Monday, April 27, 2009

doing my duty... 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:

CASTING GOLD (respecting all the Can-con and Quebec residency quotas, of course).

Kids, go ahead and try this at home!