Making Headlines Across the Country

It’s a sunny Friday morning here in TO. 73% of my conscious thoughts have been consumed with The Riderville Radio SitcomThe rest of it is spread between feeding the cat, laundry, my screenplay, Machiavelli & Tymes, cabbage rolls, and Toronto Cold Reads.

As for the cat, I don’t believe I’ve mentioned her yet on my blog. She is called Echo – whom we named after a character in a Joss Whedon series. Mostly, Jazz and I just call her ‘Cat’. “Cat, what are you doing?” “Cat, what are you trying to say?” “Cat, why did you just piss on my jacket?”

We’ve had her since October. Got her the week Grama stayed with us. At first I wasn’t crazy about the idea of having a pet. I felt I needed to make more mistakes with my daughter before I was ready for the responsibility of an animal. Now I’m glad she’s a part of our family. The cat I mean. I curl up with her on the couch sometimes, and feel dried up bits of crustiness, flaking off my personality. It seems I’m going to have to learn how to write without tapping my trusty well of angst for inspiration.

I had a meeting yesterday with The Harold Greenberg Fund about my screenplay, That Moment In Between. I was advised to research the projects they’ve funded – to look at who the production companies behind those projects were – and partner with one of them to produce a 10 minute version of my film. They have a program that will fund such undertakings, and it will be the best way to help the feature length version along future stages of development. To this end, I have begun my research. Best of all – there is a tight deadline to write a 10 page script, put a team together, then submit a proposal. Nothing helps stuff get done, like a tight deadline.

Speaking of tight deadlines, Acts III and IV of Machiavelli & Tymes are being read at the season opener of the Toronto Cold Reads on Sunday night. There’s going to be a big crowd. I want to tweak Act IV before the scripts are printed, and my deadline is 5pm today. My goal is to finish my work on the sitcom today, with enough time left over to make those tweaks.

On Tuesday I used the Roughriders media distribution list to send a media release, announcing The Riderville Radio Sitcom. Within a couple of hours, the series was making headlines across the country. I was interviewed on CKRM and CJOB (Winnipeg), and I’m scheduled to make appearances on the morning shows of CTV and Global next week.

The Kickstarter campaign has been going slow. The link I provided in the media release wasn’t used in the story that was picked up by news outlets. Thus far, the demo has only been played 562 times – which means a whole lotta people still don’t know about the campaign. I admit to feeling a bit nervous, but the big push happens next week when Harvard Broadcasting will be promoting it across their stations. There will be 120 DJ ad-libs, buttons on their websites, and me being featured on a couple of their shows. I’m flying to Regina next week to help with the push. I have more ideas up my sleeve about other ways I can get the word out.

Alright, that’s enough blogging for today. I have a deadline to meet. Cheers!

RidervilleHeadlines

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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!

Sipping A Celebratory Beer in O’Hanlon’s with a Face Full of Beard

Photo on 2015-01-07 at 7.25 AM #3I fell into a conversation with the bartender at O’Hanlon’s yesterday. I was having a celebratory pint after concluding my meeting with Harvard Broadcasting. The bartender asked me what I was celebrating, and I told him about the sitcom. He asked if he could hear the demo. I said sure and pulled out my laptop. He asked if it was online. I said yes. He had me type the address into their computer, and had the demo play to the entire bar over their sound system.

It was something special to hear it out loud, in such an iconic public space. The line-up of people asking for my autograph afterwards didn’t quite materialize, because the bar was empty, but at least the bartender liked it. Later in the day I played the demo for Rob Vanstone at the LeaderPost. When the time comes, he said he’ll be happy to write a story about it.

At supper Grama shaved off my beard while Jazzy filmed the undertaking on her phone. My face feels amazing, and I no longer have to be strategic about how I sip coffee. I can’t stop rubbing my cheeks.

Jazz and I are currently sitting in a corner of the lounge in the Regina airport. Our 6:15am flight has been delayed to 8:40am, so I’ve had a bit of time to sit and muse.

Toronto awaits. I leave Regina with some reluctance. The last three weeks have been quite the run. Somewhere in between development on the radio sitcom, and all the familiar faces I took in, my stay here has been one big serendipitous leap from moment to moment. If Toronto can promise the same over the next few weeks, I will not complain.

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.

The Case of the Thursday Morning Snows

The snow came overnight. All at once. And it’s still coming. Kinda feels like December out there.

The other thing that makes it feel like December is Christmas Parties. Louise invited me to hers last night at Joy Bistro on Queen Street East. She’s an agent who represents actors, so there were a lot of those types at the party. I ran into two who wouldn’t shut up about Coronation Street. They’re talking about doing a podcast. The open bar and colourful gathering made for a fun night. I even managed to make a few new connections.

