Cassie Cao is no stranger to Montreal. She lived here for four years while studying Economics at McGill and has returned on more than one occasion to perform at Just for Laughs, but she hasn’t been here since the last pre-pandemic JFL in 2019.

“I’m genuinely thrilled to be coming to the festival,” Cao said in a phone interview, “I didn’t know if it was going to happen this year.”

While Cao will be performing “Live in Montreal” to both an in-person and online audience, some of the comedians playing this year’s hybrid festival will do so from either Los Angeles or New York City while others will take part in local Crave and CTV Comedy tapings.

“I’m excited to see what’s going to happen,” Cao said of the potentially unique experience this year, “I suspect that people will make it fun. We’re all getting double vaxxed. Comics are always fun people, we’ll find a way to make it fun.”

Cao did keep busy during the pandemic, mostly by booking TV roles and doing some TV writing, but also by turning to a medium many other comics have found: the Zoom comedy show:

“I did do some Zoom shows. I liked the Zoom shows a lot…as a comedian, you are mostly bound by geography and that’s why you have to tour…and that’s the hardest part of the job, but with the Zoom shows I was doing shows in New York and LA and meeting American comics and seeing what other people are working on and happy to be invited onto their shows.”

She also considers herself lucky for getting to do some TV tapings in front of live audiences mid-pandemic, including one for the Winnipeg Comedy Festival.

“It was wild,” Cao remembers, “I was travelling by air during the second wave and everyone was like ‘it’s fine, doing live comedy’.”

Currently based in Toronto, Cao sees it as a great town to do comedy in, during normal times, of course. She hopes that when the scene returns, it will do so full-force.

“I don’t know what the landscape will look like when everything comes back up,” she notes, “but I’m confident that people want to see live comedy, so the demand will make things happen.”

As for her former home of pre-pandemic Montreal, she remembers ordering St-Viateur bagels for McGill Economics events, but mainly the nightlife:

“Honestly, I’m not going to lie, I love that everything’s open 24 hours in Montreal. In Toronto, you’d think that it is, but it’s not. Toronto shuts down at midnight. In Montreal, I lived there for four years and I just didn’t sleep for four years, there’s just always stuff going on…All the best stuff in Montreal happens after 2am.”

Most of the best stuff, that is. There will definitely be quite a bit of fun had before midnight with Cao and others at JFL Live in Montreal.

Cassie Cao will perform as part of JFL Live in Montreal, hosted by Jon Dore and featuring Dino Archie, Jen Grant, Nigel Grinstead, Marito Lopez and Rodney Ramsey. Wednesday, July 28, 7pm, Club Soda and available online as of July 30 at

At an arrestingly beautiful show last weekend, songstress Jadea Kelly introduced her new album, Love & Lust, at Toronto’s Drake Underground. Jadea’s third studio record is the follow up to Clover (2013), an equally brilliant collection of songs with themes of nature, love and spirituality.

Love & Lust is outright a breakup album, and naturally focuses on the sentiments and circumstances revolving around infidelity, desire, betrayal and forgiveness. The record is brave, vulnerable, passionate and infinitely graceful.

Jadea’s soft and sultry vocals and gentle acoustic guitar are the conduit for some seriously raw sentiments. Backed by some of Toronto’s finest, the intensity of her band helps to heighten the songs, adding layers of colour and mystique in a tasteful and artistic manner without overshadowing Jadea herself.

Not always an easy task for accomplished players, but her longtime guitar player Tom Juhas is a master of this. He’s seriously talented, but never overplays, instead adding just what each song needs.

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Photo by Jen Squires

Mariah is the catalyst for the entire recording and acts as the tempestuous juxtaposition to the album’s most forgiving song, Beauty, co-written by Canadian artist Peter Katz.

Perhaps Love & Lust’s poppies number, Good Girl, was co-penned by another Canadian singer-songwriter, Robyn Dell’Unto.  It’s been receiving regular airplay on CBC and has made it onto their Top 20 this week! Go vote!

Love & Lust has to be one of the most honest, vulnerable and emotional records of 2016. It fleshes out sentiments and circumstances that everyone can relate to in some form.  You can purchase it on iTunes and via Jadea’s website.   She has launched her post-release tour so check out her tour dates!

