Monday, December 28, 2009

The Many Faces of Elizabeth

Today is our blended family's second "official" Christmas, so suddenly there's much ado about turkey and tinsel all over again. I have benefitted a bit from the practice I got from the first run though, so this morning - between the wrapping and the stuffing - I found myself the time and space to properly look at the audition tapes we've received so far on our Facebook fan page. And one word comes to mind: generosity.

Have the rest of you had a chance to see Julia, Melissa and Shelby's auditions on the fan page? Wow, girls - good work, all of you.  And let me say, each one of you clearly has the courage and determination that Elizabeth eventually discovers in herself - in spades! 

I know everyone else is in holiday mode as well this week, but I would encourage all of you to try and look at the work of these young women at some point over the next few days or so - they've all given a lot of thought and time to these tapes - and it shows.  

Once you've done that, then I would really like to hear from you - I'd like to know what kind of reactions you have to the scenes as interpreted so well and so differently by each of these young artists. Let me know what you think! Comment here or on the fan page or both - that way, I'll be sure to hear you above the din of the family mish-mash, who are even as I write this, starting to crowd around our valiant, but overworked Christmas tree. Better go run crowd control - meantime, happy continuing holidays!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Tiding House

For those of you who enjoyed my mom's blog entry last week, I'd just like to say she's flattered by the attention. And that she will consider contributing another entry or two in the future - from her next roost, Ajijic, Mexico.

In the meantime, you're stuck with me! Well, most of me - at least the me that remains after my titan (and ongoing) struggle with microscopic visitors that, unlike my mom, seem determined to overstay their welcome... 

And speaking of hospitality, we have been receiving some emails from Elizabeth auditioners saying that they were having trouble posting their self-tapes to our Facebook page.  Although one savvy candidate did manage to do it (way to go!), I think there may be some compatibility issues with certain computers...? Either way, we have received a couple directly to our email address so where there's a will, there's a way. For everyone who's already contacted us - thank you! We'll be in touch after the holidays. Meantime, check the fan page here.

Due to the interface complications (does it show I have limited computer literacy?) which some people may have experienced, we will be happy to extend the deadline and continue to receive your self-tapes over the holiday period either via email (info@palomarfilms) or directly posted to the Facebook Fan Page.  Just know that Theresapedia is enjoying a well-deserved vacation from today until January 4, 2010, so you can only expect to hear from her after that date. 

Someone who will be working over the holidays is our champion first Assistant Director, Francine Langlois - our newest and much needed, long-awaited member of the team.  She's got the fresh version of the script and will be labouring over it between now and New Year's to give us a real nuts and bolts picture of how much we're shooting, where, with whom and for how long - according to the words I've put on paper. Big thanks to her for the work that lies ahead.

Also reading this new version over the holidays is the actor - our as yet uncommitted but interested heart's desire - for the part of Marion...  Hope to have some concrete news for you early in the New Year!

As I sign off, let me wish every one of you a healthy and happy holiday with your loved ones. Thank you for being "out there" for me. I look forward to many more fruitful exchanges in 2010 - The Year Dolly Parton Was My Mom Becomes a Movie!


Monday, December 14, 2009

Note from Home

Dear Faithful Blog Readers,

This is Tara's Mom - as I'm sure you can tell by the handwriting. 

I am writing this note to ask you to please excuse Tara from handing in her usual weekly assignment.  You see, she spent most of today in one of those walk-in clinics, where you actually do walk in, but then you wait for four and a half hours until the place has emptied out and someone finally calls your name. And then you go into the doctor's office and he doesn't even look up from his other patients' charts at you when you come in all hungry and dehydrated from your morning in the waiting room. And then when you describe the problem that's concerning you to the point you're willing to waste an entire half a day just waiting around NOT writing your blog OR your script rewrite which is due on Wednesday,  he doesn't even bother to stand up and come around to the other side of the desk to take a proper look at you. 

Instead, he sits there and types something in his computer and swings the monitor around to show you what you've got - on WIKIPEDIA! Gee, you think, if you'd only gone to medical school for seven years, maybe you would have been able to figure out how to do a Google search and become a doctor too! And then when you ask if he would mind taking your blood pressure on an unrelated, but equally bothersome matter, he smiles and says you can use the machine in the pharmacy while you're waiting to have your prescription filled.

So, in light of this eventful morning, I hope you will go easy on Tara just for this week. Also, she's coming to pick me up at the airport in an hour and I don't want her to be late (or god forbid, get in an accident because she's rushing)!

Thank you very much for your understanding,

Sincerely,

Tara's mom (really!)

Monday, December 7, 2009

This One Goes Out to Agnes...

...and all the other fine folks at the Shaw Rocket Fund who read our script, considered our project and as of last Friday committed to come on board this crazy train!

This amazing financing news could not have come at a better time. With our scheduled shooting date looming ever closer and us still missing almost half a million dollars from our target (albeit bare-bones) budget, we were facing the very real possibility of me having to rewrite the script yet again - but this time in order to cut characters and whole chunks of story that we would simply not have been able to afford to shoot. 

So, I am not overselling our genuine joy and relief when the good news came... And it came, as these things seem wont to do in our project, at an especially banal and yet incredibly serendipitous moment...

Barbara and I had long-ago scheduled a meeting for that afternoon with a gentleman whose house we would very much like to shoot in (as the Gray family's home) here in Montreal. While we waited for Gentleman Tom to arrive at the little café, Barbara told me she'd asked Theresapedia NOT to text or call during lunch if BAD news came in from Shaw. Barbara said she left express instructions that Theresapedia was only to CALL Barbara's cell if GOOD news came in.  

I tried my best to put this out of my mind altogether. I hate waiting for the phone to ring.

So, Gentleman Tom arrived and we three started having a convivial meeting with Barbara doing much of the talking - G.T. having professed to being curious as to what an independent film producer actually does. 

So, we ordered and ate and turned around several of the many aspects that make up a producer's job description... and as Barbara was detailing the process of raising production money, she mentioned where we were at in our film's budget: "As a matter of fact..." (okay and here I confess I was already hearing bells - but I told myself to chill, that was NOT Barbara's cell phone ringing) "... as a matter of fact", she continued, "we're still trying to raise money to complete ..." (seriously, that ringing sound's coming from inside her bag right beside my feet) "...our target budget, and actually, we're waiting today for an answer from the Shaw Rocket Fu - Is that - ?" (oh God) "- that's my phone!" 

Barbara interrupts herself to dive into her bag to get to the phone before it stops ringing and I'm left, frozen-smiling across the table at Gentleman Tom, telling the butterflies in my stomach not to get their hopes up. Just because Barbara's phone's ringing RIGHT at the moment she's talking about getting an answer from the Shaw people in no way means that it IS - 

But Barbara's frantically waving her hand up and down, yelling into the phone for Theresapedia to stop screaming, she can't understand her... nonetheless the message soon became loud and clear to the entire café... WE GOT IT!!! They said yes! The Fund's president, Ms. Agnes Augustin herself called the office to say they love the project and to give us the good news. The Godsend. 

Amidst some tears and a lot of goosebumps, we eventually learned that we have been granted the amount we asked for, the maximum allocated by the Fund.  So in that glorious Friday afternoon, the amount we have been missing to make this film was suddenly cut in half! There are, of course, reader's notes to look at and address in the next rewrite, but the bottom line is that with the generous investment from the Shaw Rocket Fund, we no longer have to cut people or story from our little film - and we are one whole giant step closer to our final destination! 



Monday, November 30, 2009

Looking for Elizabeth...

I've just emerged from my great Grey Cup goings-on to make this equally exciting announcement.... Please forgive the rather formal tone to follow; I gave all my best lines to the television yesterday to get those Alouettes out of the gutter! (hats off to Saskatchewan - you Roughies were sublime! A most worthy adversary!)

So now back to the announcement: 

As promised in previous blogs, today we are officially opening up the "cyber floor" to all possible Elizabeths far and wide...!

The search for the actor who will play our 11-year old heroine is heating up. As some of you may know, we are presently in the midst of spending quality time with our seven short-listed candidates across the country, but still want to throw open the process to anyone who would like to be part of our on-line search for Elizabeth.

Anyone who is female, Canadian and between the ages of 9 and 15 (but LOOKS 11) is eligible!  Whether you've already auditioned for us through the formal casting process or not, we will be thrilled to see you this time around.

