Noticing Reality

I took in the Argos’ game last night from the press box. Wrote a story about the CFL’s Pink initiative in support of women’s cancers. In writing that story, I missed a good game.

My mind goes somewhere when I write and reality has to sit in the waiting room in the meantime. I see events unfold in real time, but they don’t really register. Time stops working. It’s a great place to be.

When I got home, it was after midnight. Jazzy was still up, working on a Math assignment. The TV was on and I sat near her with my nose in my laptop. I had slow cooked some ribs earlier in the night and the plates were still out on the counter.

The whole thing was sooooo normal, I barely noticed that without any effort, it all felt like a home.

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Going Forward by Looking Back

I attended a Director’s Guild of Canada event on Monday night at the TIFF Lightbox. Six days earlier I took in a Writer’s Guild of Canada event at the same venue. Both events played a role in shaping how I think of myself.

It seems I’ve been walking through a sort of career purgatory these past few years.

I’ve sat on the board of the DGC in Saskatchewan, as well as the Saskatchewan Motion Picture Association. I’ve co-produced and executive produced TV Dramas and Feature Films. I have a series that’s just finishing its run on CBC Documentary Channel. In all, I’ve put 67 episodes of television on screen.

And I’ve done very little with any of that experience here in Toronto.

I’ve resolved to write a short film, and apply for a Bravo FACT grant. I need to take inventory of all my circle of high profile connections in this business, and see how I can better leverage them. I have a feature film that I’d like to get optioned, but I need to write the next draft first.

In the meantime, I anxiously await feedback on the latest draft for Room 31. I also have ideas for the next draft of my spec for Boardwalk Empire.

I am so close to making things happen out here. Just need to be a little more methodical about it.

In Saskatchewan, I could pick up the phone and talk to anyone in my industry. I could trust people to see the potential in my work, because they already knew me as a writer/producer/director.

Applying that same approach to Toronto has been detrimental. I think of meetings that I’ve lined up for myself when I first got here, and cringe. It’s an absolute sin to show anyone who can influence my career, ANYTHING until the work is sparkling. That’s how this town works and that’s what I’m going to do.

Room 31 – Version 6

I just released the 6th draft of Room 31 onto the world – and by ‘world’ I mean handful of trusted eyeballs who agreed to read it.

The story’s come a long ways since the 5th draft (when I thought it was pretty close to done). Most significant is that I cut out the first two acts, and compressed them into two scenes. I then shaved pages from other scenes throughout acts three and four. Page count went from 62 pages down to 37, and most significantly, the story hasn’t changed!

The tone has changed quite a bit though. I rewrote my ‘hero’ characters to be much more dynamic, less cartoonish. They’ve become far more interesting to me, and to the reader (audience) by extension. As a result of this shift, the series is less funny and more dramatic.

I like this new tone. I can do a lot with it. Explore a lot of themes. Might make the series more sellable too. Sci-fy comedies aren’t really populating the dial right now.

I used to be really excited to show my work to as many different producers and agents as I could find. I figured that even if there were flaws in the work, they could see past that, into the potential of the piece. After being in Toronto for almost two years now, and seeing how competitive everything is, my mentality has changed quite a bit.

I no longer believe that every draft I write is the final draft. Writing is rewriting. There’s always some deeper drilling to do. The question now becomes, ‘when has the work gone through enough drafts to be showable to people who write cheques?’

I continue to build my network of trusted readers. I suppose when the notes stop coming, I might be close.

Damn. I just thought of something.

What if my protagonist was female?

Male audience members will buy a female lead, and women will dig the representation. The story remains the same. The conflict remains the same. The series becomes a few notches more sellable.
Guess there’s a version 7 on the way.

A Pubful of Ukeleles

I never planned to be there. Back room of a pub. Every single person there, a perfect stranger to me. Every single person there, holding a ukelele.

“We don’t need no education…”

They were singing. WE we’re singing actually. Found myself with a ukelele of my own in hand. I was learning to play the song, along with everyone else in the room. Perfectly surreal. Perfectly Toronto.

The Corktown Ukelele Jam happens every Wednesday in the Dominion Pub. I had no idea this was a thing. I had never in my wildest dreams conceived that this was something people would gather for. I still can’t believe it.

Best part of the night was my companion, a rather spirited British girl named Susie. I was meeting with her to gather her interest in playing a set at my next house concert. She was at the Dominion for the Jam, and invited me to join her after introductions were out of the way. Meeting people under these sorts of circumstances is the very best way to socialize.

I liked her immediately, mostly because she laughed at all my jokes – and she said encouraging things about my crappy ukelele playing. As Jack White would say, “I can already tell that we are gonna be friends.”

I had a meeting with a potential client downtown yesterday afternoon. Took the GO Train from my neighbourhood to Union Station and walked from there. King Street East is such a beautiful part of the city. Parks, walkways, nooks, art and culture everywhere. I’ve wandered briefly through the area in times past, but this was the first time I got the idea in my head to take Jazzy there to wander aimlessly. Perhaps Monday morning, since it’s a holiday. We can find a coffee shop, and get our beverages to go, then maybe find a vacant park bench to sit and talk and watch the city go by.

Today has editing in my future. Time to put a period on the end of this sentence and get to it.

 

 

Out the Door

Monday was kind of a shit day.