This record is a huge step forward for Jadea, who is rightfully earning her place among the best singer-songwriters in Canada right now. You will see and hear more of her to come, but don’t wait; she’s too good to wait on and this video proves it.  Southern Souls shot the live video for this haunting and atmospheric second track, On the Water:

Writing this record and the circumstances that led to its inception obviously did a number on Jadea, however the process seems to have been cathartic and healing all at once. It’s impressive that such beauty can come from such sadness.  However she got here, I can’t wait to watch the career of this young and talented songwriter continue to develop and unfold.

Performing both as a solo artist and with the band Citylake, Martin Saint describes himself as a moody troubadour, performing for many years in and around Montreal as well as the odd tour including one this month.

His music could be part of the Donnie Darko soundtrack.  It’s contains elements of new wave, electro-pop and pure rock.  It’s dark and mysterious and has a certain soul-piercing rawness about it.

You can catch him April 18th at the Old Nick pub on the Danforth (Toronto) as part of M-Factor Mondays or April 29th with Citylake at the Atomic Cafe (Montreal).

Until then, give a listen to Citylake:

Photo by Ally May Chadwick

Toronto post-hardcore band Lost Cities, who have amassed an impressive following given that they have only released one EP and one LP, are disbanding after many years.

The announcement came as a shock to their many loyal fans and followers, especially since they just released their full-length record in December.  They played an intense farewell show at the Smiling Buddha in Toronto, performing to an over-capacity crowd.


The show was emotional, not only because we’re losing a truly unique and impressive band, but because these guys have been best friends since high school and though the reason for the breakup is simply that their drummer is moving to California, it’s hard to imagine that Lost Cities will exist no longer.  In a touching tribute to the original line-up, the guys invited their original bass player who had left the band last year up for a few songs.

The silver lining that brightens our spirits is that four of the members have already formed a new project and are busy writing new material that’s in a similar vein, but heavier still.  Stay tuned for news on that.

In the meantime, do yourself a favour and head over to Bandcamp where you can download their new record, Still  for only $5 (or, name your price). And, read the lyrics. Wow. We Don’t Get To Choose is an extra track released in January and not found on Still, which seems a heartfelt and difficult goodbye to the band and also their fans.

DSC08832_1We Don’t Get To Choose

There was no right way to let go
But I did the best I could
Telling you the things
I thought that I’d want to hear
And watched as you shook

Everything’s immediate
And all of it to waste
We’ve swallowed up sincerity
To save for the greats

Hold on
The line is so defined
I’ve got too many questions
I’ve got too many words
But not enough time

Hold on
This can’t have been enough for you
But we don’t get to choose

Please don’t forget me

Heavy stuff.  Farewell, Lost Cities.  Can’t wait to see what the new formation brings.

Top two photos by Andrew Schwab and the last by Devon Stewart

Gothic rock/electronic rock band The Birthday Massacre spent a good chunk of last year touring Europe and the US, but put on a stellar show for their loyal and intense fans in their hometown of Toronto last weekend.

Originally formed in London in 1999, The Birthday Massacre has undergone some member changes, but the current line-up consists of Chibi (vocals), Falcore (guitars), Rainbow (guitars), Owen (synthesizers), Nate Manor (bass guitar) and Rhim (drums).  The name The Birthday Massacre was chosen for it’s contrast; light against dark, sweet against sinister.  The music reflects this idea, with it’s distorted guitars and often industrial beats working in tandem with Chibi’s beautiful, melodic, pure vocal lines soaring over top.


Since releasing their last studio album in 2014, Superstition, they’ve been touring heavily while also working on a new album. With six albums under their belt already, there’s plenty to keep you entertained with while you wait!  Check out this gem:

Fellow Toronto band The Nursery opened the show with their glorious synth-pop/psychedelic blend. True ear (and eye) candy with this lot! Definitely worth checking out!


Photos by Devon Stewart

Rarely these days can you sense the location a record was made in the actual recording.  Both of Toronto band Whitebrow‘s albums reveal a strong sense of place.

Their debut self-titled record was recorded in a vacant church and you can hear and feel the church on that record, almost as if it were an additional band member.  It has such a striking presence that it became an intrinsic part of the recording, and cannot now be separated from the music, in my mind.  In fact, singer-songwriter Gabriel DeSantis talks about tapping into the unique vibrations of locations in this video: .

