Updated Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Shhhh...!

It's a surprise.

Just between you and me - on the down low.

Tonight's the night.

Nervous, excited. Want to sneak out of work and do it right now... but no - I have a plan.

Must stick to the plan.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Speaking of complex relationships...

Thanks to a very, very kind friend I've had the pleasure of getting to sit down and watch the movie "Let The Right One In".

All I can say is this: When ever you get the chance, go see this movie and tell others about it. You won't be disappointed. It's nothing like what you'll expect - and that's a good thing.



http://www.lettherightoneinmovie.com/

Of course I see this film just in time to hear the Americans are already hard at work at a remake.

Ugh.

Cheers,
Brandon

Monday, December 29, 2008

Watching it all unfold

Relationships are complex.

Yes, I know, not a very mind-blowing statement in and of itself - but when standing before one as the 3rd party, watching said complexities unfold, that simple statement seems to take on fractal-like qualities.

Watching people interact - their back and forth, the way they talk and intuit what will or won't come next - has been something that's always intrigued me.

This past holiday I stood before my family and somehow managed to be the invisible person in the room, watching as each acted/reacted to the other; Carefully detailing how my brother's facial expressions change when turning from my sister to my mother. Watching how his facial expression alone directly impacts how my mother interacts with him. Not even a word said, no tone of voice - a look. A stare that says everything.

Then following my mother as she interacts with her husband - that look now on her face, transferred - and placed at his feet. This look IS Human interaction, hell, it's a whole conversation.

And somehow as this all happens around me, as the event plays itself out - my mind scratching along on my internal notepad - I can't help but wonder "how do I even begin to write this kind of stuff?"

I wrestle with feeling appalled that I would even consider drawing from this well to aid in my writing and yet, at the same time, this is the kind of 'real' that stories are built on. Emotional stakes and through-lines. Drama.

It's a strange feeling to find myself being aware of standing outside of it all, to be 'observing' and taking mental notes when normally I'd be in the thick of it with them.

More importantly, I'm not sure when or how I gained this sudden ability - is it some sort of 'writer' thing? I hope so because otherwise it just seems sort of creepy and weird. Useful, for sure, but definitely a tad creepy.

In other news, I cleaned my room yesterday. Again, nothing huge or revelatory yet at the same time symbolic.

As I sloughed my way through the debris that somehow managed to accumulate (where DID the floor go??) I found myself staring at old things. Papers, notes, scribbles. Drawings that I'd doodled, plots for stories never told.

I found my original notes for Savage Knights and laughed so hard I damn-near came to tears.

There, on my own - not knowing a damn thing about a damn thing - was an outline. Crude, but sure as shit, it was there. All my struggling of late with it, trying to wrap my head around it, fighting with myself to understand it - and there, in my hand, was this scrap of loose leaf lovingly entitled:

"Cool stuff I want to see in this episode".

Somehow, in my wide-eyed scribble of handwriting, I'd gone off and wrote all the neat things I'd wanted to see happen and then expounded on how best to do so; How I could go about realizing them. And this is back before I knew how to 'write' an episode, before I understood format or anything really. Just me with this head full of ideas writing 'Cool stuff' I wanted to see.

Heh.

I must've held that wilted little piece of congealed glamour for 10 minutes, caught up in the reverie, before I finally snapped out of it. Things've been... odd... lately, my life is changing and changing fast - this upcoming year is pretty much guaranteed to be the most stressful and exciting time, well, ever.

But this little piece of paper - I dunno, it pushed through all the anxiety and frustration and fear I've been having like a lazer beam. Parting the stormfront, obliterating the fog machine that seemed to take up residence in my subconcious as of late. A searing reminder of innocence and fun from that gleeful lil' kid in my head, the one who should be bouncing around and tossing out ideas faster than I can write them.

I think I'm going to have it laminated or something, maybe framed. Keep it near by - a reminder of simpler times as I slog it out into the deep waters ahead.

New Years is 2 days (and change) away. Stay tuned, something big is coming down the pipe.

Cheers,
Brandon

Friday, December 19, 2008

Get thee to the Christmas Tree

I'm going to be heading out to see the family today - off 'til the 29th to spend some warm-fuzzy time with the people I really only see once or twice a year.

Getting everyone together is tough and keeping them in the same room is tougher - we're definitely an interesting mix - but outside of all the bluster and drama that the holidays tend to bring, we always end up together. There's something special about that - though sometimes I think all the drama is just to set things up for the wonder that is our Christmas morning.

It begins with a stifled knock at my door - like clockwork, 5:55am rolls around and the tradition that has become our own begins to play out.

My brother, sneaking from his chamber, knocking on our doors with the 5 minute warning - in the hallowed position of the 'waker', he who prepares the forces for what is to come.

My sister, her door cracking, disappears down the stairs - slinking into the darkness - preparing the magical potion and foraging in the abyss for the hidden socks of treasure.

As the eldest I wake and prepare to enter direct confrontation with the slumbering one. Quietly at first, from the other side of the door I knock and call and pester - struggling to rouse her from her slumber. The first time will fail, this I know, but it is an important part of the process. Several attempts will be needed, but the slumbering one knows how this ritual plays out. First the grumbling, then groaning and eventually the sounds of stirring. But I do not relent - she's a cunning one and I've been tricked before.

My knocking and calls will continue until I hear the magic word, until I hear the two syllables that inform me my sacred task is complete:

"Coffee"

Only then do I abandon my post, fleeing down the stairs as the door creaks, careful to avoid the wrath that would befall me should I pause. Down into the room by the twinkling tree, there do we wait, holding the steaming mystical potion, there do we stand together as one.

Once our offering is accepted, we take our ordained positions around the dancing lights, preparing to receive our share of the hard-won spoils.

Yet we are careful to wait until everyone has gotten their portion before we tear into the colourful, protective skins - lest we invoke her wrath. She will not and we will rip and tear and bite, revealing our victorious plunder to each other before looking to her and awaiting our portion. This shall play out again and again, divvying up the treasures to the very last, tatters flying around us, littering the ground like paper snow.

