Monday, February 27, 2012

British (etc.) Invasion

We just keep getting more cool stamps on the proverbial passport of our movie!

At the market screenings in Berlin earlier this month, the film was sold to the UK and Ireland! We're talking THEATRICAL RELEASE here people - that is, if the courtship intentions of our newest distributor, Peccadillo Pictures come to fruition!

I'm not entirely sure why, but just the idea of our film being released in British and Irish theatres totally thrills me. I guess it has something to do with the fact that when I was a kid, a British film playing in my town was seen as a big, cultural deal. It would have been the most exotic cinematic offering we'd get in Calgary at the time; the only real "alternative" to the usual, ubiquitous Hollywood fare. And I loved that new flavour.

So I guess the fact that the movie I made is going to be seen as a "foreign film" in some British or Irish kid's town, is just really cool to me.

Actually you know, it's funny - it's been a year since our film was first released and when people ask me how the film did, they always add, "Did it travel?"

I love that that is just as valid a measure of the film's merit as box office and awards...

And so on that note, it feels very nice to be able to say that after getting distribution deals in the States, the U.K., Ireland and selling to Dutch television, our film was screened at the Keswick Festival in Britain last weekend. And coming up in March and April, it's been invited to Malmo, Sweden and Sao Paolo, Brazil.

Happy (continuing) travels...

Monday, February 20, 2012

Stephen King's Garbage Can

Just sitting here, listening to a radio interview of the prolific and successful author, Stephen King. And King is telling this story - about his life before he was published. About how he was a young, struggling wannabe writer, who got so discouraged with his attempts at writing his ambitious first novel that he finally throws the thing out - convinced he's inadequate to his ambitions, that he's destined for failure at the only thing he really wants to do.

His wife comes along, fishes the discarded manuscript titled, "Carrie" out of the garbage can, reads it and tells him - "You know, there's really something here. Do not give up. Keep on."

Smart man, Stephen. He listened to his wife. And the rest, as they say, is history.

So, it's funny that, as I'm listening to this massively successful author tell his story, I discover a message to me on my Twitter account. A woman writes that she saw our film and thought it was great. Did I have any advice for an aspiring young filmmaker?

Well, at first I was thinking, how do I properly answer this? I take this kind of thing seriously and want to share whatever I have if it can help. But the limitations of Twitter don't allow for me to go into a whole lot of detail or depth on this question.

As it turns out, though, I really don't need more than 140 characters to give this woman the only answer that really counts:

Never Let Up.

It really all boils down to that. Those three little words are very literally the sum of all the advice anyone has ever given on this subject. They also represent whatever cumulative wisdom I've gained from my experience making this film and what I am now facing in trying to make another.

However if, like Stephen, you need a little more intervention, then allow me to quote the captivating Ira Glass, writer/producer of "This American Life"...

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me... All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this GAP.
For the first couple years you make stuff, it's just not that good. It's trying to be good, it has potential, but it's not good.
But your TASTE, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you.

A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit.

Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn't have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it's normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work.
Put yourself on a DEADLINE so that every week you will finish one story (or drawing, or poem or scene). It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I've ever met. It's gonna take a while. It's normal to take a while. You've just gotta fight your way through.

So, if you're an aspiring writer, filmmaker or anything artistic, and you're not lucky enough to have Stephen King's wife lurking around your own metaphorical garbage can, then let these be your words to live by... "Never. Let. Up."

Because the more you do, the more you'll do - thereby exponentially increasing the odds that your abilities and opportunities will eventually catch up to your ambitions.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Bearing Whitness

After Amy and Etta, the news came this Saturday that yet another singular female voice had been silenced; Whitney Houston had died.

In truth, the beautiful, other-wordly talent who made Dolly Parton's hit song, "I Will Always Love You" into a global hymn had finally succumbed - to an abusive relationship.

As we all know, Whitney had been publicly embroiled in an abusive relationship with her husband in the years when her star was reaching its zenith. As a young woman myself at the time, I looked on with confusion at this seemingly contradictory image. I had such a hard time understanding why - with all she seemed to have going for her, when everyone on the planet could see the danger she was in - why she couldn't just walk away from her abuser. Surely she had places to go, people to turn to, money to ensure her independence?

To all appearances, this stunning, spectacularly talented woman had everything it took to be happy - to paraphrase another of our earth-shattering voices - she could have had it all. Why then was she putting up with the violence, the abuse, the undermining of her very essence by some brutal man who seemed bent on destroying her? Why did she keep going back for more?

Going on to navigate my way through my own early adult relationships, I started to gain some first-hand experience and the insight that comes with it. I was eventually able to better understand how anyone could get into - and then have a hell of a time getting out of - the kind of insidious, confusing, emotional blackmail that characterizes most abusive relationships - regardless of how strong, talented, rich and smart they may be.

But then, finally, Whitney did it - she broke free! For good. It seemed. We wanted to believe.

But it slowly came to light that even though she had successfully removed herself from the perpetrator, the abuse continued.

As destructive as her marriage had been, it was another, even more important relationship that would be Whitney's final undoing. The relationship with herself. Finally, that most fundamental of relationships was too damaged. She carried on the destruction of herself that he had begun.

My heart breaks for the beauty and the incredible gifts that have been laid to waste all over the world in this same way.

That is all.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Next Up...

You may have noticed the announcement going by on our Facebook page, but just in case you missed it, allow me to fill you in ... Our international sales agent, Matteo at Reel Suspects, has set up two market screenings for our film at one of the biggest barbecues on the international film festival circuit, Berlinale!

One week from today, the first of two screenings (Feb. 13 and 14 at CinemaxX 12 if you happen to be in the neighbourhood) will take place in the kind of prestigious showcase a filmmaker dares only dream of.

Given that the Germans have already asked us back three times since the film's début at Frankfurt's lovely Lucas Festival, it just feels like there's a nice kind of anglo-saxon chemistry between us and them.

So, go little film, go! Schnell, schnell!