I have those every once in a while. Accomplished very little all day long and loathed myself the whole time for it. Working from home is tough sometimes. I googled an article on being productive in a home office environment. It seems motivation isn’t a problem unique to just myself.

There are a number of tips and tricks I picked up, but it comes down to will power. I just have to make a decision about what I’m going to do for the day, then commit to doing it.

To that end, Tuesday went much better. Put four items on my to-do list – culling email being one of them. There are over 180 in my inbox and I got through 20 in three hours.

It turns out there actually are some useful, career advancing information in some of them. I knew there would be, which is why I hadn’t deleted them in the first place, but with a little effort and a bit of time, I found that I could be doing far more for my career by tending to them, that I ever could by ‘getting to them later’.

I have whole folders on my laptop containing scripts, bios, pitch documents, and other content. These folders are well organized too. All I have to do is access them at the appropriate times and BOOM – I’m putting myself out there.

In yesterday’s case, I sent Not Being A Dick off to a couple of playwriting organizations – one in New York and the other in Connecticut. I also submitted the play to the Toronto Cold Read Series. It’ll be months before I hear back, but that’s not the point. I put stuff out the door, and if I keep doing that, everyday, I can’t help but have good things come to me.

I capped the night at a Writer’s Circle. Poets, playwrights, screen writers, and other such creatures all camped out in the back of a pub reading to each other. It was quite moving and a perfect way to end the day.

Today has more of the same on my plate.

People Everywhere

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The house concert was moving beyond my wildest expectations. It’s so satisfying to open my home to friends and friend of friends – and have them all tell me how much they enjoyed being there. The night was barely an hour old before I resolved to host such a gathering every month or so.

Sarah Burton opened the night with five songs. I started on the floor with everyone else, then moved up to the loft. Wow! The acoustics! There’s something about the shape of my ceiling that makes it all sound so perfectly mixed and amplified. Sarah was great and her banter between songs made the whole thing feel – well, like we’re all hanging out in someone’s living room.

Amelie Lefebvre followed with three songs of her own. She sang in french and had a horn player to accompany her on acoustic guitar. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Scott and Leora took over next. By this time Frank had shown up with his girlfriend, joining Jazzy, myself, Renee and her friend Emma up in the loft. We drank wine, swayed to the music, and took a lot of photos. It truly was a magical night.

Perhaps better than the entertainment, was the quality of the people in the crowd. The room was full of artists, actors, yogis, and others. I swapped contact information with two writers in attendance. Is there a better way to meet potential new colleagues?

Friday was another day full of people. I had three meetings throughout the day, and then later that night, went to the Argos’ game. The Riders have been on a four game losing streak, and my mood has been a bit sour where football matters are concerned. The Argos in the meantime have won four straight on the road.

The best way to get over a Rider losing streak is to attend an Argo game with a beautiful Ukrainian model. Yana and her friend Natasha joined me for the game. Neither knew the rules, so I spent a lot of time explaining what was going on, but it was still fun. Rogers Centre had the largest crowd of the season and the vibe was good. I didn’t even care that the Argos lost. Afterwards I went to Shoeless Joe’s to watch the Rider game on TV amongst a mass of humanity. The Riders won and I didn’t get home until 2am.

IMG_1225Speaking of models, I did a little modelling myself on Saturday morning. There will be no photos of that session. The gig involved me standing nude in front of a class full of art students, holding poses for 30 minutes at a time. It’s really not difficult and I enjoy the near meditation that comes with staring at a spot on the wall for an extended period of time.

When I got home, Jazzy and I spent most of the day locked on the couch watching Netflix. I was about done being social with other human being creature persons. Six hours later, Fiona texted and asked if we wanted to go to Nuit Blanche with them. I declined, but encouraged Jazzy to take in the festivities, which she did.

My understanding is they didn’t get home until 4am. I’m glad they had fun, but no part of me regrets my self imposed exile from human contact. I woke up this morning feeling refreshed and slightly more inclined to be around people again.

I have a lunch meeting with a colleague this afternoon. He just sold a script and I want to tap his rolodex. Room 31 is just about ready to go, and I have agent shopping on the brain.  This career of mine is a people driven business, and it’s clear to me that I have yet more such persons to add to my circle of contacts.

Artistic Invasion

My friend Yana was staying with us for a few days. She’s a singer/model/actress, originally from Ukraine, whom I got to know in Regina. She’s out here in Toronto now and I’m happy to say that my Hogtown world just became one artist richer.

There’s simply no better way to get to know someone than by having them stay with you for a few days – not visiting, but crashing while they sort out the logistics of their lives. I first experienced this relationshippy phenomenon with Aubree earlier this year, when she stayed with me while rehearsing for Not Being A Dick. We’re super great buddies now, as a result.

I really liked having Yana around Jazzy as well. I figure that by surrounding my high school aged daughter with very strong role models like Aubree, Yana and others, I’ll be helping her to overcome the trials that await her in the years to come.

The two seemed to get along great. At one point I stumbled upon Yana straightening Jazzy’s hair. They smiled and shut the door to her room and continued doing their thing.

Speaking of artists, friends of Tahirah’s are playing a house concert tonight in my living room. Scott Perrie and Leora Joy are VIA Rail’s featured artists this month, and they’ve been travelling across the country, starting in Vancouver. Since they had a layover scheduled in Toronto for a few days, Tahirah asked if they could do a concert at my place. I was more than happy to oblige. You can learn more about them by clicking this link.