Ottawander TV show by Andrew King gives Ottawa the '80s Night Moves treatment

If the phrases "Pop-up Video" and "Night Moves" mean anything to you, you might want to check out Ottawander, a new on-demand TV program by Ottawa artist and historian Andrew King.

Andrew King merges love of history and Ottawa in ultra-HD show that films city at night

If the phrases Pop-up Video and Night Moves mean anything to you, read on.

The popular TV shows from the '80s and '90s were clear inspirations for Ottawander, a new on-demand program on Bell's digital cable service by Ottawa artist and historian Andrew King.

When King was approached by the station to produce a show, his original concept seemed too ambitious for the available budget, he said.

"They said, 'OK, if you wanted to do a show with limited resources, what would you do?' And I'm like, 'We gotta bring back Night Moves — in Ottawa,'" King told CBC Radio's All In A Day. "And it's basically, you strap a camera on and you walk around Ottawa at one o'clock in the morning and film it."

If that idea sounds familiar, you probably grew up watching Night Moves in the 1980s during exam cramming sessions or after nights out with friends. The show ran on Global Television's overnight schedule and developed something of a cult following.

Overnight aesthetic

Shot in an ultra high-definition 4K resolution, Ottawander is a 40-minute-long, slow-motion meander through parts of the city. But unlike the '80s inspiration on Global, you can watch it anytime as long as you're a Bell Fibe subscriber.

Beyond the overnight aesthetic, King adds his unique historical perspective with informative graphics laid over city scenes. That's where it takes on a bit of a Pop-Up Video vibe.

His camera crew might have been more familiar with that show, but they were clearly too young to have seen Night Moves in its day.

"Some young guys had never seen Night Moves so I had to show it to them on YouTube, and they were like 'What? We just walk around with a camera? What?'"

Back to Sparks Street

In an ironic twist, King opted to bring Sparks Street to life in the first episode. (He made news in April when he attempted to give away free T-shirts on Sparks and the BIA promptly ordered him to stop.)

King decided to focus on Sparks Street in the first episode, which is notable because he made news in April when he attempted to give away free T-shirts on Sparks and the BIA ordered him to stop. (CBC)

"I just wanted to hand them out as a gift to Ottawa. It gets a bad rap as a city that fun forgot, so I thought, why not make a fun shirt, hand them out free to whoever wants them? And I thought, what better place than Sparks Street?" he told CBC Ottawa at the time. 

"It seems ridiculous. But now that I think about it, I'm not surprised. They seem to be shooting themselves in the foot. I was just trying to bring some fun and life to Sparks Street, which is floundering and I guess we're not allowed to do that."

So consider the first episode of Ottawander his second attempt to drag Sparks up by its boot straps.

"Yes, I have a love-hate relationship with Sparks Street … Let me tell you the film permit was sped up quickly for us to be able to film this," King said.

 'There might not be very many people on the street but we have some very fine nightscaping.'- Andrew King

When Neal asked King to delve into his other inspirations for the show, King brought up Michael Mann, the director of Miami Vice and Heat.

"He was a big inspiration for Ottawander because I wanted to showcase Ottawa with that type of Michael Mann late-night feel to it ... Surprisingly, Ottawa is very well lit at night. There might not be very many people on the street but we have some very fine nightscaping."

Shot under cover

Don't expect camera crews and lighting equipment in your neighbourhood any time soon though, said King.

"It's kind of a covert ops. We did it so it looked like we were just walking down the street. The light was so that if you are on the show you'll just be a shadowy figure walking along. It's not like you'll see your face or anything."

The show's soundtrack features the music of Ben Wilson and his band Orienteers.

"We just seem to fit it exactly. We're also kind of cinematic, soundwise. And we've always had that intent to take our time to get through our music rather than to make a point in three minutes in a catchy, dancey pop song," said Wilson.

Orienteers will perform the music to the first episode of Ottawander live at a special screening Thursday at 9:30 p.m. at The Mayfair Theatre on Bank Street in Old Ottawa South.