Fundraising

My morning started yesterday at the Toronto Fringe Festival office.  I took in a free workshop they were offering about creative fundraising for independent production.  I also used the time to meet with a woman there about the staged reading for Dick.  More than anything, I learned that raising money takes hard work, creativity, specificity, and hard work.  Also, it takes hard work.

There are two types of fundraising that were discussed at the workshop.  In the first instance, there are those who raise money to support their theatre company – who in turn will use the funds to produce plays.  This is more of a community building exercise with subscribers, donors, sponsors, and theatre creatures around the creative vision of a singular theatre company.  I guess you could call this activity ‘brand building’, though no one in the room actually used that term.

The second type of fundraising activity involves raising money for a specific production.  All funds go directly towards staging a particular play.  Not much thought is put towards future productions because it’s hard enough just getting a single production off the ground that will move an audience.  This category seemed to be where most people in the room were living.  After much thought and consideration, I would have to say that this is the category where I choose to live as well.

I have produced over 60 episodes of television and countless corporate projects through my own production company, Dacian Productions Inc.  I don’t think it will benefit me to expand Dacian’s scope into the theatre realm.  Let’s not confuse people about…

…about…

Actually, what does it matter?  If I successfully develop a drama series, it will be under Dacian.  If I green light a doc series, it will be under Dacian.  If I do a theatre production, why not do it as Dacian?  It’s not like I have legions of fans clamouring for a ‘Dacian Brand’.  And even when I did do all those other projects – legally, they were always 3rd party shell corporations that operated under the umbrella of Dacian.  I raised funds for them individually and used Dacian’s infrastructure to produce them.

So fine.  Fuck it.  Not Being A Dick will be a ‘Dacian Production’.  I’ll still be focusing my efforts on the 2nd category of fundraising for the play.  To this end I have the staged reading coming up – sort of a mocked up version of the production, without actually being a production.  Actors will have the scripts in their hands.  There’ll be rudimentary blocking. Limited rehearsal time.  Little to no thought put towards wardrobe, lights, props, or sound.  But there will be an audience, and there will be a performance.

As much as I plan to use the reading as a way to gather notes on my next draft of the script, there is also an opportunity to introduce the play to potential sponsors and other people whom I would wish to work with.  To this end, I’ll need to tax my network of contacts – not invite just my friends, or people from the theatre world, but make sure a wide swath of contacts, and contacts of contacts are present.  That was the key message delivered at the workshop yesterday.  We can’t be content to count on the incestuous support of theatre people attending each others’ shows.  It’s essential to bring people from outside the community, into the tent.  There are specific themes in Dick that will resonate with different communities and businesses in this city.  All I have to do is identify them, then invite them to the reading.

Speaking of fundraising.  I heard from the broadcaster about my documentary series.  They like the idea, but funding could be a problem.  I am encouraged.  If the broadcaster agrees to air the production, perhaps I could raise the money I need through corporate sponsorships, funnel that money back through the broadcaster, then be eligible for tax credits and CMF envelopes.  I need to organize a phone call to get the ball rolling on that.

Look at me.  I’m all business all of a sudden.

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Figuring Out What I Already Know

Gideon Arthurs is the General Manager of the Tarragon Theatre here in TO.  Tarragon is one of the largest and certainly most stable theatre companies in the city.  He led the workshop I attended last night, and the knowledge I gained will do nothing but good for me, for years to come.

The workshop last night was my first significant encounter with the professional theatre community here in the city.  There’s really no excuse for why it took me this long to reach out.  Crossing paths with the people creatures behind a couple of plays last year at the Toronto Fringe festival doesn’t count.  The bottom line is, I need to be putting myself out there, and engaging with this community on a regular, weekly basis.

Gideon was great.  Friendly.  Approachable.  Knowledgeable.  Empathetic.  Blunt.  We exchanged cards at the end of the workshop and he agreed to do coffee in a couple weeks’ time.  Understanding the subtleties of the theatre community in this city seems to require the covert intelligence gathering ability of a CIA operative.  He’ll be a great help.

