Leading up to the launch of the Burgundy Jazz interactive documentary in June, this series of interviews aims to explore the project creators’ vision, as well as reach out to key members of Montreal’s jazz and interactive communities. We sat down with Producer Katarina Soukup, President of Catbird Productions, and Jacques Charette, President of the Board at the Georges-Vanier Cultural Centre.
How did you first meet and begin collaborating?
Katarina: It was at the Rencontres Internationales du Documentaire du Montréal (RIDM) four years ago. Jacques overheard me talking about the “Lost Rivers” interactive documentary that I was producing, and introduced himself. With his background in real estate, he knows a lot about Montreal’s underground rivers, and offered to contribute to the project.
Jacques: I know about them (rivers) because they run beneath my properties!
|Jacques Charette and Katarina Soukup|
How did the idea of Burgundy Jazz take off?
Katarina: We were out for friendly lunch and started talking about Jacques’ older jazz musician neighbours in Little Burgundy. Everyone has heard of Oliver Jones and Oscar Peterson, but we wanted to capture a broader picture of oral history and lived experience, showcasing not only a few stars, but an entire community. Jacques came up with the initial synopsis for the project. For nine months, I pitched it as a traditional documentary, but didn’t get that much traction. Then it clicked – this was a perfect opportunity to create geo-localised and interactive content for web and iPhone. There was immediate interest in this concept, and Radio-Canada quickly got on board as a principal partner.
What inspires you about the arts in Little Burgundy?
Jacques: I always knew that I wanted to work in the arts. Not directly in making art, but in promoting my neighbourhood, an area that Montrealers have largely undermined over the years. It began with a real estate client of mine who was an arts liaison director in the neighbourhood. This led me to found Quartier du Canal, an organisation to give a voice to merchants in Little Burgundy, Griffintown and St-Henri, then finally to my role today as President of the Georges Vanier Cultural Centre. I have championed the Burgundy Jazz project since its inception, as it fits perfectly with the Centre’s broader mission of celebrating our local culture, giving a voice to residents, and being open to the community.
What was the personal connection that drove you to embark on this project?
Kat: I’ve always been a lover of urban history. My graduate studies were about memory, lived experience and oral history. So when this opportunity came up to explore such an exciting time in Montreal’s past that has largely gone unnoticed, I was immediately intrigued. Since many of the buildings of these great jazz clubs have been bulldozed, the neighbourhood has lost some its original cachet. I also felt it was important to honour and celebrate the point of view of black community, to recognize their contribution to Montreal’s current vibrancy, and active music scene. None of this would have been possible without Jacques. He was essential to getting traction in neighbourhood; it’s been a wonderful collaboration.