“Through free court, free exchange of opinions, a free press.
The free right to organize, free trade unions, free cooperatives, free political party.
That out of that kind of participation, out the ferment of discussion,
out of the conflict of ideas, out of the exchanges of points of view.
We will emerge with a better society.
Not a poorer one.”
November 8th, 2010 I entered a seemingly timid looking office building on the corner of Bank and Laurier in Downtown Ottawa. This was my first day of work at a brand new job for the Federal New Democratic Party of Canada. The role was new and there were a lot of growing pains early on. I wouldn’t really hit a solid stride until late February 2011. After shooting selected event stops of a ten city Canadian tour that Jack embarked on in January that year, and cutting a sizzle reel of the tour.
The two pieces below are from a candid interview I got to shoot with Jack in December of 2010. This particular clip is one of my favourites because it showcases Jack’s purpose and passion. If anything should help us realize what to be grateful for about his leadership… It is his perspective on what a Prime Minister can be, as well as his motivations for fighting to affect social and political change. Showing his wealth of hope and optimism proudly for all to see.
As far as positive stories go from working your first Election Campaign, I couldn’t ask for a better one than Canada’s forty-first election. A historic election campaign that saw the first (and only) Harper Conservative majority, which was important because it was their first post-Canadian Alliance/Progressive Conservative merger Majority. And, for New Democrats, a record 103 seats and for the first time in Canadian history; becoming her Majesty’s Loyal Official Opposition. The majority of my work was in helping build streaming broadcast processes and general video aesthetics and editing pieces throughout the Campaign.
The “You have a Choice” video came about as an idea that I started sketching before the writ-drop in 2011. After some time I pitched it to the Comms Director (Drew Anderson) one evening with some examples from Obama’s YouTube channel of similar types of policy explainer animations.
“For war rooms, perhaps. Voters might be less inclined to pop the champagne corks. If only they had a choice. By coincidence, on the day before the auditor-general kerfuffle, the NDP started running an ad called, “You Have A Choice.”
At two minutes long, the ad aired only at NDP rallies and in those late-night free-time ad slots nobody watches. It did not produce the shift in attitude toward the NDP. But it almost certainly can help us decode it.
The ad is all text. For the first half, the background is Tory blue or Liberal red and the music is ominous. Blocks of text spell out the message. “For too long in Ottawa, scandals and political games have gotten in the way of getting anything done,” the text said. A little later: “And now other leaders are telling you that you have no choice. That you have to vote for more of the same.” Who could this be about? The screen helpfully displays a blue door and a red door, just as Ignatieff described them in his flop-sweat scrum. “Doesn’t sound right, does it?”
The tone of the music changes—to celestial trumpets. “They’ve been telling JACK LAYTON the same thing for over EIGHT YEARS,” the text reads. “Jack Layton has proven them wrong.” The blue background switches to orange. The doom music becomes peppy acoustic guitar, Layton’s preferred instrument for serenading trapped reporters on the NDP campaign plane. “Fighting for our families. Our veterans. Our seniors.” Here the content of the pitch changes, from hope to accomplishment. “New Democrats sit first or second in 104 ridings across Canada . . . ridings where only New Democrats defeat Conservatives.”
We’ll spare you the rest, except to note that in the ad’s remaining 45 seconds, the words “You can choose” appear five times.”
Mr. Wells was right about the shift in the tone of the campaigns messaging. However, it happened before Jack’s great showing at the 2011 Debates. This piece again was made in advance of the NDP’s 2011 Election platform. Before the debates, and at a point in the campaign when most media were dismissing Jack and the NDP, saying “it was over” because a couple of polls listed voter intention between 10 to 14% … A great time in the campaign, despite what those polls might indicate. Internally the party was exceptionally motivated and were looking forward to both the platform launch and the debates.
“You have a Choice” (2011)
The NDP’s National Policy Convention was hot on the heels of the 2011 Election Campaign. Hosted in Vancouver’s gorgeous convention centre the convention was aptly named “VanCon 2011.” There were a few key pieces that I had to make… Specifically for the “50th Anniversary Showcase” programmed for the Friday evening of the Showcase. We wanted to do a video retrospective of the NDP’s leaders for the videos to be played in between the showcase speakers, of which included “Prairie Giant” star Michael Therriault re-enacting Tommy Douglas’s leadership victory speech from the NDP’s founding convention.