I’m finding myself in a bit of a purgatory these days. Jazz and I leave for Regina on Tuesday, so I haven’t really been pounding the pavement, looking for daily work. By the time they need me, I’ll be gone. There are a few shows crewing up in the new year. I’ll be visiting their production offices today, looking to get a meeting. I’m also keeping busy writing pitches for a couple of different (potential) clients.

I began Act IV of Machiavelli & Tymes last week. I still have a major caper to figure out, but it’s only a couple scenes long, so nothing too epic. It would be pretty super duper alright if I could find some time today to get that done. I have a meeting with Shaftesbury on Monday, so wish me luck.

Downtown Train

Photo on 2014-12-04 at 4.42 PMI’m sitting in Bannock on Queen & Bay, across from Old City Hall. Jazzy’s coming to meet me so we can get her passport application submitted, but it’s 4:45pm and I don’t think we’re gonna make it.

No big deal. The Bay has all it’s display windows up and running for Christmas. They’re incredible, and I plan to take them in with my beautiful little girl at my side. We can do the passport thing tomorrow.

We took the train to Union at noon, then walked through the PATH network downtown, looking for a photography place that would do her passport photos. It was great! Just her and I walking aimlessly, and being together.

We went our separate ways at 12:45 – her to the passport office, and me to a lunch meeting I had lined up. At 1pm I received a text from Jazz, informing me they couldn’t process her application without me present, because she’s not 16 yet. She decided to take the subway back so she could get to her Math class on time.

[Jarrett looks out the window]

Oh! Guess who’s looking at me through the window? Time to wrap this up.

Photo on 2014-12-04 at 4.55 PM

My Day Will Go On

TitanicI spent the last twenty minutes or so, sitting with a coffee in my hand, just staring out the window. Musta been months since I last did that, and it really is negligent of me to have let the routine lapse for so long. Those quiet few minutes in the morning, with nothing but me, my thoughts, and the day’s beckonings, put me in a proper frame of mind to tackle what awaits.

Last night was pretty special too. I spent several hours on the couch, teaching Jazz Photoshop and After Effects, so she could complete a school project for her Media Studies class. The above photo is a poster she designed for a fake Coke campaign. I actually laughed out loud when I first saw it.

I love teaching Jazzy new things. Makes me feel like I’m at my Dadish bestiness. She’ll be getting her G1 in April, and I look forward to teaching her how to drive.

Today I’ll be heading downtown to work on a couple of projects. I’ve decided that working from home is incredibly, incredibly wearing on my headspace. I’m working on a pitch with Nimble Content, a division of Holiday Films, and since the relationship has been established, I asked if I could come in today, find an empty workspace, and finish up some personal projects while drinking their coffee.

Perhaps this could even be the beginning of some sort of routine – rotating through the offices of different companies I’ve reached out to. I stay visible, I feel less inclined to waste time on the internet, and I get stuff done. The ultimate networking.

So that’s the day ahead. Let’s see what comes of it.

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.

A Sunny Disposition From Yorkville

It’s a warm sunny Friday in Toronto at the moment. I’m sitting in a Starbucks in Yorkville. I found out my meeting this morning was cancelled, after I arrived, but I didn’t mind so much. What’s better than getting out of the house, drinking coffee, tapping in my blog, and watching people come and go?

On Wednesday I worked 17.5 hours on the set of Lost Girl. It was the final day of production for the series’ finale. Tears. Speeches. Gifts. Booze. Weariness. I felt lucky to be there, even though I was more of an interloper and everyone else was part of a family, five years in the making. I did manage to make friends with Karen, their continuity person. She was gifted a ‘Lost Girl’ canvas backpack that she had no use for. When I mentioned Jazzy’s love of the series, Karen gave me the backpack to give to her. I was shocked, but Karen insisted.

I was tired when I got home. My head hit the pillow at 5am, and I had meetings scheduled the next day, starting at 11am.

I heard Jazzy stirring around 8:30am and jumped out of bed. She gave me the biggest hug in the world when I showed her the backpack. It was such an incredible pleasure to see the joy in her eyes at having such a rare treasure. Perhaps that exchange fuelled me throughout the rest of the day, because I functioned rather well on three hours sleep.

My first meeting went swimmingly. Another commercial production company expressed a desire to work with me on their low budget projects. They liked my producing/PMing/ADing experience. They felt they needed someone who could wear a lot of hats.

My second meeting at 12:15 in Liberty Village also went well. I was given some great advice on the commercial industry. This may also lead to more work down the road. The guy even paid for my coffee & muffin afterwards.

In other news, I’m about four pages into Act II of Machiavelli & Tymes. I have a road map for where the story is going, but there’s enough wiggle room there for my characters to take that map, and figure out for themselves how they’ll complete the journey. They keep surprising me with what they come up with – which sounds crazy, but smells like something that will hold up under the scrutiny of my writers group. My goal is to finish Act II by Sunday night.

So that’s what I’ve been up to. Time to get on with my day.