Sunday Morning Conversation with Jazzy

“Dad, if you could punch an art movement in the face, which one would it be?”

Jazzy asked me this question this morning. I kind of stood there and blinked my eyes for a bit, not sure what to answer. “I like Surrealism a lot, but I really don’t know enough about other art movements to pick a favourite to hate.”

She snapped back with, “Hanna says Rococo, and I say Post Modernism.”

“Po Mo is No Mo!” I responded. She seemed impressed.

“Did you just make that up?”

“No, it’s something we used to parrot a lot in film school.”

That was our Sunday morning conversation. I have to say, I’m kind of impressed with my progeny. She’s pulling in great marks at school, and she’s genuinely interested in genuinely interesting things.

I gave her my Hot Docs pass, and she poured through the conference schedule. Ran out of her room raving something about wanting to see the History seminar.

Last night her friend Hanna came over and they spent the evening watching movies, while eating snacks and polishing off the bottle of Champaign I gave Jazz for her birthday. When I awoke this morning, Jazz volunteered the biggest hug in the world. I kind of looked at her, not sure what I did to deserve it.

“That was the best birthday party ever Dad! Thank you!”

I wish every morning could be as warm as this one.

The Library Tour of Toronto

 The ‘Library Tour of Toronto’ is wrapping up its final week. Over the last 12 days, I’ve written in four different libraries around the city, and I’ve become kind of interested in exploring even more. There’s something about the distinctive architecture, the neighbourhoods, the people inside, and the books (my gawd the books!), that make it all so satisfying.

The first step to exploring a new library, is to suss out the best places to sit. This involves a self-meandering walking tour of the place. There are nooks, and views, and available AC to consider. And then there’s the sitting, and what follows is the writing.

To this end, I must continue my work on the spec script. Clock is ticking!

I’m back in Beaches Library by the way. Come join me if you’re in the area.

Researching Around the Stereo Types

  I’m sitting inside Victoria College with a Hot Docs Conference Pass hanging around my neck. I won it at the DGC’s AGM a couple of weeks ago, and I’m somewhat saddened that I won’t get to take full advantage of it.

I start on a movie next week, so while I will have free admittance to all of the documentaries that are screening over the next three weeks in the evenings, the conference itself will be unavailable to me. I think I’m going to get Jazzy to skip a day of school next week so she can go in my place. I’m sure she’ll get a lot out of the panel discussions and other activities.

The spec script is going well. I’ve done so much research on Iran and its nuclear program, that I’m sure I’ve drawn the attention of some clandestine government organization hankering to hook electrodes up to my nipples. The going has been slow because the material is so dense. Also, I procrastinate a lot.

At the Toronto Reference Library yesterday, I sat down for several hours, and kept coming upon niggly little bits of information that I needed to obtain. Things like the names of certain Persian desserts, features of Persian architecture, or the name of a Lebanese photo-journalist who was killed in the most recent Israeli/Hezbollah conflict.

I’m proud of how real the world feels in the script – especially since I started with knowing nothing about any of it. Research allows me to write depth into the characters. It allows me to avoid stereotypes. It makes the story compelling. I almost feel like I’m plagiarizing the 6 o’clock news – from a Persian perspective.

Thus far, I’m half way through Act I. I spent some time cleaning up the first nine pages this afternoon, and I aim to reach Act II by this evening. As I mentioned previously, this script will be five acts plus a teaser.

Well, 5pm doth toll. It’s time to pound more pages.


Champaign Thursday

Yesterday was Jazzy’s 16th birthday (her Champaign birthday). I wrote her a note telling her how proud I am of her, and I cooked her bacon, eggs and toast for breakfast. I had to prompt her for a hug after all that. The evening was a different story however. I left a package in her room, and when she opened it, I got the biggest hug in the world.

The package contained a manual for her to study for her G1 Driver’s Exam, and a bottle of champaign. She’s having friends over this weekend, and I figure they can all polish it off together.

I struggled through my day yesterday. Just couldn’t get myself in gear. Too much Facebook. Too much surfing for websites. I felt awful about myself.

I promised myself that today would be a better day. The Writers’ Group is getting together at Beaches Library today at 2pm. Before then, I will be making some phone calls for the sitcom. Maybe even get some laundry done. And a bit of cleaning.

