‘A totally magical medium’

Tara Bradbury
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Rozalind MacPhail combines her music with the work of Canadian filmmakers for ‘Head First’

Musician Rozalind MacPhail once received some words of wisdom from a mentor: “Once you’re ready to give up,” she said, “that’s when the magic happens.”

Musician Rozalind MacPhail . — Photo by Scott Amos

Those words came true for MacPhail for the first time during the six-year-long creation process in her latest project, “Head First,” which she’ll release Saturday night at the LSPU Hall. A DVD, “Head First” combines 13 short, silent films about Canadian experiences with MacPhail’s own original music.

MacPhail, a flutist, is originally from Ontario and took up the flute as a child, after her grandmother read an article about the benefits of wind instruments on asthma. Her asthma improved, and so did she — before she came to St. John’s four years ago, MacPhail was touring the country, performing.

She first developed a passion for film from a former partner, Scott Amos, who was an experimental filmmaker, and began combining it with her music.

“It’s a totally magical medium,” MacPhail says of the combination.

For her previous project, “Painted Houses,” MacPhail set her music to films by local filmmakers. “Head First” involves artists from the rest of the country as well, including Amos, Joel Heath (British Columbia), Mark Borowski (Manitoba), and Dan Sokolowski (Yukon). St. John’s filmmaker Roger Maunder created a piece for MacPhail’s song “Corporate World,” featuring more than a dozen others from the local film industry: Ruth Lawrence, Andy Jones and Paul Pope among them.

Musicians appearing on the project include locals like Mark Neary, Matthew Hornell and Curtis Andrews.

“I focused in the recording studio on trying to get all the tracks ready for the filmmakers before they actually began their films,” MacPhail explains. There are a few exceptions to that, of course, but I’ve never done it that way and it was a really interesting experience. It was really neat being able to collaborate with filmmakers and the two of us talking about the direction we wanted the edits to go.”

That’s not to say they were always in agreement: MacPhail actually let one filmmaker go during the project because their visions didn’t match and she didn’t feel the film was right for the music.

“In the beginning when I first started getting the films in, I was like, ‘Oh no, what was I thinking? Is this really going to work?,” she said, laughing. “Slowly but surely it did, but it took a lot of patience and back and forth. I’m extremely happy with how the films turned out and I think everyone offers something really special to the project.”

The DVD’s official release will be bittersweet for MacPhail, who admits the project has become a part of her. All the while she was working on it, she was growing roots in St. John’s and defining “home,” and there’s a certain sadness in now letting that out into the world.

Her goal is to tour the mainland with the project next year, and has her sights set on Europe after that.

The “Head First” launch will be co-presented by the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival, and will open with a screening of three short films that were featured at the 2013 festival, last month: “Sweetieface,” directed by Mark O’Brien; “We Wanted More,” directed by Stephen Dunn, and “Newcomers Swim, Every Friday,” directed by Meghna Helder.

The “Head First” films will then be screened, with MacPhail playing the music live. The event gets underway at 8 p.m.


Twitter: @tara_bradbury

Geographic location: Ontario, British Columbia, Manitoba Yukon Europe

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