Words matter and how you choose to use them can impact the world. Some use words to invoke hate, while others use them to teach or inspire. Comedians, presidents, singers, ministers, guests of Ted Talks are just a few examples of people that know how to sustain your attention by choosing the right words to say. If you are a poet and have mastered the art of ‘spoken word’, you have the power to influence thought and evoke emotion.
Shane Koyczan is a master at ‘spoken word’ and is the subject of the documentary, Shut Up and Say Something. Shane lives in Penticton, BC and has used his vocabulary much like a comedian or inspirational speaker, to entertain and tell stories that are not only relative to our every day lives but also as a window into his own. When he is on stage his voice is his instrument. The audience hangs onto every word like it was ingredients to ice cream. The poetry is personal and this documentary encapsulates the source, the pain and the triumph. At the heart and soul of this story, is a father and son journey about finding each other and making sense out of a family that’s been broken. It will make you believe in the power of reconciliation, forgiveness and humility.
I had the distinct pleasure of speaking with Melanie Wood, the producer and director of Shut Up and Say Something.
“How did you first get involved with this project?”
“Stuart Gillies had approached me with the story and concept of the project. He’d been touring with Shane for a couple of years and had a bunch of footage he wanted to turn into a documentary and get it out there. After we had agreed what the film should look like, Stuart and I worked with Shane for a couple of years to further develop it.”
Melanie also states that the more she learnt about Shane, the more she wanted to help tell Shane’s story. It’s a compelling one that needs to be told and shared. Shane was raised by his loving grandparents and he continues to live with his grandmother. Their bond is bulletproof and admirable. In the film he says his grandmother is getting older and will eventually need help. He says he’ll be there for her when that happens.
“How many people collaborated on the project?”
“There was a large team that helped in the overall production of the film and getting it completed, from graphic artists, musicians and my amazing production manager, Alison Hill. As far as the creative side of it, there was myself, Stuart Gillies and Jean-Denis Rouette (editor).”
In the documentary, Shane is reunited with his estranged dad whom he hadn’t seen since childhood. This was a new development that had happened within the last 2 years of filming. A very personal reunion unfolds with unknown consequences. Shane expresses his feelings and thoughts into a custom piece of poetry exclusively for his dad. After reading it, his dad’s reaction is one of remorse and pure emotion. I felt like there was hope for a rekindling. After all, these two were strangers up until a couple of years ago.
The Knowledge Network funded the documentary and although the film was shot on multiple formats, the images are well blended. They are in the midst of getting the film into US festivals and it has shown twice and VIFF and had won the Audience Choice Award in Calgary before arriving in Vancouver. Melanie says the independent film community has shown great support for the film and has given it legs by allowing it into theatre communities as well as the festival before it heads to the Knowledge Network in the spring.
Melanie expresses that she has learnt much in making this film. She has seen Shane Koyczan tackle subjects or experiences that would give people anxiety and turmoil and turn it into powerful art/poetry. Having seen the screener, I was blown away at Shane’s palpable integration of words, phrases and connection with his audience. His embrace on them is commanding, enduring and impactful.
Shane has shown an interest in filmmaking and will be embarking on a project in the near future with Stuart Gillies. Since becoming a fan of Shane and his art of spoken word I look forward to seeing what he can do with a script with great anticipation. Until then, I wish him the best in his continued success.