Soft Landing Upon an Unexpected Idea

I gots me an idea!

Woke up with it laying beside me on my mattress, and I was like, “Hello.  Who the hell are you?”  I don’t know where my ideas come from, but this one showed up in the middle of the night, and it’s gonna be a gooder too methinks.

The idea is for the music video.  I’ve been thinking of ways to salt in appearances by Walk Off the Earth into the football sequences, without disrupting the flow.  My idea is to cut out photos of the individual band members, and put them in the scenes next to the football people creatures.  It’ll be a fun kind of ‘Where’s Waldo’ sort of thing.  Not too prominent, but fun for fans of the band.

The video itself is coming along nicely.  I’m passed the 1 minute mark and I’m confident that I can finish it today.  I’d have been further along yesterday, but immediately after I wrote that I have no commitments to see anyone, or plans to go out, the phone rang.

I had a friend’s manuscript and we made plans to meet so I could give it back.  I gave him some notes, made small talk enough to not be rude about wanting to get on with my day – and then I got on with my day.

Three hours later Frank was knocking on my door.  He just wanted to hang out on my couch and enjoy the sun that was beaming in from my west-facing windows.  Then out-of-the-blue, he sold me his shit hot fancy schmancy mattress.  I could pay him whenever, and he could help me move it right then and there.  Seemed like a Saturday kind of thing to do.

Ninety minutes later, I had the old, crappy, mattress out of my place and into his.  His mattress was now set down in my loft bed, and my bedding was in the washing machine downstairs.  Plans were made to go out for a ‘single’ beer, and then I would be able to get back to my editing.

We wound up at an art opening at Ossington and Bloor.  Amazing art was on the walls, a live band was playing, and Frank’s friend Shelly joined us for the fun.  Turns out it was her birthday and so we went down to King and Spadina for another drink.  My head didn’t hit the pillow (upon my new mattress) until 2am.

In general, I’m pretty much at my best when I flow with the unexpected.  Stimulating evening and it only cost me a pint of beer.

And I woke up with a new idea.

Perhaps that’s why it all shook out the way it did.  Had I used my time editing, that I otherwise donated to the pub and art gallery, I’d have been so far deep into my cut, that I’d have been too far along to really implement my idea in an effective way.

Sometimes the Universe speaks softly and we must listen closely to receive its message.  Othertimes it hits us over the head with a mattress, an art opening, and a random stranger’s birthday party.

Advertisements

Staying Frosty on A Warm Spring Morning

It’s warm enough today to be sitting outside to enjoy my morning coffee.  Already, I’ve noticed new things about my neighbourhood – like the chick living across the street in her tank top and long black leggings.  Spring has arrived.

I have tentatively cast my entire play.  Won’t make an announcement until the hand shake is confirmed, but I’m excited about the potential of this crew.  Great venue.  Great cast.  Pretty gosh-darned good script.  Find 60 people, and we’ll have a pretty special night.

This means rewrites are in my near future.  Can’t get to rewrites until I finish the music video.  Gotta finish the music video by Sunday.  Dammit, I need a drill sergeant in my life.

I made a dent in the video yesterday, in that I began.  The first 16 seconds are in the timeline, and it’s good.  Better than I expected.  Still photography in 3D space, made to move.  I’ve been working this technique for years now, and yesterday I evolved it into something I never thought of before.  Took some tinkering.  That’s my excuse for only being at the 16 second mark.

Also, I watched Van Halen videos on youtube for three hours last night.

Probably would have made the 30 second mark if I hadn’t done that, but I don’t think it was a complete waste of time.  Sammy’s been a musician and an entrepreneur his whole life.  Set himself up well.  The rest of the band was not so gifted with the business sense.  They still reached icon status, but Eddie raised a black cloud over the band with some of his decisions.  Their latest album with Dave is brilliant by the way.  Do yourself a favour and check out ‘Stay Frosty‘.

I plan to make the 2 minute mark of the video by the end of today.  I have no one coming over, no appointments to meet, and no plans to entertain myself.  The greatest satisfaction will be to put this music video to bed come Sunday.

