Most of you will recognize Steve MacDougall as the friendly frontman from Slowcoaster. You can catch him cheerily singing away at music festivals for about half the year. But a recently-released short film from director Devin Casario gives us a look at how his life might have gone very differently. MacDougall stars in Black Guitar, which takes a look at some of the darker truths about the music industry.
The music industry is not an easy one to make it in; the chances of success are small, the hours are long, the lifestyle requires a constant push and self-sacrifice, and often there are the pitfalls of excess. Some careers fizzle, and some do even worse.
Black Guitar explores the latter, as well as the downfall of weathered troubadour Anton James. Played by MacDougall, James finds himself at the end of his rope as he faces the depths of a total collapse of his career. With nothing left, he knows he’s getting out one way or another.
“I had zero acting for film experience, but it was something I’ve always wanted to do,” says MacDougall. “Dev and I have similar tastes so I really got his vision. Amazing experience. It’s been shown across Canada and the U.S. at various film festivals. This up coming April it will be at the Chicago film fest.”
“I just wish I was Tom Hardy. Is that too much to ask?”
MacDougall was able to draw from his own experiences as a musician in order to play the role, “albeit played up,” he says. “While finding the character I just took little parts of me—my fears , ambitions, darkness—and multiplied it by a thousand.”
Produced by award-winning musician and filmmaker Devin Casario along with friend and collaborator Todd Fraser, the film was made through the Atlantic Fimmaker’s Cooperative’s Film 5 program. Casario, has his own experiences as a musician, having long been the frontman for the band Mars Hill, and has worked with several bands producing music videos.
“The genesis of the project was based around a song title from Steve’s solo album Spanish Bay,” says Casario. “I knew I needed a real musician to play the role. Finding one who was comfortable in an acting role was going to be a challenge.”
Casario was already considering Al Tuck, another well-known east-coast musician, for the role. The situation changed when he found out MacDougall was interested in the part, despite MacDougall’s lack of acting experience.
“I’ve known Steve for fifteen years, dating back to 2003. Slowcoaster kind of took my band under their wing and we developed a close relationship as fellow frontmen and lyricists.”
“He threw himself 110% into the role and even took some private acting lessons in advance of shooting. I consider Steve to be one of the most talented individuals I have ever met, so going into production I was very confident that we could achieve something we both felt good about. In my opinion, he really delivered in all aspects. His performance outshines any of the potential weaker elements of the film. He was a beast on set and knocked the socks of our experienced crew.”
Casario says the first scene they shot for the film was the particularly tense scene from the end of the film. Anton is seen de-stringing his guitar as the character arrives at a desperate finality to his situation.
“We kept the camera rolling for about five minutes while Steve worked his magic. After that scene was shot, there was an incredible vibe in the air, his performance set the tone for the rest of the shoot—so much that he received an ovation from the entire crew, something I have never seen working in film and television.”
“It was great to finally collaborate with each other. We had talked about it for years in the music realm. I don’t think either of us ever anticipated it would be in this capacity. Life is full of surprises.”
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