April 18, 2007
The Wilkinsons are teaming up with Kids Help Phone to help raise awareness about bullying
(CP) - Canadian country trio The Wilkinsons are teaming up with Kids Help Phone to help raise awareness about bullying.
A member of the youth counselling service was on the set Wednesday as the group filmed a timely music video that depicts a deadly classroom shooting.
Band member Steve Wilkinson says it was tragic coincidence that saw the project come together just days after a shooting rampage killed 33 people at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va.
He says it's important that troubled kids - whether they are bullies or those being bullied - need to know where they can get help.
These things need to stop," Wilkinson says. "If one person changes their mind, if they're distraught and it causes them to call a help line before they do something drastic then maybe the effort's worth it."
The video for "Nobody Died" intercuts scenes of a bullied teen at a high school with shots of the band performing in the school parking lot.
The youngest Wilkinson, 17-year-old Kiaya, portrays a popular student who tries to reach out to the boy.
The boy ultimately lashes out in violence and a student dies. The dramatic ending is followed by contact information for Kids Help Phone.
Michael Colonesse, who plays one of the bullies, says it's easy to relate to the story.
He says a classmate of his suffered years of abuse and hanged himself just before prom.
"I remember everyone was like, 'Oh, what a poor guy.' But yet half the kids that were saying, 'I'm so sorry' were the cause of his death," says Colonesse, a 20-year-old actor who's also portrayed bullies on "Degrassi: The Next Generation" and in the 50 Cent movie "Get Rich or Die Tryin'."
"I just wish that people were more sensitive when it comes to other people, because then that wouldn't have happened."
The 14-year-old who portrays the bullied teen says he felt a bit uneasy when he heard The Wilkinsons would be shooting a music video on the heels of the Virginia shooting.
But Bryan Robinson, a shaggy-haired blond with braces, says the video's basic storyline is commonly seen in the real world.
"I've seen some people actually get picked on at my school and no one's tried to help them or anything," says Robinson, who started acting last year.
"If you see someone getting bullied or they need help, then do something about it. Don't just sit and wait till something happens like these people did."
The video shoot comes as Kids Help Phone released a survey Wednesday that found cyber-bullying to be a big problem among Canadian teens.
An online survey of nearly 2,500 young people found 70 per cent had been bullied online, while 44 per cent said they'd bullied someone else.
April 18, 2007 - TheStar.com
Virginia massacre makes song more poignant
Wilkinsons will go ahead with new video for song that tackles school violence
April 18, 2007 - Raju Mudhar - Entertainment Reporter
It is the kind of strange coincidence that sounds like a poor joke, but it isn't at all funny to Steve Wilkinson.
He and two of his children, Amanda and Tyler, make up the country music trio The Wilkinsons and today the group is hard at work at a local school on their latest music video "Nobody Died." Focusing on school bullying and violence, the song was inspired by the 1999 Columbine shootings, but it seems all the more ominous in light of Monday's massacre at Virginia Tech.
"The timing flipped me out and it kind of pulled the rug out from under my feet ... I was in my basement finishing off my rec room when my video director called me. He said, `have you seen the news? You're not going to believe it.'
"It's terrible, and it just made me sick," says Steve Wilkinson from his home in Belleville.
"I tell you what, the song has been in our laps for 5 or 6 years. We recorded it once and it never came out because we didn't have the courage to do it."
Wilkinson says they were concerned that radio might not play the song due to its content, but after the Amish school shooting last year that resulted in the deaths of five girls, the group felt it was a necessary message to get out.
He describes the song as a reminiscence from the singer's point of view about what life was like when they went to school and how things have changed. It starts with these lyrics:
Back when I went to school, kid smoked and swore and bent some rules,
But didn't everybody? I mean almost everybody.
A fake I.D. bought a beer, had the devil's rock `n' roll ringing in my ear,
And people said that these kids got a problem here.
And I'm not saying that they weren't right,
But I'm crying and trying to understand what I'm seeing on the news tonight.
As a father with children still in school, Wilkinson understands the fear that parents are living with whenever these chilling incidents occur.
"I've got a daughter that's still in high school and I thought about the millions of fathers sending their kids to school these days. Nobody ever thinks that this type of thing would ever occur at any school."
The Wilkinsons released their new album, Home, a little over a month ago, and the band applied for and received a grant to make the "Nobody Died" video.
Casting and plans have been in the works for weeks, Wilkinson says, adding Monday's incident did make them pause, but after speaking with their label and publicists, they decided to push forward.
"I just felt that we finally needed to shine a light on it," he says. "If one radio station and one person listens to it and thinks twice about maybe doing something drastic because they're being picked on or something went wrong in their world, it's worth the money, the time and it's worth the effort."
April 17, 2007
The Wilkinsons to shoot music video inspired by deadly school shootings
TORONTO (CP) - In an eerie coincidence, Canadian country trio the Wilkinsons are set to film a music video Wednesday that depicts a deadly school shooting.
