he helped me connect the dots to other kinds of music.

“The ‘crew’ around Chas had a big influence as well. People like Chris Corrigan (maybe one of the most underrated guitar players on the planet); Mike Mooney, who was so encouraging and showed me how important songwriting was. Reg Ballagh, a great drummer. Mitch Shurman, another amazing guitar player and friend. There’s really so many, and that time was exciting, because many of those players were coming from a different place than me, but were deep, real and just serious players who were also freaks in a way, outside of the mainstream of music. In retrospect, it was a rare and gracious musical education they gave me.

“I think a pretty strong case could be made that the most interesting ‘warping’ of music comes from outside of major cities. I look at it that I had my own little ‘punk rock revolution’ on this little island, and so I maybe ‘misread’ it and made odd connections that, if I was in a scene in a larger city, might have never happened in the way it did and does, for me. Ultimately, I had amazing friends and we were a tight scene unto ourselves, and that had a profound effect on me that maybe might have been lost in a larger, more supportive city.”

To add further context you need to hear Sam’s music at, and Land of Kush at And when you do, PLAY LOUD!

Solid and Engaging

Ladies and GentlemAn

Review by Dave Stewart

I can’t recall the actual wording of the request from The Buzz when I was first asked to review Off the Cuff Comedy Presents: Ladies & GentlemAn. I can, however, tell you what I heard: “How’d you like to review a new sketch comedy show with a hard-to-remember name performed by four recent musical theatre graduates/ triple threats? It’s playing at 11 pm on a work night.”

“Not very much” was my initial response, but The Buzz was persistent, and so I found myself at the 11 pm preview performance of “OtCCP:L&G” at The Guild.

And I liked it.

Performed and co-written by Jacob Durdan, Sarah MacPhee, Kristena McCormack and Kaitlyn Post, four recent grads of the Holland College School of Performing Arts, “OtCCP:L&G” is an hour-long collection of sketches that pokes affable fun at PEI and, refreshingly, at the notion of being a triple threat itself. That the show features performers who are trained in dance, acting and vocal performance strengthens it in almost all regards.

In terms of talent, the four performers are equally and well suited as a professionally-trained ensemble. Each earns his or her share of laughs and appreciation, and all are engaging. During monologues, however, MacPhee and Post truly nail it, almost wholly disappearing as performers to deliver believable and memorably funny characters.

The show itself is well-balanced and entertaining. Despite the fact that, as is par for the sketch comedy course, a couple of sketches (and only a couple) are duds, none wear out their welcome. It’s a solid hour of entertainment.

While the show is an initiative of its performers, the guiding hand behind it is that of Jan Rudd, a veteran of the Island sketch comedy scene with stints in both Annekenstein and The Drill Queens. Rudd is also an instructor at the School of Performing Arts, and acts here as Director and Head Writer. She’s a talented comedy writer who serves the performers well by keeping sketches short, allowing each performer his or her moment as the focus of attention, and in playing to the performers’ strengths. Rudd even lampoons her real life role as instructor to the ensemble in a couple of video segments featured in the show.

If I had a complaint about “OtCCP:L&G”, it’s that it is at times too self-referential. Some sketches require familiarity with The Confederation Centre’s Anne of Green Gables—The Musical, and others are enhanced by a knowledge of the relationship between Rudd and the performers, and of the performers’ recent status as performing arts graduates. A minor point, however. 

What may be more damaging to the production is the advertising, publicity and name (of the show? the ensemble?). In my eyes, each misrepresents what you’ll see on stage, and may discourage some from attending. Yet, I hope that won’t happen. “OtCCP:L&G” is worth catching, and it showcases the beginning careers of four members of PEI’s next generation of professional performers. 

“OtCCP:L&G” runs Thursdays and Fridays at 11 pm until August 29.

City Cinema @ 20

by Dave Stewart

The old City Cinema boothThere are places and people that we sometimes take for granted in PEI. These mainstays create a backdrop to our day-to-day, enhance our quality of life here, and gently influence us whether we interact regularly with them or not.

Without a doubt, City Cinema falls into this category, providing Islanders with the opportunity to see culturally significant movies onscreen while also hosting live performances, community events, and other edifying activities.