Old Building Sessions Ep.01 Pt.01 – Whitebrow – Thousand Steps from rcfilms on Vimeo.

I wondered if they’d be able to capture the feel in the same powerful manner on their follow-up record, but they’ve done it, by golly! Mono Vodou, recorded in the barn-studio of Grammy-nominated producer Darryl Neudorf (Neko Case, The New Pornographers) in Mono, Ontario, is a wonderful collection of songs.

It’s blues music with splashes of the South thrown in. Perhaps not quite as haunting as their debut LP, it is reverent, compelling, darkly mysterious and catchy as hell.

Whitebrow 1

A natural story-teller, DeSantis’s lyrics paint vivid pictures, and he often delivers his cleverly crafted poetics in short bursts. And, you can feel the vibe of the barn in the music. Hunter’s Moon was written during their time in Mono, and is perhaps the most natural representation of this.

Watching them play live is magical. It’s the power of the songwriting combined with the mix of instruments; there’s an indescribable feeling about it.

The live band consists of DeSantis on vocals, guitar and periodic percussion, Rosalyn Dennett who makes the violin cry in such a beautiful and sad manner, Matt Elwood on banjo and Sam Petite on bass. All proficient musicians in their own right, they blend perfectly together.

Mono Vodou

In short, Mono Vodou is a refreshing take on blues music. If you like music of the South circa the 1950s, you’ll really dig this.

You can purchase the album on iTunes. Whitebrow will be touring Ontario and Quebec in early 2016.

Photos taken during their December 2015 show at the Dakota Tavern in Toronto by Devon Stewart

Folk, country and blues singer-songwriter Oh Susanna put on a hell of a show this week at Toronto’s The Great Hall. It was extra special because she invited some friends along to play, and she has some very spectacular friends indeed!

Andy Maize, Ben Kunder, Sarah Harmer, Jane Siberry, Justin Rutledge and Colleen Brown were among those privileged enough to be called up. Coming up one at a time, these gems performed their songs with Suzie and her band.

Suzie performed many of her own songs as well. What a voice! Such strength and clarity of tone. The show concluded with a melodious group encore, where Suzie re-wrote the lyrics to Go Tell it on the Mountain and we had a good, old-fashioned sing-along.


The event was in keeping with her album Namedropper, a collection of songs written for her by many of her musical friends, including Ron Sexsmith, Jim Cuddy, Amelia Curran, Melissa McClelland, Luke Doucet and several others. What a brilliant idea for a record.

As such, the record boasts variety in subject material and tone, but Suzie made each song her own and is the cohesiveness that keeps this wonderful collection of songs together. My two favourites are Oregon (Jim Bryson) and Mozart For The Cat (Melissa McClelland).

Oregon is magical. It boasts a delicate, childlike innocence. There’s a reverent quality to it, both in the lyrics and in the simplicity of the song, plus the way Suzie sings it. Jim Bryson does such a wonderful job with the lyrics that it paints a vivid picture of lazy afternoons and the simple pleasures in life.

Mozart For The Cat is quite a contrast to Oregon;it’s sassy! It’s fun and punchy and Suzie’s delivery is bang on.

Namedropper was actually in the works in 2012 and almost finished by spring 2013 when Suzie was diagnosed with breast cancer. She took time off for treatment, and released the album in October 2014.

Suzie proved last night that she’s back, sounding and looking stronger and more confident than ever. Hats off to her and her band, and her obviously supportive and caring friends.

Here’s a video for Goodnight, performed last year at The Great Hall:

• 1998 – Genie Award for Best Original Song “River Blue”

• 2003 – Juno Nomination for Best Roots and Traditional Album for Solo Artist For Oh Susanna

• 2007 – Juno Nomination for Best Roots and Traditional Album for Solo Artist for Short Stories
• 2007 – Canadian Folk Music Award for Best Songwriter in English

• 2007 – Canadian Folk Music Award Nomination for Best Album Short Stories
• 2009 – CBC Great Canadian Song Quest winner
• 2011 – Juno Nomination for Best Producer for Soon The Birds
• 2015 – Canadian Folk Music Nomination for Solo Artist of the Year
Photos by Stephanie Beatson

In their annual festival and gala, this year’s Toronto Independent Music Awards (TIMA) were held at Toronto hotspot Revival.  The event featured many of the winners from last year, including an electrifying performance by electro-pop/psychedelic rock band The Nursery,2014’s Best Rock or Indie group.

