(Wavelength #5) What is Masculinity? Former Degrassi Star Plays the Personification of Manhood in Indie Film

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Who: Calyx and Richard, filmmaker and actor duo making a film on healthy masculinity

Style: Comedic-dramas, or dramedies

Their roots: Unionville, Markham where they were the nerd and jock bffs of the arts high school

Quirk: Clowning around, the two like to do weird impressions of characters in public. (There’s a whole universe of characters and the story continues!)

Their Wavelength: Putting all of themselves into their work.

Keep reading to find out tips and insights from Richard’s Degrassi story and Calyx’s experiences with indie filmmaking!

What kind of person comes to mind when you think of masculinity? Calvin Klein underwear models? Chuck Norris roundhouse kicking his enemies? What would a sensitive, creative writer think of this?

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Former Degrassi star Richard plays this over the top interpretation of “masculinity” as Wayne in Men at War, a character crafted specifically for him by filmmaker Calyx. This independent film tells the story of Jamie, a sensitive writer who struggles with his masculinity after his girlfriend cheats on him. To cope, he creates a tough guy persona called Wayne that speaks to him like the fairy god mother of masculinity. The whole idea behind this film is to open up dialogue on positive masculinity and poke holes in unhealthy ideas on “being a man” means. Eric Osborne, another Degrassi star plays the protagonist Jamie, who is making a screenplay about Vietnamese war vets fighting aliens.

I think Richard has an amazing presence, and he’s really good with the out there, zany characters.
— Calyx

Ever since high school, Richard and Calyx have been partners in crime, collaborating as often as making hilarious impressions of wild characters together. This is the building where it all started, right here in Markham’s Unionville.

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This dynamic duo are major opposites, even though they were both class clowns studying drama and (surprisingly!) have Jamaican backgrounds! Calyx calls himself the neurotic, intellectual type while Richard has the more commanding, physical presence. Calyx’s finesse is film and writing, while Richard is all about music and dance. Even though they’re so different, they get along incredibly Their high school classmates still remember their infamous MC for the winter assembly, where they make terrible obnoxious jokes, poking fun of Oscar hosts banter. Everyone loved it, and the next year others tried to replicate it but of course it just wasn’t as good.

We like to find the most irritable person and just poke them.
— Calyx

After high school when Richard was starring in Degrassi, he’d spend his winters with Calyx where they’d continue to collab. Calyx makes his music videos and continues pursuing filmmaking.

Calyx’s Top 4 Insights on Indie Filmmaking

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Calyx went to Ryerson right after high school and studied in their film program. The most important thing for him was the people he met, and finding his passions. His interest started in art house films and directors like Stanley Kubrick, Jean Luc-Godard and Akira Kurosawa. He is a strong believer of films about personal obsessions and feelings, the idea that the identity of the filmmaker is reflected in the work.

Men at War is Calyx’s biggest film up to date, and it’s the one he’s going to push for festivals. It took four days to shoot in Markham, in a property his aunt owns near Rouge Valley. They shot war scenes in the woods and also downtown in graffiti alley. Calyx always pushes to make his sets run super smooth but being a filmmaker is so much more than just the production.


Here are his four tips for indie film making!

1. Figure out why people should care

At the end of the day, you need to explain to people why they should watch this movie as opposed to the other hundred short films.
— Calyx

There’s so many people trying to do what you do, so make sure the story you are telling is going to resonate. Tell a story that needs to be told. In Men at War, the film addresses the Hollywood superhero stereotype that masculinity is muscles and using brute force to defeat enemies. For the protagonist Jamie, he is working things out with his girlfriend at a cottage and feeling tested in his masculinity. This is a story that doesn’t position him as a hero, but is coming from a perspective of a more sensitive, creative man.

2. You can’t be the whole band.

You can’t play every instrument, so accept that and work with people.  Enter in festivals, meet like-minded people and get projects made with them. Collaborate until you find a team that believes in you so you’re not doing it alone. Even if the project isn’t amazing, the people and connections you made will take you closer than where you were before.

