Ground Floor

I’ve just been hired to write another episode for ‘Easy Over’, the sitcom I’ve been working on.  We got together last night at the Fireside Bistro to do a reading of the script Rob and I worked on.  Gerard, the lead producer and money man liked it enough to green light a pilot.  He wants to shoot within the next few months!  Just have to write an episode that takes place in the wintertime.

I’m on the ground floor of a series that’s going to camera – and I’m writing the episode!  That’s a hellova thing to have in my back pocket as I shop my writing chops to other production companies in Toronto.  It’s approximately huge for my career.

I also got news yesterday that my feature film was approved for funding.  I raised a modest amount of money to pay myself to write a treatment based on my play, and then shop that treatment to a couple of production companies in Toronto that I targeted.

News this good has been a long time coming.  Fifteen months of writing!  It started with my trip to Banff last summer to re-write my play and continued on with ‘Highwaymen’.  I picked it up again with ‘Republic of Doyle’ which led to being hired on ‘Easy Over’.  I’ll wrap up this month coming back to where I started.

This feels really really good.  Let’s hope it continues.

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Shooting With Strangers

I did a photo shoot yesterday evening in City Square with three girls I barely know.  Met two of them at a party Glenna threw a few weeks ago.  The third was their friend.

I had taken photos of Glenna back in August and was showing them at her party.  Dacey and Amanda immediately asked me to take photos of them.  It’s always flattering when that happens.

As usual, things got off to an awkward start.  A photo shoot is an intimate thing.  Intimacy requires trust.  There is me with my camera searching for something, and there is her (or them) letting me past her surface.  If we don’t know each other, there is no trust, and the photos wind up looking… surfacy.

Amanda was open and giving from the beginning.  Dacey was self conscious.  Sam had just met me and wondered what the hell she was doing there, standing in the middle of City Square in a four year-old grad dress.  It took a while to knock some ice off the vibe.  Amanda was a big help there.  Pretty soon I was snapping photos I was happy with.

We went back to my place afterwards and did three more set-ups.  I shot solos of Amanda on the balcony.  I did a thing with Dacey in the mirror and another one on my couch.  Four hours had passed by this time and Sam was spent.  She said she wants to do her solo stuff another time.  Fine with me.  You can’t disguise tired eyes.

The next time I photograph someone, I want to make sure we’ve spent some time together beforehand.  Just one hour over drinks getting to know each other, would yield amazing results when it comes time to stand in front of my lens.  Trust builds.  Intimacy begins.  Art blossoms.

Friday at 11:48am

I taught another script writing class at my old high school yesterday.  The kids seem into it and I really enjoy doing it.  I’m going to sit down with Dean to see how I can fit everything in before I go.  I also want to leave some sort of lesson plan behind so he can continue in future semesters where I left off.

I finished the first draft of my Arts Board script this morning.  I’ve been feeling luke warm about it since I began.  I touched on some themes that are close to me – themes I’ve been writing about for some time in this blog.  The work-in-progress felt weak somehow.  I said what I wanted to say, but it lacked a punch.

Until this morning, It was all dialogue.  Basically it was two monologues spelling each other off.  By about page 5, I was bored with it.  Then I wrote in the images.  Suddenly it changed dramatically for the better – with that very same dialogue.  I’ll give it another pass in an hour or so to see if it really is good.

Maybe I’ll go for a walk first.  I like to see how Regina continues to grow.  There’s a crane working on Hill Centre III.  Its boom towers over the rest of the city.  Demolition work is supposed to begin on the Plains Hotel, clearing the way for my condo to rise up.  City Square is also nearing completion.

Yep.  Go for a walk and then finish my proposal.  Seems like a plan to me.

Naked With All My Ego

I stood naked in the middle of a room full of people again this morning.  I was back, modelling for an art class.  The only awkward thing about it was the fact I already knew someone in the room.  Kevin and I worked together in an edit suite on a couple of my previous projects.  Now he gets to draw my dick (and other parts of me).  Poor bastard.  I’ll be back in two weeks.

