The Space Between My Periods

The double space after the period is a habit I’ve been trying to break. Been using it since high school and making the transition has left me feeling somewhat unsatisfied.

I like the double space. It looks like a complete separation of two thoughts, rather than appearing to be a continuation of the same thought, as a comma does. I simply don’t like the aesthetics of the single space, but those aesthetics contradict modern rules of typography.

My writing has become a mash of the two forms, as I make revisions to old drafts of current work. Some sections of this work does not need revisions, and I sure as hell ain’t gonna open ’em up just to fix a double space. Other sections that do need revisions, do get the single space between sentences.

Looking back years from now, I’m sure it will feel a bit like an archeological dig. “Behold the clear separation between Jarrett’s double space, and single space period – distinctively placed upon Room 31, right between Not Being A Dick and his spec for Boardwalk Empire.”

I’ve gone back to using the double space for emails, because people read emails differently from other types of literature. Email must be short and succinct. It’s very appearance is the difference between being read, and being ignored. Friendly and informal is best. Too slick and it looks like spam. Too sloppy and it looks like an English translation of spam from some African prince. The double space communicates a clear division of thought. No need for more wordage. The whole thought can be communicated in three sentences, separated by the double space.

This article was supposed to be about my colourful weekend, but this double space thing came up instead. In keeping with the today’s theme,  I have decided to separate the two ideas with some space – about a day’s worth should do. See you tomorrow.

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Upon A Boat in the Harbour

IMG_5847Renee’s company, Seybold International, hosted a cruise in the harbour last night. Renee was one of the event’s organizers and she invited me along as her guest.

Open bar. Roast beef dinner. Harbour front scenery. Toronto skyline at its best. I was very much looking forward to it.

At the same time, I was very much on guard against Toronto corporate elitism. A prairie boy at heart, my value system just doesn’t jive with everything I imagined a big international corporate boat cruise might add up to being.

And then I met these people.

Warm handshakes, greetings, and introductions all around. I truly felt welcomed. People approached me. They were interested in talking to me.

Did I have the wrong boat? This didn’t at all smell like corporate elitism.

It took some time for me to figure out who the big wigs were. No one was sucking up to the bosses. The bosses weren’t patronizing the employees. Guests mingled freely as though they had as big a history with the company as everyone else on the boat did. Nothing about this event felt ‘corporate’ at all.

I felt like a guest at someone’s family function. Perhaps even an in-law. A corporate-in-law?

I had a beer with Peter, talking about filmmaking, environmentalism, and canoeing. I didn’t figure out until the conversation was well over, that he owned the company. Children played. Drinks met parched lips. Delicious meals filled empty bellies. Nobody there was talking business.

There was a presentation afterwards. Three long time employees were recognized for their contributions to the company. Peter spoke, as did his son Scott. Neither really talked about ‘corporate accomplishments’. Instead it was intimate details of the employees’ personal lives that were recalled. Marriages. Children being born. Conversations from the very first interview.

Peter spoke not as a CEO, but as the patriarch of a very large family.

He also spoke about hard times that the company faced. How this internationally successful company was forced to adapt and do things they never expected themselves to be doing, just so they would survive – and eventually thrive.

Peter’s words deeply resonated with me. It wasn’t long ago that I had a company that was filled with employees. Dacian never saw the success Seybold International did. Many reasons for that – my vision for myself being one of them – but we experienced good times, and bad times. Much of the time I think we felt like family – a dysfunctional quirky family – but those ’employees’ meant as much to me as my own family did.

I found myself going down memory lane last night with Renee over a drink afterwards. I recalled my mistakes, my successes, and checked in with what I think I know now about business. Perhaps I know more than I give myself credit for.

This morning I’m taking an unofficial inventory of my career goals. Perhaps there’s something I can learn from someone like Peter. I don’t know for certain what that wisdom might look like, but another conversation would definitely be to my liking.

Four Scripts in my Quiver Come November

Yesterday was a rather uplifting day on the writing front.

To date, I’ve sent Not Being A Dick to dozens of theatre companies across the English speaking world. An American publisher contacted me, asking to read the full script. Response overall to the play continues to be positive. I am hopeful that it will be in production somewhere soon.

I also attended a scriptwriters’ reading circle last night where a number of writers took the opportunity to review my spec for Boardwalk Empire. Anthony said it was the third spec for Boardwalk that he’s read, and mine was the best by far. Others in the room seemed to agree that it was really good, and just needed a few tweaks.

