This year’s Toronto International Film Festival (#TIFF20) saw the premiere of The Archivists, a compelling short film featuring ACTRA Toronto members Noah Reid, Bahia Watson, and Maxwell McCabe-Lokos. The film, set in a dystopian future, involves a trio of musicians discovering an abandoned house of cultural artifacts. They find a vinyl record and re-imagine one of its songs. We had the chance to chat with performer Noah Reid (past ACTRA Award in Toronto nominee in 2011), about his experience in the short film.
ACTRA Toronto: How was the shoot for The Archivists? Any interesting stories or experiences?
Noah: On every short film shoot I’ve been a part of, there’s an understanding that you’re not there for glitz or glamour or big money, you’re there to be a part of a team that’s telling a story with minimal resources. That means everyone there has bought in on a personal level, and certainly, The Archivists was no different. The location was this strange property in rural Ontario, and the art directors had gone to town on it to create this wild, abandoned house, with moss and fungus growing out of the bed, and strange artifacts from the past strewn about everywhere. Personally I love exploring abandoned spaces and imagining who occupied them, it’s eerie and exciting and connects you to the past in a really active way, so it was fun to poke around the set with that spirit. Less fun to sit in a carriage behind a pair of very gassy horses, but what’re you gonna do.
ACTRA Toronto: Music inspires the characters in this film. Can you talk about your relationship to music?
Noah: Music has always been a big part of my creative life. I’ve put out a couple of albums, Songs From A Broken Chair in 2016 and Gemini earlier this year, and the process of making a record isn’t unlike making a film; a ton of imagination and preparation, putting the right team together, doing it over and over again until it feels right, and then digging in on post-production to put the pieces together. It’s such an engaged and all-encompassing world. I think my experiences on film sets have given me a lot of perspective in the studio, and now my experience in the studio is giving me a lot of perspective on the filmmaking process.
ACTRA Toronto: What’s the vinyl record you would most want to discover in the future?
Noah: Oh man, so many. Tom Waits’ Blue Valentine, Bob Dylan’s Time Out of Mind and Kendrick Lamar’s good kid m.A.A.d city to name a few.
ACTRA Toronto: For you, how does working on a short film differ from working on a series or feature?
Noah: In a short film, everything is condensed and reduced to its most efficient expression. The audience needs to get a lot of information in a very short period of time, so as an actor, you have to be prepared to communicate only what is essential to the narrative. Maybe because of this, it seems like there is a lot of room for collaborative conversations. Everyone needs to be on the same page, especially when shooting on 16mm. Every take needs to count, so a collective understanding is important. It feels high stakes, which is a really fun way to work.
ACTRA Toronto: How have things been for you during the pandemic? Have you done anything to hone your craft during the time off?
Noah: I’ve been working on a new album and getting ready to get back into the recording studio. Music has been a great companion through this weird time. I guess, like the characters in the film, when the world seems to stop at least you can still be working on some kind of reflection of your environment.
ACTRA Toronto: What does being an ACTRA Toronto member mean to you?
Noah: Toronto is my home, and ACTRA is my union, and I feel very lucky to work and live in such a vibrant community. If there’s one thing I take away from The Archivists, it’s that artistic and cultural contributions can speak to us across generations and provide hope and light through the darkest times, and we certainly need them now. I’m proud to be an ACTRA member and proud to be a member of Toronto’s world-class entertainment industry.