Throughout his 15-year career as a filmmaker, Peterborough’s Michael Morritt has gotten jobs making dozens of music videos for various musicians. However, something very different happened in his latest project to produce a video for roots musician Chris Culgin.
While working with Chris to support his newest album Mind in the Blue Sky, Michael found special inspiration in a ballad from the album entitled “In the Cover”. That inspiration started a project that went from just being another job to being one of the most profound pieces of film Michael has created thus far in his career.
“Chris is a guy I like working with and I’ve made lots of music videos with him before, but with this one I ended up pulling everything I had into this project,” explains Michael. “I took it on as a project as my own. It was more than just Chris paying me to make a video. Chris gave me his funding and I matched his funding, and we created something together. I feel like it’s the best film work I’ve ever done.”
Michael’s video for “In the Cover” is an emotional and profound film about love and grief and features a number of familiar faces from the Peterborough community.
In under than three minutes, Michael weaves a story that is both bitter and sweet. It goes beyond being just another video accompanying a song, to becoming a powerfully emotional short film on its own.
Michael explains that “In the Cover” was not the song from the new album that Chris originally envisioned would have a video.
“Chris didn’t necessarily want to work on that song at first because it’s not a single. It’s more of an emotional piece,” Michael says. “So I had to persuade him, and that’s what we did.”
“The song put the concept of the video in my head and the concept of the video was what I fell in love with,” he continues. “The vision of the film was artistic inspiration in the truest sense. I’d play the song in my head and go for these long walks. When I pitched it to Chris, I could explain it to him shot by shot. It was the most storyboarded project I have ever worked on. I was obsessed by the idea.”
At the centre of the video is local musician Bobby Watson playing an elderly man who has recently lost his wife. Although Bobby is best known for his career as a guitarist, Michael has strong praise for his lead actor.
“Bobby Watson was the first person I cast,” Michael says. “Everybody knows him as a musician, but he’s also an incredible actor. I don’t know how he would do with actual lines but, as a person who is able to emote, he is incredible.”
“In his experience in Memphis as a studio guitar player, Bobby knows how to quantify emotional expression more than anybody else that I have ever worked with. He’s a delight to work with. He’s always positive — even when I made him lie down in the sun. He was always a trooper.”
Michael’s video also features popular local actors Daniel Smith and Marsala Lukianchuk in small but pivotal roles.
“Marsi and Dan are just amazing,” Michael says. “It’s nice on a production like this when we are striving for absolute professionalism to have actors who show you what professional acting is. A lot of times I’m teaching people how to act on the set. Those two got it.”
“They will probably be surprised how often their heads are cut off in the piece on purpose,” Michael adds. “They are essentially background action, but I needed professional background action.”
Michael will be bringing together the cast of crew of the video together for a viewing party on Monday, June 27th, and then releasing the video on-line shortly afterwards.
However, missing from the premiere celebrations will be Chris Culgin himself, as he’s currently in Alberta on tour. However, Chris has put faith in Michael to release the video in his absence.
“Chris liked it,” Michael confirms. “This is the first time he’s given 100% creative control of his work over to someone else. He basically said ‘I’m going on tour, so publish the video while I’m gone.'”
A beautiful short film, “In the Cover” is a powerful collaboration between musician and filmmaker and has become one of the most important projects of Michael’s career.
“My goal with this was to achieve it properly,” he says. “In this business, there are times when you need to cut corners or are racing against the clock. This one was well scheduled and well structured, and for me it was a production achievement. I had to trust the vision and the inspiration for it and just say ‘It’s going to be good enough’ — and then spend the month and a half making it happen.”