One of the running jokes between Murray Foster and Mike Ford as they rode in a van with their group, Moxy Fruvous, in the 1990’s was to write songs in the genre of the 1960’s British Invasion. Throughout the 90’s and into the 2000’s they amassed about twenty-five of these British Invasion-style songs, yet did little with this material as Moxy Fruvous was extremely busy, recording a six-track cassette in 1992 which topped the Canadian charts, releasing seven studio albums, tour dates opening for Bryan Adams and Bob Dylan and even a TV appearance on Late Night With Conan O’Brien.
But when Moxy Fruvous dissolved (with singer Jian Ghomeshi moving on to a controversial stint as the host of CBC’s Q radio program, which ended with his sacking over allegations of sexual misconduct) Foster and Ford decided to do something with the stack of Brit-pop influenced songs they had accumulated.
“The project had been losing steam, but it took on a new life when Mike and I decided to go into the studio and record some of the songs,” explained Foster. “We realized that we needed a fictitious band who played these songs, so we called the band The Cocksure Lads. We invented characters and came up with scenarios about the members in the band.”
Shortly after that debut CD, with the tongue-in-cheek title, “Greatest Hits Of The Cocksure Lads, 1963-1968,” Ford and Foster toyed with the idea of shooting a video for one of the songs. This idea morphed into “let’s shoot a short film like Hard Day’s Night.” A friend of Foster’s, Danny Ameri, who owned a video production company in the States, agreed to come up to shoot the short film. At some point during that filming the idea changed from shooting a short film to shooting a feature, and so that footage was repurposed into a fully-fledged promotional trailer for the impending Cocksure Lads movie.
“A big decision at the beginning was what kind of movie we were going to shoot. The obvious route to go was a ‘mockumentary’ like Spinal Tap or the Beatles’ spoof, The Ruttles,” explained Foster. “But 90% of all the possible band-mockumentary jokes were used in those movies, so I decided to make it a narrative storyline, set in the present, about a band arriving in Toronto for their first-ever gig in North America.”
With a debut CD already recorded, Foster set about raising funds for the feature film. His fundraising tools included the trailer, a live-band version of the Cocksure Lads (featuring guitarist Tim Bovaconti and drummer Blake Manning along with Foster on bass and vocals and Ford on guitar and vocals) and a growing production team that included Tamara Doerksen, Darren Portelli and Mary Krause. After an initial failed Telefilm Canada application for funding, Foster and the team raised all the funds from private individual investors, as well as two Kickstarter campaigns that generated over $50,000.
After the film was shot, Telefilm came on board for $60,000 of ‘finishing funds’ to finished post-production. “Telefilm was crucial to The Cocksure Lads Movie,” says Foster. “They turned us down originally because they said the script wasn’t ready – and the thing is, as disappointed as I was at the time, they were right. They gave me great script feedback, and then after the film was finished they came on board with finishing funds, which was absolutely essential.”
A promotional and fundraising coup came in the form of an appearance on CBC’s Dragon’s Den show (which aired in January 2015) where the band performed live. Foster received $100,000 in financial commitments from two of the hosts. “We’re still negotiating with the Dragons – it’s a slow process. But the publicity we received was tremendous,” enthused Foster. “We had three private investors come on board within a week of the show airing.”
Still faced with a tight financial budget, Foster himself wrote the movie screenplay and directed the film himself utilizing a cast that were for the most part non-union actors culled from Craigslist.
“I knew the four key actors who played Dusty, Reg, Derek and Blakey, the band members, had to be amazing,” noted Foster. “Initially I only had two: Luke Marty who plays the bassist ‘Derek’, and Edward Hillier who plays the drummer ‘Blakey’. Both were English ex-pats who had been in Canada since they were teens. I had to listen to so many terrible English accents during the audition process, trying to find the remaining two actors. In the end, we flew both Lyndon Ogbourne (lead singer Dusty) and Adam McNabb (guitarist Reg) from England to complete the group. If the actors playing the band had had bad British accents, the movie would have been, for me, unwatchable. Ogbourne is the most experienced actor of the group, having starred as a villain in the long-running British TV soap opera, “Emmerdale.”