I’ve been working on an Arts Board Grant, and I’m still waiting to hear about a couple of other projects with SaskFilm.  I’m walking through life, one foot in the prairies, and the other sniffing around the urban jungles of Toronto.  A strange headspace to be sure, but a good one.

I haven’t felt like myself for quite a while.  Best laid plans fell through over and over again and I couldn’t help but think there was something wrong with me.  I imagined the thoughts thunk by my closest friends and family.  They stopped asking me how things were going because they already knew by my grimace.

It was a time to learn humility.  So much of my ego was wrapped up in being someone important.  I blew gobs of cash on the dream of being the President and CEO of a big company.  I wrapped myself in the glory of being a ‘producer’, someone who makes things happen.  My image of myself was becoming so far removed from the reality of myself, that I was having a hard time reconciling me with myself in the mirror.

It’s really quite simple now.  I will continue to develop and pitch projects.  I will seek out filmmaking jobs with other production companies.  I will pursue writing opportunities with a passion.  I will grow my career and learn from others.  I will meet new people.  I will flow like water down a stream.

I’m back to being myself again.  I am excited and optimistic for my future.

Lightweight

I’ve been wandering around with musings about me, my backpack and a fat wad of cash to see me through the foreseeable future.  It feels good.  A perfect way to start a new life.

When PJ and I decided to separate, I moved in with Nadia, who was also going through a divorce.  We had nothing.  No furniture.  We slept on the floor – her in the living room, me in the bedroom.  It was a period in my life I reflect fondly upon.  The complete lack of possessions around us brought a sort of clarity.  I’m looking forward to having a little bit more of that in my life.

Furnished apartments in Toronto are cheaper than what I’m paying for now in Regina.  Nothing to do but show up, work, wander, and see where life takes me.

I already sold half my living room furniture.  The bedroom set has a few offers as well.  I have six weeks to shed all of it.  It’s a similar situation to my office a few months back.  Now I get to finish what I started.

Toronto By Train

Toronto it is.

Thus far my contacts are all saying the same thing.  Vancouver’s industry is dead and Toronto is where the action is.  I even have a tentative job offer lined up already.

I’m giving my 30 days notice this morning and I’m going to set the wheels in motion to start selling my stuff.  I also decided that I will leave Saskatchewan by train rather than fly.  Kind of poetic even.  My great grandparents arrived here by train 104 years ago.  Also – baggage is easier to move by train.

Funny.  I was really angry when I made the decision on Friday.  Not sure why.  I love living in Regina.  Jazzy was going to be moving back in 10 months.  I had all these ambitions for the kind of lifestyle I wanted to live.  I clung with my fingernails to realize that ambition.  I suffered for it.  Desperation drove me to make the leap.

Shawn and I went for a beer on Friday night and his words helped me find peace with the decision.  He’s not in my industry.  His lifestyle is a world apart from mine, yet he really understood my mindset.  Get out of the industry and find a real job, or leave town?  There was no question about it as far as he was concerned.  He told me to stay with what I love to do.

I’m now feeling good about it.  I like the idea of being completely free.  Show up in a new city with a roll of cash and a backpack.  Make a new life.  Keep it nimble.  See how I do.

Wish me luck.

East or West?

I’ve had a load on my mind for a few weeks now that’s sapped my desire to write blog articles about the things going on in my life.  I continue to impress people with my work, but that isn’t translating into financial success.  I am my career and my career has been suffocating.

I made the decision to leave at precisely 4:31pm, Friday afternoon in Atlantis.  Rob and I were wrapping up our meeting about the sitcom.  We got talking about the state of the industry here.  We said our goodbyes and I just looked out the window.  Something clicked.

It’s time to make a leap.  Toronto or Vancouver?  That’s the big question on my mind.  If I can’t green light my own projects from Regina, I need to fall back on finding work with someone else.  Pickings are slim here.  Talked to a lot of people, and nearly all have the same thing on their mind.  Time to go.

