British Columbia

Documentary showcases unique energy of female DJs and music producers

In her new documentary Amplify Her, Victoria, B.C., director Nicole Sorochan asks: what do women bring to electronic music that no one else can?

'Feminine takes many forms,' says Amplify Her co-director Nicole Sorochan

Nicole Sorochan, left, shoots a scene with Vancouver DJ and producer Blondtron, right, as part of her documentary Amplify Her, premiering this week in Victoria. (Amplify Her)

From studio booths to festival stages, the lack of women in the electronic music scene is a long-standing, well-documented phenomenon.

But in her new documentary Amplify Her, Victoria, B.C., director Nicole Sorochan isn't interested in figuring out why. Instead, she and her co-director Ian MacKenzie pose a different question: what do women bring to electronic music that no one else can?

"I think there's something very unique when women are actually allowed to be free to express the expression they want to put out into the world," Sorochan said.

"There is a lot of diversity that can happen in music that we often don't see because women are forced to play particular roles. In this movie, we're actually looking at women who are looking beyond those traditional roles."

"Feminine takes many forms."

Uniquely feminine

Sorochan says the film was an eye-opening experience for her, especially with her background in the largely male-dominated tech industry.

"I kind of had this attitude like, well, if I did it, why couldn't they?" she said. "[But working on this film] changed the way I approach my relationship with other women, [and] the way I view myself."

Rather than focusing on systemic industry issues or trying to determine what causes them, as many explorations of the topic have done, the film tells the stories of several women and their experiences making and performing electronic music — and how integral their femininity is to that music.

"[Vancouver producer and DJ] Blondetron is quite sexual and raunchy in a way that's really authentic," Sorochan said.

"[Victoria DJ] AppleCat [is] more carnal and I would say has a deeper, darker side of the feminine that you wouldn't normally be able to see in most mainstream media."

"We're really trying to push those extremes to role model what is actually possible for women so that we don't feel so typecast into particular roles."

In Amplify Her, Sorochan explores the many ways women are expressing themselves in the overwhelmingly male world of electronic music. (Amplify Her)

A graphic novel, too

The idea of women feeling safe and free to express themselves in public is particularly salient given recent accusations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and the #MeToo campaign that has sprung up in its wake.

It was a theme the team noticed during the production of the film, too — so they decided to do something about it.

"What we wanted to do was actually create a way that we could turn the question we were asking in the documentary on itself and actually see what happens when we provide an environment like that," Sorochan said.

The team put on a four-day workshop on Galiano Island, inviting 21 women from different creative disciplines to contribute, including animators, illustrators, and of course music producers.

The result was a graphic novel and a series of motion comics that tell the stories of the women featured in the film, set to debut alongside it.

The film debuts Friday, Oct. 20, at Victoria's Vic Theatre, with a series of screenings around North America to follow in the coming months.

With files from CBC Radio One's On the Island.