Cultural Update: February 2016

product_thumbnailI’ve watched 28 episodes of Archer since the beginning of the year. I finished Season 5 earlier this month. I’m a fan of the show. The story structure for each episode tends to run a bit flat – resembling more of a sitcom structure than a three-act cable short. The series is best enjoyed three or four episodes at a time. Too many in a row, and the jokes start sounding all the same.

I also completed 37 episodes of Top Gear. I’ve heard about the show for years, but never got around to watching it. I love the irreverence, the unabashed horsepower, and self-depressiating comedy of the show. Cars are ‘reviewed’ to some extent, but that really is only a small aspect of the show. It’s more about three characters creating comedy around a car theme. Comedies tend to make me smile appreciatively, rather than laugh out loud. This ‘car show’ had me in tears.

One more movie to add to the list is The Saint. I watched it when it first came out in 1997, and didn’t remember it very well. Upon a second viewing, I find myself looking forward to forgetting it all over again. The plot is contrived and the acting is weak.

Home Again by Frank Cosentino is a book I just finished. It cronicles the Canadian Football League from its darkest days in 1995 to its height of prosperity in 2014. I worked for the Roughriders through some of the CFL’s darkest days, and this book brought back a lot of memories. It’s like I could pin the various phases of my adulthood to different eras of the League’s history in the book. It was interesting to read it through this lens. It’s a great book and I would recommend it to any fan of Canadian Football.

2016 Culture Tally;

Feature Scripts Read: 2
TV Scripts Read: 2
Movies Watched: 10
TV Seasons Watched: 9
Documentaries Watched: 6
Documentary Series Watched: 1
Audio Books: 1
Books Read: 1

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Rapidly Expanding Jasmine’s Grades

800x600_TheExpanse_S1_Keyart1I’m sitting in Beaches Library with Jazz. I took her out for supper for getting good grades in school, then bought her a coffee at Tim Horton’s, then came here. As we wandered around, looking for a place to sit, we stumbled upon her friend Hanna. It’s been a really great afternoon.

I’m also celebrating the conclusion of my first week on The Expanse – Season 2. I’m doing Petty Cash on the show, and I’ll be there ’til October. For the first time in a long time, I don’t have to worry about cash-flow implications with every spending decision I make. The money from the CBC sale, combined with a weekly cheque from my current gig, will make for a very pleasant 2016.

It gets better. Not only do I have a steady gig, but I love the show I’m on. I binge-watched all 10 episodes of season 1, and I really think this series could be the next BSG. I’m so thrilled to be on it!

In addition to watching Season 1 of The Expanse, I also watched a movie called Rush. It’s about the 1976 Formula 1 season, where Ferrari’s Niki Lauda and Mclaren’s James Hunt battled for the world championship on the track, while carrying on a dynamic friendship off it. I also took in a documentary about that same season called Hunt vs Lauda.

I am fascinated by Formula 1. These cars are amazing – some of the most advanced machines ever built by humanity. They generate 3x their weight in downforce, meaning they could theoretically drive upside down on the roof of a tunnel. They weigh next to nothing, and they take turns at such high speeds, they almost defy the laws of physics. Nine drivers lost their lives driving these cars throughout the 1970s.

2016 Culture Tally;

Feature Scripts Read: 2
TV Scripts Read: 2
Movies Watched: 9
TV Seasons Watched: 5
Documentaries Watched: 6
Documentary Series Watched: 1
Audio Books: 1

Three Docs Update

I thought I’d take this opportunity to update my culture journal with three documentaries.

On Saturday I finished watching A Faster Horse on Netflix. I fell asleep my first time through, so I picked up where left off, and got through the whole thing. I realized quickly that the documentary was a propaganda piece for Ford Motor Company as they filmed the process of designing and building the 2015 Mustang.

They went into some history of the company. Touched on a few skeletons in their own closet, but nothing so revealing that it would give shareholders pause. It was their attempt to balance the piece, but ultimately it came off as insincere. The subject matter was interesting to me, so I got through it. I rated it 3 out of 5 stars.

A far more interesting documentary was 30 for 30: Four Falls of Buffalo. It was the story of the Buffalo Bills’ four straight trips to the Super Bowl (where they lost all four times). The documentary had me thinking muchly about the vitriol directed towards the previous regime of the Saskatchewan Roughriders by some fans. That regime did everything to give fans the most important Grey Cup victory in franchise history. In Buffalo, the regime that turned up four straight Super Bowl loses was welcomed and loved at every opportunity.

