Raw Talent: How this spoken word video came to be
The spoken word artist, animator, and videographer who collaborated to make magic
On a warm August night in Halifax, Clara Chen sat at a picnic table outside CBC Nova Scotia with a sketchbook and pencil. She was attending an open mic night that brought together musicians, poets, comedians and other creatives of all ages and walks of life for a free community show.
One of the performers was Kanaar Bell, a local spoken word artist. He performed "Raw" for the first time. The piece opens, "In every story of creation, the highest forms of beauty have been expressed through the rawest moments."
The Making of "Raw"
Creator Network N.S. producer Natalie Dobbin brought together Kanaar, Clara, and videographer Nic Takushi to create a video for the piece. Nic shot the video in Point Pleasant Park.
"Point Pleasant Park came up when we were brainstorming how we would visually tell the story," Nic says. "The idea of going so bluntly from the concrete of the streets of the south end of Halifax into getting fully immersed in nature was very easy for us to come to as a reference to going back to our raw form."
This was Nic and Kanaar's third time collaborating. "We met while working at Hope Blooms, and I think then we were both at a level on our craft where we could do something cool but were still developing, still curious and eager to try and take it up a notch," he says. Nic believes their mutual respect and humble approach has led to their successful collaboration.
The video project took about two and a half months to complete. Clara created most of the eye-catching black and white animation with pencil on paper. "We wanted to have the animation fit the theme of the message and went with a traditional, sketchy style," she says. She created a makeshift peg bar stand and flipped through each sketch as she animated frame by frame. Clara went to coffeeshops and comedy shows to draw, "because I like to be inspired by different environments and people." Each piece of paper was scanned, edited into png sequences using Photoshop, and integrated into the video using Premiere Pro.
"It was great to work with people who believed in the vision and brought their special skills to the table. It was also definitely a big lesson in learning how to combine creative visions and be open, yet also control the narrative," Kanaar says. "I'm glad I had the talent of each team member to work with because it made for a great project in the end!"
About the Artists
Perhaps their creative visions gelled so well because the three artists have more in common than you'd think. Nic is new to Canada, while Clara and Kanaar are both second generation Canadians. Nic and Kanaar share a background in sports. And all three have curious, entrepreneurial spirits. Hustle, if you will.
"My mother moved from Jamaica to start a life in Canada," Kanaar says. He was born in Calgary, then moved to Oshawa, Ont. at 12, and eventually landed in Halifax to play football at St. Mary's University. "I've lived in Halifax for over five years now and it has served a pivotal role in cultivating my personal and professional growth," he says. For Kanaar, creative writing has always been an integral part of how he expresses himself. Spoken word emerged as a passion through that. "Spoken word was my rock during a very tough time in my life where I was hurting emotionally, physically and even spiritually," he says. After sharing a few short poems with friends, Kanaar was encouraged to share on a larger platform. He took to the stage at an open mic night at Alter Egos Cafe in Halifax, and the performance kickstarted his journey. Kanaar is also a community engager, a facilitator, a public speaker and works in digital marketing.
Clara is just as multi-talented. She has studied and worked in filmmaking, motion and graphic design, and animation—but she's most interested in the integration of those medias. "I'm currently taking a jack-of-all-trades approach," she says. Growing up in Regina, Sask., Clara says she was a creative kid. "Maybe a bit too creative as a kid." In school, she would get in trouble for drawing instead of taking notes or doing schoolwork. That artistic instinct led her to NSCAD. "It took quite a few leaps of faith to occupy space in this world as an artist," she says. "Being a second-generation Chinese Canadian I felt some pressure to take other routes." Now, Clara is based in Ontario where she's studying the honours bachelor of animation program at Sheridan College.
Nic took his leap of faith in high school, when he moved to the South Shore of Nova Scotia from his hometown of São Paulo, Brazil, as an exchange student. "It's no secret I fell in love with Nova Scotia and stayed," he says. Nic has taken a hands-on, DIY approach to every business venture he's tried. "I've always been curious, resourceful and creative," Nic says. "I only picked up a camera recently though, between a year or two ago." Nic started out with a volunteer gig, borrowing camera gear and editing at the Halifax Public Library. The video was a hit. From there, Nic managed to get some secondhand gear of his own and started booking jobs.
Truth and Power
What is "Raw" about? Kanaar says he hopes the piece will help people to feel empowered and awesome in their own skin. "I hope people can find the courage within themselves to embrace their raw, strange magic," he says. The piece was inspired by a TED talk by Casey Gerald about changing oneself to fit in, and how "managing two selves" was detrimental to his psyche. "So, he chose to rediscover and re-energize his own raw, strange magic and began speaking more freely as well as honing forgotten skills and talents."
Nic says he wasn't sure how people would react to the video. "I wanted it to be what Kanaar feels," he says. "It's a genuine and inquisitive, free-flowing, at times gut-punching, spoken word piece." He adds, "The message rings strongly with creatives—we'll constantly catch ourselves questioning whether our craft fits the mold, whether people will like, understand, or relate to it, which can dilute the strength of the perfectly raw ideas we initially had inside of us. Unapologetically putting our visions out there, sometimes a little unpolished is more than okay, because not only does it have its intrinsic value, but it's also genuine, it's real. I hope that can inspire others to put their beautiful messages out as they are."
For Clara, taking on the project really embodied this message. She had never worked on a contract project of this scale, and says she really had to leap out of her comfort zone—but, she's glad she did.
"I think it's very human to feel a certain amount of fear before starting an entirely new project, or embarking on new unfamiliar places, whether figuratively or literally," she says. "I hope this video will tell our viewers that it is okay, and even expected, that imperfection is a part of the journey."