Collaboration & Chores

IMG_0501.jpgI spent most of the past month finishing a new TV Pilot. I had a couple of table reads for it during the writing process, and so I believe it’s a very mature 1st draft. It’s currently circulating among colleagues, and I anxiously await their notes.

The latest table read was the most people I ever had in the house at one time. As you can see, we were cozy but not so packed that we couldn’t enjoy ourselves. I’m organizing another table read for someone else’s script later this month.

I would have had the script completed sooner, but I was too busy procrastinating. And also feeling guilty for procrastinating.

This week has been mostly enjoyable because I have nothing to feel guilty over. I’m going to give it another week before I set some new writing goals. In the meantime, I’ve been reacquainting myself with my camera and editing software.

I stayed up ’til 3am last night finishing a short film. I’m collaborating with an artist named Raphael, whom I met last week, and the fruits have been completely satisfying. It’s fun to start something, but it’s even better to finish. .

Speaking of which – a solid consequence of collaborating with new people, is that I get to add them to the eclectic mix weirdos, actors, writers, and other artists who orbit my friendspace. I wound up taking in a bonfire on the beach at Ward Island on Friday night. I was invited by Raphael and she introduced me to a number of her friends. Best thing about the occasion, is that 24 hours previous, I had no idea I’d be doing that.

Today has groceries and chores on the menu. I vacuumed and mopped the living room/kitchen yesterday. Took the opportunity to rearrange the furniture. I’m going to take a crack at my room next.

I guess chores are another consequence of finishing long term projects – I now have time for ’em.

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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.

The Art of Showing Concern for an Art Gallery Refugee

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the house, working from home. After three days of looking out the windows into the cold, I realized that I should probably step outside at some point to see if my legs still work.

To this end, I bundled up and headed down to the library on Queen Street East. Walked through the ravine on my way, and the crick was running. Temperature outside was balmy and the air in my lungs was freshly brisk. What a perfectly wonderful decision I had made for myself.

Walking home from the library last night was when I realized my plan had a major flaw to it. Once that hot afternoon sun dropped out of the sky, the cold wind off Lake Ontario took ahold of the place, and shook it to its bones. My gawd it was cold!

So cold, I had to stop in at Mullin’s, three blocks from home, just to warm up (with a cold beer). I called Dave, and he joined me a few minutes later. It was Dave, and me, and the bartender most of the night.

Then some guy walked in wearing nothing but jeans and a suit jacket. He looked like he just stepped in from a spring walk through the daisies.

“What the hell are you wearing!” I exclaimed – to which he explained that two doors down, his wife was opening an art exhibit. After several hours, he desperately felt a need to escape. He wound up buying Dave and I each a shot of expensive Irish whiskey, as thanks for showing concern for his well being.

This morning Jazzy and I discussed the fast we’re supposed to be on. No meat or dairy for 40 days, but our fridge yet clings stubbornly to a brick of cheese, a half-eaten roll of salami, some ham, and a carton of eggs. We decided we’ll start the fast once those remaining hold-outs have been consumed.

To this end, we made ham & egg muffins. Stir up some eggs in a bowl, line the muffin tray with slices of ham, pour the eggs in, and bake. It’s always wonderful when spontaneous little things come up, that we can do together.

I’m thinking I’m going to head out again today after I make some phone calls for the sitcom. This whole business of heading outside and breathing fresh air seems to be compelling. Worst case scenario, I wind up at Mullin’s again.

Voice From the Past

shapeimage_2-63I put a frozen pizza in the oven last night, and 20 minutes later it came out cooked. Shocking how that works. It happens time and time again. The sky is blue, water is wet, and food comes cooked out of my oven. You’re all welcome to come over and test the theory for yourself. I suggest you experiment with chopped up bits of a dead cow.

I spoke to Chantel on the phone last night. I can’t remember the last time I heard her voice. She used to work with me at Dacian as a producer, and I was always intimidated by her ability to completely mask every thought that ever went through her mind. I’d look at her and all I saw was a sea of nothing. She laughed at my jokes, she excelled at her job, and she became a part of the motley assortment of characters moving through my life at the time.

So I heard her voice as we caught up on where we are in our lives. She’s an account exec at an agency in Regina, and she was giving me advice about the marketing campaign for the sitcom. We talked business, but we also picked up where we left off. It felt beyond great to connect.

This project is bringing a lot of people from my past, back into my life. I’m taking none of it for granted. Let’s hope it bodes well for the future.

The Best of Two Cities

It’s been a little while since I wrote in my blog and I’ve been feeling an increasing need to acquiesce to its calling. So here I am, up in the loft of my Beaches apartment, writing.

