ARTIST SPOTLIGHT - VICTORIA STAFF
You may have been lucky enough to catch Victoria Staff, armed with her guitar and her powerful vocals, performing around campus over the past couple months, but what you may not know about this Toronto native is that she’s balancing her performing career with not only a degree in neuroscience but campus involvement as a member of Alpha Delta Pi. On top of that, she recently released a full-length album —The Blue Book Project is available now on Spotify. We caught up with Victoria to ask — what is The Blue Book Project? And how do you do it!?
You've just released your first album, The Blue Book Project. Where does the title come from?
I'm a very forgetful person. If I don’t write something down, I won’t remember it. So I got this blue notebook that I write everything down in: most of my songs, in some form or another; directions, questions, sometimes notes from school... hypothetically, if someone were to steal it, they would know everything about me. And that was the idea of my album. I would want someone to listen to it and know who I am.
What is your favourite song on the album?
I like the way Violets In My Hair turned out best. There are some songs on the album that are just me and my guitar, and those just sound how they’ve always sounded… but there are others that changed a lot. I love the way it sounds.
Do you remember your first time performing?
I remember my first significant time was in Grade 9. It was basically my school’s version of American Idol, and I went up and sang this 30 second acapella version of Hallelujah. I just remember going on thinking “I’m going to pee myself, I can’t do this,” and then as soon as it was over it was like “oh my god, I want to go again!" I think the first time I realized I wanted to stick with music was in Grade 11. I performed Home in front of a relatively large audience and I was jittery at first, but then I just felt really… comfortable.
How do you balance your schoolwork with your music?
I'm not as passionate about school as I am about music... studying is something I really have to push myself to do. I could spend all my time writing, but then I would fail out of UBC and my parents would be pissed! I just make lists, calendars, boring stuff to get you through your day-to-day.
Where do you find inspiration to write?
I try to keep the number of songs about boys not too high, ‘cause other things are more important… for example, my sorority is on my album. Sometimes I’ll realize someone’s important to me, and I’m like, this person deserves a song. All I Am is about my mom, but for the longest time I felt like I couldn’t get it right.
Who are your biggest influences?
I really love Passenger, and Hozier… they write in very different days. Passenger is very detailed, very forward about the way he writes. You always know what he’s talking about, but he writes in a way that you wouldn’t speak. With Hozier, you don’t always know what he’s talking about, but it’s very powerful. Some of his work, like the song Cherry Wine, which is about a man in an abusive relationship… the lyrics are messed up, but you appreciate it. You shouldn’t, but you do.
What's next for you?
I have a few performances lined up in Vancouver, but I’m not going to release any new music for a while. I don't want to release music just for the sake of releasing something, I want to release because it’s like, “this is awesome!” I want to get really comfortable with what I’m doing right now before moving forward.
We’ve linked The Blue Book Project above, so treat yourself to a cup of tea, curl up somewhere cozy and give it a listen! And keep an eye on our page and Victoria's Facebook page for updates on where to catch upcoming performances on UBC campus and around Vancouver.
Interview by Emma Jane MacLeod | Photography by Kota Sato
ARTIST SPOTLIGHT - WIVES AND DAUGHTERS
Amid the chaos of opening week, 4th-year BFA Acting students Daria Banu, Aidan Wright and Louis Lin took a few minutes out of their hectic day to give us the lowdown on Wives and Daughters, UBC Theatre's exciting contemporary take on Elizabeth Gaskell’s Victorian masterpiece.
Though Banu, Wright and Lin spared us any major spoilers, they painted vivid pictures of the dynamic cast of characters featured in Wives and Daughters. Centred on the story of seventeen-year-old Molly Gibson, the show is a commentary on life and love in Victorian England.
Wright’s character, the misunderstood Robert Preston, calls patriarchal views of marriage and consent into question with his longstanding engagement to Banu’s Cynthia Kirkpatrick. For her part, Cynthia (stepsister to Molly) is very much a modern woman trapped in 1830 England. Her affections may be fleeting, but her love is genuine. Banu attributes her fickle nature to a “vast boredom” with her lot in life. Lin’s portrayal of the intelligent-but-naive Roger Hamley, the love interest of the play, rounds out the dynamic cast.