This being my first convention, I took away some learnings.
Always have video content formatted for TV Broadcast to both feed to the truck and for use after the event.
Always make convention videos “for the room.” I got lucky, people began cheering the facts as they appeared on screen and it worked. Something I repeated for the 2012 Leadership, 2013 Montreal and 2012 & 2014 ONDP Conventions and the 2014 CLC Convention.
Give the music enough space to breath in the room, because it makes an impact with the audience.
On the Sunday afternoon, about an hour before his keynote speech, I ran into Jack backstage. To set the context for this… We were still working on the speech, he had an idea of what was coming, but he was yet to see the draft. So, he had to be in a pretty anxious place leading up to it. But, he stopped while I was on my way to the washroom to take the time to thank me for my work. And told me about the conversations he was having with people after the showcase about the videos. He told me that my work and my voice were important and that it was of great importance that we continue to tell our own stories and take the initiative to not let anyone else define our history for us… That simple gesture fed my faith in my work for the party for nearly two years after. And to this day, swells a warmly saccharine lump in my throat.
“It can become one of the two major parties and eventually
the Government of Canada.”
“Progress & Leadership: The New Party” (2011)
“Progress & Leadership: Tommy Douglas” (2011)
“Progress & Leadership: The War Measures Act” (2011)
“Progress & Leadership: David Lewis” (2011)
“Progress & Leadership: Ed Broadbent” (2011)
“Progress & Leadership: Audrey McLaughlin” (2011)
“Progress & Leadership: Alexa McDonough” (2011)
“Progress & Leadership: Jack Layton” (2011)
VanCon2011, National Policy Convention.
Photos by Jenna Wakani
The Official Opposition
It was after all of those historic highs of the Election, the Convention that made all of what came next the most heartbreaking thing that could possibly happen to New Democrats across the country.
On August 22nd, 2011… I was in a Holiday Inn Express in Downtown Toronto, starting work on the New Democrats 2011 Ontario Election Campaign. Then my phone started to ring… First on the line was my ex-partner, she was clearly saddened and I wasn’t aware of what was going on until I opened my email and saw the press release. Like everyone, shut down for a spell before starting to try and figure out what was happening.
My post about Jack.
(1960 – 2011)
After the challenges of the State Funeral, followed by the Ontario election campaign I finally returned to Ottawa. Now working out of the NDP’s OLO Offices instead of the party office. We were all still very much in a state of melancholy, but with purpose. All of us, still carried the mission and wanted nothing more than to do right by interim leader Nycole Turmel and to serve the Canadians that gave the NDP caucus the Official Opposition mandate.
The Official Opposition New Democrats
“The Official Opposition: Year One” (2012)
“In Attawapiskat” (2012)
#NDPldr, Leadership 2012
Leadership2012 truly was one the leadership campaign no one ever wanted. That said, it was a unique experience. Travelling across the country to livestream the debates and developing promotional collateral throughout.
I got to make an ad in January of 2012, we ran it online only. I recall it being shown on CBC’s Power & Politics with the Liberal Pundit attempting to say that the ad was a response to how awful the enrolment for the convention was. Maybe a week later the party announced that the attendance demands were too great and the entire thing had to be moved from the Allstate Centre, where it was originally slated to be held, to Toronto’s MTCC to better accommodate the thousands of delegates.
Leadership2012 was attended by nearly 5500 people in Toronto’s Metro Convention Centre, where for the first time in the Party’s history an new leader of the Official Opposition was being elected.
This ad was made after convention registrations surpassed the attendance thresholds for the original planned venue and the Convention was moved to the MTCC.
The treatment was one that I had been working in other animation pieces, but didn’t get to employ with this type of energy level. I created a few different shots as the backdrops for the text overlays to keep the pace and the excitement of the piece high. Rather than it just being a simple side deck of text on screen pieces, like the 2011 Election video “You have a choice.”
All told, I recall hearing that there were over 5,500 Delegates on the Convention floor and our live-streaming numbers had at it’s peak, another 70K+ watching through our YouTube stream.
To open the convention, the seven candidates were each given fifteen minutes for them to make their case on a National Stage to the floor and all of those watching through all the major networks and online.
After the showcases wrapped, there was a dinner break followed by one of the best set pieces I’ve ever been able to work on. One of the finest pieces of tribute I think assembled to date. Not that there are many of them, but I mean in memorium tributes in the general sense.
