Camp Stove Coffee

The wisdom of tenting in Banff indefinitely was showing cracks by around 9:30pm on Saturday night.  It was a cold, rainy evening and there was snow laying in the ditches on the side of the highway.  I’ve slept outside in a tent in -50 C and I’ve winter camped on various other occasions.  Still, I wasn’t keen on the idea of setting up my campsite in the rain, in the dark.  I pulled into Canmore (10 minutes from Banff) and spent the night in a hotel.

The next morning the sun came out, but rain was expected for the afternoon.  Plenty of time to get my tent and kitchen set up before the rain came.

I took my time setting up my site, savouring every moment.  This was the first time my tent would see action.  Only fools rush in… and we’ll have many years together.  Afterwards I spent another hour rigging my kitchen tarp.  It was like trying to figure out a puzzle, thinking up the best way orient it, what trees to tie off to and what pegs to plant for optimum tension.  I built a pulley tensioning system into every length of rope by first tying in loops into the ropes at precise points and then running the rope through its own loops to tighten.  I’m a geek that way.  In elementary school, I used to have a length of rope stashed in my desk, and whenever I got bored, I’d practice my knots.

Later that night, I cooked a steak over the open fire.  I also burned my vegetables to a crisp.  I thought if I buried them in the coals, wrapped in foil, they’d cook.  Instead the foil disintegrated and the veggies inside suffered a horrible death.  Perhaps if I would have practiced cooking with foil in elementary school…

I drank camp stove coffee, stoked my fire and thought to myself that this was a pretty good moment.  Never in my life had I gone camping, just by myself, for the purpose of camping.  Yeah… I was there to write a script, but camping was the stage upon which that writing would take place.  It was just me and my fire, my kitchen, my tent, my rigging and my imagination musing about story structure and my own subconscious desires.

Could it get any better?

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Liquor, Guns, & Movies

Let’s get liquored up, grab some guns, and shoot clay pigeons!  What could possibly go wrong?

Welcome to the Yorkton Short Film Festival.  I arrived around 3pm, met with Charlotte from Bravo at 4pm, and after about 20 minutes, our meeting turned into ‘hanging out’.  Coffee turned into beers as two others joined us at our table.  Soon the head of SaskFilm, and the head of the Canadian Media Fund were also sitting with us.  All except for Charlotte were good ‘ol Saskatchewan folk.

There was no ‘schmoozing’ going on.  No need.  We’ve all known each other for years.  Yorkton was purely about having a good time.

A few hours later, I found myself reaching into Emme Rogers’ cleavage to fetch her sunglasses.  I had just met her and learned that she’s some sort of Twitter celebrity.  Her fingers were covered with lobster and she felt the need to tweet her latest adventure.  The photo opp required her sunglasses and she didn’t want to mess up her shirt.

After supper we all set off for the shooting range, one of the festival’s activities.  There was also toilet plunger horse shoes for those not into guns.  The whole evening was a great time.  I made new friends, reconnected with old ones, and made some great memories.  Yorkton, you did good!

I’m now sitting in the restaurant of the Ramada Hotel.  I just finished breakfast and I’m about to hit the highway.

Banff, here I come!

Nothing But Nothing

I’m sitting here staring out the window of Atlantis looking at the world go by.  It’s a drizzly cloudy day and I got to bust out my rain gear once more.  Don’t think I’ll ever get tired of that.

I’m staring out the window and I’m completely stumped.  I don’t know what to write about.  I’m running the events of the past day through my mind, looking for a profound thought to share, and I got nothing.  Nothing but nothing.

My camping stuff is all together.  Bought a stove and some other odds & ends.  Decided to give my old hiking boots another spin around the sun.  Just need to replace the laces is all.  Remember to remind me to recollect to not to forget about that.  I’d hate to find myself in Banff without a fresh set of laces.

Aside from Banff on the brain, it seems I’ll be getting some family time in this summer as well.  Jazzy flies in on June 20th and I’ll be driving her back to Vancouver in time for a summer camp on July 17th.  A week later PJ, Jazz and I will travel back to Saskatchewan together.  PJ hasn’t been home since she left about three years ago.  I’m excited about that.