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Recently back from their Ontario/Quebec tour with Montreal’s Das Blankout, they’ve just released an impressive new single Hexes and Oh’s  which is available on iTunes. Catch these guys next time they’re in Montreal if you want to see something truly original, fun and unique.  Their newest tunes employ energetic dance beats and synths that throwback to the 80’s – really groovy stuff.

Check out this wickedly creative video for She Speaks the Wave:

Another highlight was uber-talented Jojo Worthington, whose charming voice mixed with effected ukulele and electronics is a refreshing twist on folk music.  No wonder she just announced a new Universal USA publishing deal!

Jojo Worthington

Dani Strong represented the country genre and not only did she capture and keep the attention of the crowd despite the Blue Jays playoff game, but she does some mean Jays players impersonations!  She puts on a fantastic show.

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Duo OSIYM, Out of Sight, In Your Mind, brought things up a notch with heavy bass, industrial beats and hip hop vocals.  These boys, Charlie Black and Nova, were intense and energetic for their entire set, playing many of the tracks from their July release, Spirits.


The awards portion of the evening was comparatively quite short versus the musical performances.  Congratulations to the winners for 2015, and keep your eyes and ears open for these talented artists:

Best Folk Or Roots:  Birds of Bellwoods

Best Singer-Songwriter:  Chris Rivers

Best Adult Contemporary:  Sarah Smith

Best Country:  Leah Daniels

Best Out-of-Province:  Bud Rice

Best Urban:  Es

Best Rock:  A Primitive Evolution

Best Indie:  The Naked Wild

Best Pop:  Dee Bronte

Best Jazz Vocals:  Ori Dagan

Best Jazz Instrumental:  Brownman Electryc Trio

Best World:  Sultans of String

Best Young-Songwriter:  Lyric Dubee

Best Instrumental or Classical:  Alessandra Paonessa

Best USA:  Christian Lee Hutson

Best International (Tied):  Them&Us and Cherisha Etnel

Best Overall Press Kit:  Dani Strong and Jutes

Best Song (Grand Prize Winner):  Chris Rivers – Calm Waters


It’s part and parcel for the trajectory of a ‘young band’ to haul around from place to place as part of a never-ending tour. The archetypal young band needs to tour relentlessly in order to break into international markets, as well as solidify the ones they’ve established back home. In a sense, the band needs to hawk their sound and image- their brand- in order to keep their nascent career afloat.

Concurrently, the imposed pressure and cyclicality of playing the same songs night after night is not necessarily conducive to the formation of ‘good’ art. Nonetheless, this point in a band’s career is, without a doubt, a stage of fight or flight- some bands wallow and shrink under the sudden realities of becoming professional performers, while some transcend this inevitable adversity and soar to new heights.

Alvvays is a band that is part of the latter distinction. On Tuesday night, I had the pleasure of heading to the Corona Theatre to watch this jangle-pop quintet perform a set as part of their most recent tour through Canada and the States. The group shows no signs of fatigue, no trace of crumbling and becoming yet another group condemned to the One Hit Wonder categorization on the next Big Shiny Tunes release.

Alvvays Montreal October 20 2015 2Alvvays began the night with one of the set’s liveliest, jangliest numbers, Your Type. Although not present on the band’s 2014 eponymous release, the upbeat tune has been used to open up live performances for quite a while.

The group then blissfully cruised through all nine tracks on the debut record, with the addition of three new songs from their impending sophomore album; vocalist Molly Rankin’s vocals were on point, Alec O’Hanley’s lead guitar lines were crunchy and crisp, and the rhythm section sustained the necessary energy over the 60 minute performance.

Aside from crowd favourite Archie, Marry Me, two of the night’s high points came when the vocals took centre stage. Renditions of Red Planet and Party Police found Rankin’s pure, uncomplicated vocals effortlessly floating upon the subdued musical accompaniment– if concertgoers weren’t already smitten by Rankin’s magnetically reticent persona, then these two moments served as the lynchpin.

Alvvays obliged the receptive Montreal crowd with a two-song encore– mellow, shoegazey track Dives and a somewhat unexpected cover of Alimony, originally performed by Aussie jangle-pop icons The Hummingbirds. This final cover track was far more than homage to a musical influence; it instead spoke to the importance of guitar-based music in contemporary culture.