Though we’re all familiar with that special magic of period pieces -- those frilly dresses! The elaborate language! The fancy hair! -- some non-theatre students among us may be wondering how a work originally written in 1864 can still be fresh and relatable in 2017. Luckily, UBC Theatre and Film professor Jaqueline Firkins’ brand-new adaptation is anything but dated.
“There are so many things about this production that you wouldn’t have seen even ten years ago,” Banu told me. “We have more modern casting, lines, hair… it’s a really flexible period show.”
More exciting still is the fact that this is a world premiere of a brand new Canadian work, right here at UBC!
All three actors sung the praises of their crew and designers. From the set design to the costumes to the projections, Wives and Daughters couldn’t come to life without the combined efforts of UBC’s BFA Acting and Design students.
“Crew view is one of the most exciting days,” Lin told me. “That’s when we have our first full run at [Frederic Wood Theatre], with an audience that hasn’t already seen the show. You get to see the crew’s reactions and realize that people actually care so much about the characters and the story.”
“Theatre is such a people-oriented art,” Banu agreed. “My favourite part is when the tech people come in and this whole play gets that much bigger. At the risk of sounding cheesy, it’s so nice having your team of people who just get it to joke around with backstage. It’s just a big ol’ block of cheese!”
“That go time leading up to opening night, when the costumes, lights, and stage all come together... seeing an actual product come out of all the discussion is so stressful but exciting!”
Wright wasn’t exaggerating -- ‘stressful’ hardly begins to cover it. In the week leading up to opening night, these 4th-year students are rehearsing nearly 5 straight hours a night, on top of a full course load. Midterms may be a hectic time for us all, but imagine having to set aside an extra hour a day for hair, makeup and costumes!
From tonight until November 25th, don’t miss your chance to see Frederic Wood Theatre transformed by the amazing design crew and the stage graced with fantastic performances by Danu, Wright, Lin and the rest of the Acting program. Take a step into the Victorian world with Jacqueline Firkins’ exciting new adaptation of Wives and Daughters!
Interview by Emma Jane MacLeod | Images used with permission from UBC Theatre & Film
ARTIST SPOTLIGHT - MIKE JOHNSTON
The Persistence of Vision Film Festival (POV) is an annual event showcasing short films written, directed, shot, edited, and produced by students of the Film Production Program at the University of British Columbia Vancouver. We interviewed Mike Johnston, a 4th year student in the UBC Film Production program and the co-chair of POV 27, where he oversees the entire operation and the technical execution of the event.
What is your favorite part about making films?
My favourite part is the collaboration. Filmmaking is not a one person job if it was everyone would do it. I love collaborating with DPs and editors and technicians to make my vision or someone else’s come to life. Nothing is more exciting when you can pull that off.
What is the hardest part about directing a movie?
The hardest part is that you are counted on to be the captain of the ship at all times you have to be the voice of reason and logic 24/7. If you are stressed, the whole production team will be stressed. If you are in a bad mood everyone else will be too. It's your job to keep a level head and manage the entire team as well as think creatively and execute the writer’s script and your vision. It's both art and science.
What was the very first film you made?
I made a ton of really bad movies in high school but my first official short film I made in my 2nd year at UBC and it was called Somewhere, about a little girl whose father was perceived dead but was really just trapped in another dimension in which he could hear her but she couldn't here him. It was a short five minute film which sparked my interested in themes of family and relationships in life which have carried over in most of my films now.
What was your favorite film at POV last year and why?
My favourite film last year was Bon Bon Fire, a morbid animated film from Sharon Lin, which was great because it was so entertaining. I began making movies because I love watching them and entertaining my family, friends and others is why I love making movies and that film made me remember what is it like to love watching movies, something that is sometimes forgotten when you are so busy making them.
What are you most excited about for POV 27?
I'm most excited to see films from some of my friends who haven't directed in a while or who haven't directed before. This is also my last year with the program and POV, both of which I have been affiliated with for four years so I am looking forward to passing the torch just as my mentor did to me two years ago.
Can you tell me about your film this year, Here There Be Tygers? Why did you choose this story?
