Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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Open Mic: The Documentary

March 27, 2011

Today I am walking on air, and that is not just because it was the first day since I arrived in Melbourne since last Wednesday that we have had a sunny sky and no rain. I may not have found an open mic last night, but this morning I started a dream project. It is ambitious and I should probably not be writing about it here and now. But I have a very good feeling about it, and it took off this morning thanks to my favorite Emily.

Let me backtrack a little on that last statement. My favorite Emily is my daughter. But Emily Brown is a young Australian musician – among other things – and she is also the organizer of an excellent open mic in Melbourne, at the All-Nations U-Bar. I wrote about it a few days ago, and which I visited last year as well. This morning, Emily made time to have a breakfast at Brunetti and an on-camera interview with me in a nearby park this Italian quarter of Melbourne.

Behind that was the following ambitious plan: A film to follow my musical journey, especially in order to show the musicians, the venues and the people who run the open mics and jams all over the world, in the 19 countries I will visit, including all the continents except Antarctica and Africa.

I heard a Japanese film director made a whole film with an iPhone, so at the moment, I decided to see if I could do my thing using a Zoom H2 sound recorder, a Zoom Q3HD sound and video recorder, and a Canon HV20 camcorder.

It is the natural next step to my adventure that started in 2009. I will have three years’ worth of material to use: writings, photos, sound recordings and video recordings. The film will look at this worldwide phenomenon of the open mic and jam session, where musicians both amateur and professional go to play in public for free and for fun. Why do they do it? Where do they do it? How do they do it? Who are they? Why do the organizers organize such things, usually for no pay, or very little pay? What needs does it fill for everyone involved, including the audience?

Emily is as enthusiastic as anyone I’ve ever met who runs an open mic, and she has been doing it for a year and a half now. She also has her band, My Favorite Emily, and several other personal projects in the works, including a television show about the stories of immigrants in Australia, and how they have adapted and succeeded in Australian life. It was thanks to her enthusiasm and the time she gave today that I was able to take the step from “wacky and ambitious idea” to doing the first interview. It was also thanks to the fact that the Australian Grand Prix didn’t start until 5 PM and I didn’t need to show up at the track until a little later!

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