Vancouver Road Trip with Jazzy

I couldn’t have been more proud of her, the first time Jazzy put an axe through a log.

When I first pulled it out, Jazzy ran for the tent, screaming like a little girl (which she is).  Still, I spent the whole summer thinking about that moment, and I was determined to teach her how to defend herself against logs.  She lives in Vancouver after all, and she walks through a rain forest on her way to and from school.  Forests are full of logs and if one of them got any funny ideas… well, as her father, I felt it was my responsibility to teach her how to handle herself.  If she picked up a little self confidence in the process… so be it.

At first, she was really tentative with the axe.  She was worried about hurting herself, so I taught her how to hold it and be safe.  After that she just needed to get used to bringing the axe down on the chopping block.  In no time at all, she was burying it in logs and she couldn’t get enough of it.  What once paralyzed her with fear, brought her great pleasure.

The next step was whittling.  We needed kindling for the fire and I taught her how to hold the knife and carve shavings out of her freshly split handiwork.  Again she was terrified at first, but soon got the hang of it.  In no time we had a fire going.  One match.  No gas.  No paper.  Just wood shavings and Jazzy’s freshly split logs.

We drank hot chocolate out of tin cups while watching our steak and potatoes cook on that fire.  We were in the midst of a Vancouver road trip and Banff was our day 1 stop over.

A Thousand Pages

I have production equipment and edit facilities.  People borrow my stuff all the time to make their short films (or feature film in one case).  It’s high time I start doing the same.

I’m pitching myself as a first time writer for a feature film on a TeleFilm application.  My ultimate goal is to direct the piece, but it’s a genre I have no experience directing.

I figure at best, it will be a couple of years before this project is ready for production.  In the meantime I need to get my directing chops polished.  So I’ve decided to pen a low budget TV series called ‘Highwaymen.’  It’s about a fictional professional football team called the Yellowhead Highwaymen.

I’ll structure it in such a way that it will be possible to capture great images for limited expense.  There’s an ACTRA program I can take advantage of.  No scene will have more than two characters.  I’ll use available light as much as possible.  I’ll block shoot multiple episodes at a time.  I’ll write really great stories and rehearse them prior to shooting….

We’ll, that last part is the trick.  Specifically, the first part of the last part.  I spent the past two days trying to start.  I’ve scribbled together a couple of pages, but between character bios, stories, and treatments, I’m a bit intimidated.

The journey of a thousand pages begins with a single pen stroke.  Guess I’ll just keep plugging away.

The Line

I’m at war with myself.  I make decisions that are spurred on by my dick.  I like to think of myself as being a little more high minded, but clearly that’s not always the case.  All I need is a little sniff, and I’ll pursue that vagina over mountains and across oceans until I track it down.  Almost nothing will overcome that single mindedness.

Where matters of the heart are concerned, I am far less determined.  I dove in head first twice in my life.  Once I got married, and once I emerged broken and hollow.  Let’s call it a draw.

I’d rather fall in love than get laid, but getting laid is so much easier.  Having said that, I never really pursued anyone with that same single mindedness.  I don’t have ‘relationships’ with women.  We’re either friends or fuck buddies (or one night stands).

The war within is taking casualties.  I feel myself growing thinner and hollower.  I give up pieces of myself to every woman I share my bed with, and I take nothing in return.  I’m not growing from these experiences.  I’m wilting.

Starting today, I’m drawing a line in the sand.  Only real things are allowed passed that line.  It’s going to take some time, but I’ll find my balance again.  I’ll get back to being a me that’s worth giving to someone.

Riders 37 – BC 18

In 1989 the Edmonton Eskimos went 16 – 2 and lost the western final to the Saskatchewan Roughriders.  Saskatchewan went on to win the Grey Cup that year and that was pretty super duper alright.  Of course, we were still only a 9 – 9 football team that year.

I remember 15 – 3 Calgary Stampeder teams in the 1990s.  The Toronto Argonauts went 15 – 3 in that span as well, winning a couple of Grey Cups in the process.  It’s also worth mentioning the 1995 Grey Cup Champion 15 – 3 Baltimore Stallions.