Not bad for something I wrote in eight days.

Vincent, who graduated from the CFC’s Prime Time Television Program last year, was surprised that the script didn’t get me an interview with the Centre – he thought it was that good. We speculated that perhaps the jury wasn’t familiar with the series. In fact, not many people I’ve talked to are familiar with the series.

I was advised to apply again next year. The CFC loves persistence. It takes most students three attempts before they get in. I was also advised to write a spec for a procedural series like Castle – a highly rated, prime time network television series.

By the end of the evening, not only was I feeling pretty good about myself, but I had some goals set. Within the next few months, I want to have a spec written for Castle, and a pilot written for Room 31. This will give me two one-hour pilots, and two one-hour specs in my quiver. Four one-hour scripts will be sufficient for an agent to evaluate my abilities. Landing an agent is key to my future as a writer in the television industry.

So how about some timelines? I can have Room 31 ready in time for September’s scriptwriters’ circle. I can have Castle ready for November.

Four scripts in my quiver come November. Kind of rolls off the tongue, don’t it?

Poe Moe is No Moe

When I was 14, I nearly burnt my high school down during an English class presentation. There was a scene from an Edgar Allen Poe story that I was recreating with figurines I made from wax and grass clippings. I lit the figurines on fire and watched them burn, to the class’s delight.

Then the whole thing went up in flames and when I dumped water on the display, a fireball erupted. What the hell did they put in the water at school? Fortunately I persisted, preserving our school for future generations.

I was thinking of that moment as I massacred flies in my living room this morning.

Normally I’m a pretty easy-going guy. I can put up with most inconveniences – flies in my living room being one of ’em. Sure, there might have been more than a few, but I did the dishes every morning, kept the place tidy, and garbage away. They’ll just die naturally with no food sources right?

Two became four. Four became eight. Eight became too many. I snapped. I lost it. I became Jarrett, masacrerer of flies.

[insert evil laugh]

I rolled up a Guinness bar towel and went after them, mad with murderous intent. One by one they fell. Some writhing on the floor in pain.

“Die slowly fly,” I thought to myself. “I have plans for you.”

In less than two minutes my floor was littered with dead, and half dead flies. Swept them up onto a page of outcast writing I did. Folded it in half, then half again. Squished it flat, delighting in the pop of fly corpses. Threw them in the garbage, leaving one fly corpse behind as a warning to others – not to mess with the massacreer of flies.

[add reverb to evil laugh]

 

Thick Skin and Perfect Timing

You need a thick skin if you’re going to work in the arts. Rejection is as important an ingredient towards making one better at his or her craft, as study, practice, and inspiration.

Rejection makes us better artists because it forces us to fix mistakes and approach the work differently, more diligently. It makes us NOT fall into a well of self proclaimed greatness. It forces us to continue to develop our ideas, long after we first felt the notion that we might be finished with ’em.

Still, rejection is a hard medicine to swallow.

While everything I wrote about my immediate reaction to the news that the CFC was not going to accept me into their program was true, I hadn’t commented on how I felt after that rejection seeped into me, upon deep reflection.

My confidence in my writing was a bit shaken. I submitted a polished pilot script, and a first draft spec script. While certain the first draft could use another couple passes, it couldn’t have been that bad. Could it?

They say you don’t show a first draft of anything to anyone but your most trusted confidantes – peers who can help you make the work better, before you show it to strangers – strangers who possess the power to influence your career.

Or maybe I’m just not as good as I think I am?

Dunno. Every one of my trusted colleagues – individuals who have had long careers as writers – have all said great things about my work. Maybe I’m just better than most, but not as great as those working as writers?

As I said, thick skin. You need to believe in yourself. Rise above self doubt to simply drill deeper into the craft.

I know I could be doing more to develop myself – and that’s what I’m going to do.  I’m going to –

And then my email dinged.

“…is your piece, “Not Being a Dick” still unproduced at this time?  I really enjoyed reading your play, and found the concept to be absurd (in a good way!), funny, and very original.  I’d love to pass it on to the company members in consideration for a future season if it’s still eligible.”

It was from an established theatre company in Chicago – home to the second largest theatre market in North America!  After ten revisions, my play caught the eye of a stranger who could influence the shape of my career!

How’s that for timing?

Campstove Coffee Thoughts

I’m sitting on a ridge of Precambrian rock, millions of years old. There’s a forest growing around me. Young deciduous trees. Old coniferous growth. A fallen piece of driftwood – it must be driftwood – there’s nothing around that appears to be missing a limb. Musta been here a long time, judging from the moss growing on it.

