Newfoundland-born filmmaker documenting Toronto’s Graffiti battle

Tobias Romaniuk
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Newfoundland-born filmmaker and producer Kelli Kieley turns the camera back on herself while visiting St. John’s.— Photo by Tobias Romaniuk/The Telegram

There's a war in Toronto right now, and it's being documented by a Newfoundlander. But the only bombs in this war are spray- painted on walls, with city hall on one side, and graffiti artists on the other.

The Toronto City Hall war on graffiti and the backlash from artists is the focus of the documentary film "Between The Lines," which former Mount Pearl resident Kelli Kieley is producing along with a team of filmmakers.

The project has been selected by Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival for a Doc Ignite, a crowd-sourcing project.

Kieley was in St. John's visiting from her adopted home of Toronto, and took time to talk with The Telegram about her journey to becoming a filmmaker and her latest project over coffee at Fixed Coffee and Baked Goods on Duckworth Street.

It’s been more than 10 years since Kieley lived in Newfoundland, although she makes regular visits to see her family who still live here.

"I left Newfoundland in '98 to go travelling in Europe for six months and I never came back," she said.

She eventually landed in Toronto, where she eschewed dramas in favour of documentaries.

“I do think that reality is more interesting than fiction,” she said.

But telling those stories has had its challenges.

After a couple of projects that have been temporarily shelved, she realized visual storytelling has a steep learning curve.

"The process of making a documentary film when you're new is very hard," she said.

But she found that she was good at connecting projects with funding sources.

"I think producing stuff just comes naturally to me," she said.

She has taken on a producer role with the graffiti project, and for the past year has been working with a team of filmmakers to tell the story of Toronto's war on graffiti from an artist's perspective.

Many of her projects start because of a personal connection to the subject matter, and the latest project about the Toronto's graffiti scene is no different.

A commissioned mural in her neighbourhood was taken down after it was mistaken for graffiti, prompting Kieley to take a closer look at the renegade artists.

“I think people are fascinating, and I think these people, particularly graffiti artists, are incredibly fascinating because they seem to be compelled to do what they do against all odds.”

To raise awareness about the project, the filmmakers did a series of webisodes called “Graffiti Talks” for the Torontoist.com news site, which led to the group to apply to Hot Docs Ignite’s funding program.

While she’s excited about the chance to raise both awareness and funds for her film project, Kieley said crowd-sourcing funding isn’t easy.

“I think it’s hard. I think it’s another project to add onto your project. It’s stressful. It’s a lot of work,” she said.

But the work is worthwhile in the end, she said.

“It takes your project from an idea into something that’s tangible, and you have an audience waiting for you to deliver, so it makes it real,” she said.

The project has an anticipated finish date of 2013, with a screening to follow, planned at the Bloor Street Cinema in Toronto.

 

 

Organizations: Bloor Street Cinema

Geographic location: Toronto, Newfoundland, Mount Pearl St. John's Duckworth Street Europe

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