To find out exactly what we're looking for and how to submit your self-tape for consideration :  simply click here to link to our Facebook Fan Page.

Once you've made your self-taped audition, you'll be able to post it to the Fan Page and readers will be able to vote for their favourite "Elizabeth".  Submissions will be accepted until 5 pm EST on Monday, December 21, 2009.  

We're looking forward to seeing you all! Good luck!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Playing "Ketchup"...

...as in: Bringing you up-to-date, condiment-style.  

In other words, the news will be more sauce than substance as I'm sprinting towards my latest Final Draft finish line...and have a chronic brain cramp to match the one in my typing fingers (which, since I was classically trained, means all 10 - not a single digit spared).

Tomorrow at 1 pm EST is the delivery deadline, so will do a little wrap-up for you before getting back to the all-demanding, unyielding cursor on the script-y page...

Item 1 - Although we thought we might have some vital $ news from the all-important  Shaw Rocket Fund by this time, we got a general communiqué last week saying that they were needing more time to render the decisions. We were told that the news would come now on December 4. What did my true love give to me on the fourth day of Christmas...? Does the fourth day of Christmas even actually refer to the 4th of December - probably not but now that I've rambled on is it too late to go back or have I already exposed my sorry lack in knowledge of Christmas adventia? Gagaga.... Sorry - writer's fever...

Item 2 - The much-awaited 2nd phone call with the actor we're hoping will play Marion has NOT yet come to pass - we've been told there was a death in the family and that notwithstanding her serious interest in the project, we'll (understandably) be placed on stand-by while she attends to more important personal matters. 

Item 3 - Theresapedia is waiting on me to supply her with a few key pieces to complete the parameters for our open casting of Elizabeth to be posted here and on our Facebook Fan Page by this time next week.

I'm getting there... Feeding Scriptress Valérie my latest version tomorrow at 1:00.  

At 1:01, start doing everything else!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Priority Post

I thought this was just too important to keep restricted to the "comments" section. This is definitely worth a post of its own...!

For some time now, Barbara and I have been toying with the idea; a while ago our unofficial blog deputy, Sue from Vancouver, was talking to us about it; and now "Melissa" is openly wondering... Is the casting for Elizabeth over? Will we open up the search for Elizabeth to the world (wide web, that is)?

Well, the answers are no, and yes, respectively!

While we have already seen a large quantity of self-tapes through our casting director, Andrea Kenyon, and while we were greatly impressed by the quality of the young performers submitted from across Canada, we necessarily narrowed our choice down to several girls in each city to see in person. And then we narrowed it down further to a handful of girls we feel strongly about and are just now starting to explore more in-depth.

But despite the fact that we may very well find that we already have the perfect Elizabeth in our midst, this important a search cannot just end with maybes...

So while we continue our more in-depth exploration with selected girls, there is still room, time and possibility to see anyone out there who is convinced she could be our Elizabeth! This includes GIRLS WHO HAVE NEVER DONE A DROP OF ACTING IN THEIR LIVES, as much as it includes GIRLS WHO MAY ALREADY HAVE SUBMITTED SELF-TAPES BUT WANT TO TAKE ANOTHER SHOT.

In other words: everyone who is female, Canadian and looks 11 years old.

And in this round, we want to let our fans and our readers have a say as to who will be added to our Elizabeth short list.

We still have some technical tinkering to do (thank god for Theresapedia) on the Facebook Fan Page before we can put out the official call and details, but I absolutely wanted to address the queries on this subject as soon as I knew for sure that we were going for it!

So, please stay tuned. We'll make the official announcement both here and on the Fan Page within the next two weeks! 

Can't wait to see you all! Must get back to the script now - Scriptress Valérie's waiting for the next draft a week tomorrow and I'm behind schedule...!

Monday, November 9, 2009

All Fall Down

Twenty years ago today, the Berlin Wall came tumbling down. Just listening to some of the personal accounts of people who were there, who were directly affected - the people of East Germany in particular - and it strikes me how there are some interesting parallels to be drawn between the fall of this wall in the Eastern bloc and the rise of women's rights in the West.

Oddly enough, the fall of the Iron Curtain, this physical symbol of socio-political oppression, didn't necessarily have the immediate and unanimously euphoric effect on the repressed population locked behind it that we might imagine... 

Anecdotal evidence suggests that not everyone readily embraced the resulting shift away  from a highly ordered world where social roles were strictly prescribed and personal ambitions admittedly curtailed but where the writing was very much on "the wall" and everyone was at least reading the same thing. If nothing else, it was a place where everyone knew what was expected of them and what to expect from each other. 

Once the wall fell though, East Germans suddenly found themselves with comparatively boundless possibilities, endless choices, infinite freedoms. Without the navigational tools some of us take for granted, many of them floundered in the vast sea of possibility, while still others remained paralyzed in the sudden absence of social dictates that served as moorings, benchmarks. Many others embraced their newfound rights and liberties of course, but even today Germans from the East will tell you there is still a submerged stigma attached to their origins - that the perception of them as second class citizens by their West German counterparts is still something to be overcome... 

So, the physical, visible barrier separating East and West has long since come down, but the psychological barrier will doubtless take generations to dismantle. 

Sound familiar? I know this phenomenon can, of course, apply to any number of historically oppressed groups who finally achieve "equality" in their given society. I just find it very interesting - especially in light of my film's being set during the rise of feminism and my characters' struggles within that context - that politically endowed "freedom" can feel as limiting to some as "subjugation" to others. And that even when social equality has been politically declared and publicly embraced, it will probably take a long time before it truly resonates in the hearts and minds of the dominant culture.


Monday, November 2, 2009

Notes from the Underground

Just finished my slam session with Valérie, the screenplay "doctor". We got very deep and very direct on the first act.  It's almost there. Lots of detail, lots of discussion about dialogue and character throughout. The "second act cul-de-sac" as it's typically known in screenwriting parlance is exactly that in my case. The bulk of the work needs to be done there.  The ending, well the ending is still in play much as it has been written - all events and characters just need to lead to it, that's all. 

Despite the really deep tissue massage that still must be done, what we have is a film in the making that is more and more focussed on the mother-daughter dynamic - that cinematic black hole in the coming-of-age genre. 

My next deadline for a new version is three weeks tomorrow. 

Much will be happening between now and then though - we should be hearing back sometime this month from the Shaw Rocket Fund, I will be meeting with the first of our 6 short-listed "Elizabeth's" to begin a deeper exploration of the candidates, and lastly, I should be having a second conversation with the tremendously exciting actor I spoke with on Friday. We had a very long, very in-depth chat. She had much positive stuff to say about the script, many intelligent questions about how I see the film, the character, how I work... Anyway, it was great! Just having my script compared to that of "Lars and the Real Girl" was worth the price of missing the first in a James Bond double-header. Anyway, nothing's decided, we left it that she will read the script a second time with particular attention to what kind of commitment will be required from her for the role and look at my creative documents for my visual approach and we're set to talk again after that.

Stay tuned...





Monday, October 26, 2009

D-day


D for Deadline. 
D for Did I make it? 
D for Drink - which is another way of saying yes. And no.
 
I don't mind telling you, I have been writing my ass off and I hope you don't mind hearing it. Because that is about all I've been doing. Getting to my office at the crack of 5 or 6 in the morning and dragging myself home at 8 or 9 at night. Somewhere in there I did manage to finish that short film we shot a couple weeks ago, attend a Habs game and brush my teeth. But that's about it.

So, when I hit "send" at ten minutes to one o'clock this afternoon - Valérie is a bit of a stickler on schedule - and let myself step off of the text treadmill (for a day or so), what do you think I did to take a break? 

Started reading a book and writing the blog, of course. 

Oh, and also started freeeeaking out about the unadulterated nakedness of the once "brilliant", now totally oblique mash-up of ideas and caffeine-fuelled inspiration that I'd just sent off to a smart, sticky stranger and Barbara to read before I even had time to. 

Even though I did my level best to put all the usual caveats in my accompanying email... you know the drill: this is ROUGH - only a snapshot of a work in progress - a humble and hopeful offering of where I'm heading, not necessarily where I'm staying... even though I feel like I did some of my best writing in that damn email, I still feel like I just walked into my high school math class without any pants on. And all I can do now, is stand there and wait for everyone to look up.