I was a practice video guy for the Roughriders during that time.  Those teams scared the hell out of us.  They played their games with a kind of violent grace that was almost artistic in its execution.  Nothing could stop them.  Not 2nd and 23, not bad calls, not dropped balls, not anything.  They marched up and down the field at will, and their defences toyed with opposing offences like how a cat might toy with a mouse.

Winning games against those teams was almost a fantasy.  Mostly we settled for not getting embarrassed in front of our fans or on national television.

Back in those days, the Saskatchewan Roughriders were broke, in debt, and not very competitive.  Telethons, ticket drives, government bailouts and lotteries were our means of survival.  I remember a conversation I had with Norm Fong (our equipment manager).  He was crossing Ray Elgaard’s number off an old jock strap prior to giving it to some rookie.  “Norm.  Just once I’d like us to be 15 – 3 and scare the hell out of every other team in the CFL.”

Norm looked down at the jock strap and joked, “That might cost too much money.”  A photograph of Dave Ridgway kicking the winning field goal in the 1989 Grey Cup was hung on the wall behind him.

Fifteen years later the Roughriders stand 2 – 0.  We hung 54 points on the Grey Cup champs last week, and this week we marched into BC and slapped them around like the artificial plastic fuck dolls they are.  No need to go into details here.  because that’s not the point.

I just want to say, that for the first time in my adult life, I think we might have one of those teams I talked about.

Thoughts Thunk Whilst Lapping the Lake

I walked around the lake yesterday thinking about a lot of things.  I thought about football… picked Toronto to upset Winnipeg today.  I thought about my dick and places I’d like to stick it.  I thought about my heart, and places I’d like to leave it.  I thought about how some parts of my life are so conflicted with other parts of my life.  I questioned my work ethic.

I thought about some business stuff that’s been bugging me.  I really hate dealing with people in a business setting when their expectations don’t match mine, or more specifically, when their expectations change from what we both agreed they should be when they started.  I’d rather not have those people on my team and weighed the pros and cons of making a change, should the time come.  Those are very ugly thoughts.  Ugly but necessary… and I hate it.

I also came up with some creative ideas for the screen play version of my play.  After talking to TeleFilm, they suggested that if I’m going to put myself forward as the (first time) writer, I should attach myself to an established production company.  There really is only one company in Regina who fits the bill, and I’ve made some phone calls looking to set up a meeting.  The good thing about my industry in Regina is that everyone knows everyone.  The CEO of the company in question returned my call within the hour.  He directed me to get in touch with their development person, whom I also met at different functions.

We’ll see what the day brings.

Shift

I’m back to my natural habitat.  I’m on my own and no one needs anything from me.  I’m free to meander, write and develop projects.  I’m also feeling a heightened sense of opportunity.  The whole day seems full of potential.

This shift comes from a small change in my thinking.  I stopped worrying about my immediate cash flow obligations.  Finding money to pay for my condo was really messing with my headspace.  I was torn between protecting my savings and paying for my life.  One can’t stop living just so a distant future may one day emerge.

The trick is to make sure I’m using my time wisely.  As I’ve written so many times before, I have some bright prospects with more waiting in the hopper.  Each one of these projects, if green lit, buys me two more years of the lifestyle I lead.  I believe that if I spend my time developing projects, eventually something lucrative will happen.

All I can do, is do.

Paperwork

I have a psychological aversion to bureaucratic bullshit.  It’s almost a paralysis that I need to overcome when it comes time to submit cost reports (signed & dated), credit lists (logos present), NIL Broadcast Service Agreement Reports, E & O Insurance Certificates, and more.  It only took me about three hours to dig up and find everything requested, but the dread I faced leading up to that task was really quite silly.

Filmmaking is 70% paperwork it seems.  Money doesn’t flow without paperwork attached.  It’s an unfortunate side effect to doing what I love to do.  The really disturbing thing is that I’m really good at the paperwork stuff.  I can do tax credit calculations.  I can do production budgets and financial plans.  I can do cost reports and production accounting.  I can draft legal agreements.

I can also write, shoot, edit, sound mix, direct, and produce.  Some things I do better than others, but it is an advantage I have over other production companies. I can develop projects with all the in-house expertise I need, and it’s all contained inside my head.

Like writing, I can be anywhere in the world and develop projects.  All I need is my laptop, high speed internet, and time… which is something I’ll have a lot of this summer.  If nothing else green lights, I should have enough time to write two or three new development proposals.

