The Amplify Her project details the feminine journey throughout the electronic music scene
The question of why there is a lack of women in the music scene has been a highly-chronicled actuality for quite some time, but it’s not the question director’s Ian MacKenzie and Nicole Sorochan sought to answer with their Amplify Her project. They searched for a deeper truth: What is the unique expression that the feminine has to offer?
It’s an enormous question that led to the creation of a documentary, a graphic novel, and a motion comic series.
It all started after MacKenzie went to Burning Man for his sixth time.
“I saw the electronic DJ Apple Cat at Burning Man and experiencing her perform there, there was a sense that she was doing something different,” he says. “I could sense the crowd’s reaction and I kind of came to this question which became the centre of the project.”
MacKenzie had to answer it, but he would need help. That’s when he called on Sorochan.
“He and I had worked on another big feature film that was called Occupy Love,” Sorochan says. “My background is in both tech and film so lots of filmmakers will come to me to direct their transmedia side of things. Basically, it means that you take the story of a film and move it into other artistic dimensions.”
This was five years ago. Little did Sorochan know that a film about women DJs would become a life-changing project for her and many others.
“Ian told me the question he was searching for and as a woman, I didn’t even know what that meant so I was immediately intrigued,” she says.
As the film started production and more musicians like Blondtron, CloZee, A Hundred Drums, Kytami, and Lux Moderna became involved, Sorochan noticed an interesting facet surrounding the characters. Their appearances and stories had this mythical, almost comic book like quality to them.
“I was excited about what I could do with these characters and themes,” she says. “I noticed that the stories of the women made them almost like superheroines. They had beautiful costumes and makeup and their sound has such presence so I thought ‘What if we made them comic book characters?’”
It all played into MacKenzie’s somewhat thought out vision for the project.
“A key piece that we decided early on was that we didn’t want to make the film and project be like, ‘Why aren’t there more women in the electronic music scene?’” he says. “Those studies are good, but we also need examples to show female artists that are stepping out and just being fucking awesome and how that allows for an imagination to spring forth. So the graphic novel idea just called to Nicole.”
While the graphic novel was a different medium to work with, it wasn’t enough. Each of the characters find identity through their music and it needed to be heard to accurately portray their stories of femininity.
“You cant put music into a comic book so we took it one step further and turned them in motion comics where we had animators animate short videos that incorporated the music and voice-overs of the characters,” Sorochan says.
Sorochan eventually planned out a four-day island retreat to the remote Galiano Island with everyone involved including the illustrators, animators, and music producers.
“We didn’t just bring this question of what do women have to offer, but we also wanted to employ women to answer it,” MacKenzie says.
“For most of the women that worked on it, including me, it was a game changer on how they view the world,” Sorochan says. “That experience was pretty crazy. I brought everyone to a remote island where nobody knew each other and it was kind of awkward. Most of the women had never worked with more than two women before. I know some of them thought ‘Is this some sort of trap? Are we going to get murdered?’”
While on the island, the women bonded, laughed, cried, and began work on the graphic novel and motion comics.
“Most of the musicians and women were so excited,” Sorochan says. “Especially Apple Cat, which you could call the muse of the movie and project. Comic books got her through life and there’s a great part in the movie where we talk about her connection to the Sandman graphic novels.”
Apple Cat’s real name is Mya Hardman and her story is titled “Masquerade,” detailing the hidden masks she has worn in her musical and personal career. Each mask is a part of her personality, but a few of them attempt to consume her. It’s a quick read, but uniquely powerful and beautifully illustrated.
Of course, it’s taken further with the motion-comic, which features Apple Cat’s Eastern-influenced electronic sound score and her actual voiceover.
“The stories are all rooted in truth and hyper-fantastasized,” Sorochan says. “That’s a made-up word, but it means you take the real truth and push it into the fiction realm. You can keep in subtle or make it look like Blade Runner in Blondtron’s.”
Apple Cat’s story has already touched one of Sorochan’s friends even though the motion comic is still to be released.
“Around the time we were messaging people about the Indiegogo, one of my old friends posted something that sounded rather suicidal,” she says. “I gave her the Apple Cat story that rang true for her and ultimately helped her through her tough time. We don’t have many strong female protagonists that are vulnerable or relatable or mirror what we’re actually going through.”
The audience will be able to view the documentary and purchase the graphic novels during the event at Metro and the motion comic will be released monthly on the Amplify Her website.
Ultimately, MacKenzie and Sorochan want to spur conversation and open up an understandable dialogue around femininity in the electronic music scene.
“More broadly, we wanted this to be a trojan horse around the cultural conversation beyond equality,” MacKenzie says. “Like, what does it mean to dig into the much deeper question of feminine culture? Right now we have a dominant system that is tearing up much of the life on this planet.”
“We’re not asking for a pendulum shift,” Sorochan says. “We’re asking for a natural collaboration and balance between the feminine and masculine cultures.”
Tue., Jan. 9 (6:30 pm)
Amplify Her Edmonton premiere