Jazzy From Afar

Jazzy flies into Regina today!  I haven’t seen her in a long long time.  I put her on a plane bound for Vancouver last August and that’s the longest I’ve ever gone without her.

I can already feel the big bear hug coming.  I can see her coming down the escalator with the flight attendant.  I can see the big shiny eyes and bright white smile.  I can feel her jumping up into my arms, “DADDY!!!”

Then I can see her notice the snow outside.  She’d turn her head and observe how everyone is bundled up like arctic explorers.  She’d notice the thick winter coat I’d be holding out for her.  And she’d get this uncomfortable feeling that at some point in her near future, she’d have to step outside.

Crapsmithing Worseness

Today’s blog is a real shit show, a crapfestive delvation into the murky underworld of literary underwear (and not the sexy kind either… we’re talking granny gotch here).  Every word entering your mind will be a complete waste of your time, and may possibly leave you feeling stupider for the experience.  Nothing, I repeat, NOTHING about this article will measure up to any kind of standard, except perhaps for the standard of living, which has now been diminished by several minutes in your case.  The time you wasted reading this will never come back to you.

This article is a purge, a wordsmithing purge of completely selfish vainish proportions and is designed to twist my ego into submission for daring to fuck with my sense of fun in recent posts.  There no doubt will be better, more betterer articles in the near future, but they will only come as a result of fun, inspiration, and a desire to satisfy my own personal insights into the world, and NOT to make you admire me for my self proclaimed brilliance.

Make no mistake.  Today’s article is not a self loathing, self pitying, make you feel sorry for me, plea for attention.  Despite walking to Atlantis this morning in the -34 bright sunny weather (a contrast of epic proportions), I am in a great mood, and an even greater headspace.  Today’s article is merely a public declaration of war upon my ego, and the carnage thereof is for you to behold.  Like a train wreck unfolding in slow motion, you can’t look away cuz you already made it this far into the read.

This smoking twisted wreckage is a promise left behind, a vow to myself that I will never again sit down to write something designed for the purpose of having you stroke my own ego.  If I can’t first be honest with myself with my craft, I won’t write at all.  My writing is the first thing I ever learned about myself, in that I myself can only bring into the world the words I let slip off my fingertips, for the purpose of allowing me to see the world, in only the way I can see it.  That last sentence is a convoluted mumble jumble, but it makes perfect sense to me.

Thank you for bearing witness to this mess.  I also promise to keep the ride as something worth your while too.  That way, we’ll both be happy.  After-all, who wants to write in a vacuum?

Epic Wordsmithing Greatness

I’ve been neglecting my blogging lately because I’ve been spending a lot of time working on my blog.  As I mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been preparing a little holiday surprise for some of my loyal readers, and this surprise is turning into a gremlin fused cluster frustration.  I’ve actually been experiencing word processor rage and it’s all adding up to several long nights at the office.

I’m also kind of intimidated to write new entries all of a sudden.  After spending so much time looking at a whole year’s worth of jarrettrusnak.com blog articles, I suddenly feel like I have to make every new entry be an epic assemblage of wordsmithing greatness.  Most days, I just don’t sit down with greatness coiled at my fingertips.  Half-assed to good is about average for me and then the words come out, and then the editing sets in, and then the inspiration takes hold, and then I hit the ‘publish’ button.  I’m happy with every single article I’ve published, and I’m especially proud of a handful of them.  That proud handful represents the bar for me, and suddenly whenever I sit down, I’m aspiring to greatness as opposed to simply expressing my thoughts for the day.

Yesterday I sat down and had most of an article written.  It was about watching the news, and commenting on fear in the world.  After reading it a couple of times, I realized that it was pretty good, but it was also written to be an epicly great article.  I deleted it at once.  It wasn’t written out of a desire to have fun expressing myself.  It was written to impress anyone who might have stumbled onto it.

Well… fuck that shit.  Tomorrow’s article is going to be a crapfest… a real dog’s breakfast.  I will vomit out the worst shit I can think of and I won’t edit a single thing.  I will take my writing to new lows, and I will tap the publish button with one hand whilst holding my nose with the other.  And if I sit down the next day to write a new article, and those intimidating aspirations to greatness still linger, I will shit the bed once more, and I will continue to do so until my headspace reorders itself, and allows me the freedom to just write for the sake of writing — for the pure enjoyment of it.