Thus, the drink. 

Also, this Friday, I'm scheduled  to have a first phone conversation with an actor I greatly respect.  She's read the script and is interested in the role of Marion, but we're a long way still from sealing any deals. I will definitely keep you posted if and when things develop on that front. 

Anyway, I'm basically back. I made it - more or less - to that latest finish line. So, tell me, how're you doing? What have you been up to? Who's got more to say - pro or con - about Ginger Snaps? Or other films to suggest for our virtual Favourite Canadian Film Festival?

Meantime, here's my next pick: "Margaret's Museum", Mort Ransen. (I call Canadian director, distributor and story qualifies for the FCFF)....






Monday, October 19, 2009

Double Jeopardy

One Week.

What is the title of the recent and successful Mongrel release starring Joshua Jackson?

Correct! But I also would have accepted: 

What is the name of my current and growing chest pain? 

One week from today I am scheduled to submit the next (and hopefully more ready for the silver screen) version of my screenplay. I am submitting it to the same savvy analyst, Valérie, who treated me to a truth-telling session about the paper-to-screen compatibility of my script early this summer.  And although Valérie hasn't specified, I'm assuming she probably wants the script in like, written form - as opposed to the half-hieroglyphic-scrawl-on-recipe-cards-stuck-to-my-living-room-wall form it currently exists in.  And even then, only two-thirds of the film is represented in any form at all - hieroglyphic or otherwise. The remaining third is still locked away somewhere in my head or heart or hard drive. 

One week.

So here's the thing, I kinda gotta write - a lot - but, by extension, it also means I gotta write a little less here this week than I'd like... 

With any luck, I'll catch up with myself - and everyone else - by next Monday evening. Meantime, since I forgot to list the second in my top five favourite Canadian films last week, here's two for you to chew on and/or add to...

2) Ginger Snaps, John Fawcett

3) The Hanging Garden, Thom Fitzgerald




Monday, October 12, 2009

Refresher Course

I'm feeling very thankful this Thanksgiving. In the run-up to making my first big film, I got to make a little movie. Meaning, I got to start finding my way back into the cinematic saddle, with the invaluable and generous help of friends, family and other folks with big hearts. 




It was a one-day shoot. Eight hours of filming for a one-minute piece featuring four locations for no money. So our living room became production central. 

I'm considering keeping the still life...

The film, titled, "Hussain Explained" is a portrait of one of our most prolific, multi-talented and arguably, misunderstood filmmakers here in Quebec, Karim Hussain.


My girl, Claudine shot it. 

Pierre was capturing sound. 

And Mireille was bringing out the natural beauty in our subject at Palomar's office - one of our locations, courtesy of Barbara. 


Martin and Laurent made everything run smoothly, while still managing to stay a little asleep. 

Spoiler alert: 

It's a happy ending!


P.S. Thanks to everyone who gave us what we needed - Francesca Chamberland (costumes), Mario Fortin and all the great people at Cinéma Beaubien (location and warmth), Philippe Athlan (wigs and wet dog noses), Maria and family (location), Barbara (location and connections), Andrew at Café Guerrero (tables and chairs). 

And special thanks to Richard Duquette, whose camera, editing and hands-on production presence helped make this possible from a to z.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Um...

...yeah.

I don't know about you guys, but I have been reading a lot of juicy stuff on my blog over the last week - all written by other people. 

If you haven't done so already, you really should read last week's post and most especially, its subsequent comments. Very stimulating stuff (got me contemplating how to set up a guest-blogging spot). 

If you don't have a good half a day to spend on it though, let me sum it up quick and dirty: Even though there's a consensus of conscience out there that Canadian films (this one included) should cast all-Canadian, there's also a complex and mostly illogical set of forces which fly in the face of that conscience.

And although this discussion is nowhere NEAR over (as Sue pointed out, we had a record comment load last week and the subject is still wide open), I think we could use a bit of a bon-bon after all that broccoli. So let's go to the movies!

Inspired by the eloquence and passion coming from all you thinkers/artists/cinephiles who wrote in the comments section last week - and all the other weeks for that matter - I'd love to hear about the Canadian film(s) you really love. What are the homegrown movies close to your heart? What drew you to them in the first place? What sets them apart over time?

I'll sign off with the first one of my five favourites. Canadian or otherwise, to me, these are just great must-see movies:

1. "Hard Core Logo" by Bruce McDonald

Monday, September 28, 2009

What Do You Think?

I'm all ears this week.... 

After getting a crash course on the Electronic Era's imperative to GENERATE constant content to feed the ever-growing number of hungry platforms (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, blog, text, what's next?) and doing my level best to comply, I now find myself - not surprisingly perhaps - wanting to LISTEN for a while. 

This week, I'd really like to hear what YOU think - on the subject of casting our Canadian film. Our English Canadian film, that is. I make this distinction because French Canadian film, better known as Québécois cinema, is simply not subject to the same Expectation vs. Reality paradox as the RoC (Rest of Canada) is.

In Québec, there is a well-established and well-fed star system that guarantees French-language filmmakers reasonable access to, and mass audience interest in, an appreciable pool of actors. When a home-grown film comes out in theatres here, people choose to go to see it over the X-Men's and Inglourious Basterds's for the very reason that it is HOME-GROWN.

This predilection for indigenous fare has not taken hold in the Rest of Canada - in fact, the trend is quite strongly in the opposite direction.

In the RoC, we are a tiny, if barely heard English voice in a very large English-speaking Sea where only the loudest talkers and the biggest fish seem to rise to the surface...

So, dear readers/cinephiles, I'm putting this prickly question to you:

What DO you think, or more importantly, how do you FEEL about our quest to cast a "name" actor (read: "famous", therefore read: "probably non-Canadian") in a lead role - for the purpose of trying to get our "Canadian" voices heard by as many people as possible?


Monday, September 21, 2009

After Math

Now that TIFF 2009 is formally in the bag and I've had some time to take stock of the whole experience, let me just add it all up here:

1008. 86 kms
Plus
seven industry parties of varying degrees of glad-handing, glitz and glamour
Plus
two Jian Ghomeshi encounters: one accidental and almost resulting in injury (his), the other on purpose. Both encounters were engineered by Barbara, my producer, who's usually better at working the promotion angle than I am.
Minus
one drink : which, during that second encounter, I spilled on said producer's leg and possibly The Ghomeshi himself in the course of my nervous attempts to hold his attention.
Minus
one measure self-respect.
Plus
thirteen stellar young actors auditioning for the role of Elizabeth and making our selection process happily harder!
Plus
two true celebrity sightings : Salman Rushdie, Patricia Clarkson (at the sexy Mongrel Media party for Cairo Time).
Plus
two honest-to-god screenings: between the networking, casting and hypoglycemic episodes, we managed to see the highly entertaining film, The Trotsky by Jacob Tierney in a jam-packed house and the powerfully disturbing, Harry Brown starring Michael Caine and Emily Mortimer.
Minus
one Emily Mortimer:  while there was a real hope that Ms. Mortimer  (Match Point, Lars and the Real Girl) might have played Marion in our film and some real possibility that a meeting with her might be arranged while we were all in Toronto together, neither of those possibilities materialized. 
Plus
one double dose of pride: Cairo Time directed by Ruba Nadda and distributed by our gang at Mongrel took the top prize for Canadian Feature at TIFF. AND, The Wild Hunt directed by Montrealer Alexandre Franchi and shot by our darling Claudine Sauvé won "Best First Feature" at this prestigious festival!!! Congratulations to the films and the people behind them!
Minus
one iPhone : last seen at the Timmy's rest stop on the 401 eastbound...

...all adds up to:
(WTF)2

Monday, September 14, 2009

In a TIFF

Here we are - right in the (red) eye of the storm.  TIFF 2009: where controversy cornered some celebrities faster than the paparazzi. The kerfuffle surrounding the signatories of the by-now infamous "Toronto Declaration" and its equally notable detractors has deftly taken the spotlight off Tel Aviv and focussed it instead on a timeless and, in my mind, irresolvable juxtaposition - that of big A Art and capital P Politics. 

In response to the "Toronto Declaration", the great filmmaker, Norman Jewison declared yesterday at the Canadian Film Centre that, "We must not politicize art." That the content and quality of a film cannot and must not be linked to the city or state from which it emerged. 

