GSM: I always go back to drawing. I’ve always been attracted to making a practice in drawing. But since I’ve ended up in filmmaking, which is the core of my work now, I do a lot of animation. At 54, I’m still holding a pencil over my desk!
Film is a composite of all my interests – there is animation, there is music. I have collaborated with the National Film Board on seven films which are targeted at educational markets. They are sold to libraries and schools. Education is my focus.
You are a co-founder of NDG Arts Week held in the Montreal district of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce (NDG). Why did you get involved?
GSM: I was invited to do the Westmount Art Walk and it occurred to me, “Why don’t we have this in NDG? Because I live in NDG and I know so many local artists – filmmakers, musicians, crafters. So we started NDG Arts Week in 2010 with $500.
You also worked with singer-songwriter and fellow NDG Arts Week co-founder Paul Cargnello on the EMPRESS BLUE - An animation video about the historic abandoned Empress Theatre in NDG.
GSM: Yes, Paul helped produce the song and also performed on it as well. I was the artist-in-residence at the McAuslan Brewery and I wanted to honour the history of the Empress Theatre, which others may remember as the old Cinema V. I used to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show there! Sadly, I don’t know what the future of that building will be, though it is back in the news.
Why did you create the series of short films called The Death and Life of Griffintown: 21 stories?
GSM: I have an interest in oral history and urban development and did my master’s thesis on [the Montreal neighbourhood] Griffintown. In this project, I gave voice to the people. I wanted people who live there now to understand that their condos are on top of a post-industrial neighbourhood that slaved for the greater good of the big economies and big businesses — the Lachine Canal included — that helped birth Canada. And there is the Irish connection, with the Irish coming here in the 1840s during the famine years.
As a singer-songwriter, you are also part of the great Canadian storyteller tradition.
GSM: A lot of my American friends talk about Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Leonard Cohen, who all moved to America — but they all come from that great Canadian storytelling tradition. I was deeply influenced by those ’60s folkies and by my love of Canadian history. We should pay better homage to who we are.
How did your time and studies at Concordia help shape you and your career?
GSM: Concordia is where I met a core group of artists and musicians in my early days hanging out at Foufounes Electriques and Station 10. It was a strong network. I also met senior artists who taught me the business. Then, during my master’s, I really learned the rigours of research and writing while completing my thesis, tools that have served me well ever since.
For more about G. Scott MacLeod, visit macleod9.com.