The Next Big Thing

I’ve had a couple of slow days, but I figure I deserve them.  I haven’t really had a chance to catch up on my sloth until now.

The Dracula demo played to a theatre full of people on Friday night.  There were about 300 folks in the audience and most of them didn’t know me, or were expecting to see anything but the movie they came to see.

Even so, despite crashing their party, the demo was extremely well received.  Everyone laughed at the funny parts, and even at a few parts I wasn’t expecting.  They applauded enthusiastically at the end.  Not a bad focus group.  I guess that means the demo’s good.  I have to thank John Johnstone for the captive audience… he was premiering his film ‘Dungeon Crawl’ and let me slip Dracula into the mix.

This is going to be a month of beginnings and endings.  In addition to the closing paperwork for ‘Crimes of the Art’ (and subsequent invoicing) the Tax Credit money for ‘InJustice’ finally landed in my account.  I now have enough resources in place to coast for several months if need be, while I work on the next big thing (whatever that is).  I’ll be planning some business trips and using the time to develop new projects while the previous ones peculate.  I might even find my way down to Bucharest for a bit of a retreat.

The month coincides with some timely assignments that I have to do for my Film 486 class.  Annmarie has us working on business plans for our companies and marketing plans for our projects.  It couldn’t be a more perfect time to undertake these activities if I circled it on my pie in the sky calendar.

Funny how things just kinda fall into place eh?

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A Business Case for SCN

Premier Wall,

Fifteen years ago I was freshly graduated from the University of Regina’s Film program.  I soon found myself in a meeting with an SCN program manager, looking for advice about how to pursue an idea I had for a documentary.  The program manager practically held the pen in my hand as I filled out the very first development loan of my career.

I produced, shot, wrote, edited, and directed that documentary, and it wasn’t very good.  But SCN played it along side the rest of their library, some of which included world class, award winning, Saskatchewan made and internationally distributed television programming.  SCN showed patience with me over the years, and took a strong interest in my career.  I’ve since been able to hone my skills, grow my business, and take my projects to an international level.

In December 2009, my documentary series, ‘InJustice’ won an award at Showcase.  I developed and produced that series with SCN and it has since sold to CBC as well as to other broadcasters around the world.  With that series, along with every other project I did with SCN over the years, I hired and trained dozens of Saskatchewan residents for their first job in the Film & Television Industry.

Virtually all of us who continue to live and work in the Saskatchewan Film & Television industry are here because of the larger than life role SCN played in our careers.  We have gone on to create content that wins awards, competes and plays on screens all over the world.

It is also important to understand that SCN’s reach extends far beyond those of us who work in the industry.  SCN truly is ‘Saskatchewan’s Storyteller’.  Available on digital cable and satellite across the country, SCN functions as a beacon signalling to the rest of Canada that we are a great province, we are a great place to live and work, we are an enterprise upon which the world takes notice, and we most definitely cast a long shadow.

SCN broadcasts its signal coast to coast, 18 hours a day, 365 days a year.  With an annual operating budget in the range of $6 million, SCN is virtually invisible in a $10 billion provincial budget.

Perhaps instead of viewing SCN as a .06% expenditure of the provincial budget, it can instead be viewed as a $6 million asset that does 10’s of millions of dollars worth of communication services on behalf of our province’s private and public enterprises to a national audience.  Combined with the mandate to tell Saskatchewan stories, SCN can emerge as a powerful entity worth many times it actual book value.

The infrastructure is already in place.  SCN has a CRTC Tier one licence, meaning the channel is available in every Canadian home with a satellite or digital cable box.  There are gaps at the top and bottoms of each hour to fill.  Use that time to profile Saskatchewan’s enterprises to a national audience.  Have those businesses pay for the production of their profiles and provide the air time free of charge.  Everyone wins.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Sincerely,

Jarrett Rusnak
writer • producer • director
Dacian Productions Inc.

Dracula Demo

The Dracula demo is complete and you can view it atwww.crimesofthearttv.com

Making this demo represents the pinnacle of my career.  Everything’s gone so well and I’ve never had it this good.  I’ve never had so many resources at my disposal.  I’ve never been able to assemble so many talented people at one time on my own project before.  I’ve never before been ‘aware’ enough to simply let the pieces fall into place.

It’s taken some long hours to get to this place, yet I feel like none of it has been ‘work’.  Every moment, every set-back, every challenge, every conversation, has been an opportunity to take what I already know, and make it better.

The final locked, colour corrected, sound mixed version of the demo was copied to my drive at 5:30pm yesterday, six days after we first started working on the visual effects (not to mention Thursday night’s shoot).  What an incredible pace!  That’s eleven minutes of video being worked over, under intense scrutiny, with every frame being touched in some way by a visual effect.  Needless to say, the week has been a blur.  I didn’t see much of the outside world and even as I write this on a Friday afternoon, my eyes are heavy.

