Jon Meyer talks about his musical documentary series “Kontrast”
For years, Portland documentary filmmaker and Talk Station frontman Jon Meyer has filmed musicians whose work he admires. It started as a way to improve his craft in hopes of one day turning the footage into a documentary.
“Eventually I got tired of where I was like, ‘Man, if I was going to follow all these people, it would be really interesting, to see where they came from and where they are now,'” Meyer says. WW. This ambition gave birth to his black and white documentary project Contrast.
Meyer wanted to offer an in-depth look at emerging artists in hopes that sharing their stories would help elevate their careers. Take Cassandra Lewis, whose style has been described as “cosmic Americana” and “psychedelic soul.” The first time Meyer heard her sing, he was like, “Oh, my God. I’ve never been around such undiscovered talent like this, you know? Like, does anyone know who this person is? What?”
As with most of Meyer’s projects, one thing led to another. He captured hours of footage of Lewis before, during and after the shows. And finally, he decided to send a tape to his friend Marco Collins, the famous DJ from Seattle’s KEXP.
“I never send him anything, not even about my own work,” Meyer says. “I was expecting it to be something so good that he would trust me to only send him the good stuff.” Sure enough, Collins loved the tape. He went down to Portland to see Lewis play, and as soon as he got back to Seattle, he started playing her on KEXP.
Soon, Collins introduced Lewis to a group of media, which resulted in her signing a recording contract. “And I know all of that because I was there to film it all,” Meyer says. From her first shows to meeting Collins to signing on, Meyer has captured it all.
Contrast also featured Talilo Marfil, the West Bisayan, Filipino American hip-hop artist whom Meyer first met at a barbecue about 10 years ago. “He and a few guys were rapping in a circle,” Meyer recalled. “I’m normally more of a singer-songwriter, but I can beatbox. So our first communication was about 15 minutes of beatboxing and rapping.
Marfil’s energy and history spoke to Meyer. “I found out he was in jail, trying to get kids off the streets, his sister had cancer and Down syndrome and at the time he was fundraising for it. “, he says.
Meyer called Marfil and asked if he could just start filming and see what they found. The resulting multi-part episode Contrast (which features fellow hip-hop artist Wassla) allowed viewers to experience Marfil’s backstory and watch him teach the history of hip-hop to kids from elementary through high school.
“We give them hope and help them make better decisions,” says Marfil in the first part of his Contrast documentary. “It’s hard for me to see how useful I could be because of all the mistakes I’ve made in my life, but the only way to do that is to bring a community together with music. And I I’ve been pretty good with that.
Marfil just released “Big Flip,” which features Swiggle Mandela, Taryn, and JayR Tha Barber (and quickly went viral). As for Meyer, his ultimate goal is to get enough funding to be able to release a new documentary every month, building on the relationships with artists he’s weaved for several years.
“Each episode, even if it’s only 15 minutes long, covers at least three years,” he says. “I don’t want to release an episode that was filmed over the course of six months. The joy of watching these episodes is seeing the change.
SEE : The third part of ContrastThe “Talilo/Wassla” series of plays with artist performances and a Q&A with Jon Meyer and Wassla at Kelly’s Olympian, 426 SW Washington St., 503-228-3669, kellysolympian.com. 8 p.m. Sunday, November 13. $7-$10. More episodes available at contrastdocs.com.