Greek Haircuts & Meat

  I’m sitting in a salon on Queen Street East, waiting for a haircut. The salon is owned by an older Greek couple. They and their clientele wished Jazzy a happy 17th birthday. “God bless both of you!” they said in their thick accents.

They feel like the old people at church when I was growing up, who always talked to me. They talked to me like they’d known me all my life (cuz they actually had), and I didn’t even know their names. There’s something familiar about them, and I think it’s why I keep coming back.

Paul and Renee came home from the hospital with a baby yesterday. His name is Kieran. It’ll be fun to have a baby in the house. Jazzy and I bought them a gift certificate from Cineplex, so they could go on a date, and leave the kid with us. Exciting times!

They invited us down this afternoon to meet the baby. They also bought a cake for Jazzy – which I found incredibly thoughtful, given the big shiny new changes in their home.

Jazzy’s birthday has been…

FUCK!!!

I thought Orthodox Easter was April 24. It’s not. It’s May 1. May goddammed 1st! Jesus Christ, I dreamt about eating chicken last night. I haven’t eaten chicken, or any other meat and dairy since lent began approximately too long to remember ago.

Two more weeks. Alright. Here I go.

Jazzy’s birthday has been swell. We’ll be celebrating by doing stuff and not eating meat.

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East Coast Easter Road Trip

IMG_0479.jpgI’m writing from our hotel room on the 14th floor of the Tryp Hotel in beautiful Quebec City. The view out our floor-to-ceiling window is breath-taking. It lead to one of my favourite moments of the trip – Jazzy and I laying on our bellies on the floor, our chins perched on the bottom of the window frame, looking out at the world and talking about the future.

The whole idea started in January, when Jazzy brought up the idea of checking out Saint Thomas University in Fredericton. I’m not keen on the idea of her moving away to go to school, but we have a year before we need to make any decisions. I told her that if a couple of things fall into place for me, we could afford a road trip.

Then I made the CBC sale. Then I landed the Expanse gig.

Jazz loaded up her stuff, and brought her friend Gwen along for the ride. We stayed with my buddy in Fredericton – a playwright named Ryan Griffith. We arrived on Good Friday, and he promptly took us to a gas station to buy groceries – we came home with a box of Kraft Dinner, and 10 beer.

We checked out the campus of STU the next morning. Turns out Ryan teaches there on occasion, so he had keys to the place. The girls got a tour beyond their expectations.

From there we drove around a bit, got a feel for the town, then parked near the river. We walked across the St John River on a retired railroad bridge, then grabbed a bite at a local pub. I had fish cakes for the first time in my life.

After lunch, we split up. The girls went exploring downtown, while Ryan and I camped out at another pub called The James Joyce. He worked on a new play, while I finished the first act of my new TV Pilot.

The plan was to leave Sunday morning, and swing through Moncton to catch a glimpse of the Ocean on our way home. Turns out PEI is only another half hour down the road, via Confederation Bridge.

It added three hours of driving to our day, but lunch in Charlottetown was one of the best decisions I’ve made all year. The girls were blown away by the scenery and pure spontaneity of the drive.

I had Seafood Chowder, Jazz had Calamari, and Gwen ate the fish cakes.

We pulled into Quebec City at 10pm last night, tired from a long day of driving. Then we saw our room, and we were instantly charged with a powerful urge to explore the town.

The plan is to leave at around noon today, which will get us into Toronto, comfortably after rush hour traffic clears.

Montreal, Fredericton, Charlottetown, and Quebec City in 96 hours. This truly has been one of the best trips ever!

Alvin Ailey

ailey_ii_in_alvin_ailey_s_revelationsI took in a performance of the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre at the Sony Centre yesterday. I had never heard of this group, but when my friend Suzanne asked me to go with her, I jumped at the chance.

I have always been interested in movement as a storytelling mechanism. My xmas script features one character who communicates primarily through movement.

I was truly inspired by what I saw.

Alvin Ailey is credited with popularizing modern dance and revolutionizing African-American participation in 20th-century concert dance. I saw masses of humanity moving through space in ways that were both beautiful and elegant. The full spectrum of human physical expression was on display.

I have resolved that if I am ever able to put my xmas script into production, audiences will remember it for how it moves.

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
Live Dance Performance: 2

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

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

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Zen_motorcycle

“Truth comes knocking on the door, and we say, ‘Go away! I’m looking for Truth’.”

The above is from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I just finished the audio book a few seconds ago. First time all the way through.

As mentioned previously, I kept giving away my paperback copies before making it all the way through the end. The book always seemed to resonate with me, and my desire to share it, always trumped my desire to finish it.

The book was a best seller and heralded as one of the most important philosophy texts of the twentieth century. After so many starts and stops, I can’t really tell you what it means. For me, it just sort of ‘is’.

We look at reality in different ways, carrying different perspectives. There is the idea of what something is made of, verses what something actually represents – the Classical verses Romantic dichotomy. Truth in this way, is fleeting.

There is the idea of the ‘Monkey Trap’ that comes out of the book as well – this idea that we could free ourselves from our bonds, if we could just let go of the values that trap us.

The exploration of ‘Quality’ – how we all know what it is, but cannot definitively describe it. If you read the ancient taoist text, Tao Te Ching and substitute the word ‘Tao’ with ‘Quality’, you can see the two words as interchangeable.

There’s also my countless road trips home to Regina from Toronto. I travelled through some of the same country that Pirsig describes in his book. I could relate the road stops, junctions, and motels with different points in the book, based on where I was geographically in my car, when I last heard them.

The book means a lot to me, even though I barely know what the book means.

It doesn’t even bother me that I have such a poor grasp of it. Just means that in a few months time, when I give it another pass, even more ideas will jump out. It’s the book that keeps on giving.

2016 Culture Tally;

Feature Scripts Read: 1
TV Scripts Read: 1
Movies Watched: 7
TV Seasons Watched: 4
Documentaries Watched: 1
Documentary Series Watched: 1
Audio Books: 1

Staring Down Mid-Afternoon

IMG_0044My favourite time of day has become mornings. There’s always so much ‘potential’ for the day in the morning. Morning sunlight kisses the day awake. Morning coffee splashes essence upon tongue. Morning thoughts of future evening’s accomplishments dance through my mind.

Mid afternoon is the worst. The hope of morning has faded. The passage of time has become palpable. Hopes from the morning become reality’s metrics in the afternoon. I’m either on track for a great day, or I’m heading off the rails. A mid-afternoon siesta seems to beckon. Have I earned one?

Evening is the truth that comes knocking on the door, and we either say, “Go away, I’m looking for truth.” Or we say, “Come on in and show me who I am.” Evening is the time to either feel great about the day, or the time to write it off, and look forward to the next morning. It’s the ultimate ‘either/or’ proposition in one’s life.

I struggle to string more than two or three good days together at a time. I have days where I just can’t get it in gear. Can’t tear myself away from distractions. Can’t bring myself to simply begin the day. I sometimes feel like an alcoholic trying to stare down a bottle – trying to summon the will power to do the right thing. My bottle is the choice between beginning, or not beginning.

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were outstanding days for me this week. I had the greatest hopes for Thursday, but got tripped up. Friday was so so. It’s now noon on a Saturday. I’ve set the goal to complete the rewrite of my TV pilot.

Let’s see how it goes.