City Cinema is the only full-time repertory cinema in the Maritimes. Give yourself a second to take that piece of information in fully.

Even Halifax, the region’s largest city, doesn’t have one. A few years after the passing of its co-founder, Gordon Parsons, HRM’s great Wormwood’s Dog & Monkey Cinema closed its doors, a testament to the need for ongoing energy, enthusiasm and knowhow behind the projector. Luckily for us here in PEI, that task fell to Derek Martin.

Since the first screening in 1993, Derek has worked to bring the theatre to its current status as an essential part of PEI’s arts and culture community. On a more basic level, City Cinema is the only venue in which to catch a flick in Charlottetown’s downtown core, something that was common before the advent of malls and multiplexes located on city outskirts.

As a regular myself, I can’t imagine PEI without City Cinema. It’s been my venue to take in David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, Terry Zwigoff’s Ghost World, Brad Anderson’s Session 9, Lars von Trier’s Breaking the Waves, Tim Burton’s Ed Wood, Robert Altman’s Short Cuts, Thom Fitzgerald’s The Hanging Garden, Thomas Vinterberg’s The Celebration, Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation, and countless others. I even celebrated my birthday there one year by hosting an unforgettable special screening of Russ Meyer’s Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!.

On behalf of myself, The Buzz, and movie lovers across the province—Thanks, Derek. You and City Cinema have improved our lives at 24 frames per second for two decades now. We’re all looking forward to the sequel.

My Brilliant Career

by Dave Stewart

And Yet I Blame Hollywood
Island Imagemakers
Horoscope for Islanders

To revisit my history with The Buzz, I have to go back to my history with Peter Richards. A modest fellow, he won’t like this, but in order to be accurate it’s necessary.

I first became aware of Peter when I turned of age in the tubular 80s and started attending dances at the late and lamented Montage Dance Theatre. Along with Pat’s Rose & Grey and The Dip, it was a venue of choice for anyone and anything even vaguely countercultural.

It was at the Montage that I first saw Peter’s band Rella Bella play, and it was an eye-opening experience for me. Amongst the joints being passed back and forth between tables, here was a band in Charlottetown playing Patti Smith and Talking Heads songs. Like a stereotypical bass player, Peter was the quiet one, propelling the songs along without a word but with lots of precision.

I don’t remember how I became friendly with Peter. It must have had something to do with Sunday Cinema, a once-a-week matinee that Peter instigated and managed so that Islanders would have the opportunity to see the latest from filmmakers like David Lynch and Lars von Trier. These were held first at the Prince Edward Cinemas, then at The Charlottetown Cinemas, both no longer in existence.

While Sunday Cinema was in its heyday, I left to study film and TV production at Humber College in Toronto. When I returned three years later, Peter talked to me about his idea to open a video store in Charlottetown that would do the same thing as Sunday Cinema, but on a daily basis. He asked if I’d be interested in working there, and naturally, I was.

Off the Wall Video opened in a basement storefront on Richmond Street. We catered to open-minded movie fans interested in classics, world cinema, and underground atrocities, all presented on glorious VHS. As an employee, I got to cram our catalogue into my subconscious while mingling with customers who were, for the most part, like-minded people from all walks of life.

This was the background against which Peter began discussing his latest idea, a monthly publication that would cover the Island’s arts and entertainment scene. Not long after, Peter published the first issue of The Buzz with my friend Rob MacDonald as its first cover boy, dressed in Annekenstein garb, and featuring my first ever professionally published piece—an overview of emerging independent filmmakers.

That was twenty years ago. Over that time, The Buzz has grown from a slim newspaper (8 pages) to a two-section publication that is not only an invaluable schedule of upcoming arts and entertainment events, but it’s also an essential archive of the Island’s cultural life. As it’s changed, so have my contributions.

Initially, I’d submitted text pieces—interviews, movie and music reviews—but I eventually wanted to try something different. I wanted to attempt a cartoon strip that was a movie review, but one that also commented on the experience of going to the cinema and of the act of movie watching itself. Taking a phrase that my friend David Moses and I used to refer to movies that we didn’t like, I wrote and sketched my first And Yet I Blame Hollywood strip and presented it to Peter who agreed to publish it.

