When I got a chance to chat on the phone with Melissa James and Kate Kroll about their new documentary film No Fun City, I jumped at the opportunity. I was excited to talk about the film as it focuses on the Vancouver music scene and its ongoing fight with the city to keep it alive. Vanmusic is very much aware of the issues involving Vancouver’s liquor regulations, condo development, noise complaints, evictions, police raids, lawsuits and the commercialization of bigger venues. For some reason the city is dead set on stopping all of our fun.
Callander Girl: I read Melissa that you’re from Montreal and Kate you’re from Alberta. Here at Vanmusic two of us, myself included, are from Toronto, we also have two Albertans and one Mexican. We all now call Vancouver home, and we are in love with this city and the vibrant and very much alive music community. We have seen how other cities encourage and fund the arts. That doesn’t seem to be happening here. What were your first thoughts when you first came to Vancouver?
Melissa: I noticed that it’s very controlled here, the party vibe in general is very different. In London you can walk around drinking on the streets, in Montreal you don’t go out until 1 or 2 in the morning and the bars are open really late. Here the bars close early, there aren’t very many patios and good venues are closing. And this city has very confusing and complicated licensing laws. But it’s only in Vancouver, the suburbs; (Burnaby, New West Minister, Langley etc.) don’t complicate things and seem to have it figured out. Almost all have the same closing times.
How did it feel being in the middle of what happened with Wendy 13 and the demise of the Cobalt? The both of you being apart of Vancouver music history, as sad as it was..
Kate: It didn’t feel good because we had become good friends with Wendy during filming. But at the same time we still had to be professional and make sure we were getting the footage to be able to tell the story.
Melissa: There were times when things got intense, but the last show at the Cobalt was a celebration. And it’s true that there was an emotional aspect to filming it. We just felt privileged that Wendy and Malice from the Sweatshop wanted us to film them. There were times when they would call us and say, “Come down here… you have to get this on film” and we would film what they were going through.
From what I understand you both hadn’t been friends for very long before you started working on this project. I’m assuming that your friendship must have grown a lot while working together. Are there any plans for working together in the future?
Melissa: If we found something else to work on together than definitely. A lot of people were surprised that we were still friends after this (laughing). You spend so much time together, 18 hour days, but through out we shared a common vision and were on the same page the entire process. We both wanted a cool, edgy film with the human aspect to it.
Kate: We shared the same goal and we are both very proud of what we’ve done. At first we thought it would be a 20 to 30 minute film but because we got such a good response from the press last summer, we started working on it as a feature film.
Melissa: We were so surprised from the reaction to the demo. Our four minute demo really tapped into a lot of people, and there was this huge appeal. We realized that there are people that are going to watch this film so we really pushed ourselves.
I heard that once people found out what you were filming for they wanted to help and get involved any way they could.
Melissa: There were a lot of people that helped us, my sister, both our families, our friends and anyone that could pretty much did. There is an animation at the beginning of the film that someone did for us which is great. This film was truly a collaboration.
Kate: We had the Company Make Believe Media came on board as well, they really believed in our project and they let us use their amazing equipment. So the pressure was on.
This city for a really long time has made it difficult for underground musicians. What do you think its going to take for bylaws to change? Do you think your movie can help encourage change?
Melissa: I hope so, city council should definitely see this movie. I mean these people they have been aware of the problems for quite some time now. Such as privately owned liquor licenses that are too expensive, there are a lot of zoning and permit issues. City council needs to scrap the old laws. I encourage everyone to get out and have your voice heard. Otherwise the city is going to push us further and further out. At city council meeting they rarely see people that are under the age of 40 and the more people that get involved the chances the city will start accepting we are not going away.