The final documentary I watched this weekend was 30 for 30: Elway to Marino. It was about the agent who represented John Elway and Dan Marino in the 1983 NFL draft. A lot of the story was about Elway’s refusal to play for the Baltimore Colts, and the negotiations that resulted from that. The other part of the story was on Dan Marino’s perceived fall from grace in the eyes of NFL scouts, only to be proven so completely wrong, they all wound up looking stupid. Through it all was this agent/lawyer working diligently to represent his clients. It was a lesson in the art of negotiation. It was a peephole into the world of NFL draft day. It was actually the second time I watched this documentary in a year – I enjoyed it that much.

2016 Culture Tally;

Feature Scripts Read: 2
TV Scripts Read: 2
Movies Watched: 8
TV Seasons Watched: 4
Documentaries Watched: 5
Documentary Series Watched: 1
Audio Books: 1

Monday Sales into the Week

IJ I Intro Still01It’s been an interesting week.

On Monday I was sitting with my laptop in Tim Horton’s, doing some follow up in my spreadsheets. A fleeting thought crossed my mind to send a note to my contact at CBC, to see if he would like to renew the licence to InJustice. He was involved in the series’  production, and subsequently bought it in HD when I first moved to Toronto four years ago. The term expired a year ago, and the Canadian rights were completely available. He responded with a one sentence email, saying he would be happy to renew the term, and simple as that, I made the sale.

The following day I meant with the Head of Development at a big production company. She read Machiavelli & Tymes, as well as my Christmas script. These meetings usually last less than 20 minutes. We met for over an hour. She like my writing. Loved the banter in my dialogue. Like the premise. Liked me. She asked me to come back with some changes to the pilot. I need less back story, and more ‘caper of the week’.

Mostly it just felt gratifying to hear someone who isn’t merely a friend or colleague, say good things about my work. As I was walking out the door, she told me that she felt I would be great in a writers’ room on a series.

On Wednesday, Mom did my income tax. I am happy.

Jazzy is home from school today. We’re having a lazy morning, but we’ll be bundling up and heading out into the cold, to hang out in a coffee shop on Queen St. E. I’ll write and she’ll do whatever, but mostly we’ll just be hanging out together.

Table Read Tune-up

CorterTableReadI spent my weekend doing as little as possible – which put my in a sufficient frame of mind this morning, to WANT to tackle the handful of projects and tasks before me.

Maybe that’s the trick. Seldom am I NOT feeling guilty over how I spend my time. Every minute of every day is an opportunity to write, or research, or pound pavement. It’s a mountain to climb, and the mental strain is burdensome.

This morning I need to dedicate some time to Riderville. Not much, but a little bit. I also need to do some follow up with production companies. There’s also a small rewrite to undertake with my animated SciFi pilot.

I had a dozen or so people over on Friday night for a table read of the script. It’s always good to hear the work out loud. Each read of each draft gives me new insight, and I put that insight to good use. This latest draft was well received. My friend works in programming at DHX, and she felt it was ready for pitching.

I spent a good portion of 2014 reaching out to production companies. I took dozens of meetings and made some good connections. I did not have any content to pitch them.

If nothing else, the fruits of 2015 have given me two TV Pilots and one Christmas Script to pitch in 2016. I have ideas for two more pilots that I wish to tackle this year. I’ve never had a more marketable slate. Let’s hope something comes of it.

Culturally, I read one of the scripts nominated for Best Screenplay at the Oscars this year, Bridge of Spies. I knew nothing of the movie. Didn’t know who was in it. Didn’t know the plot. Never heard a single advertisement for it, saw the trailer, or even a poster for it on social media. I came to this script with no preconceptions.

I enjoyed the read. It was a very understated piece. Structurally it seemed a bit flat, but it still moved. Good, but not brilliant. I didn’t understand why it was nominated for an Oscar.

Then I watched the movie. Steven Spielberg. Tom Hanks. The pace of the film was as slow and understated as the script. Enjoyable. Great acting. Great direction. Great production value. Worthy of an Oscar in other categories, but I can’t see it being held up years from now, as one of the all-time great examples of screenwriting.

2016 Culture Tally;

Feature Scripts Read: 2
TV Scripts Read: 2
Movies Watched: 8
TV Seasons Watched: 4
Documentaries Watched: 1
Documentary Series Watched: 1
Audio Books: 1