Shopping Mall Coffee Shops

I’m sitting in a Starbucks in Safeway.  Does that make it a not real coffee shop?  The only other Starbucks in Regina is in a Chapters.  I never had a problem associating that Starbucks with a coffee shop.  I guess this is the same thing – except perhaps for the cliental.  Book store people are distinctly different from grocery store people.  One has literary types, the other has everyone else.

Jazz and her friend Kayla are roaming Northgate Mall, hence my current address.  There are no good coffee shops in the north end of the city.  It’s weird.  The neighbourhood I grew up in has a plethora of donut shops, but no coffee shops.  Must go with the mentality around here.

I bought dad a latte at Atlantis one time.  He just kind of sniffed it and looked at me.  “You paid $5 for a cup of coffee?”  He found the taste agreeable, but he just couldn’t stomach the price.

I’ve been nosing in my play of late.  The girls had a fight, and the protagonist is about to have his heart ripped out.  “I love you,” she said to him, and he went through to the stars and back.  Big long emphatic love speech.  And then she says, “I can’t be in a relationship right now.”

I need to write the meltdown, and then tweak the final scene.  I’ll be pushing 60 pages by then and this dinky little 1 Act may yet turn out to be a full length play.

There seems to be some interest in doing a read through tomorrow.  I just need a location and an idea of who will be there.  Maybe I’ll just pick up the phone when I get home and start leaning on people.

Of course, I need to finish the play first.  Small thing.  Barely even remembered about it.

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Tough Love

I’m sitting in the window of Atlantis with Jazzy.  She has monopolized my phone to play monopoly.  Downloaded the app for free last week.  I can get through a whole game in less than 30 minutes, thus evoking memories of staying up late with my best friend Dale in Grade 6, without the ‘staying up late part’.

Jazzy and I are having a good time together – at least that’s what she said after I asked her.  Too soon to say for sure, but she is singing to herself (a good sign).  We’ve been watching episodes of Grimm at night.  I bought her Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales for Christmas.  I made sure the book was old.  600 gold leaf pages.  220 stories.  She took one look at it and wrapped her arms around me so tight, I could barely breathe.  That definitely felt good.

I’ve been easing back into the land of productivity.  Wrote some more pages in my play, and plan to add a new scene within the next day or so.  It’s filling out nicely.

Funny though.  I figure I know all these things about the universal principals of good story telling, and then I go breaking those principals unaware.  I’ve been swimming around with this play on my brain for several months now, and only last night did I realize I don’t have a climax.

Small thing.

I have to push these characters to the limits, but that’s somewhat hard to do when these characters are also manifestations of real people I care about – namely myself and Courtney.  People don’t get ‘Becky’ because she’s on the tail end of her shit and hasn’t been challenged with anything.  That’s a reality I wish to be true for Court, but it ain’t no good for Becky in this story.  Gonna have to put her in the vice and squeeze ‘til she cries.

Tough love.

Christmas Morning

It’s Christmas Morning.

I’m at Mom’s.  Jazzy flies in tomorrow.  Grama and Papa are here.  The Queen is giving her annual Christmas message on TV.  It’s good to be home.

I even managed to stay in all day yesterday and do nothing.  Only felt a twinge of guilt.  Ate a lot of home cooking.  Watched three movies.  Played Monopoly on my iPhone.

Today has more of that previously mentioned nothing on the plate, and I have mixed feelings about that.  My stomach’s full.

I’d like to slip away this afternoon and continue work on my ‘Dick’ play.  It was selected to participate in the SPC’s Spring Festival of New Plays earlier this week.  I met with the dramaturge on Tuesday and he gave me some good notes about the draft thus far.  I went ahead on Friday and began salting those notes into the current draft.  I definitely need to write a penultimate scene that doesn’t exist yet (except for snippets in my mind).  After that, I need to have a good hard look at the two women in my play.  I’m worried they’re a bit too much alike, and if so I need to fix that.

I’ve semi-organized a table read for the 30th.  It would be good to have this new draft finished in time for that read.  If it still needs work after that, I’ll try adding alcohol.

Alight, breakfast is ready.  Time to wrap this up.

Two Big Meetings Away

One thing at a time, one day at a time.  More than anything, that’s how I like to operate, and more or less, that’s how I’ve been operating this past week.  It feels good.  Good for the clarity.  Good for the career.

Highwaymen has been the only item on the menu.  Met with Rob on Monday, and he’s on board as director.  Met with ACTRA and we have a green light to shoot the football action sequences in the way I propose, without spending a fortune.  Met with SaskFilm and landed a $140,000 facilities deal.  Met with Rhonda and she’s on board, depending on what’s happening with her other projects.  She’s got a Bruce Willis movie and another football movie in the works.  In the meantime she’s agreed to do a budget and help put the pitch package together.  I met with Sara McCudden yesterday, and she’s on board as Production Designer.  Her most immediate job will be to give the pitch package some flash.  I plan to add a few other pieces from Toronto to the team.  Rhonda has some big names in the US that she wants to add as well.  After that, I’ll be meeting with the CFL in Toronto.  Provided that meeting goes well, we use their connections to access a back door into TSN, and if that goes well… well, we could be finding ourselves in Green Light Land.