With the treasure shares, we are freed to gorge ourselves on the sweet delights hidden in our socks as the now-wakened-one stumbles into the kitchen to prepare the golden bird for the feast to come.

Barring us from entrance until the maddening scent overwhelms us all and we begin to plot anew.

Truly it is a magical time of year.

Merry Christmas to ye all!
Brandon

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Briefly

More to come later - I promise! - but for now, Nate over on Ink Canada shared this interesting link about famous writer's and artist's writing habits.

http://dailyroutines.typepad.com/daily_routines/writers/

I'm not really sure where I fall in the spectrum - certainly not as organized or regimented as some of these - but I try to do at least 2 hours a day during the week.

It's a great collection, take a few minutes and see how Emily Dickinson got it done ;)

Cheers,
Brandon

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Hunkering Down

It's cozy right now - even if a good chunk of my free time is being spent looking over my shoulder here at work. The heat's turned up, the four walls are keeping the weather far, far away and - with any luck - my paycheck will clear like clockwork and I'll get to spend far too much on Christmas presents.

I've been debating what to do for a while now with regards to my future and the answers haven't been coming all that easily. Luckily, I've managed to get a bit of insight from someone I respect a great deal and they helped me to see some of my options a tad more clearly.

This last weekend was our 2nd Ink Drinks event here in Toronto and a bunch of us TV and Film writers braved the blustering snowstorm to come out and share in some laughter and beer with Writer/Producer/Blogger Extraordinaire: Mr. Jim Henshaw.

First off, I just want to say that Jim is a real class-act all the way. He came out and chilled with us - had a few beers, a few laughs then jumped right in. He asked us all what our goals were then he listened and offered some real solid feedback about how we should best go about realizing them.

One thing Jim was up front about was that times are indeed tough and no one has a real solid idea of what's around the corner. It's a worrying time for pretty much all in involved, but that doesn't mean we're all SOL.

What he suggested was that now is the time for us to be out there on our own, to be making our own stuff, creating content and getting our names known. There's going to be a real hunger for original stuff for the next couple years as more and more people find themselves out of work. In short: write a script, grab a camera and some friends and get the heck out there.

The other suggestion of Jim's was that we just hunker down for a good 6 months and write our asses off. Come up with some quality, quality work that we can waft under people's noses once things start to normalize. Tho' with the potential of a SAG strike on the horizon and the AMPTP being... well... special... who knows when that will be?

I briefly had the opportunity to pitch Jim a couple of the projects I was working on and one of them got a really good response. He seemed to really like it and gave me a couple of pointers on how to make it stronger. I've taken his suggestions and it's really starting to hum now - definitely a good feeling to know that I'm on the right track.

And so, to that end, I've decided to split the difference. Well, sort of.

I'm writing away on a few projects - going to finish and polish some specs over the holidays and maybe, MAYBE work out a cool idea for a web series. Peter and I've been bandying a few ideas about and I feel like there's something solid there. Something solid that can be done with very little money (which would be nice because, well, yeah - money's tight).

Hopefully in the post-christmas, new-year world we can actually get around to shooting some stuff and getting it on the web.

Fingers are officially crossed on that one.

Anyways, a huge thank-you to Jim for being such a stand-up guy and a big thanks to everyone who came out. I'm taking suggestions on who to try and grab for next month's event so if you have any, feel free to let me know ;)

Cheers all!
Brandon

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Let's call a spade a spade here.

As PM Harper sulks his way out of the Governor General's office and hangs up the kumate gloves 'til after Ho-Ho arrives, I can't help but watch this fiasco through gritted teeth.

There are lots of ways we can slice this - and the various political parties are already digging in with their Ginsu blades - but the truth is that Stephen Harper failed.

He had everything in his hand, everything. The government was his, all he had to do was table a budget. A budget. The parties would've bitched and moaned but as long as he put out a simple, by-the-numbers plan, he would've been fine. Just stick to the program.

But he had to get tricksy.

Like a grumpier, hairier Gollum, our Prime Minister couldn't take his eyes off the prize long enough to save himself.

What really gets to me is how this kind of thing even makes it out the door. I mean, it's not like the budget was whipped together over a weekend.

How many drafts did they give this thing? And did no one read it over and say 'you know, I think the Opposition might be a tad pissed that we're trying to eliminate one of their major sources of funding'?

Yet it's only now that the hornet's nest has been kicked, after everyone's hackles are raised, that Harper's talking about how 'Canadians want us to get to work'.

Well, just a few quick questions for you here, sir - one concerned Canadian to another:

Why didn't you just get to work in the first place?

Why pick a fight you didn't need to?

Why drag Canadians through all this shit once again?

And that's what really pisses me off here. We've already caught him working the back channels before. We've caught him playing dirty pool several times. But here he is, caught flat-footed - in broad daylight - revealed.

Again.

Yet he's given the opportunity to slink away back into the shadows, allowed to do what he does best - make us forget about him.

He's allowed to sling attack ads and sow dis-information for the next 6 weeks.

Merry Christmas people, you get to watch the roaring Christmas Log on TV with a side order of Harper's spin on how badly the Coalition Government is going to screw you. Here's a side of bitter partisan hatred to go with your cranberries and stuffing.

Listen, I'm not a fan of any of these guys. Dion can't string together a thought in English let alone a sentence - if he can't even communicate with the majority of the population, how will he represent us on the world stage? I'm not a fan of Layton either - he's all too slippery in this, it's not the politics he cares about, it's the power, and that's becoming glaringly obvious.

But let's call a spade a spade here: Harper has been given every chance in the books, has gamed the system at almost every opportunity - hell, he even tricked the government into thinking he was allowed to act like he had a Majority; And yet when it's all FINALLY resting in the palm of his hands, when he has the chance to get to work making Canada work he chooses to go offside and start swinging at the other team.

These are our future's he's gambling with, leveraging in his continual bids for power.

It's bullshit.

And as tax-paying citizens we should not accept it.

Cheers,
Brandon

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Eggs. Not all in one Basket.