Template for my Day

I’m out here on the balcony, wearing two bunny hugs and sipping my coffee-chocolate. This day is starting out full of compromise.

The sun hasn’t come around to this side of the house yet, so it’s a bit chilly in the morning shade, but I refuse to sit inside after a whole winter of sitting inside. The other compromise involves my morning coffee. Ran out this morning. I put three half-scoops of grounds in the coffee maker, but wasn’t sure it would come out tasting like coffee. To this end, I added some hot chocolate to my cup, and the results are impressive.

On Monday, I launched the TCR Writers’ Group – an extension of the Toronto Cold Reads Series. The goal is to facilitate the development of new scripts, and do this in three ways;

1. WRITERS ROOM – Meet as frequently as possible, in various venues & living rooms around the city, to simply sit in a room together, and force each other to write.

2. NOTES – Members of the group may submit their work to each other for notes. We may even organize a formal ‘Notes Night’ where 2-3 scripts can be discussed.

3. WORKSHOP – When the group feels like a writer’s work is ready, we will recommend it for a reading by professional actors, as part of the Toronto Cold Reads Series’ regular Sunday events.

The response thus far has been positive. The group has 40 members already on Facebook, and our first get-together is this afternoon at the Toronto Reference Library.

I set a goal to have the first draft of my spec script vomited out by Sunday. I’m already having my doubts about meeting the goal. It’ll be 5 Acts + a Teaser. I’m following a template I gleaned from breaking down four episodes last month. Thus far, the templates are proving to be fairly plug & play.

I have a handle on most of my story line, and the the sub-plots derived there of. I know how frequently the characters appear, who they appear with, and for how long they should be together. I’ve been slotting in the Act breaks first, then figuring out how to connect those breaks later. This process feels more like a puzzle to solve, rather than a story to write. I’m right now half way through Act IV in my outline, and realized I have a bit more research to do before I can wrap everything up in Act V.

To this end, I’ve downloaded a 28 page report on the Iran-Contra Affair. I remember hearing about it on TV when I was a kid, but now that I’m going through it with a fine tooth comb, it’s making for great fodder for my spec script. I’m excited to see how this story will turn out.

Easter McDonalds

It’s Easter Morning and I’m sitting on the balcony with a coffee. The sun is out and it’s almost warm enough to be comfortable. I put on a few extra layers so I won’t have to leave this spot. The cat just showed up with a similar idea in mind.

Jazz and I went to Romanian church last night for Easter service. Must have been 400 people there, most of them speaking Romanian as they mingled in the parking lot waiting for the service to begin. There were too many of us to fit in the Church, so service began in that parking lot.

In Regina/Assiniboia, there’s always this part where we circle the church once or thrice. There were so many people at this church, that the priest took us around the whole block (one of Toronto’s famous loooooong narrow blocks), just so the end of the line would actually have somewhere to walk to, once we all stretched out into a procession.

Forty-five minutes had passed by this point, and people began to split, once they completed their lap. Jazz and I just looked at each other. “Wanna call this an hour, and head off to McDonald’s for Chicken McNuggets?” she asked.

“Let’s call it two. Say we did the whole thing, before departing for our Easter McDonald’s meal.”

We laughed all the way back to the car.

Today I’m going to do a bit of work on the spec script. I have a basic story mapped out, after doing some research on Iran’s nuclear program, and the sanctions around it. This will be a very political, action-filled type of script – a nice complement to Machiavelli & Tymes. With these two scripts in my arsenal, added to Room 31, and my Boardwalk Empire spec, I feel like I’ll have enough material to start hunting for an agent.

Time to wash the cobwebs out of my eyes. Happy Easter!

Remembering Film 100

Yesterday was reasonably productive. I submitted a pitch to a potential sponsor for the Rider sitcom that included two treatments and two short scripts. I also headed down to the library on Queen St. E. to write a one-pager for the Christmas movie pitch. I was very happy with both products.

I headed over to Dave’s to pick up the firewood in his backyard. It was cold and rainy, and my hands went numb after five minutes. The wood remains in the trunk of my car, and I have resolved to leave it there until the weather turns cooperative.

