The Tastemakers is a new bi-monthly feature in which culture co-editor Jessica speaks with people who are making things happen around the city– Montreal’s “cultural curators,” be it in visual arts, filmmaking, or general coolness.  

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It’s not every day that two multitalented brothers create a mythical world of exceptional beauty linked across three multimedia platforms to make one breathtaking whole– but that’s because not all brothers are Ben and Seb McKinnon, Montreal-based artists whose debut project, Kin, is already garnering them some seriously well-deserved attention.

Kin is a “journey into fable” in three parts: short film, graphic novel, and electronic music. The first short film in what the brothers hope will be a four-part series is visually mystifying, deeply poetic, and intensely emotional– all in eight short minutes. Released just a month ago, it’s already been selected for numerous film festivals around the globe, won Best Cinematography at Fantasia, and was made a Vimeo Staff Pick. And for an eight-minute short film the brothers count as their first official project together, that ain’t half bad.

The brothers at work on the first film. Photo by Sonia Primerano.

The brothers at work on the first film.

The McKinnons put their two distinct artistic backgrounds in dialogue to create a seamless collaborative style. Ben graduated from Dawson’s Cinema, Video, and Communications program, and up until now, had been making his bread and butter directing music videos for local artists. Seb, meanwhile, graduated from Dawson in Illustration, and had been working for Ubisoft as a game designer.

On how Kin got started, Seb says:

“At the time I was at Ubisoft working a 9-5 job, and while I was there I would go on Grooveshark and really soak in all the types of music on there. So I thought to myself, ‘I’ll try and make something.’”

He then downloaded music program Logicpro and mastered the art of song-making.

“The songs I made would conjure up images, and when I shared them with Ben he was like, ‘Ok cool let’s make something around the music, let’s have a narrative to go with it.’”

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Photo by Sonia Primerano.

The brothers, who had been longtime fantasy fans, wanted to use their multiple talents to push both themselves and the boundaries of the genre.

“We got inspired by our travels in Scotland, its landscape and the fairytales,” says Ben. “We wanted to put all of that in a project that would kickstart our company, where we do everything: the music, the visuals, the editing, the special effects– we just wanted to push ourselves to our utmost limits.”

And so they did. The ambitious project so far includes the first short film and an accompanying EP, with a graphic novel designed by Seb in the works.

“We are trying to make something that is a little different, we are really trying to create a world for people to escape into,” Ben explains.

Seb and his talented star.

Seb and his talented star. Photo by Robert McKinnon.

Yet another cool thing about the project is its Montreal-centrism– the EP features vocals from Charlotte Oleena of local group Holobody and the costumes were made by the boys with the help of the Cirque du Soleil costume designers.

“It’s cool that Montrealers are willing to collaborate to bring together something a little bit different, something that will hopefully stand out.” says Seb.

The brothers plan to launch a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the series’ next film. The road to artistic prosperity is long and arduous– but judging by the enthusiastic following the series has already attracted, the McKinnons are well on their way.

“I think what attracts people to the film and the story is that they can interpret it the way they want to, feeling what they feel when they see the visuals,” says Ben. “And with the second part, we really want to blow them out of the water.”

KIN from KIN on Vimeo.

You can see what Kin’s all about, watch the first film, and buy the EP here.

By Jessica Prupas.