I figured out that many of the lessons I’ve learned over my seventeen years in the film & television industry will pay dividends as I look to expand my reach in Toronto.  Conducting good thorough research on each theatre company before I approach them is essential. Being specific about what I want and who I wish to talk to is also important.  Perfecting my ‘elevator pitch’ and having a good ‘one-sheet’ that succinctly summarizes my play are required tools.  Taking the time to develop relationships with key decision makers will do nothing but good.

Perhaps one of the most profound things to come out of the workshop was the idea that my play is not necessarily best served by getting in bed with a larger theatre company.  For one thing, a large company will want my play to stay in perpetual development for years before it sees the stage – and even then, there’s no guarantee that will ever happen. I also give up a lot of control by working with a larger company.  Quite simply, some plays are best served by going the independent route.

I am meeting with a woman from the Toronto Fringe Festival tomorrow.  I have many questions for her about how best to organize the staged reading for Not Being A Dick.  Beyond a staged reading, I’m beginning to entertain thoughts about going the independent route into a full meal deal stage production sometime this year.

Beyond the play, I have other ambitions too.  I am not ignoring my film & television career – that’s where the big money is.  Still, I can’t help but feel a symbiotic relationship between the two.  I’m going to learn something from doing this, and these lessons will serve me well as I meander forward through the wilderness of the things I’ve yet to figure out in my career.

End of the Month Conflict with the Structure of my Week

I got together with Roya last night at a Starbucks on Eglington & Yonge to help her with her novel.  We started by breaking down the first scene of my play, noting significant actions the characters had taken, things they said about others or themselves, figuring out objectives, analyzing the conflict, etc.  It took us over an hour to break down just one scene.  From there we began to sketch out the first scene of her novel.

Do novels have scenes?

Whatever the novel equivalent of a scene is (chapter?) we started with that.  Different format, but same principals.  Two characters.  Two objectives.  Conflict.  Tactics.  Exposition revealed through action.  Turn the scene’s value from positive to negative, or visa versa.  Make the characters earn everything they gain.  Make the audience earn everything we learn.  Don’t give anything away freely.

This was all ‘looking at the bones’ stuff.  Writing is an almost schizophrenic art.  A big part of it is engineering the story structure.  There’s human psychology.  There’s giving life to the voices in your head.  Inspiration.  Improvisation.  Analysis.  Adjustment.  Sometimes I can take all these things in, and write a scene in an hour.  Sometimes it takes a week.

Years ago, my Math 101 professor told our class, “The best way to learn something, is to teach it.”  I’m excited to see what Roya comes up with.  I enjoy getting together to talk about writing.  As much as I have to share what I’ve learned, it helps me to learn the craft even further.

Today has me editing like a motherfucker.  Pardon my french.   The month just went and got too short on me.  If I want to invoice for the 28th, I need to limit the procrastination by a few decibels.

Complicating my time crunch is the fact that I have a number of workshops to take in this week, beginning with a ‘Next Steps’ workshop tonight at the Playwrights Guild of Canada. I think there’ll be 8 of us.  All like-minded folk looking for ways to take our plays into production.  I’m as excited for what I may learn, as I am for the opportunity to add people to my network of contacts.

That’s enough for today.  The edit suite doth beckon.

The Litter Guy

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Joanne premiered her documentary, The Litter Guy, last night at Angell Gallery and she invited me to take in the evening with her.  She said it would be an intimate gathering.  I brought a bottle of cheap Argentinian wine (I’m told the Argentinians and Chileans make the best cheap wine – in fact, a high scale restaurant back in Regina uses this same wine as their ‘House Red’).

There were five of us all together.  Two I met previously at a script reading I filmed back in October at a completely unrelated event.  This was the first time that I ever experienced my small circle of Toronto acquaintances, acquainting themselves with each other, purely through coincidence.  This happens all the time in Regina.  In the Sea of Toronto – not so much.  I take it as the Universe affirming my decision to make Toronto my home.

The documentary itself was a slow burner.  If I were watching on TV, I’d have flipped the channel after 30 seconds.  As a captive audience member in a screening however, I was accorded the time to let the documentary wash over me.  Verisimilitude at its most naked.  It was about a recovering addict who took it upon himself to clean up garbage on the streets of Toronto, rain or shine, for whatever pocket change people walking by could spare.  It was his alternative to panhandling.  As the movie progressed, we began to see the very subtle details of this guy’s life unfold.  We began to see how the everyday ordinary, when examined on this intimate level, could reveal such a rich underbelly.  This man was a fascinating and tragically flawed character whom we grew to care about.