Wanting to NOT Want to Understand How it All Makes Sense

There is no greater affliction than desire, no greater curse than discontent, no greater misfortune than wanting something for oneself. Therefore he who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.

When the Tao is present the horses haul manure. When the Tao is absent war horses are bred outside the city.

~Lao Tsu~
Tao Te Ching

I continue to struggle between wanting things and people for myself, and NOT wanting things and people for myself.  It seems I’m happiest when I’m right on the cusp – that razor thin nook between ‘wanting’ and ‘not wanting’, ‘being’ and ‘thinking’.

‘Trust’ is the important factor here.  I’m not sitting on my ass, doing nothing and waiting for all the world’s treasures to drop in my lap.  I am a writer, so I write.  I am a filmmaker, so I create.  I put myself out there, with the fruits of my labour, and make myself open to wherever the river may flow.  Good things will come to me.

That’s me at my best.  I’ve been there.  Touched that place from time to time – but living there continues to be a struggle.

I wrote about manifesting a few weeks ago.  Always been cool to the idea, but I thought I’d give it a try.  I closed my eyes and I set about manifesting someone into my life.

The focus narrows.  The blinders go up.  The future transcends the present.  And I wind up so fucking discombobulated and off balance that I almost forget what it’s like to be open to the world.

There may yet be something to the idea of manifestation, but it can’t be something so actively pursued.  Passive reception perhaps?  What does that even look like?

I choose to look inwards.  Work on myself.  I can manifest myself to be just a little bit better tomorrow than I am today.  Perhaps then, once I’m so super-duper manifested right up, the girl will drop in my lap.

Problem is, I have to NOT want the girl in order to make it all happen.  Gonna need some time with this concept.  Makes perfect sense as long as I don’t try to understand what it all means.

Crossing My Fingers

It’s been a bit of a whirlwind these past few days.  Covering the CFL Combine was incredibly satisfying.  I spoke with some of the biggest names in the CFL, and every single one of ’em was generous and gracious with their time.  I did my best to repay the favour with a couple of articles on the event.  They’ve been extremely well received.

I haven’t made much of a dent in the music video for the event.  Feeling bad about that.  I need to finish it over the weekend so I can get onto other things.

Walk Off the Earth is the Toronto band who’s music I’ll be using.  I spoke to their management and we won’t be able to do any kind of a promotional licence.  There are complications that don’t quite mesh with their label’s marketing plans.  I completely understand, having signed a few licensing deals for my own work over the years.  I told their manager that I intend to go the ‘unofficial route’ – produce it as a personal tribute video to both the band, and the CFL itself.  I’m not being paid for my efforts, and I have no official connection to the league.  Their manager wished me luck, and made no promises that it wouldn’t be flagged as copyrighted content.  Here’s hoping it all works out.

I pulled my ‘To-Do List’ app off the shelf and dusted it off this morning.  I just haven’t been getting to things as efficiently as I’d like.  I try to make each day about one thing, but sometimes that one thing is so big and intimidating an undertaking, that I don’t even want to begin.  The trick is to break it down into bite sized chunks.

So far I’ve had the satisfaction of crossing four things of my list.  Two more are left after I publish this article.  Let’s see where Sunday takes me.

 

The Art and Not-Exact-Science of Scouting Players

Here’s an article I wrote for Rod Pedersen’s site over the weekend.

***

BY JARRETT RUSNAK

TORONTO – “I like that kid! Point him in the direction of something green and he’ll blow it up!”

It’s something I overheard Bobby Jurasin, say to offensive guard, Pooch Hendrickson, during the Roughriders’ training camp in 1997. He was talking about Dan Comiskey, the team’s 6th round draft selection that year.

Scan the list of names of 6th round draft picks in the CFL over the past decade or two, and you’ll see a vast empty wasteland of forgotten players who never saw the field beyond a few exhibition games.

Comiskey went on to have a 12-year, all star career. He played in four Grey Cup games and won two as a member of the Edmonton Eskimos.

