Gigabytes of Past Memories

I signed a deal this week to distribute InJustice, Prairie Gardens, 100 Saskatchewan Stories, and Thunder Breeding Hills through McIntyre Media Inc. They specialize in putting documentary programming in schools. It’s possible the deal may be lucrative, but I’m not upgrading to gourmet ketchup anytime soon.

What most moved me about making that deal, is that it forced me to go nosing through old hard drives, looking for the master files, and their accompanying documents to those projects. Along the way were gigabytes of artifacts from my 17 year career – projects I pitched once upon a time, then slowly forgot about, or correspondence with people I hadn’t seen in many years, or spaces between the memories of the happenings in my life from so long ago.

I stumbled upon a video I made of Jazzy when she was three years old. Choked me up. I saw old business plans I wrote over the course of many months. I saw evidence of a side of me, I’ve long forgotten, and have since walked away from.

I remembered many of the things I forgot about.

And it made me kind of sad. And it made me wonder why.

Maybe I’m reminded of the passage of time. The past is a great place to learn from, but it’s no place to visit for any extended period of time. I do miss some of the people though.

I also remember a party I had – a celebratory party. My closest friends and family joined PJ and I in our first apartment together on Rochdale Blvd in Regina. I was just accepted into the Director’s Guild of Canada. I was young and my whole career was ahead of me – and being accepted into the Guild was a HUGE milestone.

As I got busy with those other projects I referenced earlier, I got away from working on film sets. I let my membership lapse. Then my priorities changed. And now I’m here in Toronto.

Single dad on the cusp of some great new thing in a brand new city. People are reading my scripts and they’re saying great things about ’em. I can feel how close I am to breaking through.

In the meantime, there’s another party to plan. I rejoined the Directors Guild on Friday, and I’m having people over to celebrate.

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Grey Only Happens When It’s Cloudy

It’s Thursday already! When did that happen?

Jazz and I rolled into to Toronto on Sunday at precisely 8pm. 2,751 ams in 24 hours. Fastest drive ever (via I-94 Chicago). I was in a big damned hurry because my play, Not Being A Dick was on deck at the Toronto Cold Reads Series. 

Coming back to Toronto and being featured in such a way, was pretty super duper alright. Six pieces were read, and mine closed down the night. Last read of the season in fact. They start anew in September and I intend to be a part of it. I met so many great writers and actors from being involved over the last 7 months. I think I’ve become a more betterer writer as a result.

It’s good to be home. It’s much easier to get work done in Toronto. My routines are down. I don’t have the distraction of home cooking, old friends, and loving family around to keep me from being detached and productive(ish). I love Regina, but I’m feeling in my bones like Toronto is where I belong.

Having said that, I’m not getting out much. I walked around a bit on Monday, but the last three days have been grey and rainy. I don’t mind the rain at all, but the colour grey affects my mood. I turn the lights on in the middle of the day just to get a little bit of orange hue in the room. It helps.

I’ve also been busying myself with a project for Tantrum Creative. I’m creating 3D vignettes of nominees for the Brampton Sports Hall of Fame. I finished the first of five videos last night. At this pace, I’ll have everything done by the weekend.

The CFC is strongly on my radar too. May 16th is the deadline for the Bell Media Prime Time TV Program. As previously mentioned, this program is the single greatest way to break into the industry as a TV writer. They take 8 applicants per year from across the country. Highly competitive. This will be my third crack at it.

I spoke to someone from the CFC yesterday and gained a lot of insight into what I can do to improve my application this year. With that said, I have a cover letter to compose, and the sun just came out. Methinks a coffee shop is in my near future. Wish me luck.

Cheers!

Cabin in the Woods

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Not only was Cabin in the Woods a brilliant take on the horror genre by Joss Whedon, but it was also how I spent Monday night.

Jon and Fiona invited me up to their family’s cabin for the night, so I took ’em up on it. I’m still getting used to how diverse Southern Ontario is compared to Saskatchewan. Their cabin is two hours north of Toronto, set on the shore of Muskoka Lake, and well into the fringe of the Canadian Shield. It’s a completely different world from Toronto. Drive two hours in any direction from Regina, and you’re still not anywhere that looks any different from where you just left. The other thing striking about our trip north, was how much snow was there. It looked like December, but felt like April (temperature wise). Kind of the best of both months.

There were five of us altogether. I invited Tonia, and Jon & Fiona brought their friend Donald. We couldn’t explore very much because the snow was knee deep and completely wet, so we cooped ourselves up, got drunk, and played board games all night. By 1am, the temperature had dropped significantly, and I wound up wearing four layers as I crawled into my sleeping bag. Musta been -7 celsius. I slept well, but my toes didn’t.