It is an adaptation of a Stephen King short story. I received permission to make the film for the price of $1 as part of his dollar baby program. I chose to do an adaptation because I wasn't writing anything I could get excited about, or present a new challenge. I need to be excited and challenge myself to love my work. This was a fun story and presented the new challenge of working with kids. I fell in love with the story because it was such a ridiculous situation within a real life problem. The idea of a tiger haunting this young child while he needed to go to the bathroom. The child also has such an extraordinary imagination, it reminded me of me as a kid and the early films that inspired me to become a filmmaker.
Don't miss Mike's film, along with eighteen others, premiering at POV April 29th-20th at Frederic Wood Theatre (tickets here). Check out the Events page for a full line up and synopses of all the films!
ARTIST SPOTLIGHT - IMPROV LADIES
Earlier in the term, we sat down with UBC Improv's all female executive team. Made up of Afrothiti Yannitsos, Jesse Rea and Sophia Larney, third year Kinesiology, Arts and Geography students. These dynamic and incredibly funny ladies are paving the way to comedy success on UBC campus. Check out their interview below:
How did you get into the comedy // improv world?
Afrothiti: I think I was just born with it. In Grade 11, my best friend, Trang Nguyen, who was the president of improv last year, told me to join our high school improv team for Grade 12. We ended up going to nationals and all that Jazz and ended up just auditioning for Improv together once we got to UBC
Sophia: I did a lot of theatre in junior high and high school. When I came to UBC I wanted to find something that would let me still do some form of theatre, so I auditioned and was lucky enough to get into the team. So my first time joining improv was also my first time ever doing improv.
Jesse: Similarly, I did the whole theatre thing as a kid, my parents were really into community theatre, so my brother and I were always around in. So in high school I joined the competitive improv team and immediately loved it. It’s kind’ve one of the reasons I came to UBC, the community here and in Vancouver in general is so awesome.
Alright let's get right into it, favourite stand up comedians of all time?
Jesse: Okay, maybe I had an hour to write an essay I’d think of a different answer, but right off the top of my head, Colin Mocherie. And of recent, Amy Poehler, she’s hilarious.
Afrothiti: I just grew up watching Jim Carrey, I love his mannerisms and his face, just the way he improvises, does stand up and acting. Yeah, definitely Jim Carrey.
Sophia: Honestly, I don’t really like stand up comedy (Don’t put that in there). But in terms of growing up watching comedians, probably John Cleese is the one that comes to mind, Monty Python and Fawlty Towers had large influence on why I liked comedy as kid
Which one of you is the funniest?
Jesse and Sophia: I’d say in your every day 24/7, Afro for sure. You are so funny, and it’s kind’ve in a way where you can never really tell if she’s kidding or not
Afrothiti: I dunno, Sophia and Jesse are very different. Like Sophia is the humour that’s really whacky, she does these totally crazy characters. But I have to say, i’ve never laughed harder on stage than at some of Jesse’s characters. I think we’re just really different types of humour, I always make fun of myself for cocky. Sophia is really whacky, and Jesse is like our humble little elf who’s just hilarious.
Jesse and Sophia: Yeah, I think that's accurate, just three different types of humour
Most embarrassing UBC improv moment?
Sophia: I think it’s rare to have a show where you don’t embarrass yourself.
Jesse: Okay, I did this to myself, but we were doing this show where we told true life story monologues in between skits. I came on stage and told a packed audience a story of peeing my pants… and how it had been three days ago. I honestly don’t get embarrassed much, it’s just a really funny story. I left out the fact that it was 3 days ago till the very end. I was walking off stage and was like ‘thanks folks, that was three days ago’.
Sophia: We do a not-improv show every year, where you can do really anything but improv. And I don’t know why, but I got this idea for this weird tour guide teacher kind’ve character. I made a powerpoint, and got on stage and just made these pretty weird jokes. I feel like i’ve got this humour that sometimes doesn’t quite translate. I mean people were laughing, but I could also see their faces.
Afrothiti: I feel like a lot of what I do is embarrassing, but I really don’t care. But I remember getting this comment back after one of my shows when he said ‘you’re such a smart person, but you look like such an idiot on stage’, I was like, really? He said ‘yeah, but you’re hilarious’. So from then on I just decided I was gonna be really whacky. Oh also if I perform drunk, definitely embarrassed the next day.
Tell us a bit about this next semester, what shows do you have planned? Any more meets with other Universities?
