Mind Exchange Music Presents: The Showcase takes viewers behind the scenes of a single-day, 14-performance live-music marathon. The film serves as a look at the inner workings of Mind Exchange Music LLC, an agency out of Chicago owned by musicians Donny Walker and his partner, sound designer Kelly Askam. Their work can be heard in many independent films (including I Dream of a Psychopomp, which I reviewed this summer), as well as soundtracks and albums.
Their key passion is helping facilitate the creation of new artistic experiences, and The Showcase is dedicated to exploring that focus. The documentary is about both the creation of the event and the film itself, which is the first in-house documentary produced by the Exchange. Music lovers will find a lot to love with the recordings of the performances, which cover a wide range of genres. Movie nerds will enjoy the extremely forthright discussion on the collaborative process behind the film. Creating The Showcase started with an idea that sounded totally insane — 14 live performances by talented artists and an entire orchestra, presented in single takes — and turned into a pretty in-depth look at not only how to make that kind of dream a reality, but also how to comprehensively document it along the way. Frankly: It’s pretty cool.
Artists involved in the show include Sami Wolf, Nikki Morgan, Alexandra Olsavsky, Diana Lawrence, David Becker and more. They’re largely Chicago-based musicians, which was by design. Walker and company wanted to create a program that gave their friends and collaborators a chance to get their music out there. Assisting them with the ambitious project was Ron Arden, conductor for the Lake County Symphony Orchestra, and the LCSO itself. Bringing the full orchestra along allowed for more complex arrangements but also created new challenges in filming the pieces as comprehensively as the crew had planned.
There was a moment early on when I wondered whether The Showcase would be all about Mind Exchange LLC — basically a feature-length advertisement. Happily, that isn’t the case. It’s a consistently enjoyable and detailed look at multiple artists and their processes running in tandem to build something larger than their individual work. That they succeed, and make it look easy, is a testament to their professional capabilities and thoughtful, deliberative approach to art. For anyone struggling with following their talents, this is a good reminder that with perseverance and planning, anything is possible.