A couple of year into doing the strip, Campbell Webster’s Copie Zero TV + Media partnered with Fat Kat Animation (now Loogaroo) in New Brunswick to adapt the cartoon and turn it into a series of 26 animated shorts with me writing. The concept was sold and the cartoons were shown nationwide on CBC TV’s late night show ZeD over a season. It was a thrill for me, and it was a detour that I’d never have experienced if it weren’t for Peter and The Buzz. Not only that, but my participation in Peter’s print project was the true gateway to what was to become my career.

With the experience I’d gained in contributing to The Buzz, I developed my writing skills and was getting published on a monthly basis. While on a trip to Hong Kong, I responded to an ad in their version of The Buzz—HK Magazine—and presented my portfolio that was built entirely on Buzz pieces. As a result, I was hired as a freelancer for Cathay Pacific’s inflight entertainment magazine, Studio CX. I then spent the next year and a half, while still contributing to The Buzz, researching information about Chinese celebrities and making sure any attempt at humour translated both in language and in essence.

All this, in turn, gave me the skills and confidence to have my writing appear in two outlets I’d long loved – and Rue Morgue Magazine. Currently, I’m awaiting publication in Rue Morgue of an interview I was lucky enough to have conducted with one of my idols, Brian Clemens, the man behind TV shows like Thriller and The Avengers, movies like Hammer’s Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter, and a recent recipient of the Officer of the Order of the British Empire designation. Again, a thrill for me.

While some of this is just icing on the cake, a piece of information that will further inform this reminiscence is the fact that I could never figure out what I wanted to do career-wise. To be honest, I was lost. I could never understand how some of my friends knew from high school that they wanted to study law or go into oceanography and took steps that led to these careers. While they were doing that, I was busy bouncing from job to job. Little did I know that the skills I was developing through my connection with The Buzz would lead me to discover not what I wanted to do, but what I am. As it turns out, I’m a writer. That’s what I do by day, crafting ads and content at Graphcom Group, a design/marketing company here in Charlottetown. That’s what I do at night, freelancing for magazines, organizations and websites. That’s what I do in my free time when I write scripts, music, and any other number of projects I could name. This is a satisfying discovery, one that gives me a sense of purpose that I’d been lacking. It’s something I think of a lot, and it’s something for which I give Peter and The Buzz credit.

A major influence on my life to be sure, but what else has my continuing connection with The Buzz meant these past twenty years? The Buzz, Nancy, Yanik, Maggie, and most particularly Peter have joined forces to provide me with a training ground, an outlet, an employer, a friend, a support, a sounding board, a direction, a resource, and a opportunity. As not just a contributor, but a reader too, I’m lucky enough to have seen the ever-changing effect that Peter has had on the arts scene on the Island, some of which I’ve documented here. His contributions have been absolutely invaluable to its perseverance, rise in stature, and its growth. Still working somewhat silently behind the scenes propelling the song along, simply put, Peter and The Buzz are two of the things that make living on PEI worthwhile.

Dave Stewart is…

Dave StewartA grad of Humber College’s Film & TV Production program, Dave Stewart sketches about movies, fakes a monthly horoscope with his near-sighted 3rd Eye, and interviews movie types for The Buzz. He also writes about horror flicks for and sometimes Rue Morgue Magazine. His Buzz writing dates back to its first issue—an overview of emerging independent filmmakers. Dave provides commentary and reviews on a freelance basis for CBC Radio, and he was a writer for Cathay Pacific’s inflight entertainment publication, Studio CX. 26 episodes of And Yet I Blame Hollywood, his Buzz movie review-in-cartoon-format, were broadcast nationally on CBC TV’s ZeD. Florid, one of the short films he directed and co-created with Rob MacDonald, was the recipient of the 2004 Viewer’s Choice Award at the Reel Island Film Festival. An ad man/writer at Graphcom Group, Dave is one half of Chimp, a ponk rock duo with MacDonald making up the other 50%. Their debut CD is Thundercrack!. Dave and Rob are at work on their latest movie project, Shoot or Be Shoot. This August, Dave is also curating and participating in Arthole, an art show at The Guild featuring interesting artwork by interesting Islanders.