Songwriter Steve Wilkinson says the timing of the video shoot - two days after Monday's massacre at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va. - is an unfortunate circumstance he never saw coming but has nothing to do with capitalizing on the blanket media coverage of the tragedy.
Wilkinson admits he momentarily considered delaying the video for "Nobody Died" and postponing the single's May 1 release date, but quickly dismissed that notion, believing attention must be drawn to youth violence.
"Now, even more, that light needs to be shone on this issue," Wilkinson said Tuesday by phone from his home just north of Belleville, Ont.
"I know that there's going to be some people out there who go, 'Oh, yeah, you just put this out and it's gratuitous.' It's not."
"This isn't something where we went, 'Oh, OK, let's go with this. This is topical, it'll make people sit up and take notice.' That's not what happened here. It's a terrible, terrible incident. I would just as soon that we came out with this and that tragedy had never occurred."
Wilkinson, a father of three, says he wrote "Nobody Died" about five years ago as a cautionary tale to any troubled youth considering violence as a way to cope. In the song, he reminisces about his own days in school, when "kids smoked and swore and broke some rules but ... Nobody died/We all made it home."
The video's storyline focuses on a troubled boy harassed by bullies and a popular young girl (played by Wilkinson's youngest child, Kiaya, 17) who tries to reach out to him.
It ends in gunfire in a high school classroom, with a student dead.
Wilkinson says the song was partly inspired by the carnage at Colorado's Columbine high school in 1999. He says the band initially "lacked the courage" to release the song, but subsequent school tragedies have changed their minds.
He went on to lash out at country radio for too often taking the safe route.
"I listen to radio all the time, trust me, and I'm baffled by the mediocrity that I hear and I just figured, you know what? This needs to be out, it needs to be heard by somebody, anybody," Wilkinson says.
"They have a plethora of reasons not to play it, but I think if people hear it, it'll touch something in their hearts and ... if there's a collective consciousness of a nation or a people or society maybe we can touch that nerve, then somehow you'll make a difference."
Director Warren Sonoda says the video crew were in pre-production when they heard news of the latest school attack. He insists the sensitive subject matter will be handled with care.
"I think our intention is good, I think our intention is true," Sonodo says from Toronto. "It's rare when you make music videos to be able to do videos that really matter in some sort of social way. It kind of makes you realize that you have the ability to say something important, and I'm hoping we can do that with this video."
The plan is to push ahead with the Toronto shoot and deliver it to Country Music Television as soon as possible, likely before the end of the month, says CMT programmer Casey Clarke.
Clarke says the single will also find airtime on CMT's companion radio station, the New Country 95.3 in Toronto, calling it a good song despite the unfortunate timing.
The country band - made up of Wilkinson, his daughter Amanda and son Tyler - is currently promoting its fifth disc, "Home," released last month, and the second season of their television show "The Wilkinsons," also on CMT.
The disc is not scheduled for release in the United States, but Wilkinson says he's looking at distribution deals.
Media watcher Bob Thompson says artists should take care in the way they approach such sensitive issues, but shouldn't shy away from tackling them head-on.
"If we live in a world where this kind of stuff is happening, we not only should allow our poets, our songwriters, our novelists, our moviemakers to deal with this subject, it shouldn't be off-limits, we should expect them to," says Thompson, a pop culture professor at Syracuse University in upper New York state.
"These are profound experiences in a culture, these are really kind of extreme expressions and they can carry all sorts of metaphoric meaning, so we should expect our (artists) to do that."
The Wilkinsons are on the cover of Country Eh!
click here to read the feature!
Friday, March 16, 2007
The Wilkinsons are truly a family affair
Season 2 of the hybrid series brings more angst to the close-knit brood
Amanda and Steve Wilkinson
In the beginning, it all seemed so simple to Steve Wilkinson.
"I contacted CMT, and I told them that I was bringing my family back to Canada, and that I was building a house here, and would they like to capture it on camera for a TV series," he says during a press event for Season 2 of the show. "They said 'No thanks,' and I told them 'Well, I'm doing it anyway, and I think it would make a great TV special.'"
How right he turned out to be. The Wilkinsons, a meld of unscripted and improv television, turned out to be the top Canadian series for CMT. Lucky for the network they decided to send that TV crew after all.
The most obvious follow-up question would be why Steve would subject his family - daughters Amanda and Kiaya, son Tyler and wife Chris - to the rigours of shooting a TV project. "This is a way to market oneself," he says honestly. "CDs are on the way out, and downloads from the Internet are becoming more popular. As an artist, I needed to find a way to market myself and my family. I thought a TV show would be a great way to do that."
He's right. I'm not a country fan per se, yet I caught several instalments of Season 1 and was entertained not only by the situations the family found themselves in - an amplified version of real events that have happened - but by how close-knit the Wilkinsons are.
"I was a little concerned when the TV crews showed up," Chris says quietly. She and daughter Kiaya prefer the background rather than the stage that Grammy-nominees Steve, Tyler and Amanda love. "This season, I'm really happy with what we've done story-wise. We had more control over what went on this time around, and it shows."