Jesse: This semester is just kicking off, everything all at once. But all good things. A couple weeks ago we went to this tournament in the states. A bunch of colleges compete, each school sends just one team. We sent 6 people to the regional tournament and were stoked to come back winning first in Seattle. So now we get to travel to Chicago and compete in the birthplace of improv in North America. It was great to see all these different teams coming up with different kinds of improv you never would have thought of.
Afrothiti: So that's coming up in the end of February, between now and then we’re probably just gonna do some fundraisers and stuff as a group. A bit later on we have our improv festival that we host ‘internationally’ (between the states and us). Teams all over the northwest will be coming though, and for 4 days (March 22-25) a whole bunch of teams will perform each night. It’s gonna be super awesome. A lot of promotion for that will be coming up.
Jesse: And as we mentioned, we have our annual not improv show coming up. We have so many really talented people on the team that don’t necessarily get to show off their talents so this is really that chance for them. Whether it be learning a song, a poem, playing some music, or honestly whatever else. That’s coming up in March.
Afrothiti: We’ve also got Nest Fest coming up with BVP, we’re working some things out with CiTR, and got a coffeehouse show coming up. Loads of cool opportunities.
How does improv fit into the next stage of your lives?
Afrothiti: TL;DR: Improv has been such a vital part of my university career. It’s one of the only places where you’ll get people from every faculty, and just all different kinds of people too. Me being in kinesiology, I probably wouldn’t have met a lot of the people I call my best friends today if it wasn’t for improv. There’s just something about it.
Interview and photography by Alex Pflaum
CITR 24 HOURS OF POWER
We had the an amazing time working with CiTR this term to put together a podcast focused around arts and culture here at UBC. In conjunction with their annual 24 hours of Student Power, Dive into UBC took over the airwaves for one hour to give you a sneak peak into the world of arts and culture on campus. We had performances from talented students, talks about the arts and culture scene at UBC and featured some talented works from our favourite musicians! Check it out:
ARTIST SPOTLIGHT - STEFANIE MICHAUD
Stefanie is a final year BFA student studying theatre. She recently starred in Edward II, as Queen Isabella, and is set to perform in Love and Information by Caryl Churchill and Les Belles-Soeurs by Michel Tremblay. Check out her insight into the world of acting here at UBC.
What was the first moment you remember of you saying to yourself, yeah I want to be an actress?
I did a lot of performing in middle and high school, but never really pursued it. I came to UBC to do elementary education, however, it’s a second bachelor degree, so I figured I'd do a first bachelor in the only other thing I'm interested in: theatre. So I auditioned for the BFA program, and actually got in. Which to me was like, oh my God, I'm good enough to actually be in here? If these people picked me, maybe other people will pick me too. And in these past few years I’ve really learnt about all the different ways in which you can make money acting.
Tell us about the first time you performed in front of a crowd.
In Grade 6 I had these two friends, we made a little gang - the Jellybean Crew. We would make up these little skits, and I don’t think that I understood at the time that I really enjoyed telling stories. We would perform in front of our teacher at recess. It’s not really a big crowd, but it was the first time that I created something, and wanted people to watch me.
Why did you choose UBC for acting?
I had this really long list of what I wanted out of a University, it needed to be a massive school, but also in a big city. It needed to have a good dance community, a theatre program, the education program. UBC just fit it all. I came to visit and it was just so beautiful, even though it’s always under construction. As soon as I came here I knew that I wanted to live here.
Whats been your favourite moment from performing in Vancouver?
Two years ago I played Princess Leia in A Nude Hope, a burlesque show created and performed by Geekenders. We performed in Whitehorse, Yukon for a weekend, went to the Sunshine Coast and performed for two weeks at the Waterfront Theatre on Granville Island
Tell us a bit about your most recent project, Edward II.
I was so shocked that I got cast as Queen Isabella. I loved the rehearsal process because we didn’t do a lot of table work and for me, as a dancer, it was fulfilling to be up and moving. It was also one of the first times that I got to wear costumes specifically made for me!
How about the commitment it took, and balancing it with school?
By mid-August, we were in rehearsal 48 hours a week for Edward II. We were all in our final year so we substituted rehearsals for classes. Coming back to school early wasn’t the greatest, but it was okay because we were doing something that we loved.
