Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Hot Docs - We Cause Scenes [2013, Dir. Matt Adams, USA]

We Cause Scenes
  We Cause Scenes

All the documentaries I'd got to see this year for Hot Docs were music documentaries and also online screeners which I was able to watch from the luxury of my iPad. On the other hand, there were times when I'd have preferred to watch a film with an audience -I think that really is an important part of any film festival experience. On the last weekend of Hot Docs I managed to catch one documentary entitled We Cause Scenes: The Rise Of Improv Everywhere, directed by Matt Adams, which was screening at Hart House Theatre on the University of Toronto campus. 

The documentary tracks  the history of the New York City based public performance improv group called Improv Everywhere started by Charlie Todd, an actor and comedian, in 2001, who'd been frustrated by the lack of available work at the time. I think I vaguely recall the group's name on the internet a few years back Aand until I saw this documentary I hadn't knownn that they had had such a far-reaching scope. Torontonians have probably heard of the annual No-Pants Subway Ride or perhaps you may have participated or heard of The MP3 Experiment that was staged during the 2008 edition of the Luminato Festival - both events were spawned from Improv Everywhere in New York City where such 'scenes' had first been staged. It is such 'scenes' as this that the group have conceived, organized, and staged over the last decade or so, in an attempt to bring joy and happiness, smiles and laughs to the public as well as to its participants. The documentary tracks the evolution of the NYC-based group from it's early beginnings to their growing recognition over the years due to the internet [the group posted their videos online on their own site and then later on their own YouTube Channel] and the media [publicity which was both good and bad] and shows the group's colourful history that takes it from its grassroots organization to the brink of a television deal and back again. Obviously, the segments most appreciated by the audience were the video footage of the numerous pranks staged by the group. I don't think I've ever laughed as much during a documentary as I did during that one. There was also a wealth of behind-the-scenes footage as well as media footage, and interviews with Charlie Todd, and other members of the improv group that rounded out their story very well. I remember near the end being almost overcome with emotion. There is something quite eloquent in Todd's pursuit and spreading of happiness [yes there's a commerce side to his pursuit, and yes the documentary does act as promotion tool for his website, but for the moment let's just focus on the purity of his original intentions].In the end, We Cause Scenes shows that growing up and becoming an adult doesn't mean we need to stop playing and having fun. 

In keeping line that this is a music blog, one of the funnier pranks shown in the documentary was when musician / songwriter Ben Folds went in on a prank with Improv Everywhere's Charlie Todd (who resembles Folds) and had Todd impersonate him at the beginning of a Ben Folds Five show in NYC back in 2006. Read the full story here and check out the video below:

  Ben Folds Fake [Improv Everywhere]

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