Shawn the Infallible

Shawn is a tingerer.  We first met in Industrial Arts class in grade nine, and we’ve been friends ever since.  He could craft things with his hands that would amaze you.  The guy is motherfucking McGuiyver.  Give him a battery, a bottle cap, and a bit of tinfoil and he’ll whip up something that will keep bugs out of your yard.  Over the summer, he built his own motorcycle.

He’s also sitting on several shitloads of unfinished art work of his own making.  We made a great team in high school.  I could write, he could draw and build stuff.  One time in grade 11, he spotted a girl whom he really liked.  We crafted a plan where I would write a poem and he would draw her face.  She’d totally be swept off her feet and Shawn would get the girl.  Unfortunately, neither of us knew anything about girls.  Our efforts amounted to Shawn getting in one very uncomfortable conversation with her over a lunch break while I stood off in the distance, watching and laughing.

We don’t see much of each other these days because life just has a way of making the weeks tick by between visits.  Last night we went out for beers.  One of the very first things he showed me was the test result of an exam he wrote for work.  100 percent.

He explained that he wasn’t quite sure how to handle a result like that.  How do you walk into work and casually mention to the boys in the lunch room that you got 100 on your exam?  His supervisor only got an 80.  How do you get a result like that without looking like an arrogant prick?    Perhaps the boys are all wondering if he gave a little head to get ahead.  He’s definitely proud of the result, but he feels like he can’t show HOW proud he is of the result.  If anything, he has to act like he doesn’t really care that much.

Why couldn’t it be a 97?  At least then he wouldn’t be infallible, like the pope.

Highter Learning

It was -26 this morning as I headed to the gym to meet Shy for another workout.  There’s no way in hell I’d be getting out of bed at 7am on a cold winter morning if it weren’t for the commitment I made to meeting her there.  I’m glad I did it, and I’m thankful she’s game, but I just wonder why I can’t muster the will power to do it on my own.

Today was the final philosophy class of the semester.  I really enjoyed the class, even though I didn’t really understand a lot of the material beyond a superficial level.  I’m undecided if I will take a class next semester.  There is a Film 486 class that looks interesting (international media distribution), and an English class that also seems appealing (creative writing).

I’m hesitant to take on an extra commitment however, as I’m already tapped to write 6 episode summaries, and 7 episode treatments for two other projects.  On top of that there’s a shoot in Bucharest in January.  It’s quite a lot to take in.  I’ll just chew on it for a while and see how I feel.  There’s no need to rush a decision like that.

Still, it would feel weird to NOT be taking a university class.  I think it’s been something like five years in a row that I’ve taken at least one class per semester in addition to all my other work.

I’ll be spending my afternoon today at the office doing more research for my philosophy essay.  I talked to PJ and she published some papers that I might be able to use.  It would be cool to cite a Rusnak in my bibliography.

Onwards and upwards.

Truth Turbulence

“Who reads Kant without an essay to write?”

I was thinking about that passage from ‘Story’ by Robert McKee.  He was talking about our society’s resistance to engage the world in ways beyond the superficial.  He goes on to charge story tellers with the task of going deeper, bring ‘truth’ into the world, and go beyond the superficial for the sake of all.

I have an essay to write, and I’ve been reading about Immanuel Kant, who revolutionized philosophy by declaring that reality and truth are not external to ourselves.  They exist because our experience with them allows us to agree they exist.

This idea seems pretty common sensical, but until Kant came along, philosophers were deeply divided on the subject.  Some of them thunk themselves so far down a dead end road, that they never came back from their obscure positions.

So I’m trying hard not to over think a situation with someone in my own life.  With patience, I will eventually have an opportunity to talk about it, and then things may or may not go my way, but at least I will have tried.  Until that time comes, I’m twisting in the wind, and it’s really hard to be patient when emotions are involved.

There seems to be some disagreement on the ‘truth’ of our situation.  That ‘truth’ part is the knife twisting in my gut right now.  Things seem to have gone so far off the rails that ‘Truth’ isn’t very recognizable right now.  It stems from small problems festering into big ones because we didn’t talk to each other about them.  To summarize Kant, truth and reality are what we mutually agree them to be.  As McKee says, “truth is what you believe about a fact.”   One simple conversation about the ‘truth’ will do wonders for our collective states of mind right now.