Going back to the drawing board is tough - especially after slaving over a first draft and thinking you had it nailed, only to realize that it's not at all what you wanted.

As Trevor Finn - from my TV Writer's group - so sagely put it "Maybe you needed to do that draft to figure out the story you really wanted to tell."

With the new-found gift of hindsight - seeing how I struggled with that draft - those words are really hitting home as I take a hard look at what the core of my story was about.

Peter's been an absolute kick-ass friend in encouraging me to dig deeper, to slough off my world's history and start fresh. He's gotten a glimpse of the bigger picture I was trying to paint - trying to fit into a pilot - and his jaw went a little slack. See, there's backstory and then there's backstory. And I made the newbie mistake of making the past of my world far more interesting than the world itself. By the time I was putting my characters in, all the really cool stuff had already happened.

It's really a hard thing to know when you're writing in a vacuum, to know how much is too much. To know when to say 'okay, that's enough'. Peter's been very cool in allowing me to bounce ideas off of him (even though he's insanely busy at the CFC - yes there will be many pints raised in his honour), helping me to figure out what had me so excited in the first place. Why I wanted to tell this story.

What I realized is that it's not about the external threats, the 'problem of the week' but the characters, and the world. The complexities of these people being diametrically opposed and on a collision course. It's about the intricacies of their personalities, their convictions, their needs - and the horrible lengths they're driven to in order to live.

So yeah, I've gone back to the drawing board, wrote some notes - well, a lot of notes... and now I'm putting it away. Letting it percolate. The ideas are flowing but I'm going to let the pot fill a bit, you know?

And that's where the 'not all in one basket' thing kicks in. While I've been pursuing this idea pretty strong over the last year, I have to be careful not to let myself fall into the category of becoming 'that guy who only works on one script'.

If I wanna work in TV I've gotta be able get ideas done, and not just my own. I gotta challenge myself to both learn my craft while coming up with new concepts and stories. I gotta prove my worth to someone who's going to sign my paycheque somewhere down the line.

So I'm getting to work. And levelling out my foundation - so to speak. I'm reading 'Writing the TV Drama Series' by Pamela Douglas right now and I have to say it's been - so far - exactly what I needed. Filling in the cracks of what I've learned on my own, the little nit-picky details that I'd kinda wrapped my head around. That's kind of the problem with being self-taught - I've only learned what I needed when I needed it so there's all these wonderful little potholes in my basic knowledge that everyone else I've talked to just seems to 'get'. Things like how to understand what a 'beat' is, how many you should have in a scene. What a scene is. These are things I 'kinda' understood but didn't really 'get'. (Thanks to my wonderful girlfriend for finding this gem for me!... and thanks to the Toronto Public Library... free books, who knew? :P)

Anyways, in the book, they say we should be doing about 4 scripts a year. Spec, work or otherwise. Just to keep us learning and in the game, to learn the craft. The other thing they explicitly state, one that they push forward hardcore, is that you've gotta be ready for the long haul, comparing it to learning an instrument.

John Wells - producer of ER, The West Wing and Third Watch - says "I wish I had more of a sense that is was much more like learning to play a musical instrument. After four or five years you start to not embarrass yourself. It takes 10 years before you can even begin to call yourself proficient. And that's very difficult for for students because they've been through 12 years of primary school, four years of college, and often a couple of years of graduate school and they think they've already done 16, 18 years of education, so they want to go do it right now, though they've actually just started."

I figure I'm maybe 2 years in now, maybe a year and a half since I started REALLY pushing myself to learn. Guess that means only 8 more to go, right?

Either way, the main message is that I can't be resting on my laurels. I've started coming up with log lines and concepts like crazy. Filling up my book with all the craziest stuff that will and will definitely not fly. I've also started pitching to my co-workers and strangers, finding out what the strongest concepts are. So far, I've got two. One's a drama, the other's a comedy. There's a third that's getting good reviews too, but it feels kinda derivative right now so I'm not sure.

I'm putting together pitch documents - little 2-5 pagers that summarize my show and it's concepts - before I try writing the script. I used to just have ideas and I'd start writing but I've learned that while that might be fine for film, TV you have to know your game inside and out. You have to be able to say 'this is my show:' and then make their eyes explode in gory fireworks displays. Okay, not so much with the gore, but you get the idea.

And that's the secret. If I can make their eyes light up, see that spark, I know I'm on the right track. The more sparks I see from the more people, the better the idea. Those are the ones I'm turning my thought processes to right now. I'm also looking at some recent shows to decide what to spec next. Since I've never done a Comedy (or even attempted, really), I'm thinking about doing a Chuck. Of course, everyone and their monkey will be doing one, but hey, that's fine. The challenge will be to tell a story that works and has my 'voice'... whatever that is.

Guess that's something I'll figure out over the next 8 years or so.

Until then... back to work.

Cheers all,
Brandon

Thursday, November 27, 2008

What I've Learned - A Year Later

I've been an 'official' writer now for about a year, maybe two, now. I mean 'official' in that even though I haven't sold anything or had anything made, I have started putting 10+ hours a week into my writing alone - let alone my accumulated time on Ink Canada. There's been a serious effort to jump into my chosen career.

Over on the boards, Karen's been trying to create a FAQ to help all the new members out (we're up to 635 as of this writing!) so I sat down to try and think of the questions I had a year ago. I started wondering what questions I could give solid answers to as someone who's never worked in the industry. Nevertheless I started writing anyway and came up with 5 that were burning in my mind back then and tried my best to answer them with the perspective I've gained.

Turns out, listening and learning has paid off quite well. And I think what I've come up with is something I feel really good about - even just in the realization that I did have answers to my questions. I'm re-printing my post from the site here. Please feel free to let me where I'm off base.
_____________________________

If there's one thing I've learned as an unabashed newbie it's that the only true crime is not asking the questions that're on your mind.

There are more than a few people here willing and ready to answer your questions - and I'm sure we haven't answered every possible question just yet.