I was quite moved by one idea in particular that fell out of this documentary.  Never encountered this idea anywhere before – not in any book, not a movie, not even in real life.  We’ve all heard stories about how the simplest words of encouragement can raise our fellow human beings up – move them to soar above the chains that weigh them down.

We associate this sort encouragement with positive vibes.  So easy to crush a person’s headspace with negative words.  And sometimes with just a sentence or two – a small handful of words – we can do just the opposite.

And sometimes, with those very same words of encouragement, those heartfelt good vibrations, we can imprison someone – chain them to a path towards their own self destruction.  That’s the never-before-encountered idea I was exposed to in this documentary.

The Litter Guy obviously needed the small amounts of pocket change he raised everyday cleaning up garbage on the street.  As previously mentioned, he worked rain or shine for that pittance.  But as much as that money paid for his meagre lifestyle, it was the strong words of encouragement that came with each loonie, toonie, and quarter he received that drove him.

Perfect strangers would walk up to this guy with a smile and a warm vibration, expressing their gratitude for how much his small contribution to the world moved them.  The Litter Guy fed off this gratitude.  It was his new drug.  Gave meaning to the meaningless.  Raised him up.  Moved him.

Kept him on the street, picking up garbage for a pittance, looking for more gratitude from perfect strangers.

So many people have reached out to this guy, who know him well.  They’ve tried to give him opportunities to escape his poverty.  Their hearts have genuinely gone out to this guy.  But for all their best intentions, they couldn’t help The Litter Guy passed his demons.  He is incapable of managing his life.  Every genuine effort fails.  He pushes those who know him well away – leaving him with only the gratitude and pocket change of perfect strangers to fuel him further.

The Day I Made Toronto My Home

Yesterday began with me meeting Aubrey for coffee at Roncy Bean.  We discussed making a short film together.  From there we headed off to Tahirah’s place.  She needed help with an audition she was preparing for.  I watched the read, made some notes and observations, and helped Tahirah shape the work into something she could get behind and push.

From there I headed off to the studio to pick up my cheque.  I researched literary grants while I waited.  I also made a phone call to the Toronto Fringe Festival office for some guidance on my staged reading for Dick.  Gonna meet with them in the next few days.  There are a couple of workshops I’ll be attending next week in the theatre community.  Probably, I’ll be handing out more business cards at that time, meeting yet more people.

I’ve been living in Toronto 16 months now.  Yesterday I made it my home.

I mentioned an opportunity to return to Regina for a dream gig in a previous article.  Senior Manager of Video Production for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.  I’m passionate about football.  They’d give me my own private sandbox to make football movies in.  I’d be able to see Jazzy everyday.

Today is the deadline to apply.

I’m gonna pass.

I’m listening to my gut on this one.  Forces and circumstances bigger than myself pushed me out this way.  I’m on the cusp of something big out here.  Recent weeks have allowed me to taste just how much Toronto has to offer.  I feel strongly that leaving now will set me back years.  I have unfinished business to finish.

I was driving up Osler street on my way home.  Made the decision at some point between Dupont and the railroad tracks.  Maybe 30 seconds passed.  And there it was, my decision.  That singular moment of clarity.  My gut could not be screaming at me louder. Toronto is my future.

 

 

My Own Private Time Zone

I can doze off in front of the TV to shit blowing up, and people screaming at each other, but when Robin plays his music in the apartment downstairs at 5am, I wake up and can’t fall asleep again.  Wound up turning on this shitty action series I’ve been watching on Netflix for more shit blowing up and people screaming at each other.  Felt sufficiently tired by 8am to go back to sleep for a couple hours.  Robin was still playing his music.  It took awhile for the heavy eyelids to close completely.

I have decided to operate on Vancouver time here in Toronto today.  I’m going to borrow those three hours I lost this morning from the West Coast and give them back sometime over the weekend.  This way, my day won’t be a complete loss.  Fortunately, I don’t have to be anywhere today, so I can exist in my own private Pacific Time Zone bubble here in my apartment.