I’ve gotten everything I asked for thus far.  People dig the creative and believe in the business case.  I’m tapping all my relationships and using everything I’ve learned over the course of my career to bring Highwaymen to the next level.

In a way, it seems quite simple – write a great script, use timing to my advantage, assemble a team, hit the pavement.  In another way, it seems like fantasy – two big meetings away from green lighting the biggest series Saskatchewan has ever seen.

In reality though, it really is that simple.  Not much different from assembling teams around someone else’s big ideas back when I was Producing and Production Managing for WestWind Pictures.

I guess we’ll see how the next few weeks unfold.

Home

I am home.

A snow storm in Michigan forced Leach and I to stop for the night in the Northern Peninsula, about 3 hours and 500 kms short of where I wanted to be.  We were doing 40km/h on the the highway before my nerves gave way.  This forced me to pull into Regina at 2am after an 18 hour marathon drive, the next day (also known as Friday night).  Rang Mom’s doorbell and surprised her.  My eyes could barely see straight.

It’s a fitting metaphor for my year.  2011 saw a lot of movement in my life, in a very short period of time.  I know because I marathon read 58,511 words of my blog over the course of the weekend.  That exercise also left me a little bleary eyed, but at least now I can get on with publishing the book of me, volume three project.

The year started with much optimism, but descended towards the depths of despair.  It was the single hardest year of my life.  I just about gave up on myself, before seeing the light!

“Leap and the net will catch you.”

I mused about that phrase in April, forgot about it by May, then actually did it in November.  I sit here now at this table in O’Hanlon’s, and I can very clearly see where I need to be, and how to get there.  No bleary eyes on this journey.

It’s good to be home and to see old faces, places, and dreams.  As Regina’s lights came up over the horizon on Friday night, I felt my heart pound.  I’ve come so far this year.  I have a ways to go, but at least now I can feel the wind at my back.

Partying With Polish Widows

It was with great trepidation that I passed through the doors of 50 Wellington East – headquarters to the Canadian Football League.  I had a freshly polished script under my belt, a pitch memorized, and gentle, well-practiced smile for the gate keepers inside.  I could have phoned ahead.  I could have sent an email – but how do you take one of the most ambitious ideas to ever grace the profile of the CFL, and slip it gingerly into someone’s ‘inbox’?  I decided that I would walk through the door, and talk my way towards a meaningful meeting.

That was two hours ago.

The office was a shambles.  Literally.  Everyone was gone for the holiday season and construction crews had taken over for some remodelling.  The office manager met me at the door.  We spoke for a few minutes, then she gave me her card.  She said I should contact her January 3rd, and she’ll put me in touch with the appropriate people.  That will be 16 days from now.

There have been other goings on in my life.  Frank talked me into buying skates and a hockey stick from Canadian Tire yesterday.  Later, we got together with Tonia, Janicel, and his other friend John for some hockey action in a local rink.  It was the first time I ever played hockey on ice.

I did alright.  I can skate somewhat forward.  Stopping and going backwards was a bit of a problem.  Mostly I just more or less stayed in one section of the rink and did my best to get in peoples’ way if they were trying to score.  I named my stick ‘Baltazar’.  That seemed to help too.

The Writers Guild Party was for members only, but I managed to talk my way in.  Ian found me right away and started introducing me to people.  I genuinely appreciated the effort, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of being a vampire in a room full of warm bodies.  I was there to collect business cards from people and leave an impression.  I was there to line up work.  I was there to advance my career.  Period.

I’ve been to industry parties before, but I’ve never had so much riding on my need to make connections.  I did alright, but I wasn’t my best.  I had spent the day editing the YBCS video and was ready to switch my brain off, not crank it to ‘11’.  I met someone from Meridian Artists Management Group.  I met some other writers.  I learned more about the business.  I got to know Ian a little better as well.  It was a good night.

While Thursday was all business, Saturday night was about partying with the Polish widows in my building.  Donna threw a Christmas party and we were all invited.  Frank’s mom, sister, and family friend came as well – in addition to Frank, Janicel, Leach, and Tonia.

I’m told that Toronto can be a cold and lonely place for those without families here.  I couldn’t be in a better situation.  I left a crazy eccentric family back home to slide into another one right here in my new city.  There’s a lot of love and a lot of laughter.  I am truly thankful for all my blessings.

Secret Work Ethic

My work ethic is a secret agent who keeps to the shadows, revealing itself only in the final moments, before a deadline’s about to swoop in for a kill.  When no deadlines loom, my work ethic retreats to a dark place, perhaps a bat cave, or some other superhero type lair.  It puts its feet up and watches reruns of ‘The 6 Million Dollar Man’, fantasizing about having cyborg parts and… oh wait.  That’s me.

The Toronto mission could use a bit more urgency methinks.  I’ve been bogged down writing ‘Dick’ and I don’t like to complicate my day with miscellaneous non-writing tasks when I’m doing that.  The YBCS gig is also weighing in my thoughts.  I cut most if it together yesterday.  With a little luck I’ll finish it tonight – just before heading out to crash the Writers Guild of Canada party.