I enjoyed my drive up yesterday. Four hours just to pitch a tent for the night. I think the trip was worth it. Plenty of other ways I could have otherwise spent that time, but not many of them would have led me to this particular headspace.

I made a list in my mind of every single problem I think I have in my life right now. There were a handful that remain unresolved.

I let them sit there a spell as the miles rolled past me. Acknowledged them, but didn’t pick at them. I let them percolate like campstove coffee. They always taste better when they’ve had time to wash over themselves.

After letting ’em cool, I took my first sip and discovered they needed more depth. Something to get at the root of ’em.

I drilled down. Hit bedrock.

The single greatest cause of anxiety in my life is me disappointing myself.

Doesn’t get much simpler than that. Time to make another list. Set goals and find some way to measure my progress.

As evidenced by some of my accomplishments this year, I can be that kind of person in short bursts. It’s time to be that somebody with greater regularity.

Imagine what that would taste like.

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Summer Preparationifonification

It feels like it’s been a little while since I checked in. I don’t even know where to begin.

I received an email from the CFC. I wasn’t accepted into their Prime Time Television Program again this year. Unlike last year, I was somewhat relieved. I need the next 14 months to grow Dacian out here in Toronto, and 5 months of going to school, not generating income, not growing my company, would be rather taxing on my resources.

I have Jazzy to think about now.

This isn’t to say that I’ve given up on my goal to write for television. Far from it. I breezed through a quick pass of my Boardwalk Empire spec script before sending it off to a reader’s circle this week, that’s hosted by LIFT (Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto). The reading circled is attended by emerging and accomplished screen writers. We all read each others’ work and provide notes. Notes are what I need to make my spec sing.

If I can get four or five TV scripts under my belt, I’ll be in good position to approach agents. Producers tend not to look at writers very closely if they’re unrepresented, so this will be an important step. It also means I have a lot of work to do.

In the meantime, I’ve sent Dick off to several dozen theatre companies across the English speaking world. There remain several dozen more companies I’ve yet to send it to, and I hope to polish that list off by the end of next week.

Switching topics slightly, I have 69 names in a spreadsheet I’ve been maintaining since June. All of them are either clients, or potential clients. All of them have been the target of repeated follow-up, and ‘staying in touch’ type of emails and phone calls. Never in my career have I been this diligent in staying on top of my marketing efforts. All of them have been impressed with my work, and I’m hopeful that I’ll be working with them in the future.

Growing my potential client list remains a priority.

My personal life has been colourful. I hung out with Frank and Kunle at Rogers Centre on Thursday night. The Roughriders were in town to play the Argonauts. The Riders won of course. There’s a documentary to come from that adventure. Should be up by next week.

I’m leaving for Killbear Provincial Park right away. Gonna spend the weekend camping with Sharon, Jerry, and their friends. It’s been approximately a year since I pitched a tent. I’m looking forward to sitting around a campfire. It’ll be a good opportunity for me to check in with myself. This summer will have much in store for me. Need to make sure I’m prepared to make the most of it.

Pride

When Serendipity comes knocking, you simply must follow it. No questions. No hesitations. It just doesn’t come around that often, and there’s no knowing when it’ll be back.

One thing’s for certain however – it’ll always lead you down a good path.

“I think the best way for us to know for certain if we can work together, is to maybe create some kind of short project together.”

Kunle spoke those words to me shortly after we finished off the business portion of our meeting. We’re both filmmakers. He was keenly interested in the the 3D technique I’d been on about in my work. We met randomly, five days previous at Pride.

Two million people (or two Saskatchewans) crammed into a 10 square block area of Toronto’s downtown, all of them colourful, all of them celebrating equality, sexuality, and freedom of expression – a movement borne out of oppression to emerge as a social triumph unheard of even 20 years ago.

I was there with my friend Maggie gawking at chicks.

After wandering aimlessly through the mass of humanity for a few hours, we went looking for a quiet place to sit and people watch. It was there on the stairs of 519 Church Street that she recognized Kunle from some friends they have in common.

Among the many flamboyant costumes we saw that day, Kunle’s ranked up there. Lace pantyhose and a top made from a single blue rope, bound and knotted in such a way that it formed a web over his bare skin.

I couldn’t help but look at the many elegant knots and think about my couch sitting out on my deck under a tarp, waiting to be hoisted up to my balcony.