While in theory, I support the contention that a nation's cultural output should not be judged based on its foreign policy, I would just like to weigh in on his one other sweeping point...

Having spent the bulk of my time here at one of the world's largest, most important FILM festivals, NOT SEEING FILMS - but rather meeting, greeting and repeating in the spirit of a candidate on the hustings, I have to respectfully say to Mr. Jewison that our art is, and probably always will be, politicized.

The very fact that exactly one year ago at the same event, this same great man of cinema made a pointedly political speech decrying the Conservative Government for pulling the plug on arts funding - the lifeblood of this country's cinema - further proves that what he's calling for this year is quite impossible, if not contradictory. Art and politics are, in almost every arena and especially here in Toronto, incompatible yet quite unavoidable bedfellows.  

Unlike Drew Barrymore and Ellen Page - who look quite compatible indeed.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

WTF 2.0

For the next three days, I am doing my best to eat well, drink lots of (unspirited) fluids, and get plenty of rest. Because once Friday rolls around, I will be having none of that. For Friday's the day we land at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) and the day we give ourselves over to the grueling groove of "WTF" ("Working The Festival").

Okay, to the uninitiated, the term "working" may seem a bit whiny. After all, it is just a big bunch of movies, parties and stars and more movies and more parties and more - oops, sorry Mr. Mortensen, did I just step on your bare foot? Anyway, I grant that there is all that. And it is fun. But it's all so stacked up and stuffed in at such an unrelenting pace that by Day 3, you find yourself conjuring up that old movie about the girl who almost died trying to swim across the English Channel - if only for what tips you might be able to get on pacing.

In this, our second year at TIFF, we will actually be riding a bit of a wave. With our film almost fully financed and our project invited to IFF (International Financing Forum at TIFF) for a chance to complete that financing, we have a bit of momentum going in. And by "going in", I mean, "talking it up", "spreading the word", "creating a buzz" at this very important festival around our still unmade film. Crazy as it sounds. Apparently, it's never too early to start promoting your film. And never too late to start supporting others. 

And so, promote and support we shall. Starting on Friday when we arrive. First up is the screening - world premiere screening mind you - of "The Trotsky" by Jacob Tierney. Jacob is a young wunderkind actor/writer/director from Montreal. This is his second feature and by all reports, it is a slam dunk to be one of this year's darlings. 

Early in the evening, the SODEC is hosting a reception which we will attend, happy for the chance to pay our respects to the good people who have supported our efforts this whole journey long. Later on, there will be a party in honour of the premiere of Jacob's film. Jacob was an insightful reader for us on one of the versions of our script, so we absolutely have to go, you know, to say thanks.

The next morning, Barbara and I have a breakfast meeting with our international sales agent, the inimitable Charlotte Mickie. From there we go to our casting session to see a selection of Toronto-area girls who are auditioning for the role of Elizabeth. From there, we head to a reception hosted by Telefilm. Here again, we will have a chance to speak face to face with the good people who are throwing their all-important support behind our project.

Somewhere around here, we will no doubt hook up with Liz Jarvis - our Buffalo Gal/prairie co-prod extraordinaire. Liz and Buffalo Gal have a terrific film at the festival this year - Gary Yates' "High Life" will have three screenings at TIFF, starting Tuesday. It's a jam-packed 80 minutes of raw, righteous filmmaking. A must-see.

Sunday morning, the three of us will be executing strategic moves conceived to help us meet the people of interest we will have spotted over the previous two days. In the afternoon, Barbara heads off to the organized events of IFF while Theresapedia and I continue our spotting, stalking, talking tactics. Somewhere in there, we will slip away to see the film, "The Wild Hunt" by Montreal director, Alexandre Franchi shot by our very own D.O.P., Claudine Sauvé. We'll hook up with Claudine at the screening and then maybe drag her along with us for a P.R. prowl over the cocktail hour. Later that night, our esteemed distributor, Mongrel Media is hosting a party in honour of Ruba Nadda's film "Cairo Time" starring Patricia Clarkson and Alexander Siddig. While we will certainly be taking this opportunity to catch our distribution team up on where we're at in the pre-pre-production process, we'll also have some time to just sit back and enjoy the scenery.

And then, that brings us to Monday. Which I think I'll leave for Monday's post. I'm frankly exhausted just writing what I know is ahead! For now, I'm off to bed... 






Monday, September 7, 2009

Labour (Delay) Day

It's Labour Day - last long weekend of the summer and I am indeed labouring. On my roof - and what's left of my tan.

I just came down for a glass of water and a quick spin around the blog to ask for a day's grace. There's lots to talk about given that Barbara, Theresapedia and I are loading up the truck and heading for the Centre of the Universe this Friday - Toronto, that is. Swimming pools and movie stars.... 

So I wonder if I can fill you in tomorrow on the goings on and the comings up of it all?  

I'm sure you're all probably on your decks or docks or lawns or roofs (rooves?) yourselves today anyway, and in no particular hurry to come back down to earth either. So, wherever it is that you are, go on, stay there! I wish you every last golden drop of guilt-free sunshine you can get. There'll be plenty of time to catch up on everything tomorrow! And the day after that. And the day after that...

Monday, August 31, 2009

Hose 'Er

I just re-read my last week's post and all I can say is, "Someone turn a hose on that girl!" (i.e. me)

Holy Moley. Surely there's SOME summer left to be squeezed out of the not-quite-September sky. And as for laying waste to my papery loved-ones, well, let's just say, I'll take advantage of the time it takes me to sharpen my axe to consider any valid pleas for clemency...

In other news, I met Heidi Levitt, our US-based casting director face-to-face the other day.  Originally from Montreal, Heidi was up from L.A. for a family event and was able to meet with Barbara, Theresapedia and I for café au lait, toasted baguette and a jam-packed breakfast chat. 

The conversation travelled from Montreal's West Island, to Vancouver Island's West Coast, making stops in New York and New Orleans along the way. Learning that Heidi's first big casting gig was assisting on Alan Parker's, "Angel Heart" impressed us - as much because she'd been given such a big break so young, as because it conjured up images of a still shockingly normal-looking Mickey Rourke.

Anyway, the big news from south of the border is that there's some solid interest in our project at a high-profile management company (which, I will double-check if I can name at this time). Anyway, with their hefty roster of talented and respected artists, we are now looking at the possibility of casting one non-Canuck role there. That is, if we don't end up going All-Canadian, eh. 








Monday, August 24, 2009

Dog Days of Summer

Even the most casual observer has probably noticed that our beloved and sadly truncated summer  is already on the wane - everything is just that much limper, dustier, and a whole lot sluggishier. 

As the cicadas whine relentlessly outside - and inside - my head, I find myself fully, physically inhabited by nature's invisible but palpable preparations for the Great Dying Off. The Cutting Back. 

Every living, beautiful thing that helps make summer the seductive season it is will soon be shedding, drying, dying - cutting itself back to the branches. The stem. The soil. The root. 

Like the natural world around me, I'm also preparing for a very drastic but necessary pruning. I know this - not just because I am also a little limp, a little dusty, and quite a lot sluggish - but because, like the natural world around me, I too am quietly preparing to kill my darlings.

After all, that is how nature - and writers for that matter - get back to the essence of whatever it is that had once been planted. Only by clearing away all the pretty stuff - all the frill and the fruit and the foliage - is it possible to return to the skeleton, the basic bare bones of original intention. The whole reason we both wanted to tell our stories in the first place. 

So in keeping with the very natural cycle of birth, growth, death and regeneration, I am now steeling myself to commit very necessary darlingicide.






Monday, August 17, 2009

Back to the Blueprint

I have to confess ... I've been in Vancouver all along. A certain brother of mine's surprise birthday party prevented me from openly discussing my left coast activities before now, but the party's been had and the cat's out of the bag, so now I can say publicly that Barbara and I both met the folks at Telefilm here in Vancouver last week. 

We are hoping that our bi-regional coproduction status will provide us the possibility of accessing some Western financing. Because the film is set in the prairies and is told from my prairie-born perspective, there is a distinctive Western Canadian flavour to the whole thing.  So although it will be a majority Quebec production, the film will be visibly identified as a prairie product - giving any Western investor big bang for their buck. We feel we had a good meeting with Bill and Vivianne, and left them with an appetite for the upcoming rewrite of the script.