Now that the rambling house has been built, the sophomore year delves into how the Wilkinson clan interacts with the community around them - and smalltown mentalities. When Steve turns down a request that he and Tyler appear in drag at a charity picnic, they're maligned by the townsfolk; a photo shoot with Amanda results in tongues wagging that she may be pregnant.
Additional bits have the family attempting to hire a new manager (hilariously played by the series' director, Phyllis Ellis), and Amanda being approached by a pushy record producer who wants her to leave the confines of the trio for her own career.
That last scenario is Amanda's current dilemma. Still only in her early-20s, Amanda's first solo effort, though successful, lead to assumptions that she was ditching dad and brother for a solo gig.
"It's tough because I'm still trying to find out what I want to do," Amanda says with emotion in her voice. "I love being with my family, but I also want to grow and explore who I am as an artist. I'm not the little girl that fans think they know."
The Wilkinsons, Wednesdays, 10 p.m. ET/PT, CMT
By Greg David
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
The Wilkinsons ready for second season of reality TV
Luke Hendry / The Intelligencer
Musical family the Wilkinsons - from left, Amanda, Tyler, Steve, Kiaya, and Chris - pose at their home in Centre Hastings Monday. Season two of their self-titled TV series debuts March 7 on CMT at 10 p.m. Photo: Luke Hendry
Local News - Quinte's country family returns to the tube tonight, but with a difference.
Last summer the Wilkinsons once again opened their home and lives to television crews from Henry Less Productions, working under contract to Country Music Television Canada.
The result, the 10-episode second season of The Wilkinsons, premieres tonight at 10 p.m. on CMT. As before, it's a half-scripted, half-real look at the lives of Steve and Chris Wilkinson and children Kiaya, Tyler and Amanda.
Sitting in the livingroom of the log home viewers watched them build last season, the Wilkinsons chat happily about season two.
But if they seem quick to separate the two seasons, it's because they're still feeling a bit of the backlash from viewers who didn't like portrayals of the family, their home region, or both.
At times, they said, they had to do scenes they felt didn't portray them accurately; they'd also hoped their music would be featured more often.
"Hopefully we will smooth some ruffled feathers," said Steve.
"There were a lot of people who were bothered by the fact that just as it was going more into the family ... it would break off," said mom Chris Wilkinson.
Fans weren't necessarily happy with the guest characters, a rotating cast of crazies that defined season one.
"It was distracting that each episode a new character would pop up and then they'd be gone," Tyler said. "It felt like the Polkaroo."
That's changed thanks to screenwriting by series newcomer Adriana Maggs and the direction of Phyllis Ellis, who appears as the band's fictional manager.
"This time around it's closer to us because the humour is not so bizarre," said Chris. "It's more about us. It's got more heart."
Though acknowledging everyone expects the family to gush about the series, Steve said he's genuinely happy with their second attempt.
There are separate moments in which both Amanda and her father are in tears - real tears - while talking about family relationships.
"Those are honest moments," Amanda, 25, said, but stressed the series isn't all hard fact.
"You can't take the show literally," Amanda said. "If you are, there's something wrong."
By popular demand, season two refocuses on the family dynamics and the music. There are concert shots of the band at the Havelock Jamboree, scenes of Amanda singing solo, and rehearsal and performance footage of Motion Picture Ending, the local rock quartet in which Tyler, 22, is also a singer-guitarist.
There's also more room this year for the non-singing Wilkinsons. Chris and daughter Kiaya, 17, get a bit more screen time, bringing them farther into the family spotlight.
"It was fun," Kiaya said. "I had a great time doing it."
At times, she said, it was hard to juggle her high school classes and the shooting schedule, but she and her mother said their new fame hasn't affected their everyday lives much, but they do get noticed.
"I have to go out with my makeup on now," Chris said with a laugh.
Tyler, meanwhile, said he's convinced he's the family's worst actor. "It was kind of evident the crew thought I was the worst at it," he said, smiling.
"They always had me sleeping or eating," he said as his family broke into knowing giggles. "They're like, 'Just sit there and play video games.'"
Ted Ellis, director of programming for CMT's parent company Corus Entertainment, said the first season performed 20 to 30 per cent above his expectations for ratings.
Corus doesn't release ratings, but Ellis said The Wilkinsons was competitive and fared well among viewers ages 18 to 49.
"We were very happy with it and surprised, in fact," Ellis said. "Of our original shows we've done, it would be the strongest-premiering original Canadian production ever."
Not ones to be idle, the Wilkinsons just completed recording segments for CMT Central and are now preparing for the March 20 release of their fifth album, Home.
Eleven of its 14 tracks were penned by the family; fans will see a few in development during the TV series.
The next single will likely be Nobody Died, written by Tony Haselden, who also wrote hits such as Take It Like a Man for Michelle Wright.
The song is about violence in schools and the video may see the Wilkinsons making a social statement against such violence, Steve said.
"I don't think it'll change the social order," he said. "Maybe it'll make people a little more aware."
The band's new website is online now at www.wilkinsonsonline.net.