Lead guitarist Alec O’Hanley has been quoted saying the band is very upfront about incorporating musical influences into Alvvays’ sonic styling. In fact, you can hear decades of indie-pop history in any one of Alvvays’ tracks.

Indeed, the group’s relatively brief musical history can in fact be traced back to the 1980s UK music scene; in particular, the ‘C86’ movement, which became shorthand term for jangling guitars, power-pop structures, and simple production techniques. Originally criticized in its day for lack of complexity, C86-associated artists such as Shop Assistants and Dolly Mixture serve as profound influences today for not only Rankin and O’Hanley, but for acts such as Best Coast, The Drums, and even Montreal’s boy Mac DeMarco (by the way, listen to I Don’t Wanna Be Friends With You by Shop Assistants- it sounds a lot like Alvvays’ Atop a Cake).

But what am I really getting at here? “Okay, cool, Alvvays implements sounds from 80s jangle-pop and incorporates it into their music. Big whoop.” But, this is exactly my point. This is, in fact, a very big deal.

Whether we like it or not, whether we acknowledge it or not, our current musical culture does not favour the 5-piece band like it used to. In the 1990s, college kids were chugging beers and getting silly while listening to guitar-based bands such as Blink-182, Oasis, Blind Melon, and so on. Now, you’d be hard-pressed to walk into a millennial party and hear someone playing straight-ahead rock music; it simply won’t happen, unless that person is nostalgically blasting Teenage Dirtbag in between Drake tracks.

I’m not saying this cultural occurrence is good or bad– it’s actually pretty natural. Musical trends come, and musical trends go. Who knows, maybe in 20 years Hair Metal will be back in fashion? The bottom line is that guitar music as we know it has, for now, slipped into the popular background, filling niche clubs and concert halls the way Hip-Hop did in the early 1980s. And this isn’t a bad thing at all, so long as a genre of music doesn’t wither away into extinction.

Even though the band has only released one album, Alvvays is an act that effectively exists to ensure the relevance and popularity of not just jangle-pop, but guitar-based music in general. Their early, and continued, success is a sign that audiences both at home and internationally still crave simple four-chord song structures, or the crunch of an electric guitar, or the sound of five people playing their instruments onstage in perfect harmony.

So it is fitting, then, that the first song Molly Rankin ever learned was Don’t Look Back in Anger by Oasis; a simple song, with a simple structure that easily transcended its minimal form to move a generation. Alvvays’ own Archie, Marry Me has a similar effect. As evidenced during Tuesday night’s performance, the song caused an eruption of joy from within the crowd- it was a special moment of communion between the audience and the band that affirmed the group’s importance in the trajectory of indie history. So when Alvvays closed their set with a song by The Hummingbirds, I was assured that the future of guitar-music was in very capable hands.

Toronto-based, Indie rockers Alvvays are back in Montreal, and we couldn’t be more excited. After a jam-packed summer that saw the band perform at the UK’s premier music festival Glastonbury, as well as Montreal’s own Osheaga Festival, Alvvays is on the road again for a series of concert dates throughout Canada and the States.

Alvvays’ eponymous 2014 debut album is an upbeat, jangle-pop affair that draws heavily, both lyrically and sonically, from The Smiths, The Cranberries, and Britpop icons Oasis. Their breakout single Archie, Marry Me put the group on the international Indie radar– you’ve probably already heard the track, and if you haven’t, check it out immediately:

The band’s unique ability to create pop melodies that are whimsical and immediate, dreamy and simultaneously infectious sets them apart from most acts on the Indie circuit. Top it all off with lead vocalist Molly Rankin’s intimate vocal performances and lyrical depth, Alvvays is a name that we’re going to be hearing for a very long time.

Performing Tuesday, October 20th at the Corona Theatre, 2490 Notre Dame Ouest, 8pm, this is a show that you’ll definitely want to check out

* Photo by Gavin Keen

Panelists David DesBaillets and Stacy Drake discuss the 2015 Canadian Federal Election, nightlife gun violence in Toronto like the shooting at the afterparty for Drake’s OVO Fest and a rundown of stories since our last podcast in the Old News segment. Plus the Community Calendar.

Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau


David DesBaillets: Freelance writer, legal academic, former political operative, former FTB contributor and occasional contributor at Loonie Politics

Stacy Drake: FTB culture and entertainment contributor

You can still vote in our Federal Election Poll

FTB PODCAST #10: Election, Nightlife Violence in Toronto and Old News by Forget The Box on Mixcloud

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

It’s no surprise that I am a huge fan of Toronto rapper Drake. It all started back in 2010, when I first heard his hit Find Your Love on the radio. His voice and the lyrics of that song got me hooked. Then I saw the video and that’s when my love for this artist really began.

So far, I’ve purchased three of his albums, I’ve seen him twice in concert and my playlist is full of his latest (and older) hits, including several collaborations. One event I haven’t attended yet is his OVO (October’s Very Own) festival that is held every year in Toronto. I wasn’t lucky enough to get tickets to the festival this year, but I did end up purchasing tickets to his after party for Monday August the 3rd at Muzik Nightclub in Toronto.

The OVO Festival is a concert hosted by Drake which began back in 2009 and has been a success ever since. The three day festival is known for the special guests that the rapper brings to Toronto and this year, like every other, he did not disappoint. His featured artists were none other than Future, Kanye West and Pharrell Williams.

On the night of the after party, I decided to meet up with my friend at the club around 11pm. Obviously there was a line up and security was tight. According to the venue’s website, there were 73 security guards on duty that night, where they conducted body searches, checked all of the girls purses and used metal-detecting wands.

I met up with my friend inside and we grabbed a spot, ordered a couple of drinks and enjoyed ourselves while waiting for Drake to make an appearance. At around 2:45 am, he finally came on stage, said a few words, thanked his fans and then called it a night.

As people started leaving, the DJ kept playing music and I was determined to stay so I can at least catch a glimpse of my favorite artist. About half an hour later, my friend was tired and wanted to head back. I insisted we stay but he didn’t want to, so we both left the venue at 3:15am.

The next morning, I received two text messages from two of my friends asking if I was alright. I wasn’t sure why they were asking until they told me what had happened. I immediately logged on the internet and saw the news for myself.

A shooting took place at the club at around 3:20am that left two dead and three injured. My jaw dropped as I was reading the article. I couldn’t believe it! I kept thinking, had I stayed at the club….

Neither Drake or his representatives have yet to comment about the incident and Toronto Police are asking for the Toronto native’s help. Meanwhile some of his fans have criticized the rapper for not talking about the shooting.

Personally, I think he should at least send his condolences to the victims’ families. As for the tragedy, it would be great to see him talk about putting an end to gun violence, but other than that, he had nothing to do with the shooting.

Toronto-based filmmakers Kathryn Palmateer and Shawn Whitney just wrapped up production on their second indie movie Fucking My Way Back Home. As with their debut feature A Brand New You, the writer/director/producer duo and married couple are turning to Indiegogo to help offset the costs of post-production.

As the title suggests, the film, which stars Freya Ravensbergen, Manuel Rodriguez-Saenz and Julio Benitez Guardiola deals with sex work. It does so, though, in a way not common with most Hollywood productions. I had a chance to ask Whitney about the project:

FTB: Briefly, tell me what Fucking My Way Back Home is in your own words.

Shawn Whitney: We’re calling it a “sex worker dystopia” to highlight the fact that the Tory model of criminalization is creating dangerous situations for sex workers and this story is meant to reflect that reality. But it’s also – more conventionally – an erotic thriller and road movie that takes place over the course of one night.

What made you want to make a film with sex work as a main theme?

This story was one that I had worked on with another writer a number of years ago, named Reece Crothers. We didn’t end up doing anything with it and it just sort of sat around in a drawer, unwritten. We were looking for something that we could produce and direct that was do-able for a minimal budget and it seemed to be that but also all the debate that arose around sex work in recent years also made it seem like a good story to tell right now.

Did you contact any sex worker support or advocacy groups and/or do you plan to?

The thing is that it’s quite difficult. Sex worker organizations, like Maggie’s in Toronto, are busy, under-funded and tired of dealing with filmmakers who misrepresent sex workers and the sex industry for their own gain.