I’ve struggled before with thinking my work wouldn’t be accepted by people who could help me further it.
— Calyx

3. Get lucky

A lot about success in the film industry is being at the right place in the right time. By that logic, the more places you put yourself in, the higher the probability you’ll be in the right place. Be ready for those moments to come. Some people walk into their first audition and get a lead role, while others go at it for years.

4. Work smart

The part in the luck equation you can control, is what you’re working on. For Calyx, the only way to view success is working at it every day and be smart about how you move forward. It’s not just about sinking three grand into a project, it’s about taking it further. Calyx is pursuing distribution for this film and he’s ready for it to take him to the next level.

Richard’s Top 5 Insights on Acting in the Film Industry

What do Drake and Richard have in common? They were both starring on Degrassi, aspiring to be a music artist. For now, he's a professional actor doing music, and playing on Degrassi has allowed him to meet Macklemore, Nelly Furtado and Carl Wolf.

Richard can still remember the excitement of landing his first big role on Degrassi. He was at the grocery store with his mom and his agent called. His mom dropped all the eggs and every single one cracked. At the first read through, he could see all the main characters on his left. He blinks, and all of the sudden, he’s one of the leaders of the cast. When the older members graduate, and soon the younger characters are looking up to him. The whole cast goes on a trip to Ecuador and builds a water foundation. On We day, he is a celebrity guest speaking in front of fifteen thousand people.

One day you’re in the grocery store, and the next you’re in a whole different world.

Here are his top five tips on getting started!

1. Understand it’s a lifestyle.

In acting, the lifestyle isn’t just glamour and bragging rights, it’s being told two or three days in advance you need to be downtown at 9 am and hope to book a role based on that. This is a busy, fast paced world and you always need to be ready with a flexible schedule.

We’re actually going to do a self tape for an audition right after this.
— Richard

2. It’s an extremely small world.

Be professional, make sure you’re on time and say hello. Whether it’s the director or the most low-key crew member, you don’t know who’s related to an executive and can make sure you never get hired again. Everyone knows each other, people remember you and how you’re like. You can be extremely talented but the hours on set are long, and people would rather work with someone who can give them a more pleasant experience.

3. Don’t be scared of failure.

Early on I took failure as failure, but I never had this mentality [acting] might not be for me.
— Richard

You will be intimidated and you will fail, but don’t be afraid of those emotions.

Yes, the competition is real. Yes, you go up against people who’ve been doing it for years, know the ins and outs and have connections. But everyone starts somewhere and get further by continuing even when it’s hard.

Not making a role often just comes down to being a right fit, you can be the best actor and still not fit the role.

4. Be a nerd and obsess

Work ethic goes a long way. Even thirty minutes working on your craft and you’re that much better than you were yesterday. Find your inspirations and keep working at it. For Richard, his inspiration is Michael Jackson who put in everything he had for every single song. He never stopped reinventing himself and put himself at a higher standard.

Part of becoming a better artist is also researching those who came from the same neighbourhood as you and have gone further. It’s good to see people so close get to that level. Fuel the ambition, and learn what they did to get where they are.

Look at your fellow actor. Lamar Johnson who’s going to be in the next X-men movie, I worked with him on the same gig. We worked in show choir and grew up in the same neighbourhood
— Richard

5. Take it seriously, but don’t forget to have fun

Richard and Calyx would improv in character on the scenes before a movie takes place and have the most amazing time with each other. When you’re on a T.V. set, you don’t really have the opportunity to because time is money.

If you stall, do three or four takes, that’s money for them. They’ll just settle for a take where you might not be presented best. That’s what the business is.
— Richard

That’s why doing indie projects, getting practice and having fun with a partner in crime is so important! Richard and Calyx love the honesty of giving each other real feedback on how to improve, but they also know how to kick back.

I plan on being who I want to be, let anybody who wants to say anything say what he wants.
— Richard
It’s making art that is timeless and universal. I’m in it for the art.
— Calyx

Follow Richard and Calyx to keep up with their projects!

Toronto New Wave