Interview with Billy Stever
There is an exciting new documentary film project being developed in Canada called Maritime Metal. This is a film project scheduled to be completed and released in 2020. For our non-Canadian readers, the Maritime region are the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Price Edward Island on the East Coast of Canada. Just before Christmas Metal-Rules.com took a moment to chat with Billy Stever (the director) of Maritime Metal to learn more about the upcoming film. Enjoy!
Tell us a bit about yourself and your history in the Maritime Metal scene!
I currently live in Montreal Quebec but I was born and raised in New Brunswick. In my early 20’s (Around 2002) I got into the Maritime Metal scene after meeting a few bands in the Moncton NB area. At the time i just finished a course in web/graphic design so I put my new skills to use by creating websites/album artwork for Black Frost, Funeral Fog, Amnesty, Bound In Human Flesh etc… and my own Metal News site called The UnderGrowth. Over time that site morphed into a Label that I used to release albums for local bands like Black Frost, Midst Of Suffering, Amnesty, along with a few compilation albums of Maritime Metal bands called Shrouded In Silent Omens I, II, and III. (These can be found on bandcamp, https://theundergrowthlabel.bandcamp.com/) During this time I was also promoting shows. Under The UnderGrowth banner I did about about 27 shows between 2004 and 2007. But this all ended in 2007 when I moved to Montreal. It was a fun time, as I was able to bring in bands like Krisiun, Belphegor, Fuck The Facts, Misery Index, Kataklysm, Rotting Christ and Dying Fetus to name a few.
What was your first inspired you to make a documentary film, as compared to, for example, writing a book?
Writing a book would have been a terrible idea for me since I am a pretty horrible writer, but for years I have been into Photography and Videography, filming podcasts for friends, editing together vacation/drone videos for practice, that sort of stuff. Once I felt like I could do a larger project I was unsure exactly what to do. Then in June 2018 while in Sweden visiting a friend I met in the Maritimes the idea to make a documentary based on our old local scene hit me. We were listening to one of the compilation albums I released in 2004 and we were reminiscing on all the crazy shit we did while in Moncton and Halifax. Once I got home in July I started researching, I already had a lot of videos of live shows I filmed, photos and all my backups of posters, websites etc… but I needed to know if there was enough material out there to create a story. What bands were around in the 90s? What happened after I left in the 2010’s? Curiosity drove me to many late lights compiling as much information as I could find. I also work in the film industry for a VFX company. This is my chance to make a movie of my own. After a month of researching I got two friends to join the project. Both have worked in the film industry in some way for years. Be it as editors, project management etc… Jeff Mahfoud who I known since we were roommates in Halifax and Dan Crowder who i’ve known in Montreal for 6 or 7 years. This whole process was enough to inspire me to make the film. But most importantly is seeing the scene I grew up with on screen and sharing this with anyone who is willing to watch around the world.
What is it about the Maritimes Metal scene that makes it unique compared to the Vancouver Scene or Toronto scene?
I think the main thing that stands out in my mind is the isolation. The Maritimes is so far away from any major city. We didn’t get the band traffic that Vancouver, Toronto or Montreal has gotten. Iv done many trips to Montreal from Moncton and Halifax, 12 to 16 hours driving just to see a few bands that you couldn’t ever see in the Maritimes. Also the Metal Scene is spread out over 3 provinces so even seeing bands in your area can be difficult. For a long time if you wanted to see a Metal show you start a band with some friends and play one yourself. Everything is DYI without any help from larger labels or having a band or two break big from your area to give exposer to the scene. Besides that the diversity of Metal styles sticks out, the Maritimes are not know to have one style that out numbers another. There is everything from Death/Black Metal to Stoner, Power Metal to Metalcore.
I know that the area is geographically huge and some people do not formally think that Newfoundland is a part of the Maritimes. Do you hope to include, at least in spirit, stuff from Newfoundland?
This is a question that comes up a lot. Is NFLD part of the maritimes? its a bit of grey area. Technically NFLD, NB, NS, and PEI is called Atlantic Canada. But NB, NS, and PEI is called the Maritimes. I think the biggest issue with NFLD for us “Maritimers” is how far away they are. You cannot just drive to St John’s like you can drive throughout the Maritimes, Even PEI has a bride you can cross over to. I would love to include NFLD bands in the film but do to budget restrictions we can only afford to travel the Maritimes to film interviews. Since I do include NFLD bands in my database of Maritime bands, maybe a few will pop up in the film if we can pull something off budget wise.