Maggie’s won’t even talk to filmmakers unless they are or were sex workers. I can’t say that I blame them but, on the other hand, we were going to make this movie and we wanted to talk to some sex workers to make sure that we weren’t misrepresenting their experience in important ways.

fucking my way back home 2

This was also a challenge – again, I think the “underground” nature of the industry contributes to that. We did meet with the owner of an escort agency. She gave us some really good notes and then sort of disappeared. Freya, our lead actress, also met with a couple of former escorts and got really good notes that affected the final shape of the script.

We would have loved to hire someone as a consultant but literally no one got paid on this film shoot so we weren’t in a position to do more than feed people and buy them drinks after the shoot was over.

With Hollywood a-listers like Anne Hathaway and Lena Dunham coming out against Amnesty International’s proposal to decriminalize sex work, do you think the abolitionist and victim who needs to be rescued (a la Pretty Woman) models permeate mainstream cinema? If so, do you think this will change anytime soon, or are indie films the only recourse?

A few years ago I wouldn’t have believed how quickly representations of gay men and transgender people would move forward. There are still major problems, of course, but I’m old enough to remember the Al Pacino film Cruising and how gay men were represented as homicidal or sick in some way.

The key was not that Hollywood got more progressive it was that LGBT people fought for their civil rights over years and years and years. And in the process of winning some important gains – like same sex marriage – they also transformed out culture in important ways.

The hope, I think, for cultural representations of sex workers ultimately lies in a movement for sex worker rights that is led by sex workers themselves. This exists, for instance, in parts of the developing world – large, militant sex worker unions, etc. So, it could happen here and that would shatter the kinds of paternalistic attitudes that certain feminists have towards sex workers.

It’s worth saying also that the flip side of this is the perspective peddled by the porn industry, which tries to portray sex worker as simply a matter of personal choice. It’s not that simple either. We have to take into account poverty, lack of options, gender oppression. But instead of fighting to ban the sex industry – whether porn or escort services, whatever – we should fight for better conditions, fight to unionize workers in the industry.

Where did you get the idea to crowdfund this film? Do you think this is the future of indie cinema?

We crowdfunded after our first film, which helped to offset some of the costs of post-production. So, we wanted to do it again and we’ve done a slightly better job this time, even though we’ve been a bit more neglectful of the campaign, strangely.

The idea of crowdfunding is everywhere in the indie film world and people see campaigns like the one by Zach Braf that raised a million dollars or whatever or the campaigns for various reboots of the Star Trek franchise and think that could be them. Sorry, not gonna happen. You’re not going to raise a million dollars with your first, second or third film. Ingrid Veninger – a very well known DIY filmmaker in Toronto just raised $36 000 for her fifth film He Hates Pigeons.

fucking my way back home 3

Break it down – where is that $50 000 going to come from in real terms? Do you have 1000 friends who will each give $50? I wish I did!

So it’s not going to allow most filmmakers to make even “microbudget” films in the $150K range. But it does provide another tool to help build a following and can offset, for instance, some of your post-production costs.

Indie filmmaking, it seems to me, is more and more like building a band – you start with a following of immediate friends and family. If you make something good and find creative ways to get the word out, you can expand your audience and then mobilize them to help you make your next movie.

You can go from raising $5000 to $6000-$7000. That’s nothing to sneeze at. For a long time in the conventional industry “pre-sales” have been a key element of financing films. Crowdfunding at its best is like that – I like to call it: “pre-sales from below,” rather than pre-sales through corporate broadcasters and national or international distributors.

* You can help Fucking My Way Back Home’s pre-sales by donating to their Indiegogo Campaign (less than two days left)

* Photos by Douglas Hunter, courtesy of Dangerous Dust Productions

How is it that every time I want to check my Instagram and Facebook account, there is not one day that I don’t come across a Kanye West and Kim Kardashian article (a.k.a Kimye). Sure, Kanye is a rapper, a songwriter and a record producer; or as he calls himself a ‘creative genius’ (seriously?). But let’s be honest, he isn’t the greatest artist out there; and he certainly wouldn’t be the first person to come to mind when talking about performing at the closing ceremony of the Pan Am Games.

The Pan Am Games is a sporting event featuring summer sports where thousands of athletes participate in various competitions. Just like the Olympics, medals are handed out to the first, second and third place finishers. In addition, there is also an opening and a closing ceremony, which mark the beginning and ending of the event.

