A local man’s eight month labour of love has been released to rave reviews worldwide and he’s tipping his hat to Muskoka for playing a hand in it.
Bala resident and Simply Cottage co-owner Bryan Gardner’s most recent huge accomplishment has been editing a film documentary about one of rock’s most iconic bands.
‘Rush: Time Stand Still’ premiered in theatres earlier this month and Gardner, who edited the bulk of it from his home on the shores of Lake Muskoka in Bala couldn’t be more pleased with the reaction from critics and fans.
He remembers the moment on June 26th, 2015 when he was first asked to be editor on the project.
“My better half and I had been on Lake Rosseau on a tour,” he tells Muskoka News Watch. “We’d been taking pictures of the church with the two steeples in Minett. Afterwards we walked back down to the boat and there was an email from Allan Weinrib (Rush singer Geddy Lee’s brother) asking me to do the film.”
It sounds simple, but it was a circuitous route which led the 41-year-old Muskoka wake boarder to this high crest in his career.
“It all started in Muskoka,” he laughs. “I grew up as a Lake Rosseau cottager and competed in my first wake boarding contest in the early 90s at Clevelands House.”
This in turn led to Gardner starting Wakestock with some partners. From there he became founding editor of Wakeboard Canada Magazine, (later becoming SBC Wakeboard Magazine) before moving to Orlando where he worked for another magazine – ultimately, he returned home to Canada to attend film school.
“So riding a wakeboard in Muskoka was my in to the media world,” he says.
Right out of school, Gardner found himself hosting and colour commentating for OHL hockey games before landing a job at CBC where he held positions in producing, editing and management over the following 10 years. Involved in everything from The Hour with George Stroumboulopoulos to helping launch Dragons Den with Mike Downey, brother of Tragically Hip’s Gord Downey, he ended up on Hockey Night in Canada, leaving that job in 2014 to follow his own path.
Gardner working on CBC Sports 2012 World Figure Skating Championships
But it was one of his former projects, a 10 part series for Rogers which followed the top draft picks in Connor McDavid’s draft year where he worked alongside Weinrib that remained pivotal to his involvement with Time Stands Still.
The very week he’d begun working on the film was the same one he and his wife Christina Shane were negotiating the purchase of Simply Cottage, a furniture/decor store in Bracebridge.
Rush had already embarked upon their final tour at that time and crews were already filming.
Working in tandem with the Director and Producer, Gardner focused on his technical and storytelling skills, chops which he’d honed over the years in his various media jobs.
At times they took him into emotional territory – in this case, essentially having to relay the story of the end of one of Canada’s most famous rock exports.
“What they really liked was my storytelling sensibility,” says Gardner. “And I had tremendous say in this film in where the story went. Nobody has looked at as much footage as I have on this film, including all the interviews. It led to a real understanding of what they were actually saying – that’s the key to a documentary is you have to allow the story to go where it takes you.”
Bryan Gardner at his home editing suite in Bala on the shores of Lake Muskoka.
In total he worked just over eight months on the project, finishing up in June of this year.
On Nov. 3rd the film launched at 426 Cineplex theatres and will soon be available on DVD.
Gardner points out that in 2011 a film highlighting the history of Rush called ‘Beyond the Lighted Stage’ was made, which posed challenges for the documentary makers, forcing them to come up with a unique take all of their own.
“It’s a great film and we didn’t want to duplicate what they’d done,” he says. “But there’s a lot to talk about with this band. When I was brought in, I hadn’t been a Rush fan – I’d always been aware of them, I’d always understood they are great musicians, but that’s about all I knew. This actually worked in my favour because I am a journalist and storyteller at heart and I love to research things. I really had to pop the hood and learn about who their fans are, because that’s Rush’s claim to fame – they’ve got the most dedicated, loyal fan base that you will ever know in rock n’ roll history.”
This, plus two other main factors – Rush still being comprised of its original members after 41 years and them recording and touring for the same amount of time – helped create a masterful and timely snapshot of the Canadian rock phenomenon.
“Because of the way the music industry is now – internet downloading etc… bands need to make their money on tours, but you still need time to be able to develop your craft with records in order to get to that stage,” he says. “So what Rush really represents is the end of an era – will there ever be a 41 year rock band again when there’s so much ‘one and done’ stuff going on in the industry? We had to be willing to say it’s the end and when you watch the film you know for sure it is. Neil Peart is a 63 yr old drummer who plays three hour sets, is the long touted ‘best drummer on earth’ and he just can’t do it anymore and he doesn’t want to see his talents diminished. He wants to go out on top and not scale down what they do, because that’s who they are – to scale it down is to depart from their identity and he just won’t have it. Alec Lifeson the guitarist wants to continue, but they were worried they might not even have been able to tour when they were practicing because the arthritis in his hands was so bad he needed cortizone shots to ease the inflammation. Then you have Geddy Lee, who still wants to do it, so there’s a real interesting conflict amongst these guys who have been a family and friends to each other for so long. That’s very much an attention line and it starts right at the beginning of the film.”