I’m off to Yorkton in the morning to spend some time at the Yorkton Short Film & Video Festival.  I have a follow-up meeting with a broadcaster there (a leftover from Hot Docs) and then it’s party time.  Saturday morning I’ll be pointing my car west and 10 hours later I’ll be pitching a tent in Banff.

Still some odds and ends to finish up at the office.  Gotta pay the rent.  Gotta finish a video.  Gotta write a proposal.

Mostly, I feel like doing nothing.

Accidental Backpacking

I’m leaving and I don’t know when I’m coming back.  Banff.  Saturday.  It’s been on my mind quite a bit.

Yesterday I accidentally bought a new backpack.  I was looking for a duffle bag to stuff my camping stuff in, and decided instead that if I spent a few extra bucks, I could replace my existing backpack with a really good one.  Then I can use my old backpack to store my camping stuff.  It’s a Deuter Air Lite 60-10 EL pack.  $220.

I don’t like to spend that much money on anything, but I discover that I prefer travelling with a backpack rather than a suitcase.  I’m more mobile and I can cover greater distances with a backpack.  I’m thinking about some of my recent travels as I type.  In Toronto (last month) I walked 2 kms from my hotel to the airport because I didn’t want to wait 20 minutes for a shuttle.  There have been many other airports where I’ve had to wander through endless corridors for hours before checking my baggage.  Backpacks are also more distinct when they come down the baggage conveyer at pickup.

My tent cost $300 and my queen sized air bed cost another $120.  Other odds and ends added up to another $100.  I am debating the purchase of a camp stove, and maybe some proper hiking boots.  Other than that, I’m fully stocked.  Altogether the bill comes to about $740.  Seems expensive, but not when you consider that amount works out to about 5 nights in a hotel room AND I’ll have this stuff for years to come.

Fuck it.  I’m buying hiking boots and a camp stove.

Meandering Around the Anchor Points

I walked in the rain this morning to Atlantis.  Wasn’t even in a hurry.  Rain gear.  Full rain gear.  Nice.

Rich (of Romanian Syndicate fame) asked me to help him out with some vignettes for Red Cross.  Met him at Atlantis this morning.  He brought an umbrella.  My still glistening rain jacket scoffed.  I tried not to appear too smug.

Today will be a day of business.  I intend to look in on some paperwork stuff with a gov’t office.  I need to get the books up to date.  I have a financial plan to craft.

I also have a bit of editing to do.  Canamedia asked me to make some tweaks to the Crimes of the Art demo.  I’ll finish that today so they can start shopping the series around.

Rich asked me what my plans are for the next few weeks.  Aside from Banff, I don’t really have a solid idea.  Jazzy flies in on June 20th.  Banff trip starts Saturday.  There’s a Rider game on June 13th.  My life will meander around those anchor points.  Where I’ll be, or when, is completely up in the air.  I couldn’t be happier about that.  If you need to get ahold of me, just send me an email.

Loooooong Weekend

I’m sitting in a cafe in Moose Jaw.  Across the table from me is Tamara.  She’s reading my play.  I never planned it this way, but that’s what happened.  That’s what’s cool about it.

The whole week has kind of gone like that.  My play is in a place where I never expected it.  My career has taken a turn where I never expected it.  My two week plan is barely recognizable from where it sat not long ago.

[36 hours pass]

Next thing I know, Tamara put the play down after reading Scene 4 and declared her desire to leave the cafe.  Just as well… the server was eyeballing our table, coveting it for the patiently waiting party of four who walked in a few minutes previous.

Tamara continued reading the play on the drive back to Regina.  She read, I thunk, and the world rolled on by.  A perfect arrangement.  A perfect mini-road trip.  Soon we were back at my apartment, watching episodes of Firefly and being lazy.  Later I bbq’d some steaks and we washed ‘em down with my last bottle of red wine.

Then her phone went off.  Shortly thereafter, we once again found ourselves sitting in a car, watching the prairies move passed.  Her friend Rob drove us out to Regina Beach to meet her other friends, Denise and Brandi.  They rented a cabin and were looking to stir up some fun.  Within the hour, we all took turns holding down seats around the pool table in the Regina Beach bar.  Dancing, tequila, beer, drunken conversations, and heartfelt moments all put in appearances.

