When Outremont’s council meeting begins Monday evening, a couple and their two daughters will be poised with homemade figurines.
When Outremont’s monthly city council meeting begins on Monday evening, Emily Turner and her daughters will be poised with their homemade modelling-clay figurines, ready for the latest episode of their live stream, Le Conseil.
Outremont’s council meetings are already live-streamed; but since February, Turner (not her real name), her partner and their two girls, ages 9 and 10, have been simultaneously streaming their own claymation version of the meetings.
The sound is taken from the actual meeting, and a small window at the bottom right of the Turners’ stream shows the actual meeting taking place, while the main image mimics what’s happening at the meeting, but with figurines.
Occasionally, giant hands enter the picture to move the little people around, insert props or hold emoticons (sheepish, sad, sleeping) over certain characters’ faces, depending on what is being said.
For Turner and her family, it has become a fun way to get involved, react and bring light to hot-button topics that have been dividing the area’s residents over the past few years.
“Basically, we’re watching a live stream of the meetings, then immediately re-enacting and reinterpreting them with dolls,” she explained. “Both my daughters are very involved, so it becomes quite a big production.
“There’s lots going on in the room as we’re trying to listen and hear what the issues are. Then we have a few props ready to go. There are recurring issues — if you know anything about Outremont, synagogues and garbage are things that continue to come up. It’s a way to listen and bring levity to topics that are sometimes difficult and troubling; and it’s a way to deal with these issues with our kids.”
The claymation setup is impressively detailed and includes a row of desks with name cards for the different council members, a coat of arms and flags in the background, and an array of audience figurines representing the variety of citizens in attendance.
“What you’re seeing onscreen is like a very dry, slow puppet show,” Turner acknowledged, “but behind the scenes, the kids and us have to listen to what is being said. If someone brings up garbage, the kids yell out ‘Get a garbage bag!,’ then they fight about who gets to put the garbage bag in. There’s lots of laughter and some yelling, as the kids both want to get really involved.
“We also try to follow the actual cameras used at the council meeting. If they switch to Camera 1, we go to Camera 1, so there’s one kid at the computer using the camera-to-camera button. It’s a bit chaotic.”
Turner’s partner is in charge of the technical setup. They currently use three different cameras, but are considering getting a fourth to keep up with the borough’s live stream.
The idea for the project began to take shape just over a year ago, when Turner’s older daughter and her friends wanted to make a play based on a borough council meeting.
Then over the holidays the family began making little sculptures out of clay, which led to a spark of inspiration.
“We started making little municipal councillors,” Turner recounted. “Then we got excited about acting out the narratives that continue to emerge in Outremont. So we thought, ‘Let’s do a live stream,’ because we just became really obsessed with our sculptures.”
While the process is all in good fun, the issues being addressed can be quite serious, according to Turner, who points to the tension around anything having to do with the neighbourhood’s Hasidic Jewish community.
“Our kids and some of their friends play in the alley with Hasidic children,” Turner said. “They’re asking, ‘What’s going on? Why is there so much hostility? Why are people so angry?’ This is a way for us to work through these issues, and also have a chance to comment at the same time.”
Turner preferred for her family to remain anonymous for this article, due to what she describes as a sometimes hostile political climate “around certain issues in the borough.” (They have dubbed their YouTube channel Enfants Terribles.)
Things have been getting better, she noted, with four Projet Montréal councillors who are “trying to turn the narrative around” — often putting them at odds with Équipe Denis Coderre holdout Jean-Marc Corbeil — but there is still work to be done.
In that respect, Turner hopes their live stream can help get fellow citizens thinking differently about municipal politics. So far viewership has been modest, but the most encouraging results of the initiative have been felt at home.
“As a family, it has really brought us together,” Turner said. “To work on a project together, learning consensus — sometimes we don’t all agree, but it’s been fun to have something we’re all excited about.”
AT A GLANCE
Le Conseil, the Enfants Terribles’ live stream of Outremont’s April council meeting, airs Monday at 7 p.m. on the Enfants Terribles’ YouTube channel (search “enfants” “terribles” “conseil”). For more info, visit Twitter.com/LeOutremont or facebook.com/Le-Conseil-2308817209399844