There remains some paperwork to finish up, but the bulk of work is done.  I am approaching yet another clear beginning and ending in my life and I’m looking forward to the milestone.

DishMonster

I hate doing dishes.  I blame my mother for the trauma I must have picked up in my youth from being forced to do that task.  Since I’m now a grown-up, my mother can’t make me do dishes anymore.  That’s the psychology going on anyway.  Not sure what the cure is.

I hate dishes so much, I even plan and cook my meals with a view towards the amount of dishes that will result from the effort.  I alter the recipe sometimes.  When it calls for me to prepare the sauce in a separate pot, I say fuck it and dump it in with the pasta after I’m done with the water.  Can you put pots in the dishwasher?

I’m not complaining mind you.  I’m just trying to figure out a way to go with the flow.  Instead of fighting the tyrannical psychological trauma that my mother bestowed upon me, I’m trying to find a way to work with it, or at least work around it.  I simply need to accept the scars of my youth and turn a perceived weakness into a strength.

I’ve heard that there are people out there who love doing dishes.  They find the whole thing therapeutic or something.  Perhaps I could bring good into the world by simply inviting one of those freaks of nature over to my apartment.  I’ll cook up a storm using every single pot and pan I own.  He/She/It will then be in a state of heightened bliss when it comes time for the clean up, and I’ll feel great about myself for having found a way to reach out to some poor troubled soul and touch him/her/it with my dirty dishes.

Does anyone know anyone like that?

Cornucopia

I had a great idea in the shower this morning.

We’re working on using a 5 lei bill (romanian currency) as the model for our opening title sequence.  The plan was to take the last frame of Rich’s face from the opening narration and transition him to become the head on the 5 lei bill.  From there we pan left to reveal the building and musical notes already present on the bill (very artsy) and replace the words ‘Banca Nationala A Romaniei’ with ‘Crimes of the Art’.  The bill then gets swiped by a gloved hand.

Nearly all art crime is motivated by money, and the 5 lei bill contains a flourish of fine art elements (music, architecture, visual art).  We think its a great metaphor for the series to establish such a bill, then have it stolen.  Nifty idea huh?

Well it just got niftier.  Since our host is known as Buck 65 in music circles, lets have the denomination of the currency read ‘Buck 65’.  There’s already a ‘5’ on the bill that we can use.  There’s also a ton of music references on that bill, which further ties Rich to the whole motif.  Fuckin’ A!  A lot of my best ideas come in the shower.

The meeting with Jack went very well yesterday.  Java has claimed some of the most complicated effects sequences to work on.  There remain only seven sequences now without an editor to spawn them.  I would say we’re now well ahead of schedule.  Kate, Chrystene, Amber and I looked at the footage from yesterday.  There’s some great stuff in there.  This demo has become a cornucopia of abundant goodness.  So many brilliant artists and great elements to work with.

I’ve never had it this good and I’m treasuring every moment of it.

Greatness

That was quite the shoot.  Chrystene was great.  Carolyn’s make-up was great.  The sets and props were great.  The wardrobe was great.  The photography was great.

It took longer than I expected, but everything went so smoothly, I didn’t even care.  I’m not used to having so many professionals around me on a set.  They took all the worry out of the things I usually have to worry about.  It was also neat to see the office transform from office mode to production studio in two hours.  We hung a green screen and we had ample room to move around and do our thing.  Though we shot in the same style of ‘InJustice’, we did everything better.

I already know that with all the brilliantly talented people making contributions to this demo, it will stand as one of the hallmark moments of my career.  The best part is, it’s all just kind of fallen into place.

I have to cut this short.  I’m meeting with Jack Tunnicliffe from Java Post right away.  Jack is one of the most accomplished visual effects artists in North America and this demo awaits his touch.

Creatively, I feel like a child on Christmas morning and all these talented people are coming to me, bringing gifts.

Torontonian Fears

I fell into a conversation with a Torontonian while waiting in line to get inside O’Hanlon’s.  She never heard of the Roughriders and she asked about how safe Regina was.  I should have called her out right there, but instead I explained that Wednesdays are ‘Steal your wallet Day’, Thursdays are ‘Stab Day’, Fridays are ‘Drive By Shooting Day’ and Saturdays are for murdering non-residents.

Once inside I saw Courtney who was peddling Guiness products.  She gave me a free hat and a fake tattoo.  Soon after, a pipe band marched through the place and took the stage.  I recognized Meg as one of the drummers.  Everyone was crammed together sharing the moment together, raising their glasses.  St. Patty’s day in O’Hanlon’s!

Afterwards I headed over to the exchange to watch Combat Improv with some of my theatre friends (and the cast of Medea).  It was a really good night.

