Thursday, October 11, 2007

WE People - Les Birch: Don’t Shoot The Camera Man

by Krysta Celestine

For Trinidadian-Canadian Les Birch, working in the film industry has always been a dream. But it wasn’t until he travelled to Trinidad that he realized that he really had a passion for it. “I had a cousin (in Trinidad) who always wanted me to film things that were going on out in Toronto,” says Birch. “Pretty soon I was bringing him low budget music videos shot on camcorders and interviews with local artists, and my desire to create quality projects was born.”

And before he knew it, Les was making his dream a reality. In March of 2006, the 29 year old Videographer/Editor’s Hip Hop documentary, “Take a Trip”, which chronicled the lives of up-and-coming artists from Baltimore, Atlanta, Montreal and Toronto, premiered to a packed house at Brampton’s Heritage Theatre. With such a receptive wide audience and impressive camera work, one would never guess that Birch has just three years of “professional” experience under his belt.

And yet in such a short space of time, he’s accomplished things that newcomers to the industry can only dream of: from designing Electronic Press Kits (EPKs) for Rocafella recording artist Tru-Life and The Dungeon Family’s head producer, Rico Wade; working behind the camera for 90s rapper Vanilla Ice’s “come back” attempt and a red carpet P-Diddy party; to two nominations for best music video of the year at the MAJA awards, which recognizes excellence in Canadian Gospel music; and a Covenant Award nomination by the Gospel Music Association of Canada.

Whew! Les is hardly a novice. Yet one can not help but think that jumping from Hip Hop to Gospel is a gigantic leap. But it’s a genre that he’s been working in for a while now. “A Hip Hop gospel recording artist named Malichi Male saw my work and got in touch with me to do a video for him. That music video ran for over a year across Canada, and got nominated for a couple awards. Since then, we’ve collaborated on several projects including a couple other music videos, a documentary, and a few commercials. Other artists in the same genre have seen my work and so far I’ve kept pretty busy.”

Although working with Gospel artists keeps him “busy”, make no mistake that Les has a genuine love for Gospel, crediting it as a diversion from the “Bling Bling” mentality that seems to be permeating Hip Hop today. “I enjoy working with gospel artists because their music is still about relaying a message”, says Birch. “Nowadays it’s hard to separate music from marketing. It seems like everything is about selling a lifestyle---clothes, jewellery, cars etcetera…so it’s refreshing to create things that have a distinct and positive objective.
While he recognizes that the industry is fickle --“one minute you’re relevant, next minute you’re not”, he is thankful that he’s had the opportunities that he’s had, and his biggest goal, he says is to “stay grounded and true to my beliefs, and to keep pushing”.

Don’t expect him to stop now. “I got something really exciting coming up”, he teases. “It’s a script I’ve been sitting on for a while. It’s a comedy. All I can say is, no one has seen anything like this, and we’re still looking for investors. Hint Hint”, he laughs.
For more information on Les Birch’s work, visit

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