To try and get the ball rolling, here are some of the newbie questions I had when I first came into this (about a year or so ago):

1) When do I get to run my own show? (yes... I swing for the fences...lol)
2) How do I break into the Industry?
3) How do I get an agent?
4) Do I need an agent?
5) Will someone steal my idea / Is _____ a scam?

And this is what I've learned so far:

1) You get to run your own show once you can prove that you can run a multi-million dollar company. Writing a great idea is nice and all, but can you hire/fire/manage people on a daily basis while steering the ship and maintaining business relationships and attending meetings and re-writing everyone else's scripts? Can you prove to the people with the money that you can do this?

2) You break into the industry through tenacity. The one common thread in all the people I've talked to is that no one gave up. Every single person who broke in - and stayed in - the industry kept on kicking on doors long past the time they were slammed in their faces. If you want to have an idea of what breaking in is like, take a summer job as a door-to-door salesman. (I've done that and... yeah...) You have to be able to look rejection in the eye, nod, swallow your emotions and go to the next house. You are selling yourself. So A) make sure you have a quality product and B) don't be afraid to sell it. And I guess C) would be: Don't be a prick. The hard sell rarely works - 9 times out of 10 people will pick the less-experienced person they can work with over the asshat with the genius complex and a single wicked script in their pocket.

3) You get an agent in a lot of the same sort of fashion. A quality product and a quality sales pitch. You're hiring an agent (yes, they work for you - if you can convince them to get on board first) to help sell you. If they know that either A) you're making the job easy by having quality work or B) you can sell yourself (thus also making their job easier) then you're 2 steps ahead of the game. They get 10% of what you make so you have to convince them that they're going to be making a decent wage off of you (ie. you're worth the effort). It's all very symbiotic when it works well - so I'm told. I'm still agent-less myself - but I'm working on getting one so... we'll see.

4) Do you need an agent? In the States, yes. No one will look at your stuff unless you're represented. Simple as that. Too many people fighting for the same pie - and getting an agent is supposed to be the 'first rung' of the ladder. Getting an agent doesn't mean you necessarily 'get' work - it means you have someone out there selling you and expounding on your brilliance while you're doing the thing you do best: writing. They oversee your deals (especially in Canada) and help make sure you're not getting screwed. They also have an idea of what's 'in' right now and should be able to tell you - in no uncertain terms - what you should be speccing and which stations are looking for what. They're your eyes and ears - agents - in the industry.

5) a) Stealing an idea rarely happens in this day and age - or so I'm told. I'm not going to say it doesn't ever happen - I've talked to a few people who've made convincing arguments. But I will say this: Write it. Whatever idea you have floating around in your head is no good to you there. Put it on paper, get it on lock. Even then - depending on what it is - there are lots of people that will get their on their own. It happens. I wrote a spec for the Border dealing with the FLQ only to find out that season 2 they'd already come across that idea. It happens. It's a concept. It's also a reality of the business so you better learn to suck it up now. The number 1 rule I've learned do NOT be precious with your ideas. Especially in TV. If worried about losing the one you have then you're probably worried that you won't come up with anything else that's just as good. If you're worth your salt as a writer there will always be more ideas. From what I'm told, people rarely get hired for the ideas in their head so much as how they go about expressing them. Can you take that idea (or someone else's) and tell a damn good story with it? Yes? Good. Then prove it. Then prove it again. And again.

5) b)The classic case of 'if it seems too good to be true, it likely is' is so much more relevant when you become a writer. I don't know how many times I've been on Craigslist and seen 'looking for scripts!' followed by something mysterious like 'send loglines to' another non-informative hotmail address. Are they all scams? I can't say. I know I've heard the ol' 'friend-of-a-friend' tale about someone answering one of them and it turned out to be a jackpot (like MGM or something). But for the most part 99.9% of legit businesses are not going to post something on Craigslist. Especially not in that format. I may be wrong here, but in my limited experiences, whenever I've written to them (and I've answered a few of those calls) they're always shady. Always.

Anyways, hope that helps. I'm still learning a ton and a half - hell, I'm still trying to break in myself. But I'm coming at it from the perspective of going in eyes open - learning what I can, as much as I can.

In closing, my best advice - what I try to do every day: Get out there and knock on doors, meet people, learn about the business and the people who's lives are intrinsically tied to it. Look at situations through their eyes whenever you can. Gain perspective and understanding. Ask questions. Remember: Rejection is a speed bump not a brick wall.

Cheers to all my fellow newbies - lurkers or otherwise,
Brandon

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Agony of the First Draft

If there's one thing I'm learning it's that first drafts don't have a lot of subtlety.

A full day after finishing a draft that seemed to be dancing on the page, I'm finding myself re-reading it and feeling utterly heartbroken. I don't know how it seemed to play out so well in my head, how it seemed to work on the beat sheet and outline, but what I'm reading right now just feels so... guileless and sloppy.

I probably wouldn't feel so bad if I hadn't already sent it off to my writer's group. My newly-minted group of TV writers, all hungry to break into the industry.

Our next meeting is this coming Saturday (last Saturday being our first) with Monday being my first 'due date' for submitted material. Reading my script again since then - with the kind of perspective only given to those who realize it's too late to change things - I can't help but think to myself 'wow, what a great first impression'.

Ugh.

Alright, let's not sit here wallowing in my self-pity. Best to chalk it one up as one of those small personal horrors associated with showing a work in progress.

And that's okay. That part I'm mostly fine with. Mostly.

But I think the root of my frustration with the script - one that becomes clearer as I re-read it - is that I'm starting to feel like I'm losing sight of the story I wanted to tell in the first place. Like I'm starting to forget WHY I was so excited about this concept.

I'm looking at what I wrote and it might as well be in Mandarin or Gaelic. It's just not making sense to me anymore.

That's what's really getting under my skin: I'm losing sight of the forest and the trees. And I'm not sure why.

It's like a mist has rolled in off the lake and I'm walking around in the fog trying to find a contact lens.

In a way, it's worse than having writer's block. Worse than not being able to write at all. It's like I'm having this feeling that every word I write is taking me farther and farther from what I'm actually trying to say and the story I'm wanting to tell.

Does anyone out there ever feel like this? Is it normal?

