Insight Bombs and Rapid Fire Dialogue

The week’s events seem to be arranging themselves into place very well.  My editing project was reviewed yesterday morning and requires only a couple hours’ worth of tweaks before I can call it done.  Couldn’t finish it up at the studio though, because Anna, another editor, was booked in to work on her own project.  Just as well.

I drove home, ate lunch, then walked for 30 minutes down to Roncesvalles for a good long sit with my ‘Dick’ play at Roncy Bean.  Though I’ve had two or three table reads with it since I wrote the latest draft in May last year, It’s been 9 months since I actually re-wrote anything.  I packed up at 9:30 last night, having added 7 new pages of dialogue to the first two scenes.

I knew there’d be some tweaks here and there, but 7 pages!  I’m not even finished scene 2!  Funny.  I’m on my 8th draft of this play now.  Every time I’ve finished a draft, I always felt that it was done, but for a couple of tweaks.  It feels great to see with clarity where the holes are, that need to be filled.

In general, I felt the story structure was in good shape.  The scenes had a nice shape.  The characters were well drawn.  The problems with the play seem to come from the spaces in-between the beats of certain scenes – especially my first two scenes.  I skipped a few steps  as my protagonist fought to earn his victories.  I needed to turn the screws more.

He can still win, but he needs to fight harder for those wins.  In doing so, we learn more about what makes him tick, and more importantly, we learn far more about the characters who antagonize him.

Filling in these spaces also helped the cadence out.  There is a lot of heavy subtext in the writing.  Every single line was a loaded bomb of unvoiced insight.  Perhaps I was channelling Pinter here.  Problem is, that style of writing lends itself to big gaps between the lines of dialogue.  It takes time for all that insight to land on another character.  This slows down the pace considerably.  Pinter was a master at this.  I am not.

My solution has been to keep those gaps, let the insight bombs take their time to land, but instead of waiting in silence for the gap to close, I pepper that silence with rapid fire single word, or two word exchanges between the characters.  I’ve also removed as many of my ellipses (…) as I could get away with.  Ellipses = silence.  Silence must be earned, not given away like candy at Halloween.

I’ll be finishing my editing project this morning, and then I am keen to get back into my play.  I am excited to see what new discoveries I can make with it.

Growing Passed the Hole

Usually when I sit down to write about something, I’ll recall recent memories and put them down into words after running ’em through a sort of contextual filter that helps me to understand what it all means, and how it all connects to everything else around me.  Ditto for long term memories.  That’s why I blog.  It’s my way of checking in with myself.

It’s good methinks to check back on those articles to see if how my view then, measures up with how I see things now.  I know that I am in a different place.  The fog of some memories has lifted, while my perspective on others remains yet unrefined.

I found myself in a conversation with someone who is fast becoming a good friend.  She’s going through something I experienced for myself a few years back.  I recall in vivid full colour, the pain of those memories – except that pain is no longer there.  It passed some time ago, without ceremony or poetry.  I went looking on the shelf for it, as I tried relating my painful story to my friend’s, and the pain was simply gone.  Just a hole left behind.

Same hole that was there when that piece of myself was ripped from me.  Felt like a giant crater at the time.  The bleeding edges have healed over.  Scar tissue.  Nothing new will grow there – and I’m okay with that.  I wouldn’t trade that hole for anything.

It’s been a couple years or so, and I’ve found that I’ve grown passed that hole.  My sense of who I am, and what I want, and what I’ve experienced has grown much bigger than where I was then.  The hole remains the same, but I am more than who I was at the time.

Panormous Pizza Boner

I went to a kind of meditative yoga thing last night for some deep spiritual introspection, and sprung a panormous pizza boner instead.  It was all Navi’s fault.  He was sitting in the circle and we’re all talking about our feelings, and Navi starts jawing about Pizza Hut pizza.  Goddammit!

There were five of us altogether – Renee, Clive, Navi, Jean-Fransois and myself.  We collectively felt the whole group energy shift from something spiritual to something a little more greasy.  I bequeathed to the vibe a pizza meditation, since that was what everyone in the room was feeling.  It was perhaps, the first pizza meditation in history.

Fifty-seven minutes later we found ourselves gathered around a table, low to the floor, and sitting on cushions.  The box was closed and we began to explore ways in which this Pizza Hut pizza ritual could be aroused from our collective pizza boner.  It seemed some sort of chant would be a good place to start.


No.  That wasn’t quite it.  We began anew.

“Mmmmmmmmmm…. pizza hut pizza hut pizza hut pizza….”

We chanted in this manner for a minute or so whilst inhaling the pizza aroma to round out our senses.  We then opened the box and gazed upon the pizza longingly, admiring its potential as some kind of tantric sustenance.  Very sensual.