So there we all were, in that cornucopia of vibrant humanity, talking shop – 3D techniques, film financing, industry politics, etc. Surreal conversation given the surroundings. We could have had that very same conversation in a boardroom, or an elevator, or a coffee shop – anywhere but Pride.

Five days later, I made a point of following up on that conversation. I was sitting in a boardroom in his office. Just finished showing him my demo reel, as well as other examples of my work. These types of meetings usually only take 20 minutes or so, but there was something about the vibe. Less formal, more collaborative.

He suggested making some kind of short project together, so I pulled out my camera and began immediately (my camera goes everywhere with me).

In an hour’s time, I was planning to be in a pub somewhere, with a pint in my hand, watching the Roughriders’ home opener in Regina. In six day’s time, those same Roughriders were going to be in Toronto to take on the Argonauts.

We took turns filming each other, talking about what that chain of events meant to us.

For me the Roughriders are more than just a football team – they are a symbol of who I am and where I come from. They are a powerful emotional connection that unifies a whole mass of people together. They are a religious experience. They are who we are, the people of Saskatchewan.

There is no other singular entity that can reach across a vast swath of land and people to move us, in quite the same way as the Roughriders do.

There is no other singular entity in Toronto that can reach across the city to move people the way the Roughriders move the people of Saskatchewan.

Pride brought two Saskatchewan’s worth of humanity together in one small dot of Toronto – and it was glorious, but there remained four million people across the GTA who remained completely uninterested in those goings on.

The Argonauts remain my second-favourite team in the CFL. The front office staff, the business operations, the players and coaches are all excellent human beings – as good as any you’ll find anywhere. The Argos are my home away from home. It fills me with pride to represent the team in the blogoshpere.

The team draws respectable crowds – 30,000 for the home opener, 50,000 for the Grey Cup parade, several hundred thousand watching on television. Hard core Argo fans are as passionate and knowledgeable as any hard core Rider fan. Impressive numbers, but still only a small fraction of

the population.

The thing I miss the most about being away from Saskatchewan, is that sense of being connected to something much bigger than myself – something that connects me to everyone else in my community.

Kunle has no such emotional association to the Argonauts or the CFL, or to any other singular, all-unifying entity in the city. Born and raised in Toronto, he came to know the city as a vibrant mosaic of diversity. There are a million different scenes in TO – rich communities waiting and welcoming all like-minded individuals. So much is going on everywhere, all the time, that it’s impossible to keep track of it all.

I’ve been in Toronto 21 months, and I STILL can’t get a handle on this kind of diversity. I can understand it on a cerebral level, but I can’t feel it in my bones.

For his part, Kunle has no comprehension of what it is like to be connected to an entity of one.

So there we were, sitting in a booth in Shoeless Joe’s on King Street West, watching the Roughriders’ home opener. There was Regina on TV. There were my people.

Kunle stared at the screen, wide-eyed, watching his very first football game on TV – watching the green painted faces, the costumes, the passion, and the diversity within all of it – young faces, old faces, faces from all walks of life. It looked sort of like Toronto Pride, except is was Rider Pride.

“I want to be there,” he said simply. “I need to experience that for myself.”

Shortly afterwards, the Riders scored a touchdown and cheering erupted from a booth down from us. Kunle went over to talk to them. Three guys from Moose Jaw.

This pride is contagious it seems. Kunle said he’d be cheering for the Riders next Thursday at Rogers Centre.

“You can’t,” I said simply. “You’re from Toronto. You need to cheer for the Argos.”

“Nope,” he shot back. “I want to be connected to something like what I’m seeing on TV.”

It seems Thursday will be an opportunity to introduce Kunle to some Argo fans I know. All that blue and green in the stands will be something to behold. Part II of our little documentary together.

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A Phone Call From the Universe

For the first time since the move, I have nothing pressing to address except career stuff. Nothing to do all day except follow-up with potential clients, a bit of editing, and pitching my play to potential theatre companies. No distractions. No pressing logistics. No equipment to return. No beer labour to coax into some heavy lifting. Nothing but gigs to line up.

Naturally I began my morning with some serious procrastination. My backgammon rating is hovering around 1880 and I want to crack 1900 for the first time ever (which would put me in the top 3% of players on FIBS). I also found it extremely urgent to read the latest on news about the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Then there’s facebook. Also my tummy’s rumbling.

[the phone rings. several minutes pass.]