I'm trying not to be a head case about it, but it's really bugging me.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The New Star Trek Trailer

http://filmdrunk.uproxx.com/?p=6216

It's in HD.

Go. Watch.

This trailer is fantastically edited. In 2 minutes and 11 seconds you know that A) this is a movie about Kirk and Spock and B) this movie has serious potential for kicking ass.

So what'd J.J. Abrams do? He gave Star Trek back its edge. He brought back the uncertainty.

Star Trek, for me - at its best - was about exploration. Mastering your fear. Discovering the unknown.

Danger.

Fleshy, squishy, human beings sent out to the uncharted vastness with nothing but their wits and the pinnacle of their technology. The very best of what they could come up with together - as a human race. And how, often, the best they had just wasn't good enough.

And that's where the 'human' kicked in.

Because, in the end, as cool as the technology was it was ultimately useless without a Captain like Kirk or an Engineer like Scotty or a Doctor like Bones. It was the Human in us that allowed us to keep on living when the technology failed.

Allowed us to beat the cold, calculated odds and improvise our way out of certain death.

As much as I loved The Next Generation, it seemed far more like they were ambassadors than explorers. I rarely saw them get that rush of excitement or combating the fear that comes with facing these threats - these beings that could even be our allies - if we could only understand them. Enterprise touched on this, but somehow it fell short.

I think that's what Mr. Abrams has done. Taken us back before we had the infrastructure, before we were on our game and knew just what lurked beyond the edge of our galaxy.

That, to me, is exciting stuff.

I love this trailer, hands down. It tells me everything I need to know about this movie. It's got me sold. Now it's just a matter of the movie living up to the package they've presented.

Consider my fingers crossed.

Cheers,
Brandon

I blinked.

Okay, so... wow.

Yeah, that was a week. Talk about blowing on by.

I've been a weird mix of sequestered and social as of late - trying to finish my first draft of my new Savage Knights breakdown only to get halfway through and come up with a better idea... which means re-breaking and salvaging what I can. Frustrating, but cool - my opening 10 pages are rock solid, that much I know for sure.

The truly frustrating part for this draft is that I've got my opening nailed and I've got a REALLY strong ending planned. I know where it is, how it goes down, who does what. This thing's a bullet-train... except for the 3rd Act. Which is what's gumming up the rails right now. I've got an A story and a B story, both work towards a cool reveal but the reveal relies on letting out only the right bits of information at the right times. Let alone making sure the right people are in the right positions.

For a while there I thought I had the story broken, turns out I've only got Acts 1, 2, 4 and 5. And that one tiny piece of the puzzle is just driving me batty. I think the problem is an overabundance of ideas, there are so many cool things I could have happen here. I've written 4 different 3rd acts now, all good but none of them seeming 'right'. The first took us back to the scene of the crime and had a lot more character/back story stuff but I felt that going backwards - as cool as the scene was - was not what was needed. The second was just too ponderous. The third too... boring. And the most recent one's just jumped the rails entirely.

I think my problem is that my characters, so far, are aimless. Well, not aimless, they have solid goals, they just do not KNOW how to achieve them. They're overwhelmed by the enormity of the situation. A part of that is due to their design (they're not cops, they're not 'trained', they stumble into this and operate mostly on instinct) but another part is me figuring out how they would find out what they need to know.

So, yeah. Somehow I have a feeling that this is one of those problems that might've been easily solved in a writer's room.

On the bright side, it's only a first draft. And knowing that it's allowed to suck, well, that's a bonus.

Though... one thing's got me thinking. And now that I'm writing it out in my blog, I think I've figured out something I've been missing. There's an emotional connection between my two main characters, they both need something. And I think I've just realized that I've had one character's motivation all wrong.

Hrmmm...

Alright, back to it.

Cheers!
Brandon

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Remembering

Remembrance Day is hard for me - and lots of people my age - who grew up, for the most part, in a time of peace. It's hard to understand, to articulate that magnitude of sacrifice when I've never experienced anything of the sort.

I've never fought in a war.

I've never had to fight and kill to protect that which I have, or sacrifice all that I have to ensure that others will thrive in my stead.

All I can do is honour those who were brave enough to fight for the futures of people they would never know.

All I can do is hope that neither I nor my children will never have to make that sacrifice.

But that, should the need arise, I would find within myself that kind of courage.


In Flanders Fields


It's Time To Say Goodbye

Collaboraaaation.

If there's one thing I'm learning it's that I'm not all that great at blogging 'about' events.

I mean, maybe I'm limited in my vocabulary but there's really only so many ways one can say 'We all had a great time'.

Basically, the goal was twofold: 1) To have all the Toronto Ink Canada Interns work together to get as many writers, directors, producers and more as possible crammed into a small downtown bar on a Sunday afternoon. 2) Have all the Toronto interns actually meet each other.

All said and done, I think it went down pretty well. There was much drinking and merriment, laughter and/or mirth. Conversations were had and - from what I've been told - everyone had a darn good time.

So much so that there's a movement to turn this into a monthly thing. (Which I'm so up for).

The really interesting thing to come out of it all (outside of the surprise visit from Ms. Karen Walton herself) was the amount of excitement there was for the idea of a Toronto Writer's Group. I'm working on getting that off the ground right now - pushing to get people involved of all levels 'cause I'm sure there's lots for us to learn from each other.

So, here's a question out to all you who are - or are looking to get involved - with a Writer's group:

What do you look for in/expect from a good Writer's Group?

Cheers!
Brandon

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

TV Par Excellence

A young man, born of two worlds, rises to challenge the status quo of a faltering empire.

On his quest he must face off against an aged Maverick with one last chance at power, a tenacious hockey mom with nothing to lose, a racial divide, an apathetic nation and an angry plumber.

With grit and determination he stumps across the country, bit by bit, slowly, evenly winning the hearts of the jaded and downtrodden; asking them to play an active part in the re-building of their nation -- filling the tired masses with a long-forgotten sensation: Hope.

