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
seven industry parties of varying degrees of glad-handing, glitz and glamour
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.
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.
one measure self-respect.
thirteen stellar young actors auditioning for the role of Elizabeth and making our selection process happily harder!
two true celebrity sightings : Salman Rushdie, Patricia Clarkson (at the sexy Mongrel Media party for Cairo Time).
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.
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. 
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!
one iPhone : last seen at the Timmy's rest stop on the 401 eastbound...

...all adds up to:

Monday, September 14, 2009


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...