All good things I suppose, but I need to be doing more to line up meetings.  The window closes in 60 days or so, and there’s also Christmas wedged in there too.  I suppose I can still send emails and make phone calls from home.  Line up meetings for January.  Productive.

Still, I feel haunted somehow.  Perhaps I’ll resolve that feeling with a YBCS video well done.  That’ll leave me with time to focus on my research.  Make a plan with modest goals then follow it.

I’m also going to drop in on the Canadian Football League office.  They’re right downtown.  Pitch ‘Highwaymen’ and get ‘em on board.  Couldn’t hurt to say I have the support of the CFL when I’m approaching bigger production companies with it.  They’re desperate to find a way towards relevance in the Toronto market.  This could be a solution for them.

I’ll need another pass first.  Simple adjustment.  Replace the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in my script with Toronto Argonauts.  Change a couple names as well.  Should only take a few hours.

Seems I have tomorrow plotted out.  Not bad for a half hour’s worth of musing.

Thirty-Two Days of Effort

I submitted ‘Dick’ to the Canadian Stage Company’s ‘Festival of Ideas’ yesterday.  I’ll continue to work on it and make it better, but it’s still nice to reach a milestone.  I have to admit, the play’s been haunting me.  I close my eyes at night and I dream I’m in the play (mostly because I am in the play).  I’m writing new scenes, or living new scenes and the whole thing is exhausting.  I need a rest from my sleep.

I fulfilled my desire to get some exploring done.  From Yonge, I walked east for a spell, then south.  The city looks different from that vantage point.  I like that I even recognize it looks different from that vantage point.  I wound up in the Distillery District.  Steven Page (of Bare Naked Ladies fame) gave a free concert.  Lights were going up, a tree was about to be lit, and free beer, whiskey, and cider tasting was afoot.  It was the launch of Christmas in Toronto.  I took the event in with a Jewish filmmaker named Iris.  More than anything, I wanted to be walking through the place with Jazzy.

Wow.  Jazzy.  Two more weeks and I’ll get to see her again.  I already know what I’m getting her for Christmas.  I talk to her on facebook regularly.  Sometimes it feels like she’s already a part of my everyday life out here.  I can’t wait to fly her in someday soon.

I attended the Wildsounds Film Festival at the NFB on Saturday night.  They played seven short films and provided an opportunity for audience feedback.  It was a great way to meet people.  I can’t help but talk at these sorts of things.  Afterwords, they brought out some actors and had them read the first 10 pages of four different screenplays.  Some were good.  Some, not so much.  Again there was opportunity for discussion on each and it was great to exchange with the room, our thoughts on what we just heard.

Afterwards, I was about to step into the subway station, then decided to take a walk down University instead.  Tons of thinky thoughts channelling through my mind.  Toronto looked different from this perspective as well.

Then my phone beeped.  It was Ty.  She was at a bar called ‘Wide Open’, off Spadina, that featured $2.50 drinks ‘til midnight.  I joined her and her friends for a couple gin & tonics.  It was there that I reacquainted myself with Mel Burant.  She’s a Regina actress who moved out to the Big Smoke three years ago.  I invited her to come over on Wednesday to participate in another script reading.

I’m excited about hearing ‘Moment’ out loud once more.  It’s been a few days and I’ll be interested in what The Family thinks of it.

I submitted it to SaskFilm today.  Another milestone.  Thus far I have written a 112 page screenplay, polished a 53 page teleplay, and nearly completed a 52 page stage play.  Not bad for 32 days of effort.

Druthers

I wrote another scene to ‘Not Being a Dick’ last night.  Six pages.  Couple more scenes and I think it will have the right kind of shape to it.  December 5th is the deadline to submit ‘plays that feature innovative uses of music’ to the Festival of Ideas.  I’m on track to have my submission ready.

After that I’ll return my attention to a second draft of ‘That Moment In Between’.  Rob got back to me with notes.  I made a point of NOT putting too much thought towards them just yet.  I lived with that script in my head for two weeks.  I was dreaming scenes that I wrote the night before.  Before I jump back into that pool, I’m taking an opportunity to dry my imagination off first.

Sarah wants to see that script.  I sent her ‘Highwaymen’, and ‘Republic of Doyle’.  On top of everything else she’s doing, I’m sure it will take a while for her to get to my screenplay anyway.  If I wait until December 10th to send it, I think it will be fine.

I really need to go for a wander.  I did a lot of that when I first got here, and it was thrilling.  Now I find myself sticking to the same worn paths and routines.  It’s nice on one hand – makes me feel like I actually live here.  But there’s something to be said for the spirit of exploration to shake the mind from its druthers.

What the hell does ‘druthers’ mean anyway?

noun (usu. one’s druthers) – a person’s preference in a matter : if I had my druthers, I would prefer to be a writer.

That’s the actual definition I copied and pasted from my dictionary.  Funny.  Also, I choose to leave the word stand as is.  It’s good for a mind to be shaken from its preferences.

Alright.  It’s late afternoon and I have to write another scene.  After that, I’ll go for a wander.  Those are my druthers.