And though the old money marshals their forces - calling down the lightning and the thunder, slashing with fear and division - he stands on the hilltop, in the rain. Unafraid.

Amongst the gathered faithful he calls forth the wrath of the pundits, bathing in their jeers and derision, weathering the tempest of lies and deceit, knowing that this will be the empire's last stand.

The land will be cleansed.

The people's voices will be heard.

A new day will dawn.

-----

I don't know about you, but that sounds like a damn good show to me.
All it needs is a title...

Suggestions?

Cheers,
Brandon

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

With that said...

congratulations to President-Elect Obama.

A Candle in the Dark

Tonight the eyes of the world will be focused on one place - one nation. A nation in the throes of a struggle, fighting to stand up and slough off the cloak of fear that has held them tight for far too long.

If you believe the polls, this'll be a historic moment, a potential landslide unlike any we've ever seen as millions and millions of voters - new voters - mobilize themselves to take part in the maintenance of their Country and their Government.

It's a beautiful thing for these tired eyes - a Democracy where its people are taking a chance, working together to try and help fix a system they know is broken. A beautiful thing. Though I have to admit it's a tad bittersweet watching all this from a Canadian perspective - having just been witness to our own election as it brought with it one of the lowest voter turnouts in history.

Sadly, I don't have the heart to blame'em - at least not for that. We know a leader when we see one and, frankly, we've been spoiled as of late; Watching as our own leaders paled in the shadow of a man on the flip-side of the 49th parallel, wishing that any one of them would bring that kind of fire.

You see, compared to the heartfelt, passionate speeches - compared to the exciting news coverage and constant stream of scandal - our leaders looked positively lifeless. Even when sitting across the table from one another, even when tempers flared - with all their umbrage (s)played out for us to see - it seemed like nothing more than a political tool (at best).

And maybe it's because we don't have the 2-year-long campaigns with their ability to gather steam and build interest, maybe it's because we don't have the money or the same combative news style that pushed this all to the forefront. Maybe we're simply not that dramatic.

Be that as it may - and it may be all those things - I can't help but ask:

Where's our Obama?

And why aren't more people pissed that we don't have a leader with that kind of passion?

Because, like I've said before, as much as I appreciate his politics - as much as I appreciate his message, he is not a Canadian and he will not be looking out for Canadian interests. (And don't even get me started on if McCain manages to squeak one out...).

Nothing against the man - I have to admit, I've heard his speeches and been moved, I've watched his interviews and laughed at the SNL spots - but when the chips are down, he'll be looking out for the Americans who elected him. Not us.

It's a hard thing hear after learning so much about him, after growing to like the man and his message; After wanting to see him triumph over the crotchety old goat and the kooky racists and the politics of Fear. It's great drama.

Heck, drama is what the American News Machine does best, it's their bread and butter -- and it's really tasty butter.

But it's not our butter.

Already today I've had 5 people I know, 5 people whom I know DID NOT VOTE in our recent election, ask me if I was for Obama; Ask me what I thought would happen if McCain managed to get in.

And while it's a scary thought, I'm finding that it's the least of my concerns. I'm concerned that we are fine with being apathetic in the face of leaders that don't inspire us; I'm concerned that we have no direct way of saying to the political parties - who supposedly represent us - "No, we don't like any of your choices for leader, go back and choose another" before our own tax dollars are on the line.

Tonight, as our closest ally goes to the polls in the biggest election of a generation, as they elect a leader that has inspired them and earned their votes. It's time for Canadians to look inward and ask why we allowed ourselves to be so limited in our choices. Why we allowed 300 million dollars of our money to be spent to elect leaders that we all gave a collective 'Meh' about.

And while we're at it, maybe we should ask ourselves 'why' we can't directly vote for the leader of our nation? Why it has to go through an intermediary? Why we're forced to link our vote - knowing that voting for a good leader at the local level may put a mediocre (or outright bad) leader into power as Prime Minister?

If there's one thing to take to heart from the, frankly, rousing campaign down South it's that if we want better leaders, we have to demand them - we have to search them out, we have to help make them and raise them up.

However, with that said, the people pushed before us at the end of the day are only the party's 'default settings'. They're the base-level factory models. We have to work to customize our leaders - tell them what's important to us, make our problems their problems. And if they can't or won't seem to 'get' it, send'em back and get another. These 'leaders' are our Public Servants. Patrons sent out to represent us - our hopes and our problems - on the world stage, people that we are to trust with our very well-being.

And if we can't feel like we trust them, if we can't feel like any one of them deserves our vote, then we send'em back and demand better.

Right now, as it stands, we can do that best by getting involved early, when the parties are picking their leaders. We can do our research and make our voices heard. We can demand that our media provide better, more in-depth coverage; Demand that our media work for us with the kind of unbiased journalism we expect. Helping to present us with the resources we need to make up our own minds.

I know it sounds like I'm talking crazy talk, but it's really not that hard. The change is really only as hard as we make it. We have to demand better - from everyone along the line - but we also have to put our money where our mouth is: We have to buy the papers that offer the best, most unbiased coverage. We have to watch the news broadcasts that earn our viewership by being non-partisan (not 'fair and balanced'), that go out of their way to keep us in the loop. We have to donate to the leaders we believe in and work as one to keep them on the level.

If we do this, if we get involved and put our hearts into the process of maintaining our Democracy, if we get out there and do it loud enough and long enough, I guarantee you, we'll get what we want:

A leader that's better than we deserve.

Cheers,
Brandon

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Glorious Abyss

Happy Black and Orange day!

Call me old-fashioned, but I remember growing up in a time when All Hallow's Eve was actually a time of fun and excitement - being let loose to run free in the night, to be scared silly by neighbours and strangers alike, to explore a world that was normally NOT MINE.

I was a kid and the world of 'past 9pm' outside was a stranger to me - and like any brazen young kid in a mask and plastic Freddy claws, I reveled in the exploration. Me and my friends would run through graveyards, daring the dead to eat us - screeching when the older kids would jump up from behind tombstones to try and steal our candy.