Earlier, I spent the day in the edit suite coming up with a roadmap for the Dracula Demo with Java Post.  I gave them 15 scenes to get started on, leaving 18 unclaimed as of yet.  We also agreed to work in a new format, which resulted in me having to up-convert all the raw footage to Apple ProRes 422HQ from DVCProHD 1080 60i.  I can’t believe I didn’t think of that before now!

Today will be a day to prep and shoot the final scenes needed for the Dracula demo.  We’ll be turning the office into a studio space and hanging the green screen.  I also need to come up with a formal shot list (everything is in my head at the moment).  With a little luck, I may also have time to pick away at a couple of scenes in the edit suite.

Another day of progress.  Hopefully no one gets stabbed.

Inside Out

By the end of the day today, the assembly cut of the Dracula demo is going to look significantly more like a spotty offline cut.  It’s clear I’m going to be driving the boat from the edit suite for the next three days while the other elements come together.  By the time the weekend rolls around, the edit suite will be full of editors and I could then focus my energies on the other writing I have to do.  In the meantime I’m trying to cram a social life in there somewhere.

I met with Twisted Pair Sound yesterday and they’ll be starting on the sound mix today.  Java Post will get started sometime today as well.  At the very least, they can work on colour correction.  Brenda and Sara are shopping for props and wardrobe for tomorrow’s shoot.  Bits and pieces of this demo are being worked on at all angles.  This is such a crazy methodology, but it’s the only way we’ll get done in time.  Usually you finish one phase of production and move to the next.  We’re working on all of it at the same time.  It feels like we’re building a house from the inside out.

It’s St. Patty’s day and I have a Thai Chi class tonight as well.  I also tend to get a little squirrelly when I’ve been skipping out on my blogging to make time for other things.  Lots to do and so little time to get it all done.  Feels like a train wreck about to unfold, but I truly believe it’s all gonna work out.  That’s why I’m so calm right now.  No really.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  This time I have friends walking it with me.

Skin and Bones

It’s NOT frustrating, it just is.

I have a team of editors chomping at the bit, ready to get started on the demo.  I have a deadline that expires next Friday.  I have pieces missing from the toolbox.  We can’t get started until those pieces come together over the next two days.

The editor’s meeting went very well yesterday.  Everyone is feeling really good about the project and the footage we have to work with.  We broke the script down into After Effects compositions and I even added yet more incredibly talented people to the team.  There’s a shoot scheduled at Dacian for Thursday night and two big concerns just kind of resolved themselves.  Sara McCudden, a renown production designer in film circles and Brenda Schenner, an equally esteemed costume designer sort of just hired themselves onto the project.  They like what we’re doing and they want to be a part of it.  All of a sudden my props, sets, and wardrobe concerns are resolved in an instant.

The whole project has kind of gone like that.  Every problem has found its own solution.  It’s not like I’m just sitting back doing nothing, having it all drop in my lap.  I’ve been putting in some long hours lately and I’ve been keeping an open mind to every opportunity.  That’s why I’m not too concerned about next Friday’s deadline (Mar 26).  I expect some things will simply fall into place, just as I expect other things to suddenly flare up and catch fire.  Things have their own way about them.  You can’t ever use force to make those things move where you want them to.  Patience, mindfulness, humility, and a good sense of humour tend to work much better.

I finished the assembly cut of the demo last night at 12:30am.  It came in at just over 11 minutes.  The bones are there, next comes the meat and soon after, the skin.

3 4 1

I watched ‘Medea’ last night at the U of R Theatre Dept. Main Stage. The play was written 2500 years ago by Euripides, a Greek poet.  In the story, Medea and her two children are dumped by her husband Jason (of Golden Fleece fame) for another woman, King Creon’s daughter.  Medea plots her revenge by killing both Creon and his daughter, and just to spite Jason, their own two children as well.  The play was not very funny.

It was good to see former classmates on the stage for the final performance of their university careers.  We had been through a lot together and I wish them all the best through the budding stages of their acting careers.

On a geeky note, I’ve plucked my domain name from the aether and landed it on my MobileMe account.  I am happy about that.  It is now possible to copy and paste the addresses to individual articles for your reading pleasure, rather than having to crawl through my whole blog to find them.  It’s a small thing, but a big thing too.

I’m also pleased to say that I have joined the real world.  It took me a couple of days, after landing in a fog on Wednesday.  I went out and did things, but I wasn’t all there when I did them.  I also took delivery of the Christmas present I bought for myself.  It finally arrived – surface area in the form of a fold-in pine wood bar.  I needed a place to put my plants (and doesn’t hurt that it also stocks booze).  Another cool feature is that I can sit at it in my director’s chair and use it as a desk.

Like this article, it’s three things for the price of one.