Having said that, I am reminded of something Lau Tzu wrote 2500 years ago.  Happiness cannot be attached to external things.  You must find happiness within yourself, because that ultimately is the only thing you have control over.

I think it might be best to just be like water and flow.  Whatever turbulence awaits me downstream I’ll deal with then, and not before.

In the meantime, I have an essay to write.

Eye of The Storm

What a week it’s been!  On top of the awards ceremony, there were many positive developments with the Mother’s Day Game.  The pitch went very well, and two of the panelists expressed an interest in working with us on our project.  I don’t want to get into details but we just received one giant shot of momentum.  The potential of our project just got many times bigger than we ever imagined.  Our next steps could dramatically affect the next two years’ worth of production.

I’ve spent the last two days looking in the mirror after Wednesday’s developments.  I’m not vain, I’m just searching.  It’s a continuation of the searching I’ve been doing all year in the mirror.  What kind of a person do I want to be?  What do I want my career and my lifestyle to look like?

The last year has been both the hardest, and greatest year of my life.  A world-wide recession and completely handicapped Canadian television industry led to a very slow year business wise.  I’ve had a lot of time on my hands, and I used it to focus on one thing at a time, one day at a time.  The last 12 months have seen many accomplishments.

InJustice was completed.  I have developed four projects that are international in scope, with great commercial potential.  I have continued to educate myself, attending university classes, as well as doing a lot of reading and thinking.  I completed an important phase of my play.  I travelled, and I crossed paths with some very special people.  I learned a lot about myself and I discovered the richness of living a balanced and simple life.  I am truly happy.

But now business is picking up and I need to check in with myself once more.  It’s really easy to live a simple and balanced life when things are slow.  For most of the year, I’ve had all the time in the world to do one thing at a time.  The seeds I planted earlier in the year are now bearing fruit, and things aren’t so simple anymore.  I now am faced with multiple priorities at the same time.  The potential is there for things to get even more hectic, with more projects coming to life, more money coming in, and more responsibilities to accept.  How do I nurture a successful business with lots of projects and still maintain a simple and balanced life?

I’m not complaining mind you.  I’m just saying that without a steady hand on the rudder, I could quickly fall out of balance and become lost in the demands of competing priorities.  Being lost amidst competing priorities has always been a problem for me.  It’s easy to make critical mistakes in the middle of a storm.  I am not keen to forget the hard earned lessons of my ‘slow period’.

It seems to me that the simplest solution is to make sure I do not sacrifice my time for the sake of productivity.  I think I am at my best when I do one thing at a time, one day at a time.  This process also requires a lot of time.  If other demands cut into that time, then I need to add more people to the team to handle the demands.  If every project comes with a proper budget, then this shouldn’t be a difficult solution to implement.

That’s the theory anyway.  We’ll see how it goes in practice.

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!


December 1st brought the snow and I think it’s going to stick around this time.  I have to admit, as much as I don’t like winter, I was getting kind of creeped out by the lack of white stuff laying around.  Things seem balanced.  Temperatures are relatively mild for this time of year, and now we can make snow forts, or go tobogganing, or have snowball fights, or get stuck while driving in a parking lot.  Let the fun begin.

I’m also in a better mood today.  I felt really spaced out and depressed yesterday, as did most people I ran into.  A radio station even had a grief councilor on the air talking about how people could overcome the Roughrider loss.  Seriously, a grief councilor!  It would actually be funny if it wasn’t so necessary.  The streets of Regina were occupied by a mass of really depressed zombies, except they weren’t looking for brains to eat, they were searching, desperately, for something to make sense of.  The Roughriders are our religion here, and our gods were deposed from the heavens.

The beginning of a new month is a great way to purge bad memories from the headspace.  I am excited for what good things this month will bring.  Tomorrow I spend the day with Courtney, as we spend the day at Showcase.  I’ve been nominated for an award, and I think we have a good chance of winning at Multiplatforum as well.  Jazzy flies in on the 14th.  Cheques will be showing up in the mail, and new work will begin on new projects.  Arrangements for January’s travel plans will be made this month.  I’m also preparing a treat for my loved ones and faithful blog readers.  And of course, there is the holiday season.  I’m going to put up a tree this year, once Jazzy arrives.  It will feel like Christmas for the first time in a long time.

There’s lots to look forward to, and even more to be thankful for.  This day brings a great sense of renewal.