Sometimes they did too. I remember a few Halloween's coming home with next near to nothing because we'd been a little too boisterous in our tempting of the fates - or in this case, the 16 year olds. And though it sucked, we knew that this was the price of admission - not that you WOULD have your candy stolen but that you COULD. We'd all heard stories, we all knew people who'd had it happen, but we didn't care. The ADVENTURE is what called to us.

Halloween is like my Christmas. No, scratch that, Halloween IS my Christmas. The one holiday of the year where I remember being and feeling free. Free to run through the streets at 10pm, tatters of a ghost costume whipping in the wind behind me, begging for candy from strangers. No parents, no rules, no fear.

No fear.

In a time where so much could go so wrong, in a place and time where we would be the most vulnerable, we had no fear. On this one night, in this one place, this one unwritten rule was respected above all others - yes, even the candy thieves. From house to house we went, doing our best to scare our neighbours into giving us the REAL treats (the pop and chocolate!) instead of the crappy bowl by the front table. But we never felt fear. These strange people greeted us with spooks and smiles but we never knew any real cause to fear them.

Our world has changed since those days and so many of us live in fear of the people next door - at least, that's the sense I'm getting as I hear parents at work talk about sending their kids out alone for Trick or Treating. But if you look hard enough, you can see it, see it in the parent's eyes. The sadness. The remembrance of what Halloween used to be and the frustration that their kids can't know that same rush of freedom and innocence.

Then again, maybe I'm projecting.

Maybe Halloween has always just been about the candy and I found something deeper in it. Hidden in the darkness, a celebration of everything good about Humanity. A deep bond of trust for a kid growing up in an untrustworthy world; A night of acceptance and freedom and excitement free from the world of order, where screaming into the abyss was expected and encouraged above all things.

And when the night was over, when our arms ached and our pillowcases bulged, when the last light went out, we scampered across the pavement - soaking in the sweetness of rotting leaves and damp earth, following the trails of moonlit pavement to the warmth of our homes. The safety of our own front door where we returned as kings with treasures from far off lands.

No thing has ever tasted so sweet as that first victorious chocolate bar, that single wrapped caramel. And though my mom was careful to take it away from me, put it high up so that I wouldn't gorge myself to sickness (which I would've done, natch) - she was always careful to allow me to enjoy the experience, to feel that sense of success, to taste sweet victory before being ushered up the stairs and off to bed.

I see this day, the fear people share for it - and I understand it. It's the fear of the unknown, it's the fear of the darkness, the fear of each other. Yet, I believe, that now is when we must face those fears together. When we should send our kids out into the world, to learn about it, to explore it and revel in their freedoms - even if it is only for one night.

Because, deep down, that's why Halloween was created. We need that release. We need a night to buck the system, to stretch our voices and our legs, to be out there, tactile in the world and maybe - just maybe - have a chance to make up our own minds about what to be scared of.

Happy Halloween all,
Brandon

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Life Lesson #741

I went out to Playback's Innovators Forum today; Took a day off work to attend what promised to be a very interesting session with some very interesting writers. Long story short (and without dropping too many names) I got to meet some great writers who were more than happy to answer my questions and share their experiences in the industry.

All-in-all, I have to say that it was a pretty positive experience from beginning to end.

With one minor exception. You see, I kinda screwed up.

There was one writer I was really interested in talking to, one that I'd been researching - trying to think of good questions to ask and cool things to talk about: Mr. James Manos Jr. - Creator of a little show called Dexter.

So, good news: I did my research and when I saw him walking around amongst the crowd, I mustered my courage and approached him. Big smile, big handshake. "Excuse me, are you Mr. Manos?" To which he replied "Yeah I'm Jim Manos". He seemed very cool, very chill and so I proceeded to try and chat with him.

Bad news: I bombed big time. I'm not exactly sure where or how it happened but I got about two questions out before felt enveloped by this wave of self-conciousness. All the questions I had in my mind went blank and, frankly, I panicked. Not entirely sure why I did, but let's just say I got an insight at how good LA Writers are at extracting themselves from awkward situations.

He politely downed the rest of his coffee, looked at his mug, said "excuse me for a moment" and disappeared. It was then that I had the sudden burst of self-awareness that as he walked away, well, he wasn't coming back.

Not that I blame him at all, he saw the fear in my eyes and took off. I would've done the same.

I've been thinking a bit about it - why was I suddenly so intimidated by this guy? Was it that he had made a show that I was a fan of? Was it that I was standing before someone who'd somehow made it to where I want to be (creator of his own show?)? Was it simply nerves?

Or maybe it was the fact that I knew too much - had invested too much or expected too much - to simply let a conversation be just that: a conversation.

Anyways, I don't want to self-analyse too much - or beat myself up about it - but I will say this: I learned 3 very important things from him in that very short meeting.

1) He didn't start writing until 35 and he never went to writing school.
2) When asked, his main piece of advice (outside of "don't get into this business") was to get out there and live life, meet characters and gather material for your stories. On a side note, it's something I can agree with in principle, but I'm not going to put the career I want on hold for 10-20 years just to go backpacking around the world.
3) There is definitely a right way and a wrong way to handle a conversation. The deer in headlights look - well, it's a bit of a momentum killer.

I guess you could also say I learned a bit about the art of getting out of awkward situations. I don't really drink coffee... but maybe I should start.

In other news, I had a really insightful chat with Peter Rowley about pitching shows and how best to find the core of what you're trying to sell. I'd been coming at it from the angle of all these cool things that I'd wanted to have happen, all these sweet details and twists I'd worked out for the season and I was getting frustrated trying to fit it all into my pitch (let alone my logline).

Peter was honest and he said something that made a scary bit of sense. Essentially it went something like this: 'Even if they hire you to make your own show, what they really want is you, they want your voice and everything else - any episodes you've written, bios, bibles, etc. - is in the trash. They want to have input, they want to re-break it from the ground up.'

So, what it forced me to do was pull everything off it and ask what my show is really about. What is at the core?

Outside of all the Horror and creepy stuff, outside of the darkly comedic tinges, it's about our quest for self-discovery; about the family we make for ourselves along the way. The family we get to choose.