The Ottoman Empire

The business of transferring creativity

by Dave Stewart

Christopher Gillis, Craig DauphineeWhat happens when you bring a chef and a former musical theatre performer/producer together? In the case of Christopher Gillis and Chef Craig Dauphinee, you get a creative collaboration called The Ottoman Empire, a Charlottetown-based business that started as an interior design and decorating company. A fascinating side effect of this two-man operation has been the way in which the creativity they apply to one type of project has translated seamlessly into other types of work, such as catering, for clients. In essence, they seem to have mastered a type of creative process transfer.

Officially launched at the beginning of 2012, The Ottoman Empire has seen its scope of service grow in response to client demand. The throughline here is the faith that clients have in the duo to deliver aesthetics regardless of format. It’s the same faith that led Christopher and Craig to start their Charlottetown-based business in the first place. After renovating and decorating their first home together, people began to take note of the personal project, as did media such as East Coast Living Magazine and local newspapers.

Says Christopher. “The thinking seemed to be that if these guys can do this to their own house, then they must be able to do it to ours as well. People started approaching us to pay us money to do the work, and we thought that if people are willing to do this and there’s a demand and a market, then we’re willing to commit ourselves to it.”

By translating their creative ability in one area to others, the duo has added project management, sourcing, catering, staging for real estate and photography to their rapidly expanding list of services. As anyone who is actively involved in the arts will note, creativity in one form can often translate well into another. At the very least, the skills and creative process you use in one medium can strongly influence how you create in another.

Dauphinee says, “I grew up in an atmosphere of collections. My family is big into vintage and collecting antiques. My grandmother, whom I was very close with, was the type of person who was constantly changing her house, constantly changing furniture, constantly changing a room, constantly reinventing a colour scheme, and it came very naturally to her, very pragmatically. There was never any deeper understanding of creating this type of room because of the architectural features, or as the result of a strategic colour scheme; she did it because she really liked blue or because she thought it was time the furniture got moved. That’s the upbringing I had, this constant contemplation of space and how it worked and making sure that you enjoyed the space that you’re in.”

As for the ability to shift creativity from a primary medium to others, Dauphinee gets that a song can teach a filmmaker about the creative process the same way a painting can inform a weaver’s work. “Creativity is essentially a process. Once you understand that, you can apply your creative talents into all areas of your life.”

“Any and every business requires a degree of creativity,” adds Christopher. “The challenge is to marry the creativity with good management.”

Future Plans

Arts Education on PEI

by Dave Stewart

Earlier this year, the Interactive Multimedia program at Holland College was put on hiatus and an instructor laid off. Recently, an instructor who had been teaching for more than twenty years in the Graphic Design program at Holland College was let go. With widespread speculation about forthcoming retirements in the Media and Communications Department at the College, the future of arts education on PEI, and more specifically, the future of the Graphic Design program at Holland College, these developments have created concern and much discussion in the Island arts community.

Dave Beaton is the Director of Programs at Holland College. Although he is unable to comment publicly regarding Human Resources matters, he is willing to discuss what lies ahead for the Graphic Design program, as well as the impetus for an independent review of the Media programs that is, as of this writing, taking place.

“The Graphic Design program has been a program of longstanding at Holland College,” says Beaton. “I’m thinking probably twenty-five years plus that it’s been a cornerstone of College programming. Certainly our intention is to see the program continue along.”

The Graphic Design program—the current version of the original Commercial Design program that began with the college in 1970—however, has seen a decline in enrollment, according to Beaton. He comments, “In the last number of years we’re seeing that not only do we not have enough applications, we also have vacant seats as well, and in any type of business model you need customers to come to your door in order to keep things vibrant and in order to keep them viable, quite honestly. Certainly with a bit of a government rollback this year, everywhere across the province people are faced with trying to find savings and be the most efficient they can. This gave us pause to reflect upon many programs at Holland College, and when we started looking specifically at the media programs we saw, not unlike other community colleges, a softening of interest in them.”

