For those who don’t know him, David Powell is an interior designer who founded the successful Toronto-based interior design company Powell & Bonnell. His heart, though, has remained in Paris since boyhood, and in years past he has worked tirelessly in collaboration with many other dedicated people to preserve the town’s unique architecture, history and allure. Last fall we invited David to Paris Lectures to speak about his design work. Instead, he wanted to talk about Paris.
Below is the uncut video from his talk (the first Paris Lectures video we’ve posted in entirety), which we think is a really good overview of the kinds of decisions Paris has been up against throughout its history. It does an excellent job of demonstrating why working to showcase what is special about a town can help to preserve it.
So last weekend David put together a group of people who share that common interest of preservation, and to his far-reaching credit he managed to assemble a group of talented and diverse people. Whether an interest in craft, business, politics, design or community, these were people united by a shared vision (or at least a shared enthusiasm) for how Paris could do a better job at marketing itself.
We met at the Wincey Mills on Saturday, and if you had told us a year and a half ago that we would be sitting in that recently-renovated historic building before it opened its doors to the public talking to this particular group of people about the future of Paris, we certainly would not have believed you. (Wincey Mills will be opening in May, by the way, with a June 4th Grand Opening and we can’t wait to take people there!)
Compared to us, the other attendees (all except a Toronto couple) have lived in Paris for much, much longer than we have – preceding our arrival by a decade or more. In one case, by three generations. In our short time here we have internalized the idea that having roots in Paris has social consequence, so we truly appreciate the open-hearted nature of people we’ve met here who have ensured that we have any network whatsoever.
This meeting of the minds began because of a cheese commercial, which David spotted sometime last fall and hasn’t been able to get out of his mind since. The video was commissioned by the Dairy Farmers of Canada and created by the Toronto agency DDB Canada. If you’re from Paris, it is fun to recognize the landmarks and appreciate the atmosphere of our chosen home, but there are also creative and messaging considerations within as well.
What’s great about the video is its simplicity, all its creative elements working toward a common feel. It has a good script, good videography, good narration, appropriately gentle music and a specifically Canadian sort of self-denigration: an attractive haute veneer balanced by a genuine and charming earthiness. It was a custom job done beautifully.
Having participated in the making of videos like this, we see know the production of such a video is far from straightforward. We see behind the curtains to the budgeting discussions, countless meetings with stakeholders fighting for agreement on the tone and messaging, casting and location scouting, product photography and lighting, first edits, final edits, not to mention all the business pieces that fall outside creative process. If we wanted to create something similar for the town of Paris made by the town of Paris, the road ahead can certainly be traversed, but it is long. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the prospect.
During our trip to Florida over the holidays we picked up a local guidebook called Passport Winter Park which describes itself as “your complimentary luxury guide to shopping, dining, museums & the arts, showcasing the unique personalities of each business.” For inspiration we shared this book with our co-conspirators.
The guide itself is free to shoppers, ad-free (unless you consider the book itself an ad), paid for by local businesses. It features interviews, articles and gorgeous photography for each business listed within. As an artifact, it is thick with fabulous dimensions, the paper stock is so lovely to touch, and the features inside on the businesses and people behind them are stunning. Of course you pick this thing up and want to go check out Winter Park, and you also want to keep it on your bookshelf as a token of that experience. Wouldn’t something like this for Paris also be amazing?
We may feel far from ready to create a “Passport Paris” – or another high-production marketing video – but what if we actually aren’t? What if we ignored the sense of these being immense undertakings and, as David has done throughout his career, simply started somewhere. Chip away at it. What would it take to actually put content like that together? What content would you include today?
In many ways that is what we are really trying to do with this blog. We’re searching for a local identity, exploring Brant County’s nooks and crannies, experimenting with what excites us personally, and sharing that with you. We feel astutely the concerns we share with other newcomers to Paris: couples looking for friendships and commonalities, young parents striving to put down roots, perhaps struggling to forge social networks, entrepreneurial spirits like Kari Bishop who are eager and excited about doing things differently and putting their ideas to work. We feel you!
It seems to us that what we really need to get our ideas off the ground is each other – community. If we support each other we can propel good ideas forward with energy and enthusiasm. When projects get difficult, we’ll have each other to keep us going. And the actual marketing of that content will be the easy part.