Tell us about the Indiegogo campaign!
We launched out IndieGoGo Campaign (www.indiegogo.com/projects/maritime-metal-documentary) at the end of November with a few videos that show what we have filmed so far. To give people an idea of what we capable of and what to expect from the film. We have a budget of 30K for the documentary so we are looking to raise as much as we can with crowdfunding. The IndieGoGo has helped a lot in getting the word out so far. It also give people the chance to pre-order the film, soundtrack and movie premiere tickets along with a few other perks. The campaign end on Jan 3rd so there is still some time to help fund the project and pre-order the film. Crowdfunding is a tough business, especially durning the holiday season. So we are hoping for the best, and pushing the Campaign as much as possible. IndieGoGo is a great platform for us since they offer flex funding. Even if we don’t meet our 30k goal we still get what was funded. That will help us a lot in covering the cost of production equipment and travel we are currently spending on Credit Cards.
How has initial response to the film plan been?
Honestly, all positive. People from all over Canada are excited. A lot of Maritimers have moved away for a better life, better jobs etc… so we are everywhere. I have messages daily from people who send me information about their bands from the 80’s. 90’s and 2000’s. Who want to be interviewed. I think the Maritimes have been overlooked for a long time because we are so isolated from the rest of Canada, we are not a economically rich area. So why pay any attention? We have gotten a lot of support in spreading the word and donating footage for the film so far. From those who are not from the Maritimes I have also gotten positive feedback. From people at work to other filmmakers, the interest is there. People are curious about this area of the Country.
I’ve noticed you plan to release the film on Blu-Ray but not DVD. Is the DVD format finally obsolete?
Well we are filming everything in 4k on a Sony a7iii (A Cam), and a Sony a6300 (B Cam), putting this out on DVD would just be a waste in my eyes. I really don’t understand why anyone would release their film on anything but Blu-Ray if they are doing a physical release in 2018. Even with Blu-Ray we will be downscaling to 1080p from 4k and with the Sony a7iii it does downscaling in camera from 6k to 4k. I want the best possible quality for the budget we have. Luckily cameras today are very cheap for the quality you get out of them. We plan to just do a small run of the film and soundtrack on Physical Media, Around 250 to 300 copies for the IndieGoGo Campaign Perks. With the soundtrack on Cassette Tape instead of CD. If there is more demand once the film is released we might print more. But this is 2018 the future is streaming and thats what Ill be focusing on for the release.
In a related question, I assume you will be searching for distributors and on-line streaming service deals as well?
Yes of course that is going to be the primary way to get our film onto peoples screens. I have been looking into different streaming services since day one. Currently we are looking to self distribute but if an opportunity came along for some help we wont pass it up. Its easier then ever to get your film out there. Which also means far more competition. This is driving us to make the best film we can. Platforms like iTune, Google Store, Amazon, Youtube Premium etc… there is a lot out there to pick from. And these don’t require being “picked up” by a studio or Netflix.
When and where do you plan to hold the World Premier?
As of today the plan is for a Premier in Moncton, New Brunswick and Halifax, Nova Scotia before the official release of the film on the web. I’ve had a lot of people in Montreal ask for one so there is a possibility I will do one here also. But again this comes down to budget and interest at the time.
Have you approached many bands about using their music to be in the film, or will there be an original score as well?
Our plan is for the soundtrack of the film to be a mix of Maritime Metal bands from the last 3 decades. We have over 300 bands and over 600 albums to choose from. We haven’t gotten to the editing stage to pick what music we would like but we do have Dan Crowders company Yacked Media working on all the boring legal documents for the film. Likely the music selected with relate in most part to the bands and people who appear in the film.
For someone who has never been to the area, what can Metal fans expect from this documentary?
We are trying to make this as accessible as possible to non-maritimers and Metal fans in general. The film traces the early days of the 90s when bands were recording on cassette tapes and trading them by mail, postering their cities with concert flyers, and writing letters to each other, through the dawn of the internet in the 2000s and how it connected the scene on the Maritime Metal Message Board and other online forums of the day, to today, into the rise of social media and how the scene is still changing. The film is part Maritime Metal history and part analysis of how a music scenes evolved with changes in technology. I think these topics apply to every music scene all over the world. So even if you know nothing about the Maritimes you will still be able to identify with film.
How can people get involved to help make this even better?
Most important thing is fund the IndieGoGo Campaign. The closer we get to our goal of 30k the better the film will be. Also share online, spread the word. And if you have footage or information from the Maritimes please contact us at…