Long Hard Journey

‘InJustice’ received a Showcase Award for best historical/biographical documentary series last night.  I did not expect to win, and I am truly humbled and gratified when I think about the enormous effort put forward by my team.  They touched this series and made it the best it could possibly be.

Making this series was the single hardest thing I’ve ever taken on.  It took a year and a half to complete.  The vision for this series was unlike anything ever seen on television, and none of us knew quite how to realize that vision.  After struggling with tried and true production and post production techniques, we realized that the old ways of doing things weren’t going to work.  We had to throw out everything we learned about filmmaking and invent a new way of doing things.  We used software in ways it was never designed for, and in snapping over 300,000 photographs, we actually wore our camera out… twice!

I will never forget the passion my team brought to the series.  There were several heated moments in the edit suite as we struggled with our learning curve.  The vision for the series continued to evolve as we learned more about what worked, and what didn’t.  By the time we reached episode five (of thirteen), we knew what we were doing, but the show we were creating was so unlike anything we’d ever seen or done before, that none of us were sure if it would be accepted by a television audience.  We weren’t sure if the series was any good!

SCN, our lead broadcaster (and biggest client), had sunk a lot of money in the series and were very nervous.  Our program manager at SCN had moved on to other opportunities half way through episode 2 and her replacement didn’t arrive until episode 5.  We made tweaks and changes as requested, but the over-all direction, look and feel of the series was so radically different from anything they’d ever seen, that not much could be done to make it feel more like a contemporary television series.  They were going to be stuck with this series, and Dacian’s relationship with SCN, was in serious jeopardy.

By this time, we were also seven months behind schedule and with all the labour involved, we were burning several thousand dollars every two weeks.  Our budget was already quite lean to begin with, and taking six months to find our bearings cost us dearly.  Chantel actually deferred several months of her salary to help our cash flow.  I cashed in my life’s savings and poured it into the company to keep us afloat.  It wasn’t enough.  On August 14, 2008, a day of reckoning arrived.  Chantel and I met at Atlantis to discuss our next steps.  We were completely out of money.  We were going to have to lay everyone off in six hours’ time.  My health was suffering.  I never felt more stress in my entire life.

Then… a miracle.  The layoff notices weren’t necessary.  At the last possible second, a life line arrived and we secured enough money to get us through to November.  Then… more good news.  We made a modest sale in September to a Russian broadcaster.  Somebody actually liked our series!  Another sale came from TBS Latin America in October, followed by a final stroke of fortune.  CBC Documentary Channel came on board with a giant chunk of money!  We were going to be alright.  We were going to have enough money to finish the series in March 2009.

In life, nobody has success without a little help from a lot of people, in a lot of different places, at the most unexpected of times.  After several bold moves, stupid mistakes, dumb luck, and (mostly) unwavering belief, I feel fortunate to even be here.  I could not have made it without the help of a lot of friends, family, colleagues, and perfect strangers.  I think about the strained relationships, the lost friendships, the many sacrifices, and all the sleepless nights, and I find myself truly, truly humbled.

I think about the countless victories along the way, the magical moments in the edit suite, the laughter, the sense of accomplishment, the pride in a job well done, and I am truly, truly thankful.

We did something that nobody ever did before.  We walked through the wilderness together, and we came out award winners.  My team, is the best team I’ve ever been blessed with.  Thank you so much!

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