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How did a Canadian who graduated from business school with a major in finance transition into being a novelist and music producer with projects spanning the globe?
After a decade of working in various business administration roles, I became frustrated with the mundane repetitive normalcy and started looking at my past. What had happened? How did I let all my dreams die…
I always wanted to be involved in movies and I had watched hundreds of hours of documentaries on the making of the shows I adored. One of my favorites is the twelve-disc extended edition Lord of the Rings box-set. I have watched every minute of those production diaries. Twice.
Armed with a newfound desire to rekindle that teenage dream, I dipped my toes into film school, but my brief attempt at directing wasn’t a good fit with my deeply introverted personality. Instead, I plodded away at film school on the side and began to work on a young adult coming-of-age novel as a hobby. Storytelling had become the part of film school I became enamored with, and I focused my attention on crafting characters, plots, and settings. When I was done with the book I had no idea what to do with it. I sat on it for months trying to learn the basics of self-publishing. While I was doing that, I got into music production. Music was always a part of the book and one of the side characters in the novel is a budding musician. For me, music was just another dream like movies were. Something I would ponder about when my mind wandered, but this time the thought was different. I could feel the story the songs would tell. It wasn’t just my mind wandering. There was a spark. I used to think I couldn’t write, but I almost had a completed novel. If I could make a novel materialize out of nothing, maybe I could make songs do the same thing. Enter Gus Reeves–who ended up changing my life!
Gus became the musical mastermind that polished up my early ideas and taught me a ton about how to craft and organize thoughts into song. His haunting voice was perfect for the soulful folksy sound I envisioned as I wrote the novel. Some of the influences on the songs we created: Lukas Rossi, Mumford & Sons, City & Colour, X-Ambassador, and Reuben and the Dark.
I handed Gus my early lyrics, and we went back and forth for months tweaking the little details. What started as one or two songs turned into four. While I do take credit for a big chunk of the lyrics, the vocals and guitar were all Gus. I just provided some light coaching to get him to the sound I had in mind, then let him paint the canvas the way he was most comfortable.
In the final moments before I put Someone’s Story out to the world, I added references to the songs Gus and I had worked on, then I used the songs to help launch the book. I don’t like long pitches. Instead, my project pitch for both my books is simple. Listen to a few songs. If you like what you hear, pick up the book!
Although my work with Gus was ending, I didn’t stop working on music. I moved to my next project. Something even more ambitious. Around the time of publishing Someone’s Story, I became a graduate of Lights Film School, which was an entry-level filmmaking program that has since closed. Years earlier during my early days in that program, I started an idea. It was about a creature attacking a music festival. The idea was so grandiose I couldn’t even write it at the time. Someone’s Story just kind of popped out while I was teaching myself how to think big for Pulse.
The creature and music portion of Pulse didn’t change much from that first idea: imagine the biggest music festival on the planet, but a mysterious creature gets loose and causes chaos.
That idea simmered the entire time I wrote my first novel and with my expanded author toolkit, I got to work inventing. Of course, I created a DJ character, and I embarked on a journey to bring some of his music to life. I connected with a real-life DJ and electronic music producer in Australia named Skrybe. We started creating a song from the first draft of Pulse named “Limitless”. We went back and forth for months and Skrybe brought this crazy big sound to the table that sounded just like the kind of EDM you would hear at a festival. Think Skrillex, Adventure Club, or Daft Punk.
I kept tinkering on the manuscript for Pulse and started working with Skrybe on another track. This tense cinematic instrumental captured the energy I wrote with and I felt it was the perfect teaser for the project sound so I named it “Pulse” and released it almost immediately, keeping “Limitless” in my back pocket.
Then, something unexpected happened…
This was all going on during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Canada Council for the Arts put out a request for digital art and I was lucky enough to be awarded a grant. Everything I had done so far was just lyric videos and music visualizers. With that grant, I started a more challenging plan. I wanted to try and animate my festival.
I found an amazing pixel artist out of Italy named Andrea Putortì. He is one of the best in the world. We took inspiration from the music video for the song “White Flag” by Delta Heavy and started going back and forth on how we could bring the festival in my novel to life with a retro Nintendo vibe.
The video for “Limitless” took about eight months to make. I created some smaller music videos at the same time and kept revising the manuscript for Pulse. These were all great #stayhomestaysafe projects.
Right at the finish line for “Limitless”, I brought in a talented video editor from the Ukraine named Nik Ganzina. He was able to hyper-stylize everything Andrea had done, bringing it to the tempo of the song. There are not that many pixel art music videos out there, and I am so proud of the tiny team that pulled this off!
Lucky for me, I had a little bit of grant money left over before I submitted “Limitless,” so I used the last of it to book a vocalist for a special project I had dubbed “Perduto.” That vocalist is fellow Canadian Armenia Sarkissian. One of her many talents is she is a classically trained opera singer. She and I took my author message in Pulse and translated it into Italian. She then recorded operatic vocals that have serious Lord of the Rings soundtrack vibes all over them. Skrybe and I went back and forth to bring the Pulse sound. The final result is ethereal and awe-inspiring!
As a final tweak to Pulse, I added “Perduto” to the pages just before publishing. What a project! So many countries. So many partners. So much time. All during a pandemic. I felt like I was missing one piece though…
To bring everything full circle, I even wrote another song with Gus. A dark grungy alternative rock track titled “Monster” and evoking feelings of “Something in the Way” by Nirvana or “Nutshell” by Alice in Chains.
All this work helped to get myself involved with crowdfunding on a small level for a few movie projects releasing in 2022. Witch, an indie horror film from Marc Zammit, and In Search of Darkness, an 80s sci-fi documentary. So proud to have my own IMDB page which was something I could only dream about a few years ago. Maybe one day Pulse will be a credit under the producer section there. All I can do is keep dreaming big and working hard!
This article originally ran in The Prairie Book Review November 2021 issue. Small changes to formatting/word choice were made since that publication.
About the Author
Bryan “B.A.” Bellec’s debut novel, Someone’s Story, won the Reader Views Reader’s Choice Literary Award for Young Adult Book of the Year. Someone’s Story is a young adult coming-of-age book and has seen good support over Instagram, YouTube, and Goodreads. One of the aspects that makes Bellec’s projects unique is he includes musicians in his novels and then he actually produces the songs as his book goes through the editing stages.
Bellec was born in Richmond, BC, and raised in Langley, BC, before settling in Winnipeg, MB. His first adventure was a career in Finance, where he spent 15 years developing his business skills. His highest achievement was the Certified Payroll Manager designation. He currently still consults with businesses on their systems and processes. Over that period of time, he also attended Lights Film School where he started to nurture his early creative abilities.
A self-starter always interested in research, he taught himself many of the aspects of storytelling through reading books, screenplays, and material online. Whenever he found an inspirational piece of art, he quickly went to the source to find the story behind the artist who created the work. It took many years after attending film school for him to finally combine his creative skills with his life experience and tell these stories he had been holding back. Some of his favorite creative people: Lukas Rossi, Justin Furstenfeld, Peter Jackson, Stephen Chbosky, J.K. Rowling, and Stephen King.
Bellec’s second novel, Pulse, releases on December 1, and he can’t wait to show the world this truly unique project.
CONNECT WITH B.A. BELLEC!