So many have left, that my list of contacts in Toronto are almost as long as my list of contacts in Regina.  Toronto is the largest film industry in Canada, and 4th largest market in North America.  Vancouver’s industry is largely American based and might be tougher to crack.  However, Vancouver also has Jazzy – at least for the next 10 months.

I’m gonna sell everything.  Get my worldly possessions down to the size of something that will fit on an airplane and take flight.  It’s time to see how I stack up against the best this country has to offer.

I’m circling November 1, 2011 on my calendar.

With My Hair Uncombed

Yup.  Forgot to comb my hair before I stepped out.  Now I’m sitting in Atlantis desperately trying to look like I meant to meet the world this way.  It’s the first time I left the apartment in over 36 hours.  Just kinda worked out that way.

I met with Rob yesterday and we gave my script another pass together.  He read it on the weekend and sent me notes.  My ego was a bit bruised because he didn’t fall down and kiss my feet upon finishing it.  Notes?  Really?  It’s not perfect?

Guess what?  It wasn’t perfect.  He brought up a lot of good points, and now the script is even better.  I’m pleased that the structure’s in tact and 90% of what I wrote is still in place.  That final 10% is the cherry on top.

I also finished re-writing a proposal for a friend who asked me to take a look at his project.  I have another proposal of his to start on later today.  It’s nice to balance my own projects with someone else’s.  Makes me feel like I’m not living in my own little world.

Damn!  You know this script is ready to shoot!  The producer may fund it privately just to give it a leg up on everyone else’s sitcom proposal.  And here I am… sitting on the ground floor.

With my hair uncombed.

Four Days of Effort

I finished the sitcom script on Wednesday morning.  Instead of polishing the existing script, I started from scratch with my own.  It’s a gooder too methinks.   I was worried about the pace and the pressure to be wall to wall funny, but I think I did alright.  I’d write in short intense bursts, and when I felt the well was drying up, I’d go do something else.

Never experienced that before.  Well Syndrome.  Things come surprisingly easy to me when I first start.  It’s like it’s not even me writing.  The ideas come from some mysterious outside force and I’m simply a conduit.  Time stops.  The world goes somewhere else, and it’s just me and the words riffing off each other.

Then after a few hours the ideas come harder.  The pace goes slower.  Time seeps back into my conscious mind.  Soon I’m forcing things out, and I’m not happy with the results.  That’s when it’s time to set my mind to rest.  The well’s run dry.

Still, despite the stopping and starting, I never turned a script around this fast.  I feel myself getting better at the craft.  This was my first true sitcom script.  I learned a lot from the effort and these lessons will find their way into my writing in other genres.

I’m anxious to see what others thought of it, specifically, the others who paid me to write it.  Hopefully it leads to bigger and better things.  Not bad for 4 days worth of effort.

Sitcom Genre

I’ve been studying the Sitcom genre intensely.  Gonna be writing one this weekend.  Jazzy and I curled up next to my computer and we watched two episodes of Modern Family, one episode of ‘How I Met Your Mom’ and an episode of ‘Married with Children’.  I timed the scenes, looked at the structure, and thought about how I’d incorporate that into my current project.

Sitcoms move unbelievably fast compared to other genres.  Scenes are 30 seconds long on average.  Just enough time to write the joke and move on.  Plot isn’t as important as humour.  Comedy is created out of funny characters in awkward situations, not plot twists.  The story arc also feels flatter.  It’s a full steam ahead, linear venture through jokes, uncomfortable situations, and coincidences until the clock runs out.  There’s usually one big scene at the end to tie up all the sub plots (or plotlettes).  Some run two acts, while a small handful run three.  The act breaks don’t seem to come at any particular climactic moment.  They just show up when a commercial needs to run.

As a writer, there’s enormous pressure to be funny.  All you do is write jokes and every joke needs to be a zinger.  Any joke that takes too long to set up needs to be thrown out or changed.

You can’t just throw everything funny at the wall either.  You establish the rules or tone of the show, and you work within that framework.  Characters need to stay in character.  The situations can get pretty outrageous though.

Well… ideas are percolating.  Gonna get pounding.