I’m currently about half way through all the footage on my editing project.  Got it down to a routine now.  I go a couple hours.  My brain gets bored.  I stop, play a game or something, then get back to looking at footage.  This way my ‘selects’ won’t be glossed over when it comes time to putting ’em down in the timeline.  My goal is to finish this project by Monday.

The staged reading for my play has been on my mind.  I reached out to a connection I have, but haven’t heard back.  I need a space.  I need a cast.  I need a date.  A tech would be nice too.  I have some people in mind for some of my roles, but as for those other things, I’m completely at a loss.  To this end, I’ve decided to drop in on the office of the Toronto Fringe Festival.  They should know people who know people.  This may happen tomorrow.  We’ll see.

The application to the Canadian Film Centre’s ‘Prime Time Television Program’ has been on my mind as well.  It’s always on the back burner, but moves more or less closer to the front when I’m watching previously mentioned shitty action series.  This series won numerous awards, ran for 8 seasons, and sold all over the world – and it’s full of holes!  How about someone hires me to write that crap?

I should mention that I’ve been unable to STOP watching previously mentioned shitty action series, despite all these ‘holes’.

Applying to the CFC involves submitting a pilot script of my own series, as well as submitting a spec script to an existing series.  I was advised to write a spec for an American series – ensuring no one on the jury would be connected to the show.  Sometimes ‘insiders’ on a Canadian series could be rubbed the wrong way by ‘outsiders’ writing specs for their shows.

I have my pilot for Highwaymen, but I think I may swap in Room 31 because it has greater appeal to an international audience.  Room 31 exists primarily as a novel right now, that was adapted from a 30 minute comedy script I wrote previously.  I have enough material to turn it into a one-hour comedy-drama, which is where I’d prefer to working.  The deadline is sometime in May.  I have three months to write two one-hour scripts.

And sort out a staged reading.

And edit stuff.

And fall asleep at a decent hour.

Stay tuned.

No Deadline Syndrome

I got into the studio yesterday to pick up my footage and Anna was already in the edit suite working.  “Wow Jarrett, you look tired.”  Her words startled me.  I felt alright – at least I thought I felt alright, but something about them rang true.  I drove all the way to the studio, parked the car, and only then realized that I had left my backpack (and hard drive) at home.  Had to repeat the round-trip before actually going inside to be confronted with Anna’s words.

The footage was going to take four hours to transfer, so I went looking for a coffee shop where I thought I’d open my laptop for a bit of writing in the meantime.  I took care of a couple of quick notes I got from the reading on Friday night for Dick, then set off for some major re-writing of the final scene in Act II.  That’s when it hit me.

No gas in the tank.

My mind simply wasn’t there.  I can feel the difference between being tired and being a procrastinator.  Words came to me last week with vigour.  They came easy and they came profoundly.  My re-writes moved the play forward in leaps and bounds.  The words were quality stuff.  I simply couldn’t come anywhere close to that yesterday afternoon.

Deadline passed syndrome.  No great urgency to complete this draft and my mind knew it.  Took a Family Day vacation to muse on the memories and revelries of more interesting times.  I decided to let it, and in the meantime occupied myself with a backlog of emails that needed some attention.

I clicked a link to a video that a colleague sent me of his previous work.  Watched it a couple times then sent notes.  I then watched two episodes of a web series Glickman is doing called Through the Lens – about cinematographers and the movies they’ve shot.  Profound stuff.  There are also some free workshops I intend to take in.

I have a day full of editing ahead of me.  The writing can wait a few days.  A change of gears will be nice.

Checking In From the Couch

I’ve been lacking in sleep these past couple days.  The reading party kept me up until 5am, and I spent the next day on the couch in a sort of purgatory or consciousness, operating on about 6 hours sleep.  At midnight I set off for the airport to meet Monica, who was flying in from Regina, on her way to Columbia for some geological field work.  She had an 8 hour lay-over, so we went for beers in the middle of the night.  My head hit the pillow at 3am.

I forced myself off the couch yesterday at 7pm so I could put in an appearance at Tahirah’s birthday party.  I’m glad I went, but I really wasn’t in a socializing mood.  Regardless, I fell into a conversation with her friend, Roya about writing.  Turns out she’s taking her own crack at a play and we had much to talk about.  Soon, we found ourselves sitting alone at the table while everyone else moved into the living room.  Were we really talking that long?  We made plans to get together another time to open up her play for a good long look at its bones.

