By Will Yannacoulias
Pictures courtesy Prehistoric Productions
Artists leaving the province to pursue a career in the arts is an unfortunate but all-too familiar story. It’s been refreshing to see that trend slowing in recent years, and downright exciting when people move here from other places to enjoy the benefits of Saskatchewan’s vibrant arts community. NSMZ was thrilled to speak this month with Ontario expat Andrew Sorsdahl, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Saskatoon’s Prehistoric Productions, the company responsible for many of the music videos local indie artists are sharing on social media, and partners in the Skullcreek Sessions video series. Sorsdahl was happy to share with us his reasons for coming to Saskatchewan to start the company and what he perceives as the strengths of the local film and music community.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us today Andrew. Could you start by telling us a bit about yourself? How did you get your start in film, how did you begin Prehistoric, and how did you end up in Saskatchewan?
“I originally started the company in Ontario, where I was using it to freelance while was working in the film industry there. In Fall 2013 Brad Pederson, my best friend and eventual business partner, was attending university in Saskatoon. Brad mentioned to me that, because the Film Tax Credit had been cut in the province, there was a gap in the market; all those people who contracted on big film sets followed the work and moved away. I came to Saskatchewan on a fact-finding mission and ended up working with League of Wolves as our first client. That one relationship turned into a few in a short time. I decided there was a potential market here, felt that I loved the prairies and loved Saskatchewan, and moved permanently in Spring 2014. We did a big video shoot with League of Wolves and that’s where we solidified the company with Brad Pederson, myself and Francois Denysschen. Francois was attending Vancouver Film School at the time, was obviously interested in film production but wasn’t interested in going the traditional route of working your way up; he wanted to use his skills to create something right now. Saskatchewan was a blank canvas in that way, and allowed us to do more than oversaturated markets such as Vancouver or Toronto. Things went so well on that project, we officially incorporated as Prehistoric Productions Inc. that fall. We spent our first two years just building our portfolio, and I’d say in the last three years have really come into our own, hit our stride, and figured out who we are as a company and what our style is.”
It’s remarkable that the end of the Film Tax Credit has in the past been heralded as the death of the Saskatchewan film industry, yet you saw it as an opportunity to launch a new film production company.
“Having a film tax credit is great for bringing in big productions, as they’re the only players who can take advantage of it. We benefit more from grant programs like Creative Saskatchewan. The loss of the tax credit has denied us the opportunity to be a crew on a big project but it allowed us to move in and seize an opportunity to focus on small projects.”
Why did Prehistoric decide to make music videos? Music videos are so closely tied to cable TV giants like MuchMusic and MTV, both of whom have been playing fewer videos for years now. Why are artists still seeking to make and release videos? Is the attraction as a marketing tool, or is the attraction to music video artistically collaborative?
“With internet and social media music videos are perhaps more popular than ever. It’s absolutely an artistic medium but it’s also a valuable marketing tool for bands to promote themselves. The challenge for me is to be creative and express yourself through the art, but also to make it fit with the existing image that an artist already has and ensure makes sense with promoting them or their music. Music videos are where our greatest passion is as a company. We love everything we do but if we could choose one medium to work in forever it would be music videos. From a technical standpoint video is enjoyable because you don’t have to worry about the audio. The song is professionally recorded in advance and you can focus on cinematography, effects, concept, those sort of creative things.”
There exists this cool circle of artists, like a mini scene within the scene. Many bands and artists work with both Prehistoric Productions for their video and Skullcreek Studio for their recordings. How did that relationship come about, and how has it evolved?
“The relationship with Skullcreek started with Aspen Beveridge, and the work Prehistoric did with his band League of Wolves. We built a relationship creatively and as friends on those projects. When Aspen launched Skullcreek it was a natural partnership, they had a recording studio, we had film production, we both have a similar philosophy on pricing our services to be accessible to artists. Since we’ve met we’ve been trying to find ways to help each other grow and help grow the music scene here in Saskatchewan. A lot of people in the local film industry see Saskatchewan as a stepping stone to getting work in Vancouver or Toronto or The States. That’s never been what we want. Our philosophy has always been to try to build the scene here, bring the work back here, build that industry up in the province. The scene and the community in general has been such a big part of allowing us to do what we do, and we want to give back as much as we can. It’s not the same cutthroat attitude you see in bigger cities, it’s more people building each other up, asking how we can help each other, how we can build the scene together instead of trying to step on people to get ahead."
One of the most dynamic things to come of the Prehistoric-Skullcreek collaborative relationship has been The Skullcreek Sessions, a video series where local artists perform at local venues. How did The Skullcreek Sessions come about?
"Sessions was a natural thing to come out of our relationship with Leot Hanson and Aspen at Skullcreek. It’s been something I’ve personally wanted to get off the ground since early in our career but we just didn’t have the resources, the connections, the things we needed make it sustainable. With COVID happening it became the perfect time to bring that sort of content to people. There’s other similar projects, The Vater Sessions or the 16 Breweries Sessions, but we wanted to showcase different venues and locations as well as artists, tie together different aspects of the scene."
What’s the future hold for Prehistoric productions? More of the same or are there ambitious new projects in the works?
"More of the same of course, but there’s a few new things in the works. We’re working with Seven Mile Sun on a music video. We love those guys, they’re so talented and their music is just incredible. In the not-too-distant future but no date yet a feature film is on the horizon, we’re still working on the script and we don’t want to take our first shot until we have something we’re 100% happy with. We’d like to see the Skullcreek Sessions become a destination stop for touring bands in the future, though the focus will always be on local artists. That’s something we feel really passionate about, focusing on and working with local artists. There’s a hidden gem of a music scene here; I truly feel Saskatoon could be the next Nashville, and I’m excited to be here and to be a part of that."