I was in camp as the Roughriders’ ‘Super-duper Chief Executive Director in Charge of Film Personnel’ that year. Came up with the title myself. I was responsible for shooting practice video, then distributing footage to the various coaches.

The best thing about that gig, was that I could hang out with the coaching staff as easily as I could with the players. I was able to see the game from a variety of perspectives. Held on to that gig for years and I wish I would have kept some kind of a journal about it. I saw a lot of things.

One of the things I remember seeing during that time was the parade of high draft picks, from every team, who came and went over the years.  If the 6th round is a dirge of forgotten names, the 1st and 2nd rounds aren’t a whole lot better.  Google the drafts over the past decade or more.  For every Scott Schultz, there are three Ian Williams.  There seems to be a lot of fickleness to the high rounds.

“You’re right,” began John Hufnagel, as he agreed with me about that very correct observation I made about how right I think I am/was.  He said something else afterwards, but I really wasn’t paying attention.  Too busy musing about John Hufnagel agreeing with me about a football matter – this image of me ‘n Huff, running in bromantic metaphorical slow motion together down the gridiron, passed all my buddies who I ever got into a football argument with – and Huff telling ‘em all that I was right and they were wrong and…

Ahem.  I digress.

“Draft day is not an exact science,” he added.  “How important is the game to a player?  If it’s important and you bring ‘em to camp they’re, going to do everything they can to stick around.  And once they stick around, they’re going to do everything they can to get better, and that’s the whole key to being a professional football player – is getting better.”

Ted Goveia, Argos’ Director of Canadian Scouting concurred.  “Are they getting better?  Are they continuing to work at it?  Guys don’t necessarily think that way when they’re 19 or 20 years old, but those are things that I would look for to see that there’s some increase – that the kid hasn’t tapped out – or even how interested he is in being a pro athlete.”

It seems desire is as important as ability.

“Sometimes it fits in where the player had a great college career,” said Riders’ Defensive Coordinator, Richie Hall, “but you don’t play right away, and you might get discouraged, and your skills deteriorate, or all of a sudden you go from being the star, to being just another player.  When you look at it, there’s a lot of history over the last 15 years of 1st round picks – how many are playing three years later?  The number’s very low.”

A closer look at names in the high rounds will reveal other factors that skew the ratio of long career verses anonymity.  Sometimes a player is/was the ‘real deal’, as me ‘n Huff would say, but that player goes to the NFL and never comes to Canada.  Sometimes the player weighs the complete uncertainty, volatile instability, and relatively low earning potential of life in the CFL against a career in the real world.  Sometimes a player is injured in camp, and never gets his shot.

“The meat and potatoes are the 2nd, 3rd, 4th round that you gotta find players that play for you, whether they’re special teams or they turn out to be starters for you,” said Alouettes‘ GM, Jim Popp.  “A lot of it sometimes is 3 or 4 years down the road before they really develop playing for you.  We as the Alouettes never go into it thinking we’re going to draft somebody to be our starter.  We never look at it as ‘the guy’s going to be a hall-of-famer’.  You don’t know anything like that.  We just draft guys that we feel are the best players and whether they develop into it or not is a whole other story.”

Popp drafted Dave Stala (50th overall) as a kicker in the 6th round of the 2003 draft.  Other notable names to come out of the later rounds over the years include; Kevin Eiben (26th), and Kelly Bates (32nd) in 2001, Jon Ryan (24th) in 2004, Dan’s brother John Comiskey (19th) in 2005, Dominic Picard (23rd) in 2006, and Chris Getzlaf (33rd) in 2007.

“You can find a lot of players in the later rounds,” added Hufnagel.  “Maybe they don’t quite have the height, maybe they don’t quite have the speed as the earlier round guys, but they get on the field and they’re football players.  The other thing is their maturity rate.  Maybe once they get into the CFL and get into a couple training camps that maturity and the progress they make, makes them surpass the guys in the earlier rounds.”

That indeed seems to be what happened with Comiskey.

