Lowest of the Low is a Canadian Band that has been together for over 30 years.
They had the record of most independent albums sold until Barenaked Ladies outsold them in the early 1990's. This is a story of how a band that stuck to their guns flying the indie flag until the major labels came calling in the mid-nineties. It's a story of tenacity and the will to create art without the corporate fingers in the pudding. This indie film was fully funded by Simon Head, the director, producer of the movie. The creation on the film parallels the bands ethics and beliefs regarding Art & Commerce.
Director, Producer Simon Head started his musical journey in the early 90’s working for and playing in punk rock/Independent rock bands. The first of many bands he worked with was Edmonton Canada’s SNFU. Touring with bands gave Simon a keen knowledge of how people work with each other in tight confines.
Years later, Simon started an audio podcast in 2014 called Apologue Podcast. A podcast with an emphasis on people and their musical journeys. After 300+ shows, the next steps were to focus on something else with a more focused, visual concept.
After working for Toronto’s Lowest of the Low as their tour manager and sound person, Simon saw a band that had all of the aspects of art, politics and commerce figured out. The idea was presented to Ron Hawkins (Lead Vocals, Songwriter) to do a documentary on them. The idea was prefaced with the fact that Simon had never done a documentary or a clue on how to do one. The pitch was accepted based on trust that the band had in Simon and the respect Simon had for the band. Two and half years have passed and after 35 interviews and hundreds of hours of editing later, the documentary is now complete. The documentary was self-funded and follows the ethical path the Lowest of the Low took in the early 90’s that champions the spirit of DIY and independence. Subversives | The History of Lowest of the Low is the story of how a band stood by their guns and followed their own path to what they consider success. It is our pleasure to speak to Simon about his work.
What makes you fascinated with the cinematic language and what was the first film project you worked on?
I love telling stories, I love documentaries. Music documentaries mostly. I am fascinated on how 10 different people can have 10 different versions of what they believe happen. This is the first real project I have worked on.
Please tell us how "Subversives | The History Of Lowest of the Low'' came to life and let us know about the process from pre-production to completion.
I worked with the band as the Lowest of the Lows tour manager and front of house sound person. I asked Ron Hawkins (lead singer, song writer) of the band to do a documentary on his band and surprisingly, he said yes!! I purchased cameras, lights, microphones tripods etc and started the interview process in Oct of 2020. My plans were to ask about 10-15 people the same questions over the period of 6 months and have a finished doc by late 2021. I missed the mark by a few years.. I worked at keeping structure and the content readily available by asking my mom to transcribe all of the interviews. I later learned that this is the correct way to manage the content and keep order when making a documentary. I was learning all of this for the first time. I spent hundreds of hours in the edit bay making the story I wanted to make only to have the movie clock in at almost 3 hours. I recruited friends to watch the movie to give notes where it could be trimmed. The smartest thing I did was to ask people who had no idea what the band was about to give notes and suggestions. The process was actually very easy. I managed to chop the movie down to just under 2 hours. I managed to ask an early advocate of the band to mix the audio of the movie. Andy Koyama is feature film mixing engineer and has mixed countless movies including the lates John Wick movie. Andy produced the bands first album in 1991 Shakespeare my Butt
What was the most challenging aspect of working on this feature documentary? Working in COVID times was the obvious issue in this process. Finding archival footage of any quality was even harder. The biggest issue I had in this movie was trying to work with CTV and CBC to obtain any old interviews or TV appearances. Both networks had huge fees for small insignificant video clips. As a fully self funded project, it would have been impossible to get anything worth paying for anyways. I think the system needs to change to allow independent film makers access to archival content owned by Canadian networks
What is your next film project and what are you currently working on?
I have two in development. One is dealing with the heavy subject of estranged families. The other one is a secret ;)
What is the most creative part of directing a docu project for you? The most creative part was the follow up questions. Most of my follow up questions allowed the interviewee to really think about and give answers that they were realizing for the first time
Does the language of cinema stand out more than other arts to you? And why?
I think cinema, audio, and inflection of the statements made in documentaries work together hand in hand.
Why do you make films and what kind of impact would your documentaries have on the world?I make films to use all of the knowledge I have learned over the years from editing to story telling.