To address this, the college hired an independent company called Vision Quest to conduct a review of its media programs. Says Beaton, “Our intention with the review is to revitalize, rejuvenate, make sure that (the Media Arts program) is relevant to the needs of the industry, make sure that it’s relevant to the needs of the students. So we’re seeing this, quite honestly, as a positive. The easiest thing to do would be to sit back and do nothing, status quo, and let the trend continue as it may be to a point where you’d have to seriously question whether the program still has merit in continuing it in its current form.”

Beaton quotes a recent in-house example of the type of outcome the college would like to see with its Media Arts program review. “We had a program in our computer family that was suffering from declining enrollments, and that was our Computer Engineering Technology program. We parked it for a year, had Vision Quest come in and do a full review of not only that program, but our other computer-related programs as well, and lo and behold they created our Computer Networking course which had a target of twenty, and every year that we’ve run that, this will be the second year, enrollment’s hit the twenty, whereas in the previous program they were four and five. It’s a success story and we’re looking at this as another opportunity for another success story.”

Vision Quest will present its report to Holland College in November. Beaton notes that nothing will be filed from the company until that time, and therefore, no actions have been taken as a result of this review at this time.

“Our hope at the end of the day,” says Beaton, “is that we have stronger programs as a result of this initiative, and that the programs that have been the foundation and the pillars of the college continue to be so. We want to make sure that we give the Media Arts family of programs every opportunity to ensure that they have the best program offering for students, and to ensure that the program continues for another 25 years.”

Rick Gibbs

Island Imagemakers
by Dave Stewart

Rick GibbsDave Stewart: Describe yourself as a filmmaker.

Rick Gibbs: I’d boil it down to “team player.” My favorite gigs have always been as part of a crew, from gofer/PA to Director/DP, the collaborative energy is what I most enjoy. In recent years I’ve enjoyed working with younger filmmakers; passing on whatever experience and knowledge I might have to the next generation.

Dave: What interests you about filmmaking?

Rick: It’s the storytelling; using whatever tools are at your disposal to tell that story. As a DOP, to translate the director’s vision into an image; that takes an enormous amount of listening. As Director, to understand the story, come up with a vision for telling it, and then communicate it to everyone involved.

Dave: Tell us about your industry experience.

Rick: I started at the Chapel Hill, North Carolina PBS affiliate in 1968—TV studio production and documentaries on 16mm. At university I majored in Film & TV and made a few ‘student’ films. Worked in commercial TV sports. Hung around the South for a year working on documentary films. In 1972, as part of a “performing arts” commune, my wife and I moved to Colorado. Made some more films there. The commune broke up, and my wife and I moved to Los Angeles. A friend had gotten on as Best Boy for a John Cassavettes film (Woman Under The Influence). I didn’t get on the crew until it was in post production… as an uncredited assistant-assistant editor, but I loved being there.

Fast forward to 1986. We’re living on PEI. Friends tell me about Video Atlantic run by Jack McAndrew. Start off as Camera Assist, then Cameraman. Since I’d last picked up a camera, everything had changed. I had to start from scratch again, but I still loved the work more than anything else. Jack was (and still is) an incredible resource. From him I learned a lot about storytelling—the heart of everything we do in this industry.

After a couple of years, a slot opens at CBC Charlottetown. Once again, I start at the bottom…summer replacement in VTR, moving up to ENG Camera. In the mid 90s I switched to Producer and filled in for the Studio Director at times. During those years I shot commercials and music videos for Moses Media. Dave Moses and I were an excellent pair! He pushed me to step outside my ‘formal’ training and take chances with framing and camera moves. Doing those commercials on film, some in 35mm, was very courageous of him.

In the past few years I've shot a couple of short dramas for Susan Rodgers. Her commitment and courage stand out, and that inspired me. One other project that stands out was a pilot directed by Duncan McIntosh, a segment from Anne. I learned a lot from his method of directing; he's an excellent communicator, and a tremendous resource on Lucy Maud. He opened my eyes to the many layers of her writing. Also I’m proud of the docs I produced/shot for CBC…the commitment we (camera, editors and reporters) had back then to present Islanders with the very best we could. One last mention should go to the interviews for Veterans Affairs. I shot some and did the interview for others. That was a truly life-changing experience.

To read a longer version of this interview, go to Dave’s blog on this site.

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