A lot has happened since Jazzy and I landed two weeks ago. I celebrated a birthday with many of my Toronto peeps. I had a houseful over, and my head didn’t hit the pillow ’til 4am. Andy crashed on the mattress up in the loft and everyone else made it home safe. Friends, booze, music, and stories. Couldn’t think of a better way to mark the beginning of another trip ’round the sun.

I lost my iPhone 4 and replaced it, almost 5 years to the day, with and iPhone 5c. I would have preferred an iPhone 6, but practicality ruled the day – not unlike 5 years ago when I desperately needed to replace my damaged Samsung with something I could take with me to ReelScreen in Washington DC, so I could set up meetings.

It wasn’t love at first sight, but this new phone is growing on me. She’s yellow. She’s fast. She does everything I need her to do, and then some. I named her ‘Jitterbug’. Let’s see how the next five years go.

After much planning, rethinking, second guessing, and planning some more, The Riderville Radio Sitcom is nearing a launch date. The website is up and running. You can check it out to hear the demo. The Kickstarter page is also ready to go, but I’m holding off on launching it until I can coordinate my efforts a little tighter with both Harvard and the Roughriders. I find myself walking around these days, completely inspired – a head full of ideas for story lines I want to pursue, and characters I’d like to write. It’s a fun place to be.

Last night I attended an event put on by the Directors Guild of Canada, where executives from Bell, CBC, Rogers, and Shaw were all present, and there to hear pitches. My invitation to the event came free of charge because I’m a member in the Director’s caucus. The casual lounge atmosphere, open bar, and inspired location in the Blue Room at TIFF, made for a fruitful evening. I set up meetings with CTV, Harold Greenburg Fund, and exchanged contact info with several other colleagues. This exact same opportunity at the Banff Television Festival, or Reelscreen in Washington DC would cost over $2,500.

I miss Regina, but I’m happy to be back in Toronto. If I can exist for awhile with one foot firmly planted in both cities, I will not complain. Here’s looking to a fruitful 2015!

Being Home Again

I woke up this morning in my old room at Mom’s house. Had to put Jazzy on an early morning flight bound for Vancouver. We’ve been in Regina just over a week now, and it’s been quite the adventure.

First of all, I hadn’t realized quite how much I missed home. I also hadn’t realized that despite countless episodes of picking up, and dropping off Jazzy at airports over the last eight years, that we’ve never actually flown together before. We sat at the back of the plane, where we had the middle seat to ourselves. Twenty minutes into the flight, Jazzy put up the arm rests and stuck her feet in my lap – which was my cue to provide a foot rub.

As we flew, I allowed the seed of an idea that first was planted at the Toronto Cold Read Series in October, to bud somewhat. Upon landing I sent Rod Pedersen (voice of the Roughriders) a text. “I’m in town. Can we meet on Friday?”

He responded positively.

The following morning I found myself sitting in the window of Atlantis – in my old spot. I figured that before I go half-cocked on my budding idea, I should first do some research, perhaps even write a one-pager. I spent half my time writing, and the rest of my time wandering with my mind, through a meandering current of thinky-thoughts.

The year’s been a hard one on my head space. The reality of losing Dad in February had only recently began to wash over me. He’s really gone. And what does it all mean? Feels like it means something, but I can’t quite touch it.

On the way home, I found myself driving through the old neighbourhood – passed my old house, my old school, and even my old paper route. I’m normally not one to indulge too much into my past, but something was knocking on that door.

After sketching out a rough budget for my project the next morning, I began to glimpse at what sort of stakeholders would need to be involved, and to what extent. This led me to a meeting with an old film school colleague at Creative Saskatchewan. In broad strokes, she outlined how my project might fit into their funding criteria, though nothing quite like my idea had ever crossed their desk before. She wished me luck, then asked if I was planning to attend the industry Christmas party that night.

“What party?” I asked.

Three hours later, I found myself in a room full of people, whom I’d known my whole career. I forgot what it was like to have such an interconnected history with so many people in one place. It felt like family. It felt like home.

The next morning, I met with Rod. He loved my idea. I next met with Mike at Twisted Pair Sound, who also loved my idea. He agreed to provide free studio time, so I could record a demo. From there I met with Mike at ACTRA Saskatchewan, who also expressed a strong desire to see my project made. My final meeting of the day was with Harvard Broadcasting, the Roughriders’ radio rights holder. Though my idea would be something they’ve never done before, it was met with much enthusiasm and an invitation to keep the conversation going.

My final stop of the day was at Java Post. I asked Joan if she would play a role in my project, and she enthusiastically agreed. Java also happened to be having their year-end Christmas party that day, so I was invited to stick around. Within an hour, I once again found myself surrounded by people I’d known my whole career.