And then, delicately, with extended fingertips, we gravitated towards the slice that called to us the most.  A fusion of individuality and collective desire to bring that food to our lips – its cheesy goodness, its bacony flow – and sausage too.

A bite.  A swallow.  A smile.  A memory.

I’ve had better tasting pizza, but I’ve never had a pizza experience quite like that before.  I feel like consulting passages in the Tao Te Ching for wisdom.  Perhaps Lau Tzu found himself gnawing on some take-out as he composed certain passages, and only now, after experiencing for myself – the power of the panormous pizza boner – that I may finally grasp what the ancient ones already knew so long ago.

Tao is the pizza.  It is all shapes.  It is the space inside the box.  It is the aroma beyond the box.  It is what came before.  It is what awaits.  It is the unity among friends.  It is the boner which moves us from passivity to action, and back again.

Feeling Smug

It’s day 2 of the snow dump here in TO.  The sun is shinning and everyone’s looking to dig themselves out.  I can’t help but feel smug, and I shouldn’t.  This is a typical Regina winter right now, and Toronto thinks it’s big news.  The street outside my window is a mess.  I haven’t decided if I’ll drive to a thing I’m going to tonight, or take the subway.  As smug as I might be at the moment, I don’t really have the best footwear for this sort of snow.

The girls who live upstairs are from Guatemala.  I watched them try to get their car brushed off yesterday morning, and it was a bit of a circus.  After a spell I got dressed, grabbed the snow brush from my car, and cleaned off their vehicle for them.  They thought it was a huge big deal.  I shrugged and told them that back home, we call that, the first step to getting to work in the morning.

As easily as it is for me to venture out into the snow and clean off someone’s car, I wish I could feel the same way about dishes.  They’re a bit piled up at the moment.  Probably won’t even take 10 minutes to wash ’em.  Still, I just haven’t been able to bring myself to do them.  It’s my way I suppose.  For this reason, I only keep a limited supply on hand.  I’m sort of forced to wash ’em when I run out.  Keeps the apartment less cluttered that way.

I suspect somewhere out there, is a dish washing fanatic, thinking about people like me and feeling smug herself.  She could be all, “Back home we do our dishes seven times a day!  Sometimes we even take clean ones out the cupboard and wash ’em up just because!”

Maybe she’s really hot too.  She could live near me, and come over and wash my dishes seven times a day – even if they’re already clean.  She’d love me for it – and I’d brush off the snow from her car – even if it were already summer.  And we’d hang out and watch movies – movies about doing dishes – in the wintertime.  And then we’d make love.

Of course, the whole thing could end badly if she ever met the really hot laundry fanatic chick whom I just thought up in my head.

Snow Day

In continuing my recent trend of comparing Regina and Toronto to each other, I’ll say simply that Toronto looks an hellova lot like Regina this morning.  The place is covered in snow – and it’s still coming!

It started yesterday.  I went out walking in it.  Walked all the way down to Roncesvalles for a session of proposal writing at Roncy Bean.  Bean awhile since I’ve done that.  Walk, I mean.

Typo in that last paragraph.  Bet if I wouldn’t have said anything, you’d think I was being super clever.  I’ve decided to leave it stand.

I read once, that the best way to ensure a show goes into production, is to book a theatre. I don’t quite have the budget for a theatre, but I did commit to a table read for next Friday for my play, Not Being A Dick.  It’s been awhile since I touched it, and I think it could use another revision.  I exchanged contact information with some of the actors I met on Wednesday night, and a couple are coming.  I’m also in the process of letting friends know about it too.  As I look at the week ahead, I’m going to have to schedule time with myself to work on the play with myself.

Kind of another pun there.  I’m on a roll.

Today has editing on the plate – all day long.  It’s been a great week of meetings, gatherings, and planting seeds for the future.  It’s now time to focus on immediate needs.  I betcha I can hand this next project in by tomorrow afternoon.

There are no deep philosophical insights, or angsty emotional textualizations about my headspace today.  Keeping it simple today.  Dishes.  Editing.  Groceries.

Maybe I’ll write a poem about it later.  It’ll be punny.

The Duality of Being Between Two Places

I found myself in a cozy little bar on Dundas West last night called ‘The Magpie Taproom’.  I wound up sitting next to multi-award winning director/writer Sudz Sutherland.  Everyone in the room was there to take in a bi-monthly event called LIFT OUT LOUD, where two TV pilot scripts are read aloud by professional actors to a room full of writers, actors, producers, filmmakers and other industry types.

The level of experience in that room ranged from student to retired broadcaster.  It cost $5 to get in – and they had pizza!  The whole point of the event was to bring people together.  It was a great atmosphere.  I enjoyed myself.  Gave me much to think about.

