Sheridan student in TVO documentary contest


Featured above is Jasper Bendici, the guitar-playing Greek Orthodox chanter who’s the subject of The Middle Way.


When it comes to storytelling, Luca Tarantini is a natural.

The 23-year-old first-year Advanced Television and Film student has become one of five finalists in the 2014 TVO Doc Studio Contest with his short film The Middle Way.

What started out as a first semester project for his Documentary class quickly grew legs and developed into what it is today: a five-minute master class on how to seamlessly combine audio and visual elements to effectively tell an artful story.

So what is The Middle Way?

The story of Jasper Bendici is mesmerizing: a Greek Orthodox Church choir “chanter” by day, and a rock band’s lead singer/guitarist by night, his story is that of a delicate balance between two distinct, and far reaching, worlds which “provides an example of a broader struggle.”

“There’s a separation between these two lives. When he’s playing in the band, he’s Jasper Alexander (his middle name), and when he’s playing at church he’s Jasperos Bendici (his name in Greek),” said Tarantini.

And that’s not the only separation. The philosophies of church and rock n’ roll cultures can be drastically different – for good and bad – and finding “the middle way” between two extreme components was Tarantini’s inspiration.

“It’s beautiful. That’s where the best kind of art comes from: slamming things together.”

But there were some bumps in the road, and the Woodbridge native felt the struggle of connecting an exceptionally specific lifestyle to the all-embracing theme of balancing contradicting behaviours.

“One of the biggest challenges was making it universal, but also trying to keep it personal. I wanted to share it in a way that people can feel a connection, and say ‘yeah, I totally know what that feeling is,’” said Tarantini.

Adversity aside, Tarantini knew that his film would be something special after a single moment he captured on camera.

After a mass in which Bendici was chanting, the congregation was led to the basement of the church where they enjoyed a luncheon together. Sitting alone, Bendici was approached by two elderly women who were offering heartfelt compliments about his performance during mass.

He gave them “goose bumps” and one of them “cried for the entire Divine Liturgy” because his voice was so touching.

Flattered and embarrassed, Bendici laughingly responds, “no don’t cry, please.”

“After we got that, I was like ‘wow, we have a documentary, we have a film,’” said Tarantini.

After his teacher and classmates saw the finished documentary, they encouraged him to submit it to the TVO Doc Studio Contest and that’s when Tarantini’s classmate, Matt Cays’s role as producer and co-writer enhanced.

His workload expanded from helping outline the elements of the storyline, organizing the crew’s shooting schedule and providing input on the final cut of the film, to promoting the film through “digital packages” and “determining where it needs to go in terms of festivals.”

TVO’s outline was simple: cut the story down to five minutes or less, upload it to YouTube and provide brief information about who was in the crew. After that, their fate was left in the hands of the judges, who whittled the submissions down to five finalists.

The current stage of the process involves a voting system for the finalists’ videos, wherein the film with the highest number of votes is broadcast on TVO and its filmmaker receives a day of mentorship with head judge and Emmy-winning director, Peter Raymont.

The film can be viewed and voted for at until the deadline on April 17.