In the film, the four Cocksure Lads from Leeds, who are a major hit in England, arrive in Toronto to launch their first North American tour. On the morning of their first concert (scheduled for a venue called “The Big House,” which was actually the Great Hall at Dovercourt and Bloor) Dusty declares that, as lyricist, he is entitled to half rather than a quarter of the royalties, going back on the band’s original agreement. An argument breaks out, punches are thrown, the band breaks up and band members walk off in different directions around Toronto in disgust. Throughout the day they drink, womanize and get into numerous bar fights as they try to patch things up in time to play that night’s gig.
Torontonians will recognize a number of local landmarks, including a record shop in Leslieville, the Beaches boardwalk, a graffiti wall in Parkdale, The Feathers pub on Kingston Road (Great Big Sea’s Alan Doyle puts in a cameo as the bartender) and The Great Hall, site of the band’s climactic performance. Also putting in an appearance are members of Walk Off The Earth as the Black Flames, an indie band who show Dusty the true value of creating music.
To further promote the movie, Foster and Ford joined together with Bovaconti and Manning to release a second Cocksure Lads’ CD, titled “Mad Lad Plan.”[quote]We just wanted to write good pop songs in that sixties idiom.[/quote]
“With the first record, we just tried to capture the essence of writing 60’s music. There was a naiveté about the lyrics – it was a very innocent time. But by the time we got to the second album, the novelty of writing novelty songs had worn off. We just wanted to write good pop songs in that sixties idiom.”
With financing at a premium, Foster was forced to multitask, first as a recording artist/record producer, second as a fund-raiser and producer as he was also writing the script, and then finally as the movie director. “The Cocksure Lads project had been all-consuming. I literally wrapped up fund-raising and handling the paperwork a week before filming. I had one week to put on my director’s hat and design the storyboards.”
Receiving its World Premier at the Whistler Film Festival in 2014 to a positive response, Foster’s movie was picked up for distribution by Toronto-based A71 Entertainment. “We are very pleased to be acquiring this gem of a film,” announced A71 president Chad Maker. “Murray understands how to entertain an audience and we look forward to releasing his debut as part of our Canadian Indie Film Series.”
The Cocksure Lads was also well received at the Canadian Film Festival, previewing to a sell-out audience March 25th 2015 at the Royal Cinema. There are plans for future festivals in Canada and the United States before the movie goes into general nationwide release in August 2015, and then video on demand (including iTunes) after that.
The Cocksure Lads, featuring Foster, Ford, Bovaconti and Manning, will be appearing on the Music Express Canadian Music Week Showcase on May 6th at the Rivoli Nightclub at 10 P.M and will also be appearing on a number of dates leading up to the movie’s release.
“We’ll probably keep the band going to promote the movie, but it’s not a regular band,” allowed Foster. “Maybe if the film became big in England or The States we could justify a big tour. I’m also pitching a pilot for a TV series – I’ll be flying out to the Banff World Media Festival in June to meet with international TV production companies for four days. So who knows?”
Foster has also spent the past three years as bassist for Great Big Sea, replacing Darrell Power. He says “It took me a day to learn the notes on the bass line but three years to understand the feel of the music. I grew up in Thornhill (Toronto suburb) and I initially didn’t have a grasp of Celtic music. It took me awhile to get my head around that rhythm. It’s essentially dance music.”
As for Foster’s thoughts on Moxy Fruvous‘s music legacy in the wake of the Ghomeshi scandal, Foster notes that he is still proud of what that band accomplished and the freedom he had in writing and performing for that band. “There were a lot of people who hated Moxy Fruvous in the beginning. We were cool until grunge came along, and then we were despised by most of the Canadian media. So now maybe they have another reason to hate us,” concluded Foster. “It’s something we’re kind of used to – it’s been like this for 25 years.”
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