Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Q & A with Mitch Fillion of Southern Souls.

This is the fourth installment of my interview series with people in and about the Toronto music scene. Previous ones featured Mike Smith (Muskox, etc.), Randal Ball (WreckingBall Entertainment), and Ben Mueller-Heaslip (What's All This Then?! podcast).

Young Hamilton-based videographer Mitch Fillion is the man behind the ambitious and wonderful Southern Souls project. Unlike many other video projects, this one makes me especially all warm and fuzzy because it features so many bands I know and love. My blog is nothing but a testament to my love for the Toronto music scene, and while Southern Souls isn't quite so narrow in its focus, it almost feels like the perfect (but so much better!) video accompaniment to this site.

Fillion films bands and solo artists performing, well, wherever seems appropriate at the time, but never a rehearsal space or traditional music venue. The visuals are often beautiful and the performances unique. On Southern Souls you can watch Maylee Todd sing to children and an excited otter at the Toronto zoo; experience the Wilderness of Manitoba at Hart House's Great Hall and in the gorgeous Knox College cloister; catch Steven McKay singing and strumming in an lovely yet forgotten urban space; and see Burn Planetarium in a bookstore. The list goes on: Olenka & the Autumn Lovers in a lighting store, Leif Vollebekk in a rustic backyard garage . . . so many favourites.

There are, as of right now, 75 bands featured on the site, many of them represented by two videos. So, if you haven't been watching, you better get started. [Photo credit: Alex Cairncross.]

Jen: How did the Southern Souls project start? Where does the name come from?

Mitch: It originally started out as an attempt to make a Hamilton music DVD. As I started getting interest from bands outside the Hamilton area I thought about naming the film Southern Souls after artists from Southern Ontario. And I guess seeing them play in an intimate setting gives you a better glimpse at their souls than a live show or listening to the album would. Not that I'm claiming souls are real or something, or maybe I am?

As I got better I started not liking some of the other videos as much, at least quality-wise, and I knew that it would drive me crazy having varying qualities throughout the film. So came the idea for the site.

Jen: Did you initially envision it being as big as it's become? You've filmed a lot of bands!

Mitch: I knew when I started that I wanted to make it a huge ongoing project but I didn't think it'd be as popular as it is, as quick as it happened. It's been amazing the amount of support from everyone helping spread the word.

Jen: This must be a really time-consuming project, and one that requires a bit of financing to keep it going. What’s in it for you? How can admirers contribute some funds to help you out?

Mitch: It is very time consuming but I can't imagine doing anything else with my time now; it's really changed my life being able to meet and hang out with all these great people. Really that's all that's in it for me, because in total I have probably only made about $200 in donations and gas money since the start of the project. Since the beginning of May I've spent close to $15,000 on gear and operating costs. I'm currently unemployed so I can be out shooting everyday and I don't ask anything from the bands other than telling them they can make a small donation through PayPal. (There's a link at the bottom of the site to my donation page). But unfortunately none have taken advantage of that other than a few big fans of the site.

Jen: Most of the bands you feature come from around here, here being Toronto. Is this a conscious choice?

Mitch: I started with Hamilton since it's where I'm from and it's the scene I'm most familiar with and now I've been working my way out to surrounding cities. I eventually hope to go to Montreal for a week or weekend and shoot as many bands as I can there. Really the possibilities are endless.

Jen: How do you decide who to feature?

Mitch: I've been a musician all my life, I know what makes a good band, even if I couldn't make one myself. Since I work for free, I get to be selfish and choose the bands I think are the most rad and that will put on a great performance.

Jen: What are some of your favourite moments, or bands that most surprised you by their performance?

Mitch: They really all share a special place in my heart it's hard to say which were my favourite to shoot although the most fun I have is when I spend a good portion of the day with the bands---like Maylee Todd or Phil Williams at the Science Centre. A lot of the times I'm just in and out and don't really get to hang much with the artists which kinda sucks.

Jen: What's in store for this project and yourself in the future?

Mitch: At this point who can say . . . bigger artists, better sound, travelling to new cities, some bloggers to accompany me on shoots, possibly a second director to take some of the filming off my hands (if I would allow such a thing) . . . and only time can tell the rest.

Jen: Thanks for taking the time to do this, Mitch! Good luck with the project. I know I'll keep watching; I'm excited to see how the project develops.

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