In attacking the editing process, Gardner says he arranged the various sections, utilizing ‘rhythm and pace.’
“There’s a real blend of elements going back and forth in the film but I always choose emotion first and catch up with what I want viewers to know afterwards,” he says. “Rush are a very down to earth and actually comical group of guys. There’s a lot of funny stories in the film, but there’s a lot of sadness too because it’s the end. Their fans are so strong – we highlight several of the marquee fans in a group of people called ‘Rush-Con’ who meet once a year as a festival to celebrate the band. With them in the film, that’s where a lot of the sadness comes from – seeing the parallel between them and the band and seeing this era end. The other thread which was really key to me was it had to be loaded with music.”
He chalks up his strong suit when it comes to editing as an ‘appreciation of diversity’.
“In high school there’s always the subculture pockets of the different groups in the cafeteria,” he says. “At lunch time I was the guy who bounced between all of them because I was the guy who was friends with everybody. In wake boarding I was also a coach, judge and wake boarder. So when it comes to film editing, I’ve always loved what Green Bay Packers Brett Favre said, which was “to be a good quarterback is to think like a linebacker’. Viewing the lens from the other side to see where all the opportunities are. I’ve always tried to think like a writer, producer and cameraman and also to think about the people whose stories I’m telling.”
Cue to the 3am editing sessions, longs days and immense emotional involvement, Gardner sacrificed much of his personal time and energy following that exact path.
The first three months of work were completed at Revival Studios in Toronto, but the rest, perhaps fittingly, was done in his own editing studio in Bala.
“The funny thing is that Rush has a 41 year career, I’m 41 and they only played at the Kee to Bala once ever in their career and that was 1975 – the year I was born. And I edited the bulk of this film from where I could look straight out at the Kee from my window over my computer from my house.”
Wakestock on Toronto Island (L-R Greg James, Gardner and Dave Tsuyuki)
So – what’s been the reaction been from the band and their camp?
“Ray Danniels, whose been their manager since he was 16 yrs old, actually has a cottage on Rankin Island on Lake Muskoka and I ran into him coming out of Creative Plate during the summer and he said he thought it was great,” he says. “Geddy has still not watched it – he refuses to watch it, not because of anything we’ve done, but I think it’s pretty tough for him to see this go. Neil has watched the parts he was in, but didn’t want to watch the film either. Alex watched the film in its entirety and sent a really amazing note about how he felt it was very honest and sincere and really captured the spirit of who they were in the moment.”
Gardner says Time Stands Still was the most challenging project he’s been involved with as an editor with over 12 terrabytes of footage to sift through.
The tour itself was a 35 date affair which started in May 2015 and ended on August 1st of that year at the Forum in Los Angeles.
After that footage came in, there were follow-up interviews and other loose ends needing to be tied up. Documentaries aren’t scripted films where scenes can just be written – throughout the process, Gardner was in contact with the Director and other team members getting things clarified and added.
“It’s very much a craft that our team on the road got very good at and are very good at,” he says.
At this point, Gardner is taking a pause from editing, pleased that he’s at a point in his career where he can pick and choose what he works on.
His wife Christina couldn’t be prouder.
“He put in a lot of hours, he’s very meticulous with his work,” she says. “For me it went from watching it go from our home on Bala Bay to that pivotal moment when you realize ‘wow, we’re standing in a theatre and its being shown nationally.’ So seeing it from behind the scenes, including all the effort he’s put into his career, whether that be with CBC and all the other things he’s done – seeing it get to this level has been very validating and very nice to watch.”
Simply Cottage co-owners Bryan Gardner and wife Christina Shane
“This project was so enormous for me,” admits Gardner. “I actually spent a lot of money on massage and some physiotherapy because I sat so long – 16, 18, 20 hours straight in edit sessions. Will this be the end for me as well as far as big projects? I don’t know.”
Muskoka then, plus working at Simply Cottage are the two main things on his radar now. It’s almost like he’s come full circle.
“My Great Grandmother (pictured above with a tiny Bryan Gardner) started coming to Muskoka in 1927,” he says. “If it wasn’t for her coming to Rosseau, I wouldn’t have ridden a wakeboard and water skies on Skeleton Bay, which in turn led to my media career, which in turn led to me moving to Muskoka full time and becoming a business owner and having this great opportunity.”
(All photos via Bryan Gardner)