It is now currently noon on ‘Family Day’.  Strange day.  Half the country is closed due to the civic holiday, half the country is not.  Do I work, or do I play?  I have my next editing project to pick up, and some phone calls to make.  Perhaps some time in a coffee shop with Mel’s book would be in order as well.  We’ll see how the day goes.  If the studio’s open, I pick up my footage and I work.  If not, I play.

Staged Readings and Friendships Too

The reading went extremely well.

This was the first mass gathering of humanity in my apartment since I moved in.  Nearly all were people I collected into my life from putting myself out there over the last four months in this amazing city.  Aubry was the only Regina connection at the party, but she might as well be lumped in with the others because I only met her one other time in my life.  Frank was out of town.  My other Saskatchewan connections were otherwise occupied.  I didn’t make a great effort to reach out to those I already knew anyway – kind of accidentally on purpose.

I seem to be moving towards making a life for myself in Toronto.  If I’m going to do that, I need to make my own friends as well – not befriend friend’s of Frank’s, nor people I already know from Saskatchewan, but never really hung out with until moving here.  Nothing wrong with those latter two categories.  Nothing wrong in the least.  It’s just that, until recently, I made almost no effort to create my own friendships in TO out of people I’ve met through my own wanderings.

I was also pleased with the diversity in the room.  Four came from a yoga group I participate in.  Three were actors I crossed paths with through recent wanderings in TO.  Another is a filmmaker whom I met through that DOC thing I went to a couple weeks back. It was great to simply bring them together, feed them, booze them, muse them, and then sit back to watch them relate to each other (and with myself).  This was the most satisfying part of the evening.

There was also my play.

It went over very well with the group.  It was great to hear how well the rewrites work.  The new scene is also strong.  Most of my work went into Act I.  Barely had time to touch Act II before I needed to get ready for the party.  As far as I can tell, there’s only one major hole to fill in Act II, and that’s the final scene.  As mentioned in my previous article, it didn’t become apparent how big that hole was, until I filled those from earlier in the play.

I have decided to create an event that will take place within the next two – three weeks.  I’m going to organize a staged reading.  They say if you want to make a show happen, you book a theatre.  I’m ready for a commitment like that.  Not a big theatre mind you, something smallish.  I want another pass at the script.  I want to cast my actors, and be able to spend 6 – 8 hours with them prior to the reading.  Maybe find some kind of a tech who can run sound and a rudimentary lighting setup.  Charge something nominal like $5 to cover expenses and pay for beers afterwards.   Let’s see how this really feels.

Wow.  I just committed myself to a ton of work.

Seeing the Holes by Fixing the Holes

I’m really happy with where the work I’ve been doing on my play has led.  It has a much stronger opening, and as a result, the characters are much better defined.  The stakes are higher, and the central conflict arises much sooner.

I wrote 7 more pages last night, and I’m only on scene 5 (of 14).  Five of those pages were spent on a brand new scene.  Didn’t know I’d be writing a new scene until about a minute before I started.

Sat down last night in the coffee shop, put the finishing touches on scene 2, changed a word or two in scene three, swapped out the word ‘supper’ with ‘dinner’ in scene four (apparently ‘supper’ is a Saskatchewan thing).  And then as I read scene 5, I recognized a massive leap forward in the characters’ arc – with no explanation.

It’s the same leap that was always there, but it wasn’t until my work on the first two scenes came to fruition yesterday, that I was able to see how glaring that hole was.  This wasn’t a gap in a scene that needed mending.  This was a hole in the story.  The only thing to fill that hole, was a brand new scene.

The new scene is a gooder too methinks.  I figured out a way to close the gap with action, and not exposition.  As I mentioned previously, the central conflict arises much quicker now.  The scene is also funny, which is important.  I have a lot to say, and sometimes in my enthusiasm to explore certain philosophical insights, I forget that I’m also writing a comedy.

The table read is tonight.  I have some errands to run, an apartment to clean, and revisions to complete.  It’s possible I’ll have an houseful of very diverse people creatures.  I’m excited for how the new changes will be received.