DocumentaryMusic HistoryRadio

An update on the CFNY Spirit of Radio documentary

For almost a year now, a group of us (including former staffers Ivar Hamilton and Scott Turner) have been working on a big-budget (well, for a documentary) on the history of CFNY (now 102.1 The Edge/Toronto) during the Spirit of Radio years (1977-1992) when the station’s influence on music and culture was at its peak. Time for an update on our progress:

  • Principle photography is done. The editor is now doing his magic to craft the story.
  • Matt (the director) and I have been reviewing a 75-minute preliminary (VERY preliminary) cut, making notes, offering suggestions, and making sure the narrative arcs all knit together properly. We also need to ensure that the timelines are correct and the stories are historically accurate. Memories may have faded, but watching this rough cut is bringing back a lot. And I mean a lot.
  • Ideas are being tossed about for various bits of fun graphic design within the film. That includes opening and closing credits.
  • We’ll soon start compiling a list of songs we need to license for the film. This will take up much of our budget. But that’s okay because without the music, there’s no story to tell. I can tell you now that we’ll need music from Rush, The Cure, Talking Heads, Depeche Mode, OMD, New Order, Simple Minds, Martha and the Muffins, Teenage Head, Parachute Club, and a ton of others.
  • Brendan Canning of Broken Social Scene has been commissioned to write the score and incidental music.
  • There are two bands on our personal wish list that we’d like to interview before everything gets completely locked down. I’m on a mission to get them in front of a camera. Fingers crossed.
  • There’s still some interview footage we need to shoot to tie things together and fill in some blanks.
  • I’ve made notes about a bunch of B-roll that needs to be shot.

Everything needs to be locked down before the end of the year so we can get into some serious post-production. Then comes the job of finding a place to premiere the movie. I had a meeting with someone high up at the Toronto International Film Festival on Saturday about getting a slot in 2024. Once we have a gala premiere, we’ll book some theatrical screenings in Ontario and Western New York. Maybe beyond, too. After that, the film needs to be sold to a distributor/streamer.

There’s still a TON of work to do, but I can assure you that the doc is real and once completed, it will be very, very good. Watch this space.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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8 thoughts on “An update on the CFNY Spirit of Radio documentary

  • This sounds like it is going to be a FANTASTIC film, and I can’t wait to see it!

  • Did you ever find Chris Shepherd??

  • Can’t wait!
    The Spirit was and still is a huge influence for me

  • I remember hearing Human Leagues “Don’t you want me” for the very first time, I believe it was a Sunday night show that you did, when I was in my early teens. That event opened up the floodgates of new music and music in general for me, and for that I thank you!

  • I can’t wait! CFNY (and music) was so important to me growing up. Nice to meet you at the Smashing Pumpkins interview. Thank you for putting this documentary together!

  • I still remember when you landed on the air on NY. I also remember when you had your parents in town for the first time and told them that living in TO wasn’t that costly. Then you had to pay for air for your tire at the gas station!

  • *let’s out a fan girl squeeeee


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