The games are currently being held in the City of Toronto and end this month on July 26. It was recently announced that Kanye West will be headlining the closing ceremonies, but not everyone is pleased with the latest news.

Why not Drake instead?

Since news broke that Kanye will be performing, an online petition calling for the singer to be replaced has caused quite a buzz on social media. There are now close to 50 000 signatures, and supporters are asking for the committee to drop West and choose a local artist, perhaps Drake or The Weeknd, who represents the City of Toronto.

It would only make sense to have a Canadian artist close out the games! Also scheduled to perform at the event are Pitbull and Serena Ryder (at least ONE of them is Canadian, eh?).

I am quite happy that there is actually something that is being done about this; that people’s opinions are actually being heard. The Pan Am Games have proven to be important for Torontonians and what better way to end them by featuring some homegrown talent. If you would like to take part and sign the petition, you can at

* Featured image from

Don’t be confused; there’s nothing macabre about the show Die Mutter. And no, this isn’t a new mounting of the Bretolt Bretch play. (although there is an obvious German influence).

Instead the name refers to the hilarious sketch comedy stylings of the Toronto duo Noemi Salamon and Deborah Ring. And after seeing their show you will most definitely be in a very good mood.

From life coaches to Shia LeBeouf to club bitches, no one is safe from their brutal mockery. The skits range from absurd to hyper sexualized to witty commentaries on how, as the ladies so delicately put it, “white people are the worst.”

Even the weakest skits are smarter than entire other Fringe shows (that will not be named obviously) and produce a chuckle. The strongest skits will have you laughing out loud.

While the show is most definitely NOT kid appropriate, the appeal of their zany sketches, it seemed, was not solely that of a 20-30 something hipster. People of all ages were in attendance at the Montreal Improv, and all laughing in equal measure. If only it were possible to raise Christopher Hitchens from the dead to show him that he was quite wrong; women can indeed be very funny.

While the Montreal Fringe is now over, make sure to check them out next time you’re in Toronto!

In most places, there is always that ONE public figure that represents their hometown and never forgets where they came from. In Toronto, for instance, it is obvious that rapper Drake has put the city on the map. From rapping about his days growing up in the 416, to becoming the Global Ambassador for the Toronto Raptors (for crying out loud, give the man the key to the city already!).

For us Montrealers, a few names come to mind (Georges St-Pierre, the band Simple Plan), but if there is one person who has experienced stardom by working alongside Hollywood A-listers and is still able to stay grounded, it’s gotta be actor Jay Baruchel.

Although Jay was born in Ottawa, he grew up right here in Montreal, in the NDG area. Baruchel has worked with the likes of Clint Eastwood and Nicolas Cage, and has appeared in several films such as Million Dollar Baby, Knocked Up and This is the End. He currently stars in the sitcom Man Seeking Woman, a romantic comedy about a soft-spoken man who finds himself in awkward situations while looking for love.

The show is filmed in the city of Toronto, which is where Baruchel lives now. In a recent interview with the National Post, Jay explains why he moved to Toronto and how Quebec politics affected his decision.

In previous interviews, the actor has always said that he would never move to LA and live that ‘Hollywood’ lifestyle; it’s just not him. When asked why he had chosen Toronto over Montreal, the reason wasn’t only because of the filming of the show, but also because of Quebec’s political climate.

The last election was kind of like a wake up call for him. The separation of this province from the rest of the country is what he couldn’t deal with anymore.

As an Anglo-Montrealer myself, I can understand his point of view. Montreal is a great city; it’s very diverse and multicultural, especially since it is a city with a large population. But some of the issues can be really frustrating sometimes.

For instance, the language barrier in Montreal can be somewhat of a problem. Luckily I’m bilingual and speak both English and French, but when it comes down to my career path and my lifestyle, it’s all in English for me, just like it is for Baruchel.

He ends the interview by saying that, since he wants to be a filmmaker in Canada and most of his ideas are in English, it would make sense for him to be in Toronto; and it would be the same for me. After reading this interview, I realized I wasn’t the only person who thought that way.

Don’t get me wrong; I love this city and what it has to offer, but I feel like us Anglophones are excluded because of the fact that we speak English. Does anyone else feel the same way? Why can’t we just meet halfway instead of having to deal with this whole ‘Quebec becoming its own country’?

A lot has happened in the past twenty years and it seems as though Quebec’s separation is still a priority.