Eskimos Defensive Coordinator, Greg Marshall, was with the Roughriders at the time.  “Part of Dan’s deal is for whatever reason coming out of college, he wasn’t getting a lot of push from his college coach at the time – and a lot of it back then was word of mouth.  You call the coaches and find out who they recommend and he wasn’t getting highly recommended, but the reason we kept after him is because a lot of the coaches he played against were recommending him, so we decided to take a chance.”

The 2013 CFL Combine in Toronto was the largest and most robust to date.  It’s a reflection of how sophisticated the operation has become.  Every team in the CFL is expending significant resources to conduct thorough research on every player.  This is a sharp contrast from years ago when scouting in the CFL looked a lot more like a hurry-up offense, rather than a long, methodical, sustained drive.

“When I came into the CFL with Saskatchewan, I think I was on the job maybe 3 or 4 weeks and I had to do a rapid fire look at players, and we were going into a draft that was much larger,” said Popp.  “This is my 22nd year in Canada and the facilities have been built, there’s places for players to train year-round.  They’re in better shape.  There’s a bigger spotlight on it, so there’s more and more prospects.  This event has grown a lot.  We didn’t get to interview players in the past, we kept asking for that.  Now, our team, we interview every prospect that’s here.  We split up into two groups and do it in two nights.  It’s rapid fire, getting it done.”

Grey Cup Spirit Alive at CFL Combine

IMG_8139BY JARRETT RUSNAK

TORONTO – In the CFL, the superstars are ‘ordinary’ and ‘extraordinary’ at the same time.  Players are accessible to fans through a variety of means.  The players are down to earth and that’s one of the things that makes the league so beloved by those who follow it.  You could say the same thing about those who run the league.

I was asked to cover the 2013 CFL Combine for the Argonauts.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, and when I arrived, I needed some time to make sense of it all.

The room looked more like something I remembered from Grey Cup week in November last year.  Argos sitting with Ti-Cats.  Roughriders sitting with Eskimos.  People were mingling together, wearing all manner of team colours – and they were laughing and telling stories.  Except, these were the CFL’s coaches, general managers, and player personnel types – not fans.

And they were sober.

“It’s one of the few times that coaches and other coaches get together in the same room,” said Calgary Stampeder Head Coach, John Hufnagel, “It is a nice little get together.”

“There’s a lot of camaraderie until you start competing,” said Edmonton Eskimo Defensive Coordinator, Greg Marshall, “There’s not too much sharing of information, but there is a lot of kibitzing and exchanging stories and laughs and all that kind of stuff.”

Everyone was approachable.  I chatted briefly with Hamilton Ti-Cat Head Coach, Kent Austin – who thanked me afterwards for talking to him.  Eric Tillman is someone whom I met only once, and then only for a couple minutes.  When I shook his hand he looked at me and remembered the time and place of our meeting.  Jim Popp and Joe Mack had a real bromance going on.  Scott Milanovich nodded politely in my direction as I walked passed him.

“It’s a small league right, so you get to see people,” said Argos’ Director of Canadian Scouting, Ted Goveia. “You play each other 3 or 4 times a year, and at the end of the day, you’re competing.  But that’s the joy of working in pro sports, is that you can have a rapport with guys.”

The combine itself has become a much bigger event than it ever was in the past.  The room was as much a TV studio as it was an evaluation centre.  Lights were hung, banners raised, and the CFL’s best foot was definitely put forward.

I guess there were players there too.  They were being evaluated for the 2013 draft or something.  I wasn’t really paying attention.  My focus was on evaluating the vibe in the room.

The League has never been in a stronger position.  There’s a shiny new TV deal afoot.  Marketing opportunities abound.  Sponsors lining up.  Fans buying tickets.  Stadiums being built.

For the CFL in 2013, the sky’s the limit, even as it remains completely down to earth.

Doing NOT Nothing

Bah!

Yesterday was a nothing day, in that I did nothing all day.  I suppose I can justify it by saying I didn’t give myself much of a weekend, so I yesterday could qualify as a day off, but I would have felt better about myself if I’d actually made that decision prior to doing nothing all day.  Timing is everything.