For your final year in the BFA program, do you have any more shows planned?
We have two more shows in the season. Coming up January 19 to February 4 is Love and Information by Caryl Churchill directed by MFA Candidate Lauren Taylor. Followed by Les Belles-soeurs by Michel Tremblay directed by MFA Candidate Diane Brown from March 16 to April 1. Information for both shows can be found here.
Anything that you’d like us to add?
Yeah, feel free to check out my burlesque page! I go under under a different name.
Interview and photography by Alex Pflaum
ARTIST SPOTLIGHT - FARHAD GHADERI
Farhad is a fourth year Film Studies student, originally from Mexico City. His photography has been featured in Vogue Italia, and his short film just recently won 'Best Experimental Film' at the Montreal film festival. Join us as we dive into the life of Farhad Ghaderi.
Tell us a bit about yourself, where and how did your passion for the creative arts start?
I come from a family with a background full of journalists and different artists. I started first with photography when I was 15, I was living in France alone on exchange and I was a little depressed. My Dad sent me a little point and shoot camera and said ‘keep yourself busy’. I quickly realized how much I enjoyed looking at the world through a little lens, and that definitely sparked my passion.
And how did it all take off here at UBC?
So I got a lot more serious about photography and film once I got to UBC, I came here for the film program, but I started taking a lot more pictures too. It was the first time people were really taking interest in my work. Through social media people were saying “Oh I know this guy who takes great profile pictures”. So I had this incentive, people who were actually enjoying what I was doing. This hyper social world generally gave me a lot of confidence and motivation in following through with my work.
Could you tell us a little about the film you’ve been working on?
Yeah for sure, so the name of the film is "All Things Wanting", it started as our third year film project here at school. I teamed up with two friends of mine, Mintie Pardoe (producer) and Craig Range (director), who were the producers and directors for the film. But yeah, it's a movie about this film director who, whilst making his movie realizes that it kind’ve actually sucks. He spirals into this thought where he starts to questions everything he does, he goes into this search for meaning, and ultimately can’t find it. He has to come to terms with that fact, the movie is really about coming to terms with certain facts of life.
It’s currently running through the festival circuit, and it got it’s world premiere at the Montreal Film Festival, where it won best experimental short film which was amazing. But after that we also got rejected from a lot of other festivals haha.
Thats awesome, congratulations! Do you have a favourite moment from working on the movie?
Yeah for sure, I think my favourite moment might have been Mintie’s worst moment. We had around 40 extras packed into this little alleyway close to Chinatown. The whole point was this chase, our main character was running through this alley, and all the extras were chasing him wearing these painted black Hulk Hogan masks. It was super fun, I got to shoot from really crazy angels, jumping from a ladder, running through the extras. It was really cool, there was so much energy, people showed up because they genuinely wanted to help. I realized that you really can bring these ideas in our heads to life. You can make cool things!
You’re also a pretty incredible photographer, do you have some favourite photos you’ve ever taken?
Yeah that's a pretty tricky question, because my favourite photos change all the time. Quite a lot of photos I used to really love, I look at now and just think, damn that sucks, I don’t want to see that again. But right now I think some of my favourite photos are with my girlfriend Pele. Just being so close to her, really defines what I shoot and how I shoot. There is this shot of her, it was sunrise and she was still sleeping, I just happened to wake up as the light was just so perfect coming through the windows onto her. My film camera was next to me, so I just grabbed it and snapped the moment as quick as I could, I really love that photo. It was just a very special and fleeting moment that I could actually capture. Quite often I realize that there are these fleeting moments that I fail to capture. Photography serves as a tool for our memories, and that photo for me is the epitome of a memory I wanted to keep.
Probably a photo that has consistently been my favourite is this photo of my friend Luca, and his ex-girlfriend. I don’t necessarily love it aesthetically so much, but I love how it came to be. It’s a shot of them naked in the woods, they’re kissing and there is this crazy fog powder around them blowing up. It’s probably just my all time favourite.
What has been your proudest moment so far as a creative?
In terms of photography, there was this meet-up, called Flickr Island. A bunch of photographers from around the world got together at this small isolated place nearby Nanaimo, and for two weeks we just camped, had fun, and took photos together. I got to meet a lot of my idols, and to see how powerful of a community you can create through a common interest, it was really an amazing time.