First up – the TeleFilm Application for my play.

momMe Future

Immovable deadlines have a way of focusing energy like no other.  momMe started off in a nebulous cloud of conception and somehow grew up to become a fully thought out CMF proposal.  The package included project descriptions, user experience plots, business plans, revenue projections, distribution plans, financial plans, and production budgets.  Somehow, I had a hand in all of it, but I don’t know what I did specifically.  I felt a little like Mic Fleetwood — surrounding myself with great ideas and the people to go with ‘em, and then staying out of their way.

PJ wrote the beginnings of our business model and Michelle (the producer I hired) expanded upon it.  Ken took all our input, and designed the game.  I did what I had to, when there was a hole to fill, contributing an idea here, tweaking the budget there, etc.  Ultimately, I was responsible for submitting the application, and I did so yesterday after pulling together everyone’s contributions into a nice neat little package.

In a strange way, momMe didn’t really exist in my mind until I saw every aspect of it bundled together in that package.  I have to say, it’s a great project, and CMF funding aside, it’s an idea worth pursuing, even if it means raising the money privately.  The game has the potential to be an incredible force for positive energy in the world, and at the same time, be a cash cow.

The game also represents a future direction for my career.  Advertisers pay broadcasters for airtime.  Broadcasters spend the money on TV content in an effort to attract eyeballs to the advertising.  As a provider of that TV content, I’m lowest on the food chain, and I’m at the mercy of these broadcasters for my livelihood.  Worse yet, advertisers are beginning to see television as a very poor medium to reach audiences.  PVRs, dwindling numbers, and the internet have fractured traditional viewing habits and demographics.

With this game, I remain a storyteller, but I go directly to the advertisers.  They engage me and their audience in a far more substantial, meaningful and lucrative way.  I intend to use momMe as a learning opportunity.  This medium of game play/storytelling remains something elusive to me…

[and then an epiphany strikes]

…which means I need to find one of these games and start playing.

A Dramaturgical Perspective on the Game

If Thursday’s game were presented as a Hollywood script outline, it might look like this…

Like ‘Casablanca’, the Inciting Incident to the story of the Canada Day Classic arrives late.  As a result subplots are required, the first dealing with the fact that this game was a rematch of the 2009 Grey Cup.

The Riders won that game — for about 30 seconds.  Then flags.  A moment later a referee stepped forward, “Too many men.  Saskatchewan.  10 yard penalty.”  Montreal used their second chance to kick the game winning field goal with no time left on the clock.  From the heights of ecstasy to the depths of heart wrenching trauma, the Roughriders and the province of Saskatchewan fell.

Six months later, the league released its 2010 schedule.  Saskatchewan was slated to open the CFL’s regular season at home against the Montreal Alouettes on Canada Day.  In preparing for this game, the Roughrider players and coaches would have to relive the most painful moment of their careers, over and over and over again on film.

The second subplot involves the team’s roller coaster off-season.  It began with Eric Tillman, architect of the 2009 Grey Cup team, being forced to resign in controversy.  Soon after, key players from the defence retired or departed for opportunities in the NFL.  The final blows came when three coaches left to take over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, the team’s most hated rival.

Act I

The 2010 Roughriders were set to be a very different team from the 2009 edition.  Would their offence be productive with new coaches in place?  Would Darian Durant be a one hit wonder?  Could the defence recover from the loss of so many key players?  How will the psychology of last year’s loss affect the team’s play?

Inciting Incident (Act I Climax) – With just over five minutes to go in the 3rd Quarter, Montreal returns a missed field goal 125 yards for a Touchdown.  After the convert, the score is Montreal 33 – Saskatchewan 12.  Some fans head for the exits.  That return is later replayed to television audiences across North America as ESPN’s ‘#1 Play of the Day’

Act II

Spine – Four minutes to go in the 3rd Quarter.  Durant completes a 43 yard bomb to Preche Rodriguez for a Touchdown.  Montreal 33 – Saskatchewan 19.

Montreal is stopped on their next possession.

Twenty seconds to go in the 3rd Quarter.  Durant completes an 87 yard bomb to Rob Bagg for a Touchdown.  Montreal 33 – Saskatchewan 26.

Montreal again is stopped on their possession.