Some of the nothing that I did was actually not spent alone.  I met Renee at ‘The Local’ on Roncesvalles for a couple of pints.  We hadn’t seen each other since my table read back in February.  It was important to connect methinks.  When it comes to new(ish) friends, you either use ’em, or lose ’em.

When I got home Frank texted me.  He wanted to go for a beer.  I declined.  He insisted.  My rubber arm relented.  We walked, cutting through a construction site for easy passage to Dundas West & Keele.  There are a couple of bars there that I didn’t know existed, and one that I’ve been to on a previous occasion.  ‘Margarette’s’ is a kind of dive with scraps of furniture cobbled together against the walls.  There was a 1970’s British children’s show being projected onto the wall.  Music was eclectic.  The cliental were sparse, and seemed to match the aesthetic.  It was my kind of place.  Frank paid for a round.

From there we walked into this other place.  Kind of upscale.  We sat at the bar and ordered two Margaritas.  My turn to pay.  We philosophized, mused, talked about relationships, psychology, and stupid human emotions.  It was a sufficient number of topics required to drain our glasses.  We only stayed for that one round.  The 10 minute walk home seemed to be not as cold for some reason.

Actually, I did do one productive thing yesterday.  I cast ‘Kate’ for Dick.  I now have 3 of the 4 roles confirmed.  The cast is solid.  It’ll be a gooder.  Still need a ‘Dick’ for Dick.

Today has a number of things on the plate.  I need to prepare for this weekend’s shoot at the CFL Combines.  I need to make a dent on my next editing project.  I need to send some important emails.  I want to touch base with the band who’s music I want to use for the video.  I need to NOT do nothing.

Just need to begin.

Persian New Year

20130321-101327.jpgYesterday began with me picking up Tahirih at her apartment to go shopping for Persian New Year. She texted me at 1am with the idea and I responded around 3am with a simple ‘OK’. At 5:30am, she responded to my response with the details.

It seems she’s been having a rough week, and with this holiday, she felt about a million miles away from home. I know the feeling, having gone through that at Easter last year. I was happy to be on her list of emergency friend contacts in moments of need.

To be honest, I might have gotten as much out of the day as she did. We drove to a Persian strip mall on Yonge Street, north of Shepard. There are a ton of specialty ethnic shops in Toronto, and I’ve always been intimidated to enter one. Can’t read the labels half the time. Don’t know what I’d be buying most of the rest of the time anyway. Wouldn’t even know where to begin. You could say, Tahirih was my tour guide throughout the experience. A little slice of Iran here in TO.

She needed seven items that began with the Farsi letter ‘Ce’ (sp?). One of the items was a fish. We caught it, bagged it, and named it ‘Ceish’. Now we were a threesome, wandering into the different shops. I was worried that if we left Ceish in the car, he/she/it would freeze to death. I’m thinking perhaps we made Ceish’s day as well.

When we got back to Tahirih’s apartment we set about setting up a special New Year’s display called a ‘Haft-Sin’. The seven items (including Ceish) were arranged in the most aesthetically pleasing way. Took some tinkering to get it just right. It seems I have a talent for such things.

The rest of my day went rather slow. My audition was cancelled and so I had the whole rest of the day to slowly meander towards beginning my next editing project. It was a pretty good day.

 

Happy Happenstances Connecting the Good Vibrations

There’s this one particular muscle in my upper right leg, near the front of my hip, that keeps firing independently from everything else I’m doing.  Just starts these rapid spasms while I sit here and take in the morning view out my window.

I look at it and I’m like, “Dude!”

And the muscle doesn’t even respond.  It’s like a squirrel burrowing in your attic, just going about it’s business, completely unaware that it’s disrupting your TV time.  You can try talking to it, but squirrels don’t speak English.

Neither does this particular muscle of mine.