Jazz came home around 8 and we fell into a conversation about Charlie Chaplin. She was concerned that she wouldn’t have enough things to say about him to fill a 20 minute presentation. To this, I dug deep into all my Film 100 recollections, to make the case for Chaplin as a pioneer in the development of a visual story telling language – the very language of cinema. I got into a whole schpiel on his contemporaries and was about to play The Great Train Robbery by Edwin S. Porter in 1903, when Dave walked in.

Together, the two of us got into a whole panel discussion on early 20th century filmmaking – all for Jazz’s benefit. I admit, I’m not as up on the history of cinema as Dave is. He apparently loved film theory in film school. Me, I was always more interested in playing with all the shiny objects.

This morning Jazz is making a pitch to her teacher, to adapt her project to be more about the development of cinematic language through those early years, using Chaplin as a roadmap. I’m very proud of her, and I am very much looking forward to reliving Film 100 through my daughter’s assignment.

Cold Coffee Kinda Day

I unplugged all the electric heaters in the apartment yesterday because they hadn’t been switched on in a couple months. I put my winter scarf and gloves away too. What followed was one of the coldest days to descend upon Toronto in at least a couple months. I wound up plugging one of the heaters back in again.

My feet were cold, just walking around the apartment. I thought about Grama at this moment. I wanted her to knit me some slippers. Then she called, and I told her as much. She said she’ll do it, but I suspect they won’t arrive in time for me to enjoy them during this cold snap.

I just sipped my coffee. It’s now cold too. The weather outside my window is cold and rainy, and grey. Cold all around.

I’m supposed to get together with Dave tonight. He has some wood from his back yard that he wants me to hall away for my fire barrel. We’ll take the opportunity to drink a couple beers and discuss shop. His production company is looking for Christmas movie scripts, and he remembered that I have a pitch (from a previous occasion when we drank pints together).

Today will see me spending more time on the Rider sitcom, more research for my spec script, and more time refining a Christmas movie spec. Here’s to a good day.

Day-Dreaming of LA

Jazzy and I spent the evening watching Charlie Chaplin movies last night. She has to profile a director for her media studies class, and she chose Chaplin because they were both born on April 16.

She also made boiled wheat for the first time.

I never did get out of the house yesterday. Spent some of my hours working on the Riderville sitcom and then not much of anything after that. Facebook. On line newspapers. Random distractions. I need to come up with a better strategy for how to avoid those pitfalls. At least I’m not alone with these types of struggles. It’s a common problem among anyone (especially creative types) who work from home.

I read that last bit online while procrastinating.

I did manage to send Machiavelli & Tymes off to LA. Both of my contacts responded, saying they received the script, and will be passing along their thoughts soon.

LA. I admit to indulging in mini-fantacies about M&T taking off and doing great things for me. I mean, it’s entirely possible, provided the readers out there think the script is as great as some of the other feedback I’ve been getting on it.

Still, it’s best not to dwell too much on hypothetical futures. The present is now, and I got shit to do. So I guess I’ll get to it.

Starting now. Right after I check Facebook.

Smelling the Hamburgers

Less than a week to go, and the fast Jazzy and I have been on, will be over. Hello meat! Hello dairy! Hello vegan bean & lentil soup that I’ve been cooking (but now with added beef)! Hello bbq on our balcony, we missed you!

I didn’t find the fast to be as difficult this year, as I have with years’ past. We have been eating a lot of fish (fish is a vegetable). Mostly, I’ve just been really occupied with other endeavours, so I didn’t spend a lot of time sitting around thinking about hamburgers.

Mmmmm. Hamburgers.

Orthodox Easter is Sunday. I’m thinking we might find a Romanian church here in the city, so we can take in the midnight service. There are two if I remember correctly. Guess I’ll spend some time researching which one would be best for us. Maybe we can crash someone’s table for the meal afterwards (and make some friends in the process).

Jazzy’s been spending a lot of time at home lately. This led to me helping her with her homework on a number of occasions. We also made a bean & lentil soup together on Sunday. She’s going to be 16 next week, and she still has a place for me in her life.

Spring is sputtering to life here in Toronto. The snow is mostly all gone (though it’s putting up a fight), and the temperature is almost warm enough to walk outside without a coat. I have a bunch of phone calls to make today, but after that I’m thinking I could pack up my work and head out to the library on Queen Street East.

Alright. Time to wrap this up and get on with my day. Have a gooder!