Today is Jazzy’s 15th birthday. Lisa brought over a vegan cake earlier (we’re both fasting for lent) and I surprised Jazz with it. We didn’t have candles, so I was forced to improvise.

I also got her a kitten – which hasn’t been born yet, but I got one. Jazz was thrilled, and I am officially her most favourite dad ever.

Afterwards, Jazz wanted to show her friend Anika, Cabin in the Woods, so we turned off the lights, sat on the couch and took it in.

Kind of a perfect way to end this article.

Twelve Characters in Search of a Story

I’ve gotten myself involved in a project that will have me writing, producing, and probably directing six short films. We have no budget, but we do have resources. We have no story, but we do have cast.

My immediate task is to meet with cast members individually, to get a better sense of who they are, and what kind of role I can write for them. This step is important because rather than being forced into slotting someone in a role that doesn’t work for her, I can create a role that fits like a glove. I’ll be left with twelve characters in search of a story.

I was brought into this by Laine, whom I worked with last year for my staged reading of Not Being a Dick. She’s been crossing paths with a number of emerging actors and creative types, and organized us into a secret group on Facebook. The plan was to create something, anything, that will showcase our abilities.

My idea was to come up with a string of short films, 3-5 minutes in length, that will feature two characters per scene. Good meaty chunks of dialogue and action for each actor to showcase herself. The films will link together through a kind of relay – we follow a character out of the final scene of one film, and into the first scene of the next, only to be discarded shortly thereafter.

I’ve met with enough of the cast to write the first film, but I’m thinking that it might be prudent to wait until I’ve talked to everyone, before deciding how they’ll all fit together. It’ll be challenging enough trying to find a place for everyone. Organizing these six films into some sort of cohesive series will require me having a big picture perspective.

Today has a wide-open quality about it. I feel like creating something. Let’s see how it all goes.

Four Oh One!

My place is currently a sea of empty beer cans and spent red Solo cups. The downstairs neighbours heard us going until 2am. They’d have joined, but they’re currently all getting over their winter colds.

I’d have to say that my birthday was a smashing success. Yana performed for us. A collection of Toronto friends, accumulated from various walks of my life, all came together to celebrate. So great to have so many amazing people gathered together in one place.

Most interesting, nobody knew anyone else at the party. This wasn’t planned, but it was delightful to witness. I very much enjoyed watching them all get to know each other. So many of them told me upon leaving, that I have a really great group of friends.

They say one is known for his friends.

I’m not going to wait a year for the next gathering to take place. Is there any reason in the world why we can’t do this once a month?

Life is for living after all.

Warm Inside

Between the 15 items I had on my to-do list yesterday, and the other dozen or so odd items I found to task myself with, I had a very productive day. Got everything done.

Today will begin with a good long look out the window for some guidance. It seems to me, I have a ton of people I need to reach out to, who could help my career in various ways. My industry is a relationship business. Everybody knows someone who knows someone. It all starts with a conversation over a coffee or drink.

Last night Yana took me out for a drink after I brought her synthesizer over (from Regina). We wound up at Sneaky Dee’s on College and Bathurst. I’ve been there a few times and I have fond memories of the place from early trips to Toronto during my Regina days.

It was Ukrainian Christmas Eve, and Yana asked if I wouldn’t mind coming to church with her for a few minutes. We’re both Orthodox, though neither of us are very churchy. Still, it felt good to be in such a familiar place.

I grew up in a Romanian Orthodox church. This Ukrainian church service was not in English, but it didn’t matter. I already knew what was going on. The singing was the same.The icons were the same. The service was the same. I was moved.

This morning I awoke to the kitchen table being absent from its usual spot. Jazzy moved her room around (again) and nabbed it. I snatched it right back after she left for school, but not before stopping to appreciate how much care and attention she puts into her personal space. I took it as a sign that she’s happy to be living with me – and that’s something I’ll never take for granted.

It’s a cold day outside. Inside it’s cold. I’m wearing two hoodies just to keep warm. Leaky windows. Gotta put a run to Canadian Tire on my to-do list as well. Seal up the drafty bits. In the meantime, I’ll start with a fresh cup of warm coffee, for a bit of dedication to the view out my kitchen window.

New Year’s Resolutions

It’s New Year’s Eve, 2013.

In the coming year, I think I’d like to read more. I always feel good about myself after reading a script, a novel, and/or some in-depth exploration of a topic. Perhaps I can find the time to read by turning off Netflix a little more frequently.

I’d like to spend 2014 writing a lot more often. Finding the time has always been my excuse, but really, the world won’t end if I spend at least two hours at the top of the day writing something. 