Regina on its best day could not offer something like that event.  There are talented artists and accomplished producers, but nothing on the scale of what Toronto has.  An event like LIFT Out Loud would be a giant big deal in Regina.  In Toronto, it’s just a super casual thing to do on a Wednesday night.  No big deal.

I repeat – no big deal.  That is the significant difference between the two cities.  That is why I moved here.  That is the scale of what I can tap into, to realize my ambitions here.

It’s like the city is trying to tell me something.  Hours after writing my previous blog article, I found myself interviewing Brian Williams, the legendary sports journalist.

I interviewed him!

It was for an article the Argonauts asked me to write about the 2013 Ontario Sports Hall of Fame inductees.  I was thrilled!  Honoured!  The article was picked up by Rod Pedersen’s blog as well.  Kind of a big deal.

Later that same day, I made a major step forward with the documentary I’m developing.  I have a verbal agreement to move forward from one of the key players involved.  My next step will be to get that verbal agreement down on paper, then take it to the broadcaster.  This thing could happen soon.

It’s like I’m in the right place, at the right time.  Regina has Jazzy.  Toronto has everything else.  This duality is giving me a lot to think about.

A Tale of Two Cities

It was a lot easier living in Toronto when Jazzy was living in Vancouver.  When I left Regina a little over a year ago, Jazzy remained a plane ticket away.  Now she’s home, back in the city I left behind, and if I wouldn’t have left, I’d be able to see her everyday.

I put these sorts of thoughts behind me so I can focus on my Toronto mission – which has been evolving these last few months.  I love living in this city.  I’m making good connections.  Met with a producer yesterday, who knows people, who know people.  I’m going to a TV pilot script reading Wednesday night.  Just learned that this is something that goes on twice a month in this town.  As previously mentioned, I connected with some documentary filmmakers last week.  One of the biggest agencies in town have one of my scripts on their ‘read’ list.  I have a potential documentary in the works.

There are a ton of things going on in Toronto that I don’t even know about – that I haven’t given myself an opportunity to tap into.  It all adds up to unlimited potential.  If I put myself out there, something good will eventually happen.

And then a glimmer of light.  A tantalizing beam of opportunity.  A chance to come home and be with Jazzy while working on something quite big, doing something that I’m very good at and passionate about.  Senior Manager of Video Production for an high profile company, in a high profile industry.  And I have very hard mixed feelings about that.

A friend told me that he had an opportunity to do play-by-play for the Phoenix Coyotes in 2003.  $300,000 per year.  He’d be in the big league, travelling across North America with an NHL team.  His dream job.

He turned it down.  He’d have to be separated from his family – from his children.  He said you never lose if you chose your family.  The comment hit me like a cold prairie storm across the face.  This was a few weeks ago when I was at home for Christmas and basking in the warmth that came with seeing Jazzy everyday.

I feel like if I go home, I’ll be giving up on everything I’ve tried to accomplish in Toronto.  I feel like I’m very close to breaking through on something.  But then again, I’ve been carrying that feeling around my whole career.

The position isn’t a given.  I’d have to go through an interview process.  In the meantime there remain tentacles of opportunities here in Toronto to explore.  I suppose my dilemma comes from having to move forward without knowing where I’m going for the immediate future.

I suppose my answers will come in time.  Life is a river.  I am a leaf riding its current, but have little control over where it flows.  The best I can do is navigate my way around the rocks, and stay out of the eddies.

I’ll pursue the opportunity.  I’ll pursue every opportunity, both here and there.  I’ll make a decision when the time comes to make a decision.

Obliterating the Mountains While the Sun is Above Us

Yesterday I made the decision that I would NOT begin editing my next project until Monday. This gives me the entire weekend to indulge in some ‘me’ time.  To this end, I set off for Little Italy after some good long morning tinkering, and found myself a cafe to ‘be’ in.

There’s a book I’ve been meaning to get to, written by my friend Melanie Schnell called While the Sun is Above Us.  Mel’s been to Sudan twice to see for herself what horrors are there.  She lived in a mud hut with the Dinka people, was chased by bad men with AK 47’s, made beautiful connections with people she met, and came home both times broken, both physically and emotionally.  It took her many years to write this book, based on her experiences there.  I am proud of her.

Mel and I used to do diner and a movie about once a month.  I’d pay for the meal and she’d take care of the tickets.  She was always in charge of picking the movie – usually something obscure and critically acclaimed.  Away From Her, and Lars and the Real Girl stand out.  So does the last movie we ever saw together, Twilight.  I remember the embarrassed look on her face and an apology after scene two.

