Villainy introduces experimental filmmaking to Calgary through multiple disciplines

Piano, dance, and filmmaking artists in the city come together to showcase the psychology of supervillains through new indie film

By Ashley Pfeifer | October 14, 2022 |5:00 am

Headshot of co-producers, and pianists Akiko Tominaga and Lana Henchell.

Photo: Submitted

At the beginning of creating the indie film Villainy, composer Vincent Ho drew inspiration from six infamous Batman villains and learned about the psychological profile of each character to create a piano duo based on his findings.

Classical pianists and executive producers Lana Henchell and Akiko Tominaga took interest in Ho’s etude, a musical study, and began working with him on the experimental film. 

“It goes back almost two years ago when Lana first approached me about this project,” Tominaga says. 

“[Ho] had written this set of supervillain etudes for solo piano at the time… and Lana was very interested in approaching him to arrange this solo piano work for two pianos, so she asked me to be her duo.” 

Creative minds, assemble! 

The team gathered dancers to watch and mimic the psychological make-up of Riddler, Two-Face, Penguin, Poison Ivy, Catwoman, and the Joker. 

“[Ho] asked choreographers to translate [the psychological profiles] into gestural physical motion, and he filmed it,” Tominaga says. “He then brought it to the pianists who changed those physical languages into a musical format.”

Villainy is defined as an experimental film for its unique ability to combine multiple disciplines into one. 

“It hasn’t been explored much in the classical contemporary music scene, but it’s a wonderful way to reach a more diverse audience,” Tominaga says. 

Headshot of composer Vincent Ho

Blending music with a beautiful story 

Director Emil Agopian brought the film together by connecting the psychological traits of Ho’s inspired characters to create a story that would blend with the piano duo and choreography. 

“It was based on a collaborative effort between the different art disciplines,” Tominaga says.

“Along that line came the idea of presenting the final project at a movie theatre because that is not a standard venue of [live] performance.”

The making of Villainy and its use of multiple creative works is not what a typical moviegoer would walk into a theatre expecting.  

“In conjunction with what’s going on on the screen, it’s that we’re also expressing the music physically… which is a very exciting sense,” Tominaga adds. 

Looking within for inspiration 

The original plan was to premiere the film online, as it was in development during the recent pandemic. 

While COVID caused many setbacks for businesses and organizations, Tominaga says in some ways it helped them give their best to the film. 

“I think the pandemic allowed us to take a deeper look inside ourselves,” Tominaga says.

“[We] realized the creative power that was within ourselves and it [allowed] us to actually come up with this final project.” 

The live world premiere will be presented for one night only on Oct. 22 at the Globe Cinema

Headshot of director Emil Agopian

You can also watch it online 

However, there is also an online premiere on Nov. 4 for those who can’t make the live performance. 

While the duo doesn’t have plans for another performance, they are toying with the idea of bringing it on a tour outside the city. 

“We want to do an educational outreach at a musical institution or university,” Tominaga says. 

“We want to share our experience behind the project because this is something that young aspiring musicians or anybody in the artfield can learn from and learn how to collaborate with disciplines outside of just your own.” 

Showcasing local talent 

Villainy will showcase multiple local talents and will likely attract a broad audience to experience multiple artworks and expand the possibilities of filmmaking. 

“This event is really for… those who are into indie films, experimental films, live performances of pianos, or dance…it’s for everybody,” Tominaga says. 

Tickets are still available for the world premiere of Villainy on Oct. 22 at the Globe Cinema. Here’s the trailer.

Poster promoting the world premiere of Villainy

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Ashley Pfeifer

Ashley Pfeifer is an intern at Calgary Citizen.

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