At 4:12 of the 4th Quarter, Wes Cates, thought to be washed up, runs for 14, 20, and then 10 yards for a Touchdown.  Montreal 33 – Saskatchewan 33.

The Roughriders, against one of the most dominant teams of the past decade, do the improbable.  Twenty-one straight points in just over 10 minutes of play.

The Grey Cup Champion Montreal Alouettes respond however.  With 3:49 to go in the game, they score a Touchdown.  Montreal 40 – Saskatchewan 33.

On the next possession, the Roughriders drive down into Montreal territory, but soon find themselves running out of time and opportunities.  A desperation 3rd down gamble, results in a completion to Andy Fantuz.

Act II Climax – With 30 seconds to go in the game, Durant throws to the end zone.  Fantuz catches the pass and celebrates what appears to be the game tying Touchdown, but the ball is spotted at the 1 yard line.  Play is under review.  Replays on the MaxTron clearly show Fantuz in the end zone with the ball.  Ruling on the field is overturned.  Touchdown Saskatchewan.

Game is tied at 40 – 40, and heads into overtime.

Act III

Saskatchewan takes possession of the ball on Montreal’s 35 yard line.  Durant completes one pass.  Then another.  He throws to the end zone on his third attempt.  Touchdown Andy Fantuz.  Saskatchewan 46 – Montreal 40.

Saskatchewan must now attempt a 2 point convert, as single points are disallowed in overtime.  Durant drops back and completes the end zone toss to Chris Getzlaf.  Saskatchewan 48 – Montreal 40.

Crisis Scene – Montreal takes possession on Saskatchewan’s 35 yard line.  Future Hall of Fame Quarterback, Anthony Calvillo drives Montreal down to Saskatchewan’s 19 yard line before running out of gas.  His desperation 3rd down pass to the end zone falls incomplete.

Saskatchewan wins!  Saskatchewan wins!  Saskatchewan wins!

But wait.  Flags on the field.  “Too many men.  Saskatchewan.  10 yard penalty.”

A head slap, 1 million television viewers and 30,000 paying customers large, is heard around the country.

Montreal goes on to score a touchdown.  The resulting two point convert, a leaping physics bending catch of the decade type completion makes ESPN’s ‘#3 Top Play of the Day’.

Saskatchewan 48 – Montreal 48

Act III Climax – Montreal takes possession on Saskatchewan’s 35 yard line.  Two incompletions later, Montreal kicks a field goal.

Montreal 51 – Saskatchewan 48

Saskatchewan takes possession on Montreal’s 35 yard line.  Durant launches the ball 33 yards down the field and hits Dressler for the completion.  It’s now first and goal from Montreal’s 2 yard line.

Ball is snapped, Durant drops back, fires a bullet into traffic.  Dressler comes up with it.  Touchdown!

Saskatchewan 54 – Montreal 51.

Fireworks.  Bedlam.  Hugs.  High Fives.  Tears.

Roll the credits.

Canada Day

I’m sitting in mom’s campsite just outside Craven, about 20 minutes from Regina.  The mosquitoes were eyeballing me a few minutes ago, but I sprayed on some ‘go fuck yourself’ juice, and now they’re leaving me alone.  Auntie Anna and Uncle Doug just showed up, and I found out that Grama & Papa will be arriving soon.  Jazzy’s in the trailer watching TV.

Today is a special day.  It’s Canada Day.  More than that, The Saskatchewan Roughriders, Canada’s Team, open the CFL season against the Montreal Allouettes in a Grey Cup rematch.  I’m a season ticket holder this year and I bought a customized Roughrider jersey to go with those tickets.

In a few hours I’ll be heading over to Benji’s with 18 Beef/Bacon burgers from Butcher Boy.  I’ll be cooking ‘em up for the Romanian Syndicate, and after that, we’ll be walking to Mosaic Stadium together.  A mass of humanity, 30,000 deep will be there waiting.  There’ll be insanity, fireworks, energy and footballs in the air.

This day will set the tone for the whole rest of the season.  As the Roughriders ebb and flow, so it shall be with the rest of the Rider Nation.

The evening will be capped with fireworks in Wascana Park.  10s of Thousands of people will be gathered.  Face painting, alcohol, families, festivities, carnival games and wandering aimlessly.  This is Canada Day.  It’s like Christmas in July!