For film, last year at the UBC film festival we won some sweet awards. We won best film, best director, and best cinematography. I really liked when my name was said for cinematography, it felt so fucking nice. Not even that though, the best part was walking back to my seat, having everyone patting my shoulders, my girlfriend was screaming and crying. I was like fuck, this great, it was a really nice moment of validation. Like maybe I actually am doing things right, maybe I can do this.
Interview and photography by Alex Pflaum
VIDEO SPOTLIGHT - WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?
So UBC, what are you bumping when you're sprinting from Buchanan to Swing in the 10 minutes you've got between class? Hitting IKB for a last-minute study sesh? Searching for that prime spot to sneak in a power nap? Dive into UBC and TheCalendar.ca hit the streets to find out!
From Eric Clapton to T-Swift, EDM to smooth jazz jams, UBC's taste in music is as diverse as the weather on a stormy Vancouver day. We may all be power-walking between classes to the beat of our own sick playlists, but music is all around us if we take a minute to listen. Some of us are getting pumped up to see Chance the Rapper this week, others are still getting over Glass Animal's incredible show the other night. Songs in Ukrainian, songs without words, country, rap, disco... whatever gets you grooving in spite of the six midterms you have this week, we wanted to know about it!
So whatever you're listening to right now, press pause for a second, take the headphones off, and get ready to find out what your fellow UBC students are jamming to. Dive into campus arts & culture with us, and the next time you spot your homies around campus with their earbuds in, don’t be afraid to ask... what are you listening to?
ARTIST SPOTLIGHT - TRAFFIK
Traffik, a third year Environmental Studies student at UBC, is a rapper on campus that has worked with the likes of Blank Vinyl Project, and Coastal Motion for live shows and video recordings. He's got one full length album, The Modest Tomorrow that came out in March 2016. This is a closer look at his music, and where it comes from.
What was your introduction to Hip-Hop?
Growing up my parents always used to play jazz and soul music, which is the style of music that I like a lot now. So much of Hip-hop uses soul and jazz, through the samples, so I just started naturally moving towards Hip-Hop over time. I was really into the poetic delivery style that it offered. For me, the kind of Hip-Hop I listen to is very lyrical, it’s always the main thing in the foreground, which really attracted me to it, I’ve always been into writing. For me Hip-Hop was a way to expand on writing poetry, and other things I was already doing often.
When did you first start rapping?
I wrote my first rap at like 10 or 11, I was in a duo with my brother from around then till I was like 18. It was super casual, we would just freestyle into an old computer in my grandparents attic, it had this little microphone and it would just pick up us freestyling into it over random beats. We did that for a long time, then I started writing too, which led to me eventually releasing some of my work.
Who are your biggest inspirations?
I really like Blu and Exile, my favourite album of all time is Below The Heavens. I also really like Common and Atmosphere, early Kanye west, and Tupac. These days I’ve been listening to Ratking and Wiki a lot.
Where do you get inspiration for your lyrics?
It’s usually a combination of normal life experiences and just listening to the beats. Beats will often give me vivid colours, or an imagine, sometimes a feeling that I’ll riff off. Sorta like synesthesia I guess. I’ll often just listen to potential samples and get a lot of inspiration through that.
What are the biggest creative challenges that you face?
The thing is, with music, you reach a point where you feel like you could make something slightly more commercial, and maybe that would expand me and my reach. But my natural tendencies, my style, and who I am just doesn’t really lend itself towards that direction. There are just so many trends that you could follow at any given point in time, but staying true to yourself is something that can genuinely be quite difficult, and that’s something I strive for.
How do you feel about the rap scene at UBC?
It’s cool yeah, we have a small but really dope community, Rappers without borders are doing really good things around campus. They do lots of charity events and have a space for people to freestyle, build their skills and meet people. Then there is Blank Vinyl project, who aren't specifically rap but they’ve done lots of music projects. I’d like to give them a special shout out because they’re really the ones who got me into the music scene at UBC, through the open mics and stuff
Anything you’d like to say?
Just a bunch of music coming up, I’ve got a music video in the works too. And to check out my full album on soundcloud, that would be sweet.