The Painted Houses Project by Rozalind MacPhail

Posted: April 4, 2011

It certainly is a strikingly lovely aspect of Newfoundland & Labrador– most noticeably in downtown St. Johns...

painted houses pictureAll those beautiful painted houses. 

Just recently though - we caught wind of a fantastic new project with the same name thanks to the good folks at the St. John's International Women’s Film Festival.


Yes – indeed there’s a project entitled Painted Houses being produced by multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter Rozalind MacPhail – that combines incredible visuals with marvellous music.  Enlisting the talents of 13 St. John’s filmmakers, both established and emerging – Rozalind set her flute to fancy and scored all of their films. We’ve shown just one above – the film entitled “Small Painted Houses” by Elsa Morena.

This truly unique collaboration is a celebration of creativity for sure and will be shown at the Dawson City International Short Film Festival later this month.

Later this week – Thursday, April 7th to be exact - you can witness this wonderful work for yourself at The Ship Inn in St. John’s, NL.

We wanted to get a smidge more scoop from the artist herself – what follows is our Q & A as they say with artist Rozalind MacPhail...

Rozalind MacPhail by Gina Rae AndersonSABS: Painted Houses is such a great project on so many levels - tell us how you came up with the concept.

Rozalind MacPhail:  Thanks so much!  The idea to make Painted Houses initially came to me on New Year's Eve as I was trying to visualize what 2011 was going to look like creatively speaking.

I had been feeling like I was getting nowhere in finishing my new album. It has been sitting on the shelf for the past three years, all because of not having the financial means to pay for the production work that's required to complete it.

I was trying to think of ways to be creative without having it cost me a fortune and I had been itching to write an album which included short films set to flute-friendly soundscapes. I was also trying to come up with something that would share my passion for my new home, St. John's.

There is so much talent in this city and I am constantly saying to people, "Is there anyone here who can't do something artistic?" Being creative is such an essential part of the Newfoundland culture and it's why I was so excited to move here. Because I have such a passion for music and for filmmaking, the idea of putting together a collaborative project that emphasized both mediums and making St. John's the catalyst for our inspiration came easily.

There are 13 short films in total in this project and all of the filmmakers are based in St. John's. I invited an assortment of filmmakers from emerging filmmakers like Shannon Cymbaly and Darrell Power (of Great Big Sea) to some of St. John's most established like Ruth Lawrence, Roger Maunder, Ed Tanasychuk, Brad Gover and more. One of the films, "MoJo in Flatrock" is my own film, shot on a snowy day in Flatrock with a vintage Super 8 camera. In total, there are 6 films shot in black and white Super 8 and the other films were all shot with digital cameras in full colour.

When I invited filmmakers to participate in this project, I asked them to shoot anything that inspired them and with any camera as long as it had something to do with the magic of St. John's. I promised them music to go along with their silent films which I planned on submitting in DVD format to the RPM Challenge.


 Rozalind MacPhail by Gina Rae AndersonSABS: What is it about St. John's that makes it so special for you?

Rozalind MacPhail:  This entire project has been influenced by my love of Newfoundland, especially the city of St. John's. It's my little way of showing my appreciation for the city which has helped ground me and make me a better person and artist. I am so lucky to be a part of this community. Everyone welcomed me with open arms upon arriving here and it feels like family now. We really are lucky to be a part of such a beautiful community of people. There's a magic here like nowhere else, one of the most beautiful places in all of Canada.

Painted Houses is all for the love/hate of experiencing winter in St. John's. Lots of snow, the beauty of the town, the people that make it so special, the stores that we all love and even the pets that we adore.

Each film forced me to break outside of my musical boundaries and try something new and each one was a real treat to work with. Bryan Power did something really cool for Ed Tanasychuk's "(S)no". He actually recorded CBC's weather reporter Ryan Snoddon and we included it in our soundtrack. It's so funny!

The one thing that brings all of the music together is my love and passion for the flute. I made sure to include the sound of the flute in every film and had so much fun playing with flute effects as I've been working with recording engineer Joel North.

Sherry Ryan/Phil Goodland's film, "Yum" was also a hoot to write for. I took all of my kitchen utensils and recorded percussive sounds out of them, creating a kitchen utensil soundscape. We added a drum and bass element to Shannon Cymbaly's "Snow Day", a favourite electronic style of mine. I just received percussion parts last night from Caribou/Pick a Piper drummer Brad Weber for Blair Downey's "Beauty and Loss". It's all coming together nicely.


SABS: Quite a creative city that St.John's - don't imagine it was hard finding folk to do the film side of the project.  How did you get your 13 filmmakers?

