In a sunny rehearsal room, creative partners Thompson and Fung have been working through a tremendous technical balancing act with piano players Leanne Regehr and Ariane Lowery standing in for a full orchestra, technician Harrison Lee manning three laptops and a few playback flatscreens.
Starting Thursday, three consecutive days of the specially re-edited documentary will take over the Winspear, bringing together the musical and filmmaking team that won the Edmonton Film Prize, numerous AMPIA awards and is nominated for four Canadian Screen Awards in Toronto next month, including for Fung’s score, performed by the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra.
The Great Human Odyssey aired originally on The Nature of Things. SUPPLIED
The entire art-science project is all about sustainability, explains Thompson, 42. “It’s something in the film business we all want, a long-tail. This three-hour documentary series took us three years to make, and we don’t want it to just disappear.”
A year back at the Winspear Centre, a similar live event with the same team was more of a behind-the-scenes scenario. Thompson explains: “That was letting an audience in to witness what we were going through recording the score. There was no rehearsal. We just thought, ‘This would be kind of neat for people to see.’
“This is a performance. We spent months in the edit suite. Darren’s recomposed the music, and we’ve done all this really complicated technical work so that when you’re in the audience, it all just looks seamless. It’ll be seeing a new, standalone feature documentary, listening to wonderful music, listening to the person who made the film tell you the story.”
“The difference between doing this with a live orchestra and recording a film score is you’re doing this all without stopping, right?” Fung shakes his head, laughing. “If you have one little mistake in the middle of it, it affects everything after it.”
Paring it down from a three-hour series about the history of the human race, Thompson notes, “we stripped down a lot of the complexity, a lot of the interviews, and I really scaled back my narration so I’m not fighting his music.”
“There’s only about three times in the whole 80-minute show the orchestra’s not playing,” adds Fung. “The introduction, an interview and on a bird cliff.” Fung is speaking of a nest raid, where Inuit hung down 200-metre drops on thin ropes, just so they could enjoy scrambled eggs once a year. Thompson, ever the interactive adventurer, joins them in the documentary as they dangle and, later, savour.
Says Fung: “What we’re doing is not an old film with an orchestra there, it’s a real event, a spectacle.”
“What we’re doing is unique,” Thompson concludes. “It hasn’t been done before.”
The Great Human Odyssey in Concert
With: The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra
Where: Winspear Centre
When: Thursday at 8 p.m., Friday at 9:30 p.m. special children’s show Saturday at 2 p.m.
Tickets: $24-$79; kids show youth rate starts at $15, at winspearcentre.com