This morning featured a lazy left-over-steak omelette with a shit-I-mixed-up-in-the-blender special to wash it down.  I decided that this would be the day I got a handle on all my camping stuff.  If I’m going to spend a few days camping in Banff, I would need to top up my supplies.  I have the main ingredients, but PJ has the rest of our stuff, so a trip to Canadian Tire was necessary.  I still have a few odds and ends to pick up, but other than that, I’m good to go.

I also crashed supper at mom’s this evening.  I was looking for my canoe stuff (which wasn’t there) and wound up staying for supper and laundry instead.  Her, Dave and I all sat around the kitchen table watching the hockey game.  Looked like Philly was going to have its way with Montreal.

I’m now sitting in Atlantis sipping Jasmine tea, wrapping up this article, and planning to resume my Robert McKee book.  What a great weekend!  Like this article, it meandered aimlessly, but wound up touching a lot of things.

Happy Victoria Day everyone!

Banff?

I’m sitting in the festival lounge, sipping a beer, and waiting for the doors to open to the final play of the week.  What a ride!  I had no idea the journey would take me this far.  I expected to have a locked and polished script at this point. Instead I have committed myself to completely deconstructing my play, and putting the pieces back together with new parts attached.

I have also committed myself to the business of the theatre world.  I will spend time getting to know who the key theatre companies across Canada are, what they play, who directed those productions, and who the artistic directors are.  From there I will endeavour to learn the names of people who know these people so that I may take a back door into a meeting with them.  I will also be entering my finished play into competitions in an effort to gain a bit of cashe’.  I am an unknown playwright, so getting attention for my work will take some networking.

In the meantime, the idea of disappearing to Banff to spend some time reading and writing greatly appeals to me.  I just bought a new tent, so camping, writing, reading, and being in nature seems like a great way to get ‘er done.  I have to be in Yorkton on Friday, so maybe I won’t leave until next week.  Gives me time to take care of some office stuff that’s been piling up.

Looking At the Bones

Being a playwright at a playwriting festival is really cool.  I belong to a fraternity of six other playwrights and we all walk around, torn somewhere between mind numbing creative angst and heart pounding raw inspiration.  We all are going through the same thing and the experience bonds us.  Better yet, all kinds of other theatre creatures are hanging around and they’re more than happy to discuss our plays with us.

Normally when I write, I head for a coffee shop or a quiet nook with a view, but hanging around the festival and working on my play is quite rewarding.  On Tuesday I sat in the festival lounge and transcribed all the pencil markings on my script into a fresh new clean draft.  People were milling about, having conversations, sleeping, or chilling.  It was a great energy.  I didn’t find it distracting at all.  I fed off it.

I spent yesterday marking up that fresh new clean draft.  I broke each scene down into beats and gave those beats titles.  The act of doing that taught me a great deal about my play.  I was able to see the bones of it.  I was able to see what was working, why it was working, and also where the problems were, why they were problems, and how to fix them.  My goal was to have a new draft ready for my postmortem meeting on Saturday, but now I think it would be better to simply deconstruct my play, inventory the bones, and let the possible solutions peculate for a little while.

Having said all that, I’m off to the farm tonight to celebrate Shy’s 19th.  She’s been planning it for several months now, and missing it will not be an option.  I’m back at the festival tomorrow.

Deja Vu

I spent most of the weekend watching my life pass before my eyes… over and over again until finally it played before a live audience.  They laughed.  They cried.  They loved it.

I just sat there, watching them watch my play.  All my shit.  All my skeletons.  All my innermost thoughts were there for all to see.  Real life with the boring bits removed.  And they came from all walks of my life.  My immediate family, friends, colleagues, and perfect strangers.  Many of them had no idea what to expect.

What a schizophrenic moment.  The playwright, the director, the dramaturge, the producer, the ‘me’… all sitting there in the same headspace, in the same physical space, in the same way, all looking out and looking in, trying to make sense of it, trying to appreciate it, and trying to bottle that moment.

