This sitcom-format video is about a fictional band, The Mittenstrings, consisting of three characters: Raelene, lead singer; Chess, guitar player; and Lance on bass. The individual sitcom episodes range in length from 90 seconds to six minutes. The story opens with the band on their way to their first radio show, taped in front of a live audience. The subsequent episodes follow them on their way to minor stardom: they record a pop single with a famous producer duo, talk business with their manager, and play a music festival benefitting underfunded schools.
With a background in visual arts, Lily Lanken, with the help of her brother Sylvan Lanken, used foam-core as the main set- and character-building material. All elements were hand-drawn and painted. The videos are composed of live-action shots, a sort of moving tableaux; the authors have come up with the term "inanimation" to describe the action. To give each character in the sitcom a unique voice, Lily and Sylvan enlisted the vocal talents of numerous friends. Finally, all songs in the sitcom were written and recorded by Lily and Sylvan.
The video was made over the span of about a year, with the help of a small grant from the Government of the Province of Québec.
Sylvan and Lily were born in '77 and '79, respectively, in Montreal, Québec. They spent their formative years growing up in a small town an hour's drive from Montreal. They were born into an artistic family: their mother, Anna, is one half of singing duo Kate & Anna McGarrigle, and their father, Dane Lanken, is a published author. Syl 'n' Lil, as they're often called, spent many years singing in shows and at summer folk festivals with their extended family, gaining insight into the ins and outs of the music business from a young age. In 2006, Lily received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio Arts from Concordia University, and has exhibited in and around Montreal. She is a backing vocalist in her cousin Martha Wainwright's band as well as with Kate and Anna McGarrigle. Sylvan is a writer and self-taught videographer. In late 2008, he spent a month in Europe with Martha Wainwright, chronicling her life on the road. Sylvan also composes music for video and video-games. Lily and Sylvan both live and work in Montreal.
The Mittenstrings video was first screened at il Motore, Montreal, December 16th, 2008.
the mittenstrings are
Raelene - Lily Lanken
Chess - Neale McDavitt-Van Fleet
Lance - Alex Weldon
Nathan Bridgewater-Smalls - Toby Harper
Station Manager - Anna McGarrigle
Jenny Walker - Kathleen Weldon
Nancy Siruba - Ciara Raudsepp-Hearne
David Siruba - Sylvan Lanken
Filmed, Written, and Directed by
Neale McDavitt-Van Fleet
All Songs written by
Lily Lanken and Sylvan Lanken
except where noted
Garden of Love
words by William Blake
music by Lily Lanken
Music Mastering by
Original art by
Made possible by a grant from
Jeunes Volontaires/Emploi Quebec