Also, while we were out here, we had a chance to meet some of the Vancouver girls who had submitted their self-tapes for the role of Elizabeth.  Every single girl who has auditioned has shown us great work - we are so impressed with the calibre of talent right across the country. Again, though, the process is much like peeling an onion ... everything's evolving in conjunction with everything else, constantly showing new shapes and textures, revealing more and more of the core the deeper we go. 

There are still such big questions to ask - and answer - in my final pass of the script, so I've set my sights on an October deadline for the "polish".  As I write this blog, I am mentally preparing myself for some heavy creative soul-searching and intellectual gymnastics.

It's such a beautiful problem to have, frankly - needing to make this practically fully financed script as strong, tight and REAL as I can between now and October... 

But knowing that I'm really going to make this film is giving me a kind of kick in the cajones of my consciousness... For so long, the script was the selling tool - the way to entice perfect strangers to board my fantasy train.  But now it's something else entirely - now it's a blueprint for building an actual film. A film that will exist in the physical world - a film I will want to live with for the rest of my life. Seen that way, there may be a few too many staircases in the wrong places and possibly some unnecessary doors and entire floors on this blueprint. So, in I go...



 


Monday, August 10, 2009

Midnight Oil

I'm on a bit of a nocturnal schedule these days. As Theresapedia alluded to in the sidebar news, the extra time we've afforded ourselves in pre-pre-production is being used in part to make our good script even good-er. Having received a very lucid and soul-searching critique from script analyst extraordinaire, Valérie Beaugrand-Champagne, I am now in the throes of a fairly deep "polish". 

Unfortunately the mundane demands of the "real world" make it so that I need a day job to earn a living while I write. Thus, I write at night - and thus, this late-ish posting.  

Meanwhile though, much is brewing on all sorts of fronts...  We received confirmation that the Harold Greenberg Fund has come on board for a cool chunk of change. We are thrilled, of course. This is another important portion of what we need to meet our target budget. Further to that end, Barbara will soon be meeting with the fine folks at Telefilm West who may be interested in participating in our bi-regional co-production. Also, we're very excited that our project is one of only five Canadian productions-in-progress invited to participate at IFF - the International Financing Forum taking place during the Toronto International Film Festival - providing us with a very privileged opportunity to raise additional financing by way of international buyers. 

On the home front, we continue to be fed with increasingly exciting locations possibilities by both our scouts. We're seeing some very strong candidates for Elizabeth on the self-tapes Andrea has called for from around the country - and we'll be organizing callbacks for our Toronto girls while we're in town doing IFF. 

In short, humming right along... Sweet dreams. 


Monday, August 3, 2009

If It Works For NASA...

It should work for us. 

We've made the decision to push. And even though I am very sure it's for the best, there's a little mini-mourning to be done nonetheless. 

I know we all feel more comfortable and more confident that we'll be able to make an even better film by taking a little more time. Time for everything. From locations to cast to crew to cash to script. 

But there's still something to be said for the kind of heady, headlong momentum we had coming out of the starting blocks in June. As soon as that unbelievable news came that we had a huge part of our financing, we took the leap and put our faith in the flow of things that seemed to be telling us to make the most of the moment.

And that we most certainly did. 

While we may not be fully ready to shoot this summer, we still succeeded in laying the kind of solid foundation that will surely make the experience of making our film even better.  And with any luck, the finished film will follow that trend.

In the meantime, I'm adjusting to the slight drop of adrenaline levels in my system while keeping up a steady - and slightly saner - pace of building the launch pad for our film.

Blast off is now officially re-set for Spring 2010. 


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

We are interrupting this program...

...for the love of Dolly. 

Check out the repeat broadcast of "Q" on CBC Radio One this evening at 10 pm. Listening to Jian Ghomeshi's interview with Dolly Parton this morning was like eavesdropping on two of my favourite people meeting for the first time - and bringing out the very best in each other.  

Don't miss it.


(Now that's a Bleet.)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Finding Form

Am I allowed to Twitter on a Blog? 

I find myself with a small capsule of time and content that I'd like to share with you, but not enough of either to qualify for a proper blog entry - and possibly, now with this long preamble I've already written, too much of both for a Tweet. So then, maybe this would be a Blitter or a Twog. Or a Bleet.

Yeah, it's a Bleet, for sure.

We're setting up for a casting session at Palomar this afternoon. With Andrea Kenyon's able coordination, we're holding auditions for the role of Elizabeth at the production office. It's a more intimate, economical and hands-on approach over the long haul. Even though we're only still in early days, we've already seen some very strong candidates - both from here and across the country. Once we narrow down our choice, I'll ideally have some time to just hang with the chosen girl (or girls) - because time often reveals more than a few short, arbitrary auditions ever could.

We've now got two able location scouts working both sides of the Canadian Shield for us: The awesome Monsieur Péo Rousseau is handling the location search here in Montreal and surrounding area. Don't let his French-from-France name fool you though - he knows his adopted belle province like the back of his manicured hand! ;-) And then there's the fabulous Martin Ellis out in The Peg. He's only been on the case for about a week, but he's been delivering like crazy! I really feel like we're starting to roll steady now. 

And on that note, we'll be looking at exactly where we're at this week. Taking the ready-to-shoot temperature and determining if we're indeed warm enough to go at the end of this summer (such as it is) or if we would be better to take more time in pre-preparation and shoot next spring (snow being the thing we need to avoid).

More on that major call next week....  

What do you know - looks like I broke out of the Bleet into a full-on Blog after all. 

Monday, July 20, 2009

Go West!

From the very beginning of this project, we've been yearning, needing to go out West. For my part, I've been yearning to reconnect with the geography of my childhood, where I chose to set my (fictional) story for this film. For Barbara's part, she's been needing to see for herself just what is so freaking special about the prairies and why I insist on setting my story way out there anyway. 

Since words alone don't adequately describe how those razor-thin horizons and those endless skies can inspire both optimism and oppression in a person all at once, we just had to go there.

And by the grace of positive funding answers from Telefilm and SODEC, we finally did.

***
Two Wednesdays ago, more secure than ever in the knowledge that WE ARE GOING TO MAKE THIS MOVIE, Barbara and I flew to Winnipeg to meet our prairie co-producer, Liz Jarvis of Buffalo Gal Pictures and make the acquaintances of some of the other people and places that this part of the prairies has to offer.

After checking us in to our colourful downtown hotel, Liz took us to the Buffalo Gal offices overlooking Winnipeg's historic "Exchange District".


It may be a relatively small city, but The Peg's well-preserved period architecture has helped it pass for the likes of Chicago, New York and the American Mid-West in such major motion pictures as, "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" and "Capote".

But, would it serve the barren, 70's suburban/frontier vision I have for "The Year Dolly Parton Was My Mom"? 

When the rest of our posse (Claudine Sauvé - Cinematographer and Normand Sarrazin - Production Designer) arrived from Montreal, we spent three very long days in a van with Liz and location scout, Sarah Jane Cundell trying to find out...

Here's some of what we saw...



At the end of our third day of cinematic "sight-seeing" - with some casting and creative crew meetings thrown in for good measure - we had not yet found everything we came looking for, but we did get a little bit closer.  Closer to our goals and closer to each other.

Many thanks to my posse, and to all the Winnipeg'ers who made our first adventure out West one well worth repeating!

From left: Normand "Norm!" Sarrazin, Barbara "Co-Pilot" Shrier, Claudine "Backseat" Sauvé, and Sarah Jane "What A Laugh!" Cundell.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Manitoba Monuments

I am still "finessing" my rudimentary grasp of blogging with pictures, so please bear with me a little longer as I continue to put together the scrapbook of our first location and production scout in Manitoba...

In the meantime (and as a sort of "dry run"), I've posted photos of the three Most Memorable Monuments I saw on the trip:


The famous Fort Garry Hotel (in foreground) as seen from my hotel room.


Manitoba's very own "Stonehenge". We found these ruins of giant old kilns in the middle of an isolated field just outside of Stonewall - the town named for its architecture predominantly built with the famous Tyndall stone that is indigenous to Manitoba. 


The third and possibly most memorable monument of all was this display of Peanut Butter Mini-Marshmallow "Squares" that greeted us at Barney Gargles restaurant in beautiful downtown Selkirk. I let out a shriek of nostalgia as I have not laid eyes on this typical prairie treat since childhood.  Seeing it again sent me right back to when I was 8 and my best friend's mom made it for us for the first time. Strange, though - usually the things we remember from childhood look incredibly small when we see them again with grown-up eyes.  But this mouthwatering waterloo is the exception that makes that rule! 