Though confused… it was a pretty good feeling.

It started on Friday when Don Kugler, my director, Heather Inglis and Colleen Murphy, the festival dramaturges, and I all sat around a table and started to discuss the process moving forward.  They explained that this process was about me.  It was there for me to see the play, make tweaks, and move onto the next draft(s).  Seeing and hearing the play is a much different experience than reading it.

Saturday morning I met my cast.  We ran it and already I was starting to see where the play could use some adjustments.  I never addressed the cast directly with notes.  Don was my conduit.  It forced me to sit there and simply be the playwright.  Besides, Don and the rest of the cast brought ideas to it that I never thought of.  It was good to simply step back and see where these other artists could take it.  I learned so much from watching it.

Afterwards, Don myself and our intern Karen, poured over the script and discussed potential changes.  Nearly every page had pencil marks on it.  There was going to be a new scene added, and a major rewrite of another scene.  I was excited and immediately set to work on the next draft.

Later that night, Don and the cast came over to my place and we had an improv blender party.  I bought a bunch of different fruit, milk, chocolate milk, juice, and my Havana rum.  Everyone had to take a turn mixing up a drink in the blender and serving it to the rest of the group.  It was a really great time and a good bonding experience.

I finished the new draft on Sunday afternoon and brought the new scripts into our rehearsal.  By this point Don had the cast working through and blocking the play, scene by scene, beat by beat.  After two hours we were up to scene five and I really wanted to see how Act II would feel (where the new scene and most of the rewrites took place).  Don had the cast sit around the table and read.  It seemed to hold together and the cast liked the new changes.

Over the next 36 hours more tweaks, rewrites and deletions were pencilled into the script.  It came so far and changed so dramatically in two days… far more than I ever would have expected.  We did our final run on Monday afternoon and went our separate ways.  CBC Radio interviewed me about the play and then I went home for some ‘me’ time.  I phoned PJ and talked about old times with her.  I ate, watched TV, and then put on my playwright uniform.

Back at the University, I hung out back stage with the cast for a spell, fell into some conversations with the other playwrights, and paced nervously.  Everyone wished me well.  They were all there for me.  It was an honour and a completely humbling experience.

When Nadia (Thelma) showed up, we took our seats at the back of the theatre, the play began, and my life unfolded once more.

The Next Time

I just want to take a moment to take a moment to mark this occasion.  The development phase of ‘Crimes of the Art’ is officially complete.  Put the last package in the mail yesterday and now it’s onto the ‘find the money’ phase.  I have high hopes for the series because there’s been a lot of interest and positive feedback.

This series is an opportunity to put all my mistakes behind me.  I’ve learned from them, and I’ll be taking a different approach to production, should we get a green light.  Here’s a list of what I think I’ve learned;

  1. 1.Keep things simple on this next go round.  Define roles clearly.  Define expectations clearly.  Define timelines realistically.  Set the costs in stone.
  2. 2.No more infrastructure building.  I am no longer interested in expanding Dacian.  Dacian is me and I can only do so much.
  3. 3.No more using this project to benefit the next project.  There’s no guarantee about the next project, especially if the current project suffers as a result of this ‘forward planning.’
  4. 4.No more worrying about peoples’ livelihoods.  They’re in the budget for a set duration, and there’s no guarantees after that.  They will always be considered family and they’re always welcome to play with my toys, but I won’t be on the hook for their rent.
  5. 5.No more fucking around in the edit suite.  Git ‘er done.  Every month of interest payments off our interim financing loans is a BIG chunk of money slipping through our fingertips.
  6. 6.Be a better communicator.  Give better more detailed direction in the edit suite and on the set.
  7. 7.One thing at a time.  Lock the scripts before shooting them so I don’t have to rewrite them in the edit suite when I should be worrying about the cut.
  8. 8.Spend according to the cash flow projections.  Any wavering from that projection requires a serious conversation.
  9. 9. Create a more balanced mix of experienced professionals and fresh newbies.  My projects in the past have been loaded with newbies and light on experienced professionals.  This resulted in me having to wear more hats.
  10. 10. Square pegs in square holes, round pegs in round holes.