That was John. He wants me to shoot something tomorrow – a gig that just dropped in my lap. Guess that’s the universe speaking loud and clear.

My rating dropped to 1870 after three games (all losses). Facebook was disappointing. The only thing new to learn about the Roughriders was actually nothing. It’s all been said and done. They play tonight. I predict a win.

I have my eyes on a pub on Queen Street East. It’s where I plan to take in the Rider game. It will be well earned if I can accomplish what I laid out in that first paragraph.

Here’s to a good day.

A Load Off My Mind

20130704-122542.jpgThe best things in life are the simplest of pleasures.

A part of me remained unsettled for a very long time while my beloved white leather couch remained under a tarp on the deck outside. My home just wasn’t a home with a big chunk of my living room vibe sitting outside, open to the elements.

My solution to build a crane occupied me, and the more it weighed on me, the more I refined the plan. Eventually I realized I didn’t need to build anything – I just needed to repurpose some odds & ends in ways they were never intended.

My phone call to PS Systems, an equipment supplier to the film industry, will go down as one of the weirdest I’ve ever made.

“I’m not sending a crane over to lift a couch,” said the guy on the phone.

“No. Forget the couch. I need a light stand with a bracket on top and maybe some kind of pipe I can fit inside the bracket to use as a boom.”

“You want a boom pole?”

“No. A pipe to rig as a boom for the crane I’m building.”

“I think you need to come down and look at what we have, cuz I’m not following you.”

Later that afternoon, I had walked through the warehouse and ordered a ‘sky high’ – a heavy duty light stand that goes up 20′, a 12′ grid pipe, and a ‘goal post’ to mount on top the sky high, to hold the grid pipe in place. The whole thing cost $33 to rent.

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Next I needed to line up help.

Coincidentally, my new neighbour Cam, a Pakistani about 35 years old, invited me over for a beer. He introduced me to Teddy, an older fellow who lives on the other side of me. About half way down my bottle of beer, I mentioned my plan to hoist my couch up over my balcony – a lift of about 25′. They both agreed to help me when I got everything together.

Is there a better way to get to know one’s neighbours?

I picked the equipment up from PS yesterday. Assembled everything together in the manner I envisioned – sky high towards the rail of my balcony, grid pipe wedged between the sky high and the doorway, with a hockey puck jammed between the grid pipe and the doorway to protect the wood. I then lashed my block and tackle onto the head of the grid pipe and lowered it.

It was about 6′ too short. Wouldn’t reach the couch.

This was a problem I decided to ignore for the time being. The couch needed rigging, and I was certain a solution to the block and tackle would come to me. To this end, I cobbled pieces of cardboard and rope together. Guestimated the centre of balance for the couch from left to right and front to back. I synched the rope tight and tied a loop in that spot. The full force of the load would be on this one tiny spot. I then did the same to the left and right sides of the couch as well. They wouldn’t be used for much heavy lifting, but they would be critical for balance.

Cam helped me move the couch into position under the ‘crane’. He then went back his backyard to join his friend Paul for more beer while I attached the ropes to the couch. Paul observed that after 30 years in construction, he was certain my plan was going to fail. We should just use ladders to get the couch up to my balcony. I disagreed.

Perhaps I was too invested in this idea, or perhaps I was a fool to ignore the observations of someone so experienced. Perhaps I simply learned my lesson from Friday’s nightmare – no more letting people talk me into things that I’m not certain about. ‘Experts’ are not always what they claim to be.

I know ropes. I trust my knots. I was certain the block and tackle would make short work of that 25′ lift – if I could ever get it attached.

Thirty minutes later, I was rethreading the block and tackle with 100′ of quarter inch nylon rope I bought from Canadian Tire. I re-lashed the block and tackle to the boom, lowered it, then attached it to the couch. I was now ready to make the lift.

Problem was, my help disappeared.

Cam was still milling about, but Teddy was MIA. Paul refused because he didn’t think my crane idea would work. This is when Cam spotted Oliver, another neighbour, about 21 years old.

With the two of them up top, keeping the side ropes tight, and me on the ground, pulling on the line connected to the block & tackle, we got the couch up to the top of the balcony in two minutes! Paul watched us while drinking his beer. He never said a word.

I tied off my line, then joined the others up top, to lift the couch over the rail. From there it was an easy shot into my living room.

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Ain’t it grand when a plan comes together? I felt giddy all night long and spent it laying across my beloved white leather couch watching TV. My living room was complete.

The weight of this whole move was instantly lifted from my shoulders.

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