I applied for the up and coming artist in documentary film grant, asking for a significant amount of funding that would cover the production cost of this film as well as its dissemination. I won’t be hearing back from the Conseils des Arts et Lettres till mid-December and even if I don’t get the grant I’m still gonna go about this project but I must say that writing a grant proposal is an extremely valuable experience for anyone who has a dream. I was forced to really dig deep and ask myself why do I want to make this film? How am I gonna going to do? Am I ready for the possible setbacks? Who can help me? All those really down to the grit of it questions that you need to be asking if you’re gonna make a dream come true.
So thank you Conseils des Arts et Lettres, even if you don’t send me a penny I learned so much from applying to you and that base structure you made me follow is going to be the fondation to the realisation of my biggest project yet.
I also need to send a big shout to Lily Raphael and Sundus Abdul-Hadi who did an amazing job proof reading my proposal and helping funnel my thoughts.
You want to know what’s in it right? Ya I would too. Well I don’t feel comfortable putting my whole proposal up because since it was an artist grant, there’s a bunch of my personal goals in there but I can give you an excerpt that sums up pretty well what I’m trying to do with this documentary. Enjoy:
The Montreal Urban Arts Scene
For the purposes of this proposal, “Urban Arts” will be defined as any art form that is a descendent of the African-American culture of the early 20th century. Though these art forms are rooted in African-American culture and often involve people of that ethnic descent, the documentary will be focusing on the culture rather than the ethnic population. This is so that it may include the various other ethnicities that have greatly contributed to this culture. The three main tiers of the Urban Arts that will be explored are Music (including Jazz, Soul, Hip Hop, RnB and the Experimental genres), Visual Arts (including Graffiti, Postering and the other forms of Street Art), and Dance (including all forms of Street Dance).
Though there is a boom of creative industries all around the world and in many of the metropolitan cities of Canada, the Montreal Urban Arts Scene has been excluded from this economic and social growth and has not been able to create a sustainable industry since the death of it’s forefather, the Jazz scene of Montreal from the 1920s-1960s. There are many theories regarding the cause of the suffering of the industry, ranging from internal disorganization, lack of funding, poor management, to racial and cultural bias. Without Industry: The Montreal Urban Arts Scene will be an 80-minute documentary that will aim to shed light on the isolation suffered by the Montreal Urban Arts Scene by giving this artistic community a platform to voice their concerns, offer solutions, create a dialogue, and inspire.
There is no doubt that in the past decade, the world has seen an immense boom in the cultural and creative industries. According to the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, “Creative industries now represent a significant proportion of many countries’ Gross Domestic Product, as economies around the world recognize the importance of the creative industries to their future economic growth. While sustainable growth for any industry is contingent on a number of factors, evidence suggests that Canada’s and Ontario’s creative industries are growing faster than the rest of the economy.” This economic growth has created many artistic employment opportunities all around the country. However, in order for an artistic community to benefit from this growth, there must be an industry framework already laid down, and in Montreal, the Urban Arts Scene has not had a solid industry since the late 1960s.
“It is no accident that the cities, which have historically been centers of intense jazz activity, have been those cities in which large numbers of musicians could find steady work. Montreal was no exception. The stability, spirit, and creative output of the city’s jazz community [during the 1920s to the 1960s] were directly linked to the capacity of the city’s entertainment industry to provide steady employment for musicians.”
-John Gilmore, Swinging in Paradise
The most thriving urban arts industry that Montreal ever maintained was without a doubt the Jazz scene from the 1920s-1960s. It was a prosperous time artistically and artists could truly sustain a living from their art. Though it was mainly the musicians that were benefitting from this period, other artists, such as dancers, were retaining steady employment too. There was a Jazz club at almost every corner and people were willing to pay for the entertainment they consumed. Near the end of the 1950s, however, Mayor Jean Drapeau started cleaning up the city and many of these Mob-owned clubs had to shut down. The advent of television and other music genres like Rock N’ Roll started to capture the audience, and eventually most of the scene died out. Out of these ashes, the new Urban Arts scene of Montreal was born. Though over half a century has passed since, it has not been able to create itself a sustainable industry. There are many theories on why this industry is having trouble growing in Montreal while it has been thriving in other metropolitan Canadian cities such as Vancouver or Toronto. Many people think it may be an issue of internal disorganization, while others believe it is a deeper problem of racial bias and language barriers. Even a recent ban on hip-hop music and rap by Quebec’s liquor-control board made headlines yet failed to offer solutions.
“The new operators of a suburban Montreal bar promise to showcase the big hair of 1980s tribute bands, stacks of jumbo chicken wings and, perhaps, even a mechanical bull. But to ensure the watering hole could add the critical component of booze to that list they had to promise to do away with one thing: live hip-hop and rap performances. Quebec’s liquor-control board told the incoming managers of Le Pionnier, or The Pioneer, to outlaw the two music genres if they wanted any hope of acquiring a license to serve booze. Among Canada’s most-populated provinces, Quebec appears to be the only one that banishes specific types of live music in the liquor-licensing process. A prominent anti-racism advocate criticized the provincial liquor board for targeting hip-hop and rap in several cases over the years. Fo Niemi warned that such bans stamp out artistic expression, allow sweeping generalizations and border on racial profiling.”
-Christian Cotroneo, The Huffington Post
The goal of this documentary is to create awareness for the issues that have plagued the Montreal Urban Arts scene, and give this artistic community a platform to voice their concerns. During this project I hope to uncover the causes of this lack of Industry and create a dialogue that promotes feasible solutions.