Web series are hot. We looked into the 8-episode series Sex in the City/Girls take off Sex and Ethnicity that also ran on the ICI Television channel and LARPs, about live action role play. Other Montreal made series released in the past year include Montreal Boy: Some Strings Attached, and YidLife Crisis. Youtube and private hosting allows newcomers and oldcomers an affordable way to disseminate a quality show without having to worry about finding a channel. There’s no need to pitch to a fickle producer or kiss the ass of interfering executives. The results are edgy, interesting shows built from the love and enthusiasm of their creators with a focus on populations that are less visible in popular media.
The latest from Montreal is The High Note, a webseries built around something very dear to every Montreal musican/artist’s heart – a rock band made up of 30-something friends.
Creator, writer, and director Holly Brace-Lavoie explains that the series is a short comedy done in a documentary style. She explains the concept more fully. “They’re in their early 30s and decide to start a band despite a lack of talent.”
Sound familiar? Who hasn’t dreamed of fronting a band or digging deep on a bass despite having dropped piano lessons at age eight?
Brace-Lavoie and her production company Broken Banjo as well as the High Note team have put together six episodes so far about the hijinks that ensue when the band members conflict over their different visions for their band. “I have many ideas but we’re waiting to gauge interest before making more episodes,” she says.
The web series grew out of Brace-Lavoie’s earlier projects, especially Fringe festival musicals, Zombie Apocalypse and Last Metro. In addition, the show also has its roots in some good ol’ hanging out. “We were playing songs around the campfire and some songs turned into stories, and then those turned into musicals,” she says.
“I decided to give it a go one summer when I had the time,” she says. “I managed to get amazing talent on board and everyone volunteered their time. We shot it in Griouard Park and it came together really nicely. I’m very proud.”
The shooting wasn’t done guerrilla style. It was all done “through the official channels,” but that didn’t stop complications from arising. “One time there was a hip hop festival,” she says. “It was hard to get our scenes shot because there was loud rapping. We had to roll with the punches a lot.”
Like many webseries, the High Note is built around its characters. The self-appointed band leader (Matt Enos) is an ex-figure-skaer whose career has collapsed after trying to create a figure-skating revolution. Another character (Rena Hundert) joins the band because her therapist thinks being in a band is a good place to put her anger. The hipster (Tania Dos Santos) is focused on creating a buzz on Facebook and Twitter and trying to sound as different as they can be. There’s also a slam poet (Matt Lacas).
“The characters are partially based on my own experiences,” says Brace-Lavoie, “But they’re an amalgamation of people we’ve known and worked with.”
The web series took over a year and a half to complete. “We all work full time,” says Brace-Lavoie. “It’s an evening and weekend project.” In contrast with the musicals, there is a level of detail that is required. “You can get away with no props and crappy costumes at the fringe,” she says. “This will live forever on the Internet so I was diligent about quality control. I wanted all the people involved to be able to share this and include it in their portfolios.”
When it came to writing the episodes, Brace-Lavoie initially wrote the first few as a television pilot that was later broken up into smaller chunks for the web series. But episodes three and four were written by other writers, while five and six were done as a team.
“It was less difficult than I thought it would be,” Brace-Lavoie says. “I’m a control freak. The handing over was the hardest part.” In the end she was delighted with how it went. “They had so much to add and a different perspective. As long as everyone understood the different characters, it was great. I added some jokes and made suggestions. It was the best possible way to do it.”
As with any labor of love, the High Note is celebrating its launch online with a show. Different bands are appearing as well as comedians. The launch will showcase the first two episodes. Episodes will come out weekly on Wednesdays until the whole series is launched.
The launch party for The High Note takes place at La Vitrola (4602 St Laurent) on November 5 at 8 p.m. Episodes 1 and 2 will be shown along with performances by Saraah Hicks, John Jacob Magistery, and The Empty Yellers. Free. Later episodes will be aired on Wednesdays at www.thehighnoteseries.com.