They say you don’t buy beer, you rent it, so a visit to the bathroom was inevitable. I had to walk right passed my old office space in the building to get there. The door to the space was open, so I stepped inside. We created over 36 episodes of television inside those walls. In a flash I saw every face, felt every memory, and relived a piece of my history that seems a million years old. I just don’t feel like I have that much in common anymore, with the person who used to pay the rent there.

On Tuesday I recorded the demo for my project – a radio sitcom about the Riders. It sounds fantastic. The feedback has been enthusiastic, and its prospects for success seem inevitible. Putting it together felt more like a scavenger hunt, where all I did was drive around collecting “yes’s.” I’ll be launching a Kickstarter campaign in January, so there remains much work to do, but in the meantime, I will bask in appreciation for what was accomplished in such a short period of time.

There’s no part of me that feels ungrateful for the home-cooking and abundant family time I’ve been receiving since arriving in Regina. In many ways, the best Christmas present of all, has been to simply wander aimlessly through the memories and musings awaiting me here. It’s been so easy. So remarkably easy.

This is what home is supposed to feel like.

Three Years Later

photoThree years ago today, I began my life in Toronto.

I pulled up in front of my new apartment and Frank was there, sitting on the step, having a smoke with Robbin. The next thirty-six months of my life would see many surprising twists, turns, mistakes, and small victories. I feel like I’ve changed a lot since that day.

Things came too easy, too fast, and I mistook good fortune for everyday living. My sale to CBC was taken for granted. Some of the people who came and went from my life, were not fully appreciated. The life I left behind in Regina, was dismissed too easily. My ambition to break in as a TV writer was treated like something that would drop in my lap with a minimal effort.

I’ve long felt that life is a river that flows. We ride the current towards our destination. If the current moves away from where we wish to be, then so be it. The Universe will give us what we need.

And while I still believe strongly in that philosophical point of view, I failed to grasp something equally profound – a yang to the River’s yin.

There must be an active component to riding the River. Anything worth having, must be earned. It must be worked at, failed at, worked harder, and ultimately understood on a much deeper level.

While the CBC sale was an unexpected twist of good fortune, I should have taken that gift and used the money to buy time to establish myself in the DGC. While the sitcom I wrote seemed headed for production, I should have seen that script as an opportunity to learn more about my craft. When I thought a green light for my TV series Highwaymen was inevitable, I should have battened down the hatches and not factored theoretical producer/writer fees into my cash-flow reality.

I’ve been riding that River through Toronto for three years now, and I can look back and see my regrets – my missed opportunities – with great clarity. I can also now see the blessings in front of me with equal clarity.

I have attached myself to an incredible group of working writers. We meet every three weeks or so, and I seem to fit in well with them. Other writers have come into my life, read my work, and helped me to become better at my craft. I’m on the verge of completing the first draft of a new one-hour TV drama.

After four months, I find myself on the cusp of being established in the Director’s Guild. I’ve worked on Bark Ranger, Greatest Christmas Party Ever, Transporter, Lost Girl, Inland, Suits, and Reign. I have an interview on Monday with the team from from a series that starts up in a couple weeks.

Client work has also been on the uptick. And while some of it seems rather ‘unlofty’ compared to my other ambitions, I’m not afraid to admit that I enjoy the work. I look around at other established writers/filmmaker types, and they’re all taking the gigs they need to take, so they can keep their cash-flow healthy. Why should I be a snob about it?

I have amazing people in my life. There are a number so Saskatchewan peeps who’ve made the leap out this way. There are even more Toronto creatures who’ve drained pints with me on a regular basis. It can be lonely sometimes, being so far away from the prairies, but ‘home’ has now become the people I surround myself with.

And lastly I have Jazzy, the greatest blessing of all. She’s my beautiful little girl. She inspires me. She’s my family.

The Gift of Waking Up in the Morning

2013-06-16 15.11.40Last Thursday was Papa’s funeral. It was held in Windsor, which meant that Jazzy and I could be a part of the family gathering – which coincided with Thanksgiving. Mom, Grama and Dave flew in, and we joined Papa’s family around the table for a grim reunion.

Papa was 97 years old. Though he started in Saskatchewan, he moved to Ontario as a young man, and made a life for himself there. He has been laid to rest in the same place where his first wife Kay was buried in 1975. He was surrounded by his family.

Grama and Papa were married eleven years ago. They both knew their time together would be limited, and they saw each day they woke up together as a gift. If only we all could share that perspective.

My most vivid moment of the funeral was at the cemetery, where Grama stood apart from the rest of the family, next to Papa’s coffin. She wept uncontrollably with Jazzy at her side, their arms wrapped around each other. I was so proud of my daughter for being such a loving and supportive granddaughter.