I bought one for old time's sake and carried it around in the warm van all day, on my lap. I couldn't eat it though - just looking at it practically put me into a diabetic coma.

There was a lively debate among us as to which would make a better paper weight - the chunk of Tyndall stone I found at the kilns, or this magnificently grotesque confection.

I'll never know for sure, though.  I brought home the stone and left the dessert in the van.



Monday, July 13, 2009

A Peek at The Peg

We're back! It's Monday evening and we just arrived in Montreal after a convoluted re-routing of our "direct" return flight that was supposed to depart The Peg at 7 this morning.

I have every intention on giving you the low down on what went down while we were there (including some visual aids), but I'd like to beg a day's amnesty on that commitment.  This evening, I kind of need to catch up on my greens and my Z's. But I'll be back tomorrow with your full report!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Easy Come...

Frequent visitors to the blog may have caught the very fleeting appearance of a costume designer in last week's posting.  Unfortunately, almost as soon as we got her, we lost her. Francesca had to withdraw from the project due to scheduling restrictions. Mostly self-imposed, but they're to be respected nonetheless. Also to be respected is her reasoning that she would be cheating me out of the time and attention my film deserves if she took it on while trying to respect other commitments.

Who can argue with that? And even if you could, what would be the point?

But it still leaves an unexpected hole in our already incomplete crew.

The very unwieldy thing about our subsidized filmmaking system in this country is that every successful production demand receives its funding at exactly the same second. And then it's this mad scramble to crew up six or seven projects at once.  And as much as we here in Quebec are blessed with an abundance of talented, big-hearted (does it sound much like I'm kissing butt?) crew and department heads, there is only so many of them to go around.  

What that really means is that twice a year there are too many jobs for the amount of people who can do them. And then barely any jobs for anyone the rest of the year. 

Anyway, while we've been blowing on our dice in the costume department, we've also been booking flights out to Winnipeg. Barbara and I leave on Wednesday to meet our prairie co-producer, Liz Jarvis and the rest of the Buffalo Gal team face to face for the first time. Then on Thursday, we'll be joined by Normand Sarrazin our illustrious Quebecois production designer.  A veritable  master at his craft, Normand will be out there for two main reasons: meeting/interviewing local art directors for the Manitoba section of the shoot, as well as scouting locations with Barbara, me, D.O.P. Claudine Sauvé and Manitoba scout, Sarah Jane Cundell.

We'll be there for five days total and since everyone's time is at such a premium during the season we'll now just call, Production, our schedule is PACKED! I'm going to ask Theresapedia to post our itinerary up here in the next day or so to give you an idea of what we aim to accomplish during our short time in and around that great city.  But because our visit coincides with FolkFest, we might end up aimlessly wandering the streets - during the nights at least - as there are no hotel rooms to be found!

I know those folkies can get pretty crazy and all, but if Barbara and I don't get a solid 8 hours nightly - The Peg ain't seen nothing yet!







Monday, June 29, 2009

Cast and Crew

Come together...

In our crew we have now confirmed Claudine Sauvé as our director of photography! All 5 feet 2 inches of her is packed with energy and talent and sunshine. Whether she's operating handheld or on a dolly, 35mm or HD, Claudine more than holds her own in the heavily male-dominated field of cameraMEN. And holy moley, can she light! In fact, she's so in demand right now that both Barbara and I have been fending off intense phone calls and Facebook messages from an entire television series full of people who wanted her to do THEIR show this summer!

But she told me yesterday that we are going to make our feature together instead! 

Virginie Léger is our production manager. She and Barbara have been joined at the hip since they worked on Francis Leclerc's last film together: Un été sans point ni coup sûr, which coincidentally has the same number of words in the title as The Year Dolly Parton Was My Mom. Barbara should possibly explore a niche market...?

Casting-wise, we've been working with the incomparable Andrea Kenyon and her team on several levels, but with most of the financing confirmed and the clock a-running on a summer shoot, we expanded our operations and went international last Friday.  

The homegrown part of our casting adventure has been riddled with so many promising - sometimes surprising - leads all fizzling away into cyberspace that we decided we can't spend any more of our energy trying to penetrate the celebrity cosmos from a distance. So we're continuing our work locally while we hand the A-list mission over to Hollywood casting agent, Heidi Levitt. Now all we have to do is profit from the fruits of her labours! Or at least, that's the plan....


Monday, June 22, 2009

Still Afloat

Even though all the incredible news still has not entirely sunk in and all the celebrating still has not entirely worn off - we have now got to get down to the business of making this movie!

Barbara and I are meeting today to work out The Plan. Liz Jarvis (our co-production partner at Buffalo Gal) will be joining us on the phone to strategize.  Virginie Leger, our production manager, will come in and give us some $ reality checks. We need to determine if we can, and want to, shoot this like, right now. Or if we can, and want to, give ourselves some more lead-in time (casting, casting, casting) and look at shooting next spring... Much to discuss and determine... I'll be keeping you up to date as we get this all in place.  It gets a lot more INTENSE from hereon in!!!


Friday, June 19, 2009

Taken "Home" by Telefilm

It's more than I can even grasp - 

Telefilm said YES!!! 

I'm writing this after imbibing my share of, okay, a bottle of champagne, so chances are, there will be no intelligent discourse.  I jsut wanted to spread the good news in broad storkes... 

We are financed. 

Holy mother of Godard, we are financed!!!!

Scooped by SODEC

We got a big, fat OUI!!!!!! from SODEC - our provincial  arts institution here in Quebec, that for some reason we were only expecting to hear from next week - after Telefilm!!!  But there it was, right on their website this morning (http://www.sodec.gouv.qc.ca/medias_communique.php?id=352).

To date, the news is only available in French, but even if you're franco-challenged, you'll see it right at the bottom of the page: The Year Dolly Parton Was My Mom - big and bold in black and white!!!

WOW!!! So crazy - especially since we weren't even expecting to hear yet.

Huge congratulations to all the people behind the 7 other projects that also received the SODEC nod.  

We now all turn our eyes toward Telefilm ...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Tender Hooks

I feel ridiculous saying this again. But there's still no funding news.  We were all holding our breath last Friday. Right up to 5:01 pm - when, if you happened to be on a terrace anywhere in the city, you may have felt a forceful and gassy gale of filmmaker exhale. Because we all know that the usual M.O. of the institutions is to send news (by email or fax) to expectant producers right at closing time, just before the weekend. And that, so there'll be noone for traumatized filmmakers to call and vent to in the heat of a devastating moment. Or, at least that's the prevailing theory...

We did however receive word (around 5:43 pm) from someone at Telefilm that a final decision still had not been made, that they knew they were keeping us all hanging, but they needed more time. I thought that was pretty cool - you could tell they were feeling our pain. 

So, while I've learned there's no way to predict for sure, we can reasonably assume that news will be coming down the pipe sometime this week. Whether or not the Friday at 5 rule will still apply remains to be seen.  

Until then, I - WE - all remain on tenterhooks - or, more accurately, the tender hooks of Telefilm.... Just trying not to wiggle around too much.


Monday, June 8, 2009

News

We received news from Telefilm late last week. 

Not the news we were anxiously awaiting though. Rather, we got news that the news we were anxiously awaiting will come a little later than we were originally expecting.

So, instead of hearing today whether or not we will receive Telefilm funding for production, it's now looking like we'll have to wait for Telefilm's decision later this week.

Same deal holds, though - as soon as I find out, you'll be the next to know!

While we're waiting, I thought I would highlight an historic event that took place last week, and one that ties in with some of the events and themes in my film...

Last Monday, Ontario's adoption records were officially opened. For the first time in more than 80 years, adult adoptees and birth parents are now legally entitled to obtain identifying information about themselves and each other.

After years of intense lobbying across North America dating back (as referenced in the film) to the 1970's, the tens of thousands of people who have fought for adoption reform in Ontario - for the very basic "right to know" - are finally being granted greater, systemic access to what is rightfully theirs. Their origins.

