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!