Grama came home with Jazzy and I afterwards. She flies home tomorrow, and it’s likely she’ll never be back to Toronto again. We’ve been making the most of our time together. On Saturday we all went to the Argos’ game together at Rogers Centre. Not only did Grama enjoy the game, but she was also excited about the train ride to and from the stadium as well.

I am pleased to say that for a woman of 89 years, she’s really quite spry. We’ve walked a ton all over the city. We took the subway downtown on Sunday, so Jazzy could show Grama the church she attends. Afterwards Grama bought us our Christmas presents at Eaton’s Centre. That night they came to the Toronto Cold Reads with me, to watch the reading of my script.

Grama and I have walked around my neighbourhood. We’ve had many conversations over coffee. She’s read two of my scripts. Last night Aubree stopped by and we all played Canasta – Grama and I, verses Jazzy and Aubree. Tonight I have people coming over for a backyard campfire.

It’s been years since I’ve spent this much time with her. Jazzy and I are both blessed. Each day has indeed been a gift.

Upside-down Shit-Goggled Pyramids

There’s a pyramid of basic needs that I’m vaguely aware of. Food, water, and shelter are at the bottom, fruits, salads, Roughrider season tickets, love, happiness, great music, women, beer and art are closer to the top.

Probably I should google it, if I’m going to write about it, but too late.

My headspace was in an awful place yesterday, when Renee phoned me for a chat. She sensed I was off my game and decided to check in. I felt vulnerable and embarrassed as I began to rattle off the list of things that have been eating at me.

We spoke for nearly an hour – which is some kind of record for me. Phone calls are for making plans and networking. I never use one for conversation with a friend (unless that friend is 2,000 miles away). By the end of the call, I felt like a great weight had been lifted.

The pyramid of basic needs came up in our conversation. Renee suggested that perhaps we ought to be turning that pyramid upside down. Sometimes we get so focused on worrying about things at the bottom, we forget about the things at the top – the things that define us, fulfill us, and give us a reason for living.

She told me to finish my script because writing is what fuels my spirit more than anything else. Address the basics, but live closer to the ‘Jarrett’ things in my life. If I can do that, those basic things will take care of themselves.

There’s a world out there that’s great big and full of possibilities. We can look at it with rose coloured glasses, and gloss over the problems that exist, or we can don a pair of shit coloured glasses, and fail to see the light. Somewhere in-between is the healthy place methinks.

Love and gratitude to my dear friend. I feel great today.

A Perfectly Timed Phone Call

Dad has been on my mind a lot lately. Nearly everyday I see something, or think something that reminds me of him. I look in the mirror and I see him. I think about me, raising Jazzy alone in Toronto, and I’m reminded of him, raising me during those very hard years in Regina.

Mostly I feel cheated. Never got to say goodbye because we were too pissed off at each other. I called three times after we last spoke to each other in anger, but he thought he had enough time to punish me with the silent treatment before he expired.

Why is all this bubbling to the surface now?

When he was alive, we would go a couple months between phone calls. It was our way. He was always available to me, but never at the top of my mind. I just had to pick up the phone and leave a message.

I think about him and I feel a rotten knot in my stomach. Never in my life have I felt something so ugly and vile, that I couldn’t freely speak about it to anyone. Now, the topic comes up and I am so overwhelmed with broken thoughts that I have to eject myself from the conversation, lest I feel something I don’t want to touch.

That’s what I’m carrying around inside me right now, and I don’t know how to shed it.

Dad died a bitter and crusty old man. So many people shit on him, and so many things were taken from him, that he could no longer see the light. He hurt many people with his words and deeds over the years, but he was also capable of so much selfless love.

The light and the darkness swirled inside him – and in the end the darkness won.

I look in the mirror and sometimes I don’t like what I see. And sometimes I don’t even care. And mostly I struggle to be the light, because that’s who I want to be.

Sometimes I feel like I’m a million miles away from everyone I care about because that’s the reality of living in a new city with no long-time friends or family around. I imagine I’m not alone with this struggle. Six million people crammed into such a small space, a large number of whom coming from some other far away place.

I looked at my phone on Saturday night, and I was going to send Nadia a text. “Come to Toronto for a visit. I miss you.” But I quickly dismissed the idea. A passing half joking, half truthful wish. Then a phone call on Sunday night.

“Hey Jarrett! It’s Nadia. I’m in town. Let’s have supper!” She was on a business trip and was held over in Toronto.

And sometimes the world ain’t so big after all.

Everything’s gonna be alright. Everything’s gonna be alright. Everything’s gonna be alright.