To all who are searching for that missing piece of their identity - whether an adoptee searching for a biological parent or a birth parent searching for a child - I hope this hard-won piece of legislation will help you find what you are looking for.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Jury Bait

With the knowledge that the Telefilm jury is meeting tomorrow to start their deliberations, I am in last-minute scramble mode: seeing if I can't come up with something solid to feed them, especially in the way of casting, before they start their comparative analysis of all the projects now before them. Knowing too that there's very little film funding money to go around these days, and only a fraction of that for English projects in Quebec, the compulsion to "make as much noise as possible" around this project is strong.

Which is why this anonymous A-lister's SILENCE is so frustrating.

"Ko and Co" wrote in the comments section last week that this kind of thing is rarely genuine - voicing an understandable cynicism about that which looks too good to be true...  But on the other hand, Ko and Co also suggested I respond to the unidentified Inquirer by being coy - by teasing him (is it a him?) with just enough information on the project to heighten curiosity and coax him out of hiding. 

In fact, in this latest episode of getting my Hollywood hopes up and then having them left hanging, I think I've done everything advisable to re-engage this person while still protecting myself ... Because, even though I do believe that these kind of fairy tales CAN come true, I've also watched enough Roadrunner cartoons in my day to know there could be a catch. So I have proceeded with the best combination of prudence and promotion, good faith and vigilance that I can manage. 

As of this blogging however, I still haven't got a "traceable" bite on my bait. On the other hand, there's no anvil-shaped shadow growing larger on the sidewalk beside me... so, something good may still come of this!

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking... and the jury is assembling... By next Monday, I will know their decision. And you will be the very next to know.

Monday, May 25, 2009

In the Dark

So, there may or may not be some A-lister out there who is serious about being a part of this project.  I still don't know for sure.  Not that I haven't been trying hard to find out...

Last week, I gave the anonymous gift I received to a local Dolly afficionado. Monsieur P. is Dolly Parton's kindred spirit trapped in a furry, French-Canadian body. Not only does he worship her unique style and sensibility but he has an impressive collection of Dolly memorabilia of his own.  

After some close inspection and research, Monsieur P. pronounced that the gift in question LOOKS very much like one of the exclusive outfits Dolly Parton used to wear onstage in the 70's. But sadly he has no way to tell if it actually is the real deal.  

He added that while he can't give me a certificate of authenticity or anything, he would be more than happy to give the outfit a good home for now... That I could come visit anytime I wanted...

As far as actually reaching this ostensibly high-powered, hiding person who sent the package in the first place, I have sent a cautious reply to the email address I was given, but still have not had any news back. Not a peep. It's been three days. Okay, it is a long weekend down there, but still...!

Anyway, I'm left pacing around, wondering what to do next.  We're all reticent to blindly send the screenplay out into the vacuum of cyberspace - with no real way to follow it up. But at the same time, am I thumbing my nose at some incredible good fortune if I don't? 

Please, if you ARE the person who's contacted me with this mysterious package and proposal, please understand that I'm not being unresponsive or ungrateful or disrespectful, but I would just like a little more to go on before I leap...  A hint? A clue? Hell, I'll even settle for a message through the Ouija...!


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

WTF?

Okay. I believe in serendipity just as much as anyone who believes in serendipity - and probably more than most people who don't. But what happened to me today would test even the strongest suspender of disbelief ...

I mean, could it just be coincidence that on this most auspicious, if innocuous, of days - i.e. The First Day of the Rest of This Film's Life - that I would receive a package postmarked Beverly Hills? Containing what looks like an authentic (and expensive!) item of Dolly Parton memorabilia? And a formal note (on thick stock) claiming the gift is from a leading Hollywood actor who's learned of my project "through the grapevine" and would very much like to read the script - but for "business reasons" wishes to remain "under the radar" for the time being...??!

I am standing here, alternating between "flabbergasted" and "a little creeped out".  I don't quite know what to make of this. Is it a hoax? If so, what would possibly be the point? And why send me what looks like a fairly rare and price-y gift if you're such a hot shot actor? Isn't it supposed to work the other way around? Aren't I supposed to woo YOU?

Then again, if it's not a hoax, who IS this person and what do they really want? And why? What have they heard about the project? And from who? Whom?

I have looked - believe me - I have scoured the package and its contents for any clues as to where and who this came from. There's nothing. It came in a generic brown cardboard box wrapped in brown butcher's paper on which a computer label is stuck right in the middle bearing my name and address. Nothing else. There's no return address anywhere - just a Beverly Hills postmark beside the pre-paid postage in the upper right hand corner.

Inside, the "gift" in question was carefully wrapped in white tissue paper and protected by those foam peanut things. The note is laser-printed on thick, creamy paper in a matching - but very blank - envelope.

All I have to go on is a gmail address - to which I am being requested to send the script - as well as this person's assurances that my project is of great interest to people who are in a position to help me get it made.

WTF??!!

Will? Is that you?

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Late Spring Break


If I were on "Arrested Development" (a criminally underrated and prematurely defunct TV show) right now, I'd be screaming, "Spring Break! WAAAAOOOH!" while lifting up my top and flashing my Dolly Partons for the world to see.

Fear not - it's a very temporary insanity, but with the two landmark pitches now behind me, the May "two-four" weekend in full swing, I feel like a co-ed just finishing Final Exams. I have a touch of Spring Break Fever this weekend and I'm l-l-l-loving it...!

Tomorrow marks the first day of the rest of the film's life, and I will be back here then to properly launch it, but for now, for this brief moment, let's all just enjoy the sweet satisfaction of making it this far - no matter where "this" is, no matter how much more there is to go - we made it HERE!  And to that, I only have one thing to say:

"WAAAAOOOH!" 


Monday, May 11, 2009

Today Too!

One down, one to go.  

We pitched to the folks at Telefilm last Thursday.  And we're heading to SODEC to do the same thing this afternoon.  I haven't taken my Dolly shirt off all weekend. 

Hope it's a large boardroom. With lots of windows.

In all seriousness, I am slightly superstitious.  And since I am (so far) incapable of growing a play-off beard, I will be wearing the same outfit to defend the project at SODEC as I wore to Telefilm.  

Not that I know for sure if Dolly's image on my chest brought us any luck at last Thursday's pitch or not. We'll only find that out when Telefilm announces its decision sometime in June. But the vintage Dolly t-shirt at least made a hit with the analysts - all women - on the Telefilm jury. They all said they'd buy one for themselves - and the teenage girls they know. So, if ever this filmmaking thing doesn't pan out, I guess I could always take up t-shirt merchandizing...

But wait - what am I saying?  Knock on wood, throw salt, spit to the North three times - and hear this, Universe - until you tell me otherwise - IN NO UNCERTAIN TERMS, I am sticking with the filmmaker thing!

We good?

Oh, and P.S.: As of late last week, we have two Very Interesting People very interested in being in the film!!  Can't name any names just yet, but stay tuned...!



Thursday, May 7, 2009

Today...

... is IT.  

Pitching to Telefilm at 2:30 pm EDT.  

Wearing my vintage Dolly t-shirt from my good friend Kim and praying for eloquence.

Amen.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Pitching, Spaghetti and Seeing What Sticks

Well, I'm back from directing adorable four year-olds in a pasta commercial. And I return just a little wiser and considerably more humbled than when I left. The power of a four year-old can never be underestimated. Especially when you - and the good folks who've hired you - want something very specific from that lovable little tyrant. 

Toddler's mood swings and ADD notwithstanding, I can't tell you how great it is to be back on a set. Period. I have been writing and "developing" for so long, I almost forgot how much I love shooting.  Commercials, documentaries, shorts, whatever.  The more variety the merrier, as far as I'm concerned.  I am a big believer in all forms of cinematic cross-training. 

Any shoot is a pretty visceral reminder that I am a director - first and foremost - and this particular one couldn't have come along at a more opportune time.... three and a half days before our Telefilm pitch to be specific.  Because it's recently come to my attention that I have spent a great amount of time writing (i.e. creating "impressions" on paper) this film, but now it's high time to shift gears and start thinking in terms of how to go about actually "realizing" those carefully crafted impressions into concrete pictures and actions.  

In the course of the Telefilm pitch this Thursday, I will no doubt have to defend certain story elements in the script, but I will also have to effectively communicate my director's vision of the film i.e. how all those little black and white letters I've laboured over all these years are actually going to translate on the silver screen.  

Indeed.  