Trading on my writing will be another priority in 2014. I’ve been waiting around, trying to get into the CFC, but no more. Toronto is full of broadcasters, agents, and production companies. Everyone knows someone, and someone has got to be interested in optioning something I’m doing. I just gotta knock on a lot more doors.

I’m going to meet a ton of new people over the next twelve months. It’s always great to meet people. As said previously, everybody knows somebody, and relationships make the world go ’round. I want to fall into conversations with perfect strangers in coffee shops, then never see ’em again. I want to have meaningful exchanges with people who can influence my career. I want to share laughs with new friends.

I’m going to go deeper with friends who mean a lot to me, and worry a lot less about those who pollute my headspace.

I’m going to teach Jazzy something new every month – even if it means having to first learn something new, before I teach it.

I’m going to do my best to be a better person, both to myself, and to those around me.

I suspect that if I can accomplish all these things, 2014 will be a pretty good year.

Sausage Making in the White of Serenity

1photo 2photoI am sitting in Mom’s living room, having just sucked down my third cup of coffee. Jazzy is on the couch knitting something for nobody in particular and I’m arguing with my mother about all the dumb questions she asks me. Feels like Christmas in Regina.

It really is good to be home. Regina is covered in a blanket of white snow, and there’s not a hurry in sight. Grama and Papa spent the night and they’re planing to lead the charge later today, making sausages.

We played Canasta last night. Jazzy was partners with Grama & Papa, and I was partnered with Mom. We lost. Fucking goddammed 7’s wouldn’t come up, and they kept drawing wild cards. All four rounds they made two canasta’s of wild cards!

I choose to retain this bitterness because it fuels my artistic angst.

I haven’t even been out to see friends, although that’ll be changing in a couple hours. I have lunch with Courtney coming up and then drinks with Jim at La Bodega after he’s done work. I’ll spend the in-between time doing my best to avoid internet type distractions (read an article on Facebook about a guy who had his hand grafted to his ankle after it was severed in an accident) and look to get some writing done.

I’ve hatched an idea to adapt Highwaymen to a feature film from a TV pilot. This means reimagining the story by adding 30 pages. As a film, I think the idea has more legs because a football movie set in the CFL will go over very well in these parts. No need to convince Toronto-based broadcasters that Canadian football would be a ratings hit. I might even be able to crowd-source some of the funding, because people in the Rider Nation will pay for anything football related.

Hmmm….

I’m heading back for home on January 3. What are the chances I get a good start on a new draft of the script?

Two Weeks and 29 Hours

I’m in the midst of a ‘thing’ with my blog. The burning desire I used to feel to document every moment of my life has subsided somewhat. Perhaps I’m more interested in living my life than I am in reflecting upon it. Perhaps I’m a lot less narcissistic than I used to be. Perhaps I’m becoming too cautious about what I say, lest I bruise my career in some way. Perhaps I’m just bored with it.

Or perhaps I just need to go back and read old articles to see if my impression of past musings hold up to reality? There are a lot of ghosts in them thar paragraphs. Old projects. Long dead friendships. Travels. Memories.

It’s worth keeping up methinks. I’m sure I’ll work through it, whatever this ‘thing’ is.

***

The world has been treating me well, these past couple weeks.

I’ve taken a number of meetings with industry types. There’s a handshake deal in place to develop a documentary series with Angel Entertainment. I also submitted a pitch for another documentary series to a broadcaster in Toronto. Both projects excite me and capture my imagination.

In the meantime, I completed the latest draft of Room 31. The tone has shifted significantly from being a half-hour comedy to a one-hour drama with Dr. Who type absurdity. Most of the additional pages came from developing a B and C story arc, then weaving scenes from those arcs into the A story plot.

When I think back to previous drafts, I am amazed at how much of the original script has been obliterated. Writing is rewriting. Ideas I had for later episodes have all found their way into the pilot script. It’s very dense now – every scene is squeezed to the last drop for bits of story. I anxiously await feedback because it’s very close now – close enough to begin showing it to producers and broadcasters.

***

I’m writing this from my mother’s living room. Jazzy, Aubree and I made the trek into Regina via the United States on Friday. Unlike past years, we didn’t stop for the night. Aubree spelled me off once we cleared Minneapolis. She drove for five hours and then I took over again in Jamestown. Unfortunately we hit some weather an hour later, so I stopped at a small-town gas station to wait things out.

Shutting my eyes for three hours probably did me some good. We kept the car running for heat because it was -20 outside. At 6:15am I opened my eyes to witness the snow plough driving by. Figured it was a good time to get moving again.

We dropped Aubree off at her parent’s place, and pulled into mom’s driveway 20 minutes later. 29 hours in the car. I haven’t done much of anything since.

Probably could use a shower now. Let’s leave it at that.

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.