Yesterday was special.  I talked to Courtney yesterday for nearly an hour on the phone.  I phoned her, got her machine and hung up.  Was completely surprised to have her return the call.  It was her birthday.  I could tell from the sound in her voice that she was in a good place.  I sincerely hope she can stay in this good place, this time.

Search her name in this blog, and you’ll gain some idea of what she’s meant to me.  She’s taken me to the highest of heights, and the lowest of depths of emptiness.  Wouldn’t trade a second of it away for anything.  My time with her taught me a lot about myself and the world around me.

Dick is loosely based on the story of her and I.  As I continue to organize this staged reading, the irony that I should find myself unexpectedly talking to her, for so significant a period of time, is not lost on me.

Speaking of strange happenstances, I downloaded the pilot script for Boardwalk Empire last night and began reading it, after watching that episode for the 5th time.  It was actually a photocopy of the draft, that was scanned into PDF format.  On the title page, handwritten at the bottom (perhaps by series creator Terrence Winter himself) was the date of the first draft.

‘April 16, 2008’

My hair stood up.  That’s Jazzy’s birthday!  She’d have been turning nine-years-old that day.  A good omen methinks.

Speaking of good omens, on the day they released their first full length album internationally, I was finally able to connect with the manager of the band who’s music I want to use for the CFL video.  He likes the idea a lot and seemed cool to deal with.  He wants to go through official channels, running my request through their label in Los Angeles, but he implied that something should be able to be worked out.

Good things are happening!  If only this muscle of mine would fall into line.

A Trilogy of Thoughts

I’m sitting here in the studio waiting for a window to open up so I can review an edit with Luis.  This project was supposed to be out the door yesterday, but gremlins in the works have forced us into overtime.  I’ve done my best to present a variety of solutions, and I brought in a work-around that should do the trick.

While I was waiting, Anna brought her project in for review and discovered an even bigger problem.  She was looking at having to completely recut her entire 25 minute project because she was accidentally working in ‘Standard Definition’ rather than ‘HD’. I’ve never encountered this particular problem, but I helped her find a solution.  It seems after years of experience, I have a talent for dealing with gremlins.

I forgot to tell her that she now owes me a beer.

In other news, yesterday I auditioned another actress for ‘Kate’ in Dick.  Two more are coming in tomorrow and then I’ll make a decision about that role.  I’m still looking for someone to actualy be the ‘Dick’.  A couple of options have presented themselves.  With a little luck, I’ll be fully cast by the end of the weekend.

Speaking of my weekend, I’ve lined up some lenses and other production equipment for my shoot this weekend at the CFL Combines.  Still haven’t touched base with the band who’s music I want to use.  I’m thinking that worst case scenario, I may just proceed without their permission.  You could say I’m doing this purely out of my own personal passion for football, filmmaking, and music.  No money is changing hands.  Ethically, I should be in good standing with the universe.

On a related note, I’ll be writing some articles about the Combines for rodpedersen.com.  In this case, I WILL be getting paid for my writing.  Rod’s mentioned that my previous columns have been popular with his readers.  I’m honoured to have my contributions counted among other respected sports journalists on his site.

I finished Season II of Boardwalk Empire yesterday.  Before I rush into Season III, I’m going to have another pass at Season II.  I’m starting to feel it in my bones now.  I’m starting to see how challenging a series it will be to write for.  So many cultures and classes to represent in the dialogue.  These cultures include Blacks, Irish, Italians, Jews, and among those, educated, uneducated, immigrants and American borne.  So many different world views to capture as well.  Conflict in Ireland.  World War I veterans.  American politics.  Gangster politics & tactics.  Prohibition.  And then on top of all that is the conflict and drama between the series’ characters themselves.  It’s exciting and intimidating all at once.  I’ve decided that the best way to capture the series’ voice (in addition to research) will be to actually transcribe a whole episode.  I’m sure I could find a script online somewhere and study it, but to actually break the episode down the way I propose – it will force me to get the dialogue in my bones deeper, and faster.

Well, that’s enough for today.  Not a tidy wrap-up, but welcome to the state of my mind at present.