Barring any late-breaking news on the casting front (God, that would be great!), the bulk of our pitch will likely have to rest on the arguably elusive and highly subjective shoulders of what's rattling around in my head. So in the next few days, I have to find some way to muzzle or ditch my writer self altogether and let the director finally take over.  

Anyone up for taking the writer in me on a four-day bender?






Monday, April 27, 2009

doing my duty...

...to the taxman!  

I'm sending in this dispatch from my momentary detour into the commercial world. Every year or so, I get a few gigs.  And I feel lucky to have those occasional opportunities to earn a little rent money while getting to practice my craft.  

But even while I'm sitting in a tiny casting room with 100-odd 4-year olds and just as many plates of spaghetti and at least that many Extra Strength Tylenols on hand, I'm mentally preparing for the Telefilm pitch coming up next week, and a meeting with our distributors looming on the horizon.  (Okay, I'm actually just trying to cope with the chaos by escaping into my favourite fantasy - making this film!)

Casting is still the number one, two and three item on the To Do list, of course. Wish I could give you all an exciting news flash on that front, but I'm afraid the best I can do for this week is pick four of the cutest mugs smeared with spaghetti sauce I can find. And trust that this too will go some way to make me a better director for The Really Big Show - yet to come!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Brush with Greatness

Now I'm just trying everything. 

Even the most unlikely strategies - like the obvious ones. 

Last week, I tried getting my project to an actor by calling ... his agent. In Hollywood. At one of those agencies so moving and shaking, it just goes by initials.

And at first I was buoyed by the seeming ease, respect and efficiency with which my inquiry was treated. I left my information with the agent's assistant and was given an email address to which I could send my project. Easy as pie. We were so IN!

It just kept getting better, because the same day - that very same day! - the agent himself called me back.  My own mother rarely returns my calls that fast. But any fantasies I had started spinning about adult adoption quickly evaporated once the agent and I got into a conversation - or, more to the point - once we got into a scene straight out of "Jerry Maguire".

And since right now I have no money to show, our version of the scene was a relatively brief one. And fairly unsatisfying all round.

But on the upside, I got the completely opposite response from a different actor's manager - just as quick, but far more receptive.  So, maybe this is a business of individuals after all...

Even higher on the upside (and here's where the brush with greatness comes in), I had the privilege of sharing a few pints of Guinness at a favourite neighbourhood bar with author, Miriam Toews this afternoon. Miriam wrote the Governor General award-winning novel, "A Complicated Kindness" - as beautiful and brash a coming of age novel as "Catcher in the Rye" in my opinion. With as beautiful and brash and broken a protagonist as Holden Caulfield - but in a girl's body. Gorgeous, affecting stuff.

But it was actually Miriam's appearance in Carlos Reygados' film, "Silent Light" that led to her walking into my particular gin joint on this particular afternoon....  I had already fallen in love with her books when I saw her purely by accident in the Mexican film that won the Jury prize at Cannes a couple years ago. And I got the bright idea that she might be interested in being in my film too. So I tracked down someone who knew how to contact her and we began an email and phone conversation that led to her reading my script (Miriam Toews read something I wrote! Wow) and ultimately meeting me while she was passing through Montreal. 

What a gift.





Monday, April 13, 2009

The Date

We have a date. It's the 7th of May. 

On that date, Barbara, Charles (of Métropole distribution) and I will go in front of the jury of Telefilm analysts to defend our project. Director friends who've been through it have told me it's not as nerve-wracking as it sounds. 

We'll see.  

Barbara's briefed me to expect pretty much anything. There could be plenty of questions/concerns around the creative stuff - like story, character, dialogue, dramatic arc, etc. - or around the more mercantile stuff like audience, marketability or feasibility of the entire venture.

In short, we have to expect pretty much anything. 

But one thing's for sure, we need to show up on that day with more casting than we have right now - meaning, some.

And although contacts are being made and scripts are being sent out, the wheels of progress turn agonizingly slowly in this particular domain. Still, I fully believe that the Persistence part of the formula I spoke about last week will be the key ingredient to our ultimate success.  And if I'm able to keep that faith it's because when things seem to be at their bleakest, I often get a message from beyond - the Smoky Mountains, that is. Seriously, I cannot count the number of times that Dolly's music or image or name just suddenly pops up in the most incongruous of contexts, at the most eerily appropriate times - as if to say, "I'm still here. And I still believe." 

And really, who am I to question the great Dolly Parton...?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Casting. About.

One sprint over and another one just begun.

In the aftermath of meeting our deadlines and submitting our project, we know this much: 

1. Our pitch to Telefilm will happen in early May. 
2. For that pitch, we need to bring something more to the table, something real.  
3. The one real thing we're still missing is: humans.  

That's right - we need flesh and blood mortals who will give our characters life.  And, who will give our financiers a reason to come on board.  As I'm sure I've mentioned in previous installments - putting together the perfect cast for any film is a process quite comparable to alchemy. Even if you come at it with years of experience and you're working under optimal conditions with easy access to every element under the sun - you can still end up with lead.

The conditions surrounding the casting of our kind of film (i.e. a director's first feature with a period film budget, in English, produced in Quebec) impose quite limited access to the elements believed to be essential in the creation of gold - box office gold, that is. 

I am of course speaking about STARS. 

As any "alchemist" knows, capturing and harnessing even one of those heavenly bodies is almost impossible without the bait of full financing, foreign distribution and all-important "connections". From our foreseeable position, only the financing aspect is reasonably attainable. But then again, financing can often be heavily dependent on casting. 

Around and round we go...

But still, I believe that anything is possible. Especially in movies. And especially now, after I've managed to track down - and capture - the blazing star of Ms. Dolly Parton and firmly attach it to this project. Granted, she was a fairly obvious casting choice for this film, but everything that worked in that first experiment will be applied to the process of casting the remaining key roles - Elizabeth, Marion and Phil. Below, for the first time in print, is an exclusive look at the formula we'll be following:

INSTINCT + CREATIVITY + FAITH + PERSISTENCE + TIME + KEVIN BACON =
CASTING GOLD (respecting all the Can-con and Quebec residency quotas, of course).

Kids, go ahead and try this at home!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Vive le cinéma!

This weekend, something historic happened in cinema.  

Although it happened locally, I hesitate to add any kind of qualifier like, "...in Quebec cinema", because I believe what happened last night made history not only in Quebec, Canadian and North American cinema, but possibly even in all of Western Hemisphere cinema. Hell,  it could very well be a first for the whole World of cinema! 

Last night, on the Jutras (Quebec's Academy Awards), the winner in the prestigious and traditionally patriarchal category of Best Director was - a woman! Congratulations, Lyne Charlebois - you're like our Obama of cinema...! May this be the beginning of a healthy and growing trend.

In keeping with the whole cinematic, celebratory theme of this weekend, I went to the movies and feasted on some homegrown, some "indie" and some animation. Dédé à travers les brûmes, Sunshine Cleaning, and Coraline - made for a tasty film buffet. Washed it all down with some bubbly with my boys. Even though sisters are doin it for themselves, it's always more fun to share.

Cheers!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

LIFT OFF!

The day has finally arrived. We're going in. For all we're worth.

And I have to say, I feel pretty good. I feel like we've given our all right up to the very last second of this race and that we've built a strong proposal on the foundation of a very solid script. 

In a way it's funny - seeing what's essentially four years of work boiled down into a small cardboard box of paper - but I imagine it's probably a lot like writing a thesis. Not that I would know. But I can guess. What I do know is that it's been a hell of an education so far....

And I say, "so far", because it's far from over.

Once all the proposals have been received at the other end, the next step is booking an appointment to appear in front of the project analysts - to defend our thesis, so to speak. 

Essentially, we'll be expected to come in and field questions, concerns, challenges from the analysts, as well to provide further material to both seduce and convince the analysts that we are more than ready to make this film. That it's practically already made.

There's a whole logorithm (if I'd done my Masters, I'd know how to spell that) involved in booking those pitches. Call it the Goldilocks logorithm - when the phone lines open you have to jockey to get just the right timing - not too early, not too late.  

Still, for today at least, we've done all that we can do to make our project worth defending. I'm proud of all that we've accomplished, I'm enormously grateful to all who've helped us get this far, and I'm going to spend this weekend watching other people's doctoral theses at my local Cineplex to celebrate.

Bon cinéma!