Rozalind MacPhail: I first called Roger Maunder at NIFCO to ask him what he thought about my idea and whether he thought I was being realistic with such an ambitious project on such a tight timeline. Roger was immediately excited about the project and suggested a bunch of his favourite local filmmakers. I already had a bunch of filmmakers in mind so between the two of us, we came up with a great group of artists.


Rozalind MacPhail by Gina Rae AndersonSABS: So often when it comes to soundtracks - the movies are shot and the music is composed to 'fit'...was that the process for Painted Houses?

Rozalind MacPhail:  No, I went for a different approach with this one. I wanted the music to be inspired by the films. The filmmakers left it to me to come up with the musical ideas after they finished their films. With each film, I started working on it by developing a feel for the film in regards to tempo and time signature. From there, I played around with instrumentation, tried some MIDI programming and eventually found a musical form for the film. After that, I began working on melodies. My creative process was different for each film but they all began with that initial tempo setting and instrumentation experimentation. I composed soundtracks for all 13 films within a two and a half week period which was no easy task. I even had to change my sleeping pattern during the process in order to keep going throughout the night. There may have been some caffeine involved too. 🙂

SABS: This Dawson City International Short Film Festival is a big deal - what will you be doing while you're out there?

Rozalind MacPhail: This is the second time I have been invited to attend the Dawson City International Short Film Festival and I couldn't be more excited about that. It's a wonderful festival. Dawson City is one of the most magical places I have ever been so fortunate to experience. When first trying to decide whether St. John's was going to be my next home, it was a tossup between Dawson City and St John's. I'm happy I picked St. John's, but Dawson City will always hold a special place in my heart. The sense of history there is unreal (much like St. John's) and the last time I was there, it was the most productive creative period of my entire life.

Rozalind MacPhail by Gina Rae AndersonGoing back to Dawson this time around, I am extremely excited to be sharing the Painted Houses project at the festival, screening all of the films as I perform the music live.

It will be so wonderful to share the magic of St. John's with so many people who have never had the opportunity to visit this beautiful city. I'm excited to see how they react to this showcase.

After the festival is completed, I have been invited to be composer-in-residence for the Dawson City International Short Film Festival's third annual One Minute Film Challenge, a project which Victoria filmmaker Scott Amos and I co-founded during our KIAC residency in 2009. In this project, everyone in the town is invited to shoot one minute films with any type of camera they'd like to use and then I compose music to all of the films. Lots of people use Super 8 cameras. The Super 8 black and white film is then bucket processed to create a vintage look. That's one of my absolute favourite cameras to shoot with. I will be submitting a Super 8 film to the challenge project which I will shoot while I'm out there this year.


 SABS: Tell us what people can expect at the April 7th event...

Rozalind MacPhail: The launch will be my dress rehearsal for my showcase at the Dawson City International Short Film Festival. I will perform live music to all 13 films. This evening will be a truly memorable and magical evening for all who are there to experience it. I can't begin to explain how much hard work has gone into getting this project completed for the launch. It has been a real collaborative effort. Without the help of so many people, it simply would not have been possible.

There is one challenge that continues though. A miracle is going to need to happen the night of the launch because I have yet to raise enough money to pay for the $2500 plane ticket required for my trip to the festival. So part of this event is to celebrate the work of some amazing talent in this city and the other part is to help raise the money to attend this amazing festival. All proceeds from the ticket sales will be used to help pay for the plane ticket.

Bring your friends! Bring your loved ones! Bring your family! There is something special for every type of person in these films. If you want to feel proud of a truly collaborative effort by some of the city's finest, come on out! I can't wait to celebrate with everyone before showcasing this in Dawson! : )


For more information on the Launch Party and the Painted Houses project visit


SABS Credit Where Credit is Due

The lovely pictures of Ms. MacPhail come with credit to Gina Rae Anderson

The very cool artwork for the event poster is a Dennis Gamberg work of art!



  1. [...] Visit: [...]

    Pingback by Article in Atlantic Canada’s Sea and be Scene — ROZALIND MACPHAIL — April 5, 2011 @ 8:35 am

  2. I love your project and your province !

    Comment by Jaco do Saxofone — April 5, 2011 @ 4:10 pm

  3. Enjoyed your videos and the delightful music, Rozalind.

    Comment by John — April 6, 2011 @ 5:17 am

  4. [...] more about Rozalind and the Painted Houses project, check out these two recent interviews: The Painted Houses Project by Rozalind MacPhail – Sea and Be Scene Colouring the Yukon with the painted houses of St. John’s – The [...]

    Pingback by Film Fest Previews: Rozalind MacPhail and Brenda Longfellow | KIAC Blog — April 12, 2011 @ 4:03 pm

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