Now that I've got the beat sheet done and the rough outline's in the bag I'm starting to feel pretty confident about starting my first draft. I know what I want, the steps are there, the flesh is on the bones - now it's just a matter of trying to find the lightning with which to zap this thing.

Will it live? Guess only time will tell.

Cheers,
Brandon

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Post-Writing High

I am literally shaking with excitement. I've just managed re-break my show Savage Knights into a one-hour pilot.

Those who know me know I've been struggling with this thing for damn near 3 months, trying to figure out how to fit all 2 hours of the story I wanted to tell into a 1 hour pilot.

I woke up this morning deciding to go all in - I was going to beat this sucker down if it killed me. So I started re-reading my pilot script for the 30th or 40th time and that's when it hit me - that's when I realized that I had been wasting this fantastic opportunity. You see, in my original script the teaser is this really cool setup for a story but in my rush to tell the bigger picture, I ended up starting the story 6 months later. (and, as Peter Rowley put it after reading it, somehow crammed 3 seasons worth of story into 2 hours...)

I had set up this great emotional resonance and then lopped it off at the wrist by jumping so far ahead.

So I sat here asking myself: why not follow this scene into act one?

And it was like the cork popped off the barrel. It came gushing out of me in a fucking torrent. Holy Shiat.

I've been writing ever since - just finished my beat sheet. It is awesome. It's like everything i wanted to say came out of me onto the page, I found less clunky ways to set things up, I found ways to reveal things in ways that were more relevant to the characters.

It's just so much cleaner - leaner, faster.

I'm giddy - absolutely high as a kite right now as I re-read this thing.

Though I can't help but feel kind of mad at myself too because the answer was so simple. I've been killing myself trying to figure out how to make it all work, how to move things this way or that, how to condense things.

In the end I just shoved it all aside and continued telling the story I wanted to tell, letting everything else come out when it felt right.

And it works! Oh man. I haven't felt this good in a long time.

Okay, I'm off to work on the outline now. Gotta start to build on these bones.

But seriously, Holy Crap!!

Cheers!
Brandon

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Let's talk promotions

I've heard this one screeched from the back-benches for quite a while now, how Promotion in Canada is HARD. How we kill our own productions by sinking money into them to make'em but not to promote them.

Let me just say, right now, that promotion in Canada isn't Hard. I can tell you this from experience that it's the easiest thing in the world, it just requires leg-work and passion. There's no complicated formulas, there's no aligning of stars, it's just a matter of getting out there and beating the streets.

Canada is a different beast than the States, we don't 'clump together' in the same ways. We don't have the same interests. We don't have the same view of 'sales'. The moment we hear a sales pitch, our hackles go up. Just ask any telemarketer how hard selling things on the phone is in Canada versus the US. I've been a telemarketer, let alone a door-to-door salesman, and I can tell you that we're quite a suspicious lot.

You have to campaign from a place of passion in Canada; grass-roots, word-of-mouth.

It takes far more time to promote something here. And I think that's something people don't understand. You need months, not weeks, to build interest in Canadians. A steady drumming or undercurrent. The American markets can cheat this by brute-forcing it. They have the money to bombard you until you don't have a choice but to let it enter your skull.

We don't.

Promotions in Canada, good, solid promotions, take time.

And that's why I think if we're making a show in Canada, if it's something we think people should be watching, we should be out there banging on doors. Whenever we're not writing we should be fighting with radio stations and TV stations to let us come on and talk about it. Hit the free University radio stations, they LOVE to have a reason to promote things.

I just found out last night that there's a Season 2 of Durham County in the works. A whole other 8 episodes coming down the pipe. I don't know about you, but I LOVE this show. I think it's one of the best things we've ever had on Canadian Television.

How the hell is this not national news? Why aren't people spreading the word? Pushing the box set? Getting off their asses?

You can't just write it or direct it or produce it or broadcast it and turn the page.

What kills me the most is the simple lack of business acumen that's going on out there. These people are literally throwing away money. Seriously, grab a handful of cash and torch it.

Royalties, DVD sales, Ad Space, you name it.

How can people be saying that they're in the 'business' without understanding that fundamental connection? That watering the plant now brings fruit tomorrow?

And that's why articles like James Adams' "Gross's Passion No Porky's" pisses me the fuck off.

Promotion takes work. So when I see an article that seems only designed to slam the film - one that's not even a review; that literally starts off by calling the film a 'failure' - it's a stake in the heart and a slap in the face to all the people who worked on it.

Never mind the content - I haven't seen it yet, won't judge - the film pulled in $847,522 in Canada in its opening weekend. Not too damn shabby. THAT deserves some respect, if not for the film and the people who made it then for the audience who paid that money to go and see it.

I mean, hey if you saw the movie and you think it sucks, that's your bag. Write a review.

But don't go out there and slam a film that EARNED it's 2nd place opening.

I've written a little protest piece - inspired by Karen's urgings on Ink Canada - to see if we can't help undo some of the damage done.

PAUL GROSS HAMMERS OLIVER STONE
George W. better watch his back, the Canadians are coming and only the forces of Heaven and Hell seem able to stop them.

Bounding up to the number 2 position in it's opening weekend - stopped only by the hallucinogenic Heaven/Hell flick 'Max Payne' - Passchendaele kicked sand in the face of Oliver Stone's presidential bio-pic W. as it blew past the competition.

The Canadian film by director-actor Paul Gross pulled in a solid $847,522 in its first weekend, leaving W. limping into 6th position with $601,240 (Source: http://www.tribute.ca/movies/boxoffice.asp)

"We're thrilled with the box-office," said Carrie Wolfe, Alliance vice-president of marketing, publicity and promotion, yesterday in Toronto. "Canadians across the country have embraced the film".

Though not everyone is lining up to join in the celebration, some chose a more introspective and some might say 'modestly-Canadian' approach to mark the occasion.

"Is it a commercial blockbuster like a Quantum of Solace [the new James Bond film opening Nov. 14]? It's not - but I don't think it was intended to be," says Howard Lichtman, a veteran Toronto