The Layton Legacy
“I am the Layton Legacy” was a tribute showcase to Jack Layton made for the 2012 New Democrat Leadership Convention held in Toronto on March 23rd and 24th. This convention attracted record numbers of delegates, media and volunteers. What was created on the convention floor was an immersive, 3D space composed of hermetic instances personifying memories of Jack written in chalk in Nathan Phillips Square.
These pieces illustrate my obsession with breathing life into individual, human moments. I got to share my perspective on Jack, in the way I remember him. An attempt was made to capture the nonverbal language articulated by his movements. I wanted to personify his smile in a conversation or a particular statement. He had a way of inviting you in with his gesture, be it a lean into a podium or a sweeping hand movement. The footage selection was based on both the dialogue itself and how Jack was active in the frame.
We applied the Ken Burns treatments to photos, only in our case we updated the method bringing it into our century. Separating layers and using basic cinematic camera language we created subtle movements and added particle effects, lighting streaks and flares to enhance the environments of the photos in a non-invasive and organic way. We then integrated them with interviews. My role concentrated primarily on post-production management and editing.
I am very proud of this particular showcase and I consider myself fortunate to have collaborated with other very talented individuals. The end result is something I haven’t yet completely digested. It was extremely fulfilling to be able to communicate the respect and admiration supporters have for Layton. As Brian Mulroney articulated in his interview in the piece itself, Layton was “someone who turned out to be a great man.”
A good balance.
The “Layton Legacy” tribute event was hosted Juliette Powell, a former Miss Canada and MuchMusic VJ. It featured speeches from Senior Staff Brad Lavigne and Anne McGrath, Mike and Sarah Layton, Nycole Turmel and Olivia Chow, as well as a chalk portrait draw by Toronto. It could have been a maudlin event. The tendency for these kinds of tributes can be to go too far in canonizing your friend, instead of trying to root part of your message in the reality that needs to be faced the very next day.
The balance we struck was a good one. It was about the future, the act of honouring our promises to build a better future as a way to honour Jack’s sacrifice, leadership and voice in pursuing the same. And of course, saying goodbye to the best Prime Minister we never had.
The Layton Legacy
“A Progressive Canada”
“Equality & Justice”
The Mulcair New Democrats: 2012
Spring 2012, the New Democratic Party of Canada elected Tom Mulcair as Jack Layton’s successor. Leadership2012 was attended by nearly 5500 people in Toronto’s Metro Convention Centre, where for the first time in the Party’s history an new leader of the Official Opposition was being elected.
Time was that main stream media and the Canadian public at large wouldn’t really bat an eyelash at the New Democrats leadership race. Because up until the NDP’s historic showing in the 2011 general election, no leader was going be positioned as ‘the Prime Minister in waiting.’
The Mulcair NDP Opposition was taking aim at the Harper Conservatives. Opening this era with clear and demonstrative show of strength. Exhibiting the willingness to go directly at the Conservatives as hard as they were prepared to go after their opponents.
The Mulcair NDP: 2012
“Stephen Harper’s Solution” (2012)
“Lying Liars” (2012)
“Radicals for our Coast” (2012)
“Clear Choices” (2012)
The 2013 NDP Policy Convention was held in Montréal. A showcase about the NDP’s history and growth was structured about the party’s successes in Québec. Five videos were made outlining the NDP’s history in the province. And of course one Rump Shakin’ Room Boomin’ Intro piece that ran each morning of the Convention, just to let people know… “Everything was about to get really real.”
“Montreal 2013: Introduction”
The process for this piece was similar to the Leadership 2012 promo video. Implementing more audio-reactive elements, lighting flares and this time waveforms. Modifying stock footage of Montréal with the Convention colour palette into varied shots edited into a short “sizzle” piece.
“Convictions + leadership : histoire”
I love making the history pieces. Both this and the 50th anniversary pieces from the NDP’s 2011 Convention in Vancouver showcase and this were beautiful learning experiences. A couple of my favourite pieces of work from my time working with the party.
“Convictions + leadership : 2003 – 2008”
This piece covers the election of Jack Layton as NDP leader and his immediate effort to build a grassroots base for the party in Québec. Reaching out to luminaries to draft and develop Québec centric policies and attracting new high-profile candidates to run for the NDP.
