Written by Joss MacNeil
Why do we make art? Why do we share art? Who is our art for? If no one ever sees what we make, do we still call ourselves artists?
I ask myself this series of questions in this order a lot. Living in a metropolitan city such as this one, you can’t swing a dead cat around here without hitting someone’s latest creative statement. While this is one of the reasons I made it my mission to create a life here, at times the material I come across can feel inaccessible, like I’m not meant to really understand it. I had this phenomenon articulated for me by up and coming film director Aidan Shipley on May 30th, 2016, who happens to be an amazing artist and totally down-to-earth dude.
Aidan first entered the world of performance when he was cast in Stratford’s (2000) production of Medea. NDB. During his youth he would learn from some of our country’s finest actors on stage at Stratford, including Seana McKenna, Peter Donaldson, Martha Henry…the list goes on. Aidan and his family relocated to Dublin, Ireland, after his father took the position of Artistic Director of the Dublin Theatre Festival in 2004, it was here that Aidan would switch focus from the dramatic arts to hip-hop. He describes this as a “weird ass trajectory” when recalling how he took the stage as Prince Arthur in King John (Stratford) one minute and was serving up some sick moves in bars the next. This trajectory becomes much less "weird ass" once he disclosed that he was thrown off the acting trail after seeing the movie You Got Served.
Like the rest of us, he was compelled by its power.
Side note: does anyone other than me (and obviously Aidan) remember You Got Served?
Remember when the character Liyah says “Your boy is really tripping.” ?
That’s my favourite line in a movie ever.
Oh my God, remember Lil’ Fizz?!
HOLY SHIT THAT’S MY FAVOURITE LINE ALSO.
After returning to Canada, Aidan attended Ryerson University for [Film Studies] and very quickly felt like he didn’t have anything to show for himself. He recalls the times where he would call home to his parents to tell them he didn’t have anything they could see but swore he would get better. It was during this time that his first short, Bridges was created (in his words) out of frustration.
It was during this time in university that Aidan learned one of his best networking skills. He explains that going to parties in university taught him how to talk about a project without really sounding like he was pitching an idea.
“What is someone going to do with your card? They’re not going to remember you from that they’re going to remember that stupid thing you both laughed at,” he explains.
Authenticity and community seem to be two concepts that are prevalent in Aidan’s work. He also admits he doesn’t appreciate film that doesn’t adhere to either theme.
“I really don’t like films that cater to a very small group of movie buffs and alienate more than half of their audience,” he says.
This is the quote that got the wheels turning for me, because he makes an excellent point. What is the point of art if it is aiming to exclude a percentage of its audience? Is it even necessary if no one understands it? Is art something that can be categorized as necessary and unnecessary?
It's this kind of spiraling mentality that reminds me that every thing I come across may not be directly intended for me, and that’s fine. It’s the human condition to be confronted with something you don’t understand and seek to regulate it, that’s inquisition met with frustration. However, what I get from an experience you may not, and vice versa. It doesn’t mean either of us is right or wrong. That’s kind of the central theme of creativity. There aren’t a ton of rules.
On the other hand, I do believe that the arts have the ability to change our social situations, and if you are smart/brave enough to have your voice heard, you have the opportunity to affect your environment.
As I mentioned before, Aidan is a really down to earth guy. He spends most of his money on Ubers, and he really hates mannequins, jellyfish and clowns (he advises not to pee on any of them). He understands the importance of being both creative and practical. He understands the challenges that come with being an arts worker. Therefore, he, like so many of us, has his joe-job which allows him to pursue his career.
He believes that in film, we must bring to light the performers that aren’t being represented. We must build a platform for great actors to showcase their talents.
He’s someone that makes me excited about the direction in which the film industry is headed.
At this point I’ve said a lot of things, asked maybe more questions than I’ve answered, and watched You Got Served twice in the process of writing this (along with every one of Aidan’s films I could get my hands on). I guess what I want to leave you with is this: Have conversation, have LOTS of conversation. Surround yourself with different people and talk to each other. Conversation is contagious, and the more we learn, the more we understand (as wild as that sounds). The more we understand, the easier it is to co-exist.
Now, GO TALK TO EACH OTHER.
Joss is a budding stand-up comedian and musical theatre performer. You can follow her on Twitter @Jocelyn_MacNeil.