So I’m sitting at the bar reading her book, not really keen to learn more about the subject matter, but unable to stop turning pages.  After 33 of ’em, I put the book down.  My mind was full.  Needed to let the words percolate deeper into me.  It was a satisfying experience.  I intend to pick the book up again today.

It also moved me to do something that I hadn’t done since last October.  I opened my own novel – my work in progress – and found about a thousand words for it that hadn’t been there before.  The blockage that I had run into – that I couldn’t seem to find a way past – had simply crumbled as I piled on the words.  Those words came so fast and furious, I could barely keep up with my fingertips as they tapped the keyboard.

That blockage was a mountain to climb.  I remember staring at it with my curser blinking for hour after hour.  Frustration.  Disappointment.  Every time I opened the file, I felt its assault upon my creativity.  I had a story to tell, and I was muted by my inability to see past it.  For some reason, yesterday was different.

I suspect Mel’s book had something to do with it.  My long drive with Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance certainly had an influence as well.  Long meditative gazings upon the trains rolling past my window every morning also seem help.  Mostly though, I just decided to NOT climb the mountain.  I knew where other parts of my story were going and I decided to jump forward – past the mountain – and pick up there.

I wrote a scene with two characters, gave ’em strong objectives, put obstacles in their way, then stood back to see what happened.  Those two characters took over at this point.  Worked things out for themselves, then took the story backwards in time – back to the blockage.  It only took a couple sentences to connect their scene back to where I left off previously.  Two sentences!  It seems that mountain wasn’t really a mountain at all.

Today has much promise.  There’s another scene to write, and Mel’s pages to turn.

What’s Up DOC?

Luis dug the project I handed in.  Only took 90 minutes to finish up the changes.  Left me with a nice buzz the whole rest of the day.  Didn’t matter that it was just a small gig with zero potential to advance my career.  I enjoyed myself and I took pride in my work – and as previously mentioned, gave me a nice buzz at the end of the day.

When I was 4 years old, I remember going to work with my dad.  He drove a truck and delivered magazines to all the stores in Regina.  He’d load up a wheeler with boxes, then sit me on top the stack, and wheel me into the store.  The girls behind the counter would always giggle, and dad would have the same joke for them at every stop, “Yup.  Got the boss with me, can’t even go for a beer after work.”  They’d always laugh and I’d smile like I knew what the hell he was talking about.  Some of my very best childhood memories came from riding on the truck with dad.

Dad moved on to other things, life changes took place, and 16 years went by.  Things came around full circle.  Dad found himself back on that job, driving a truck, delivering magazines.  This time I was old enough to drive for him – give him some time off.

First two weeks on the job were great!  I was buzzing, swimming through nostalgia, getting a workout, and feeling good about life.  Then a thought began to crystallize, sapping me of my fun.  I was in University to study film – to learn how to become a filmmaker.  What was I doing driving a truck for my dad?  This was a dead-end job with zero potential to advance my career.  The job didn’t change, but my thoughts about it did significantly.  The longer I worked it, the more miserable I became.  The truck became a symbol of how far away from my ambitions I had grown.

A similar thought process seeps into my head when I take these small gigs to pay the bills. I enjoy what I do.  I take pride in my work.  I hate the lack of potential in it.  As of late, I’ve managed to keep my ego at bay, not wrap my identity up in it, and just be.  I set my own hours, pursue my ambitions, and keep myself busy.  Why complicate things with unnecessary ego trips?

Last night I hung out with a group of documentary filmmakers.  It was an informal meet-up in a bar/coffee shop on Danforth organized by the DOC Toronto.  These were filmmakers, not producers.  Like me, they had to self-teach themselves a variety of skills to pursue their craft.  They shoot, they edit, they direct, they write, they pitch, and they handle the business end of their projects to varying degrees of success.

I felt at home with them.  Thus far, I hadn’t had much of an opportunity to hang out with these types of creatures in Toronto.  Thus far, every ‘industry’ person I’ve associated with has been a specialist in one field or another.  Last night felt like any gathering of industry folk I grew up with in my career in Regina.  We’re all ‘filmmakers’ back home.  The city’s too small to hang your hat on just one hook for the rest of your career.

When I moved to Toronto, I was advised to pick a field, and specialize in it.  Took me a long time to realize how misguided that advice was.  I took myself out of the game as a result.  Shrivelled up inside.  Writing remains the field of greatest interest (passion) to me, but as I’ve mentioned in other posts, I have much more in me.

Toronto has so many different types of people in it.  I should be like a kid in a candy store, as opposed to a writer in exile on an island somewhere, suffering for his craft.  It’s all a matter of how I frame the situation to myself.  If I keep myself open to the vasty goodness that is the potential of this city, I can keep myself happy and content with my journey through it.