“Convictions + leadership : 2011”
2011 is a year that will history will recall as one of the most turbulent in Canadian political history. Starting from the Michael Ignatieff lead Opposition Liberals, the Duceppe Bloc Québecois and Layton lead NDP defeating the Harper Conservatives minority government taking us into the another election. Then of course the story of that election, the Harper Conservative majority, the New Democrats rising to become the Official Opposition with 103 seats, for the first time in history. The downfall of the Ignatieff lead Liberals, with 33 seats in the Commons and leading the Liberals into electing yet another leader for their party.
For both Conservatives and the NDP, 2011’s election will always be uniquely historic and a positive memory for all involved.
Then of course, we all lost Jack. The air left every room.
For New Democrats across the country, our historic rise was met with an unfathomable loss. The only thing that we were all faced with was to put ourselves back together as quickly as we could to face the challenges that were in front of us.
So in 2013, 18 months after we lost Jack, we wanted to address that Elephant in the room as well, so I did my best in attempting to emulate the sudden impact his loss had. How staff and supporters across the country were forced into this new reality, of an NDP without Jack. The video builds all of that momentum and excitement and the room began to swell with adulation, until that “smash cut and music change to photo from the Jack’s State Funeral. The room went silent immediately. Which may seem slightly mean, but it was in service to the next speaker, Chantal Vallerand, as she discussed the integrity, strength and kindness that New Democrats showed in the year following Jacks’ passing.
“Convictions + leadership : 2013”
For the NDP’s 2013 Montréal policy convention, this piece was intended as a present day look at the Party’s Québec MP’s, two years after the 2011 Election.
“Convictions + leadership : 2015”
The 2015 piece was a forward look at the hard work and inspiration needed to be successful in the future election campaign. Featuring sitting MP’s, luminaries and senior staff speaking unapologetically about what it will take to fulfill the party’s goal in forming the next Government of Canada.
I’m mostly enamoured with this piece because I was able to use a dubstep piece for the score.
Thomas Mulcair: Leadership + Éxperience (English & French Ads)
The Montréal 2013 Convention also featured a virtual town hall with Thomas Mulcair. Opening that event was a 10 minute long explainer documentary about Tom, featuring family, friends and other people from his past speaking about him, his passion, leadership and experiences. The goal of the documentary was to “explain” who Tom is.
After the 2013 Convention I was able to edit a French and English ad together using the interviews and some footage from Tom’s keynote convention speech.
From the french and english versions of the ads from this period leading into the NDP’s 2015 campaign you can see a clear shift in the speeches and specifically the language in Tom’s speeches. That shift also appeared in the NDP’s 2015 Campaign ads. Tom was self-referential in at the 2015 ads, spoke less and less to the voters and electorate. Instead explaining himself to them, or more specifically… At them.
“Montréal 2013: Introduction” (2013)
“Convictions + leadership : histoire” (2013)
“Convictions + leadership : 2003 – 2008” (2013)
“Convictions + leadership : 2011” (2013)
“Convictions + leadership : 2013” (2013)
“Convictions + leadership : 2015” (2013)
“Tom Mulcair: Leadership + Experience” (English, 2013)
“Tom Mulcair: Leadership + Éxperience” (French, 2013)
The Mulcair New Democrats: 2014
I had left the NDP/OLO in January 2013, I worked on the Montreal Convention videos through the agency I was working with at the time. In 2014, I was back to freelancing and had returned to Toronto… I was contacted in the fall that year to come shoot a sizzler video piece for a Policy Announcement by Tom Mulcair.
A beautiful sunny day, a group of amazingly adorable kids and a party leader that was excited and pleased as punch to be making that a policy announcement like this one.
A shorter edit Ad Length edit of the full policy announcement video was also made and never used. Instead a new video was made in 2015, it featured Tom clearly reading from a teleprompter and his complexion bright red. Not sure why this piece was shelved, but it was.
This piece is most obviously derivative of piece lifted from the Obama team’s work. However, differentiating it from the Liberal’s misappropriation was that it was unapologetically borrowed. In conversation with (former) NDP Digital Director Michael Roy, we spoke about what the basic message was in “The Story of Us” piece. How the language and message was deliberately inclusive and activist-centric. It was intended to speak to supporters, sharing mission priorities with them and giving them authorship in accomplishing the goals.
The Mulcair NDP: 2014
“Affordable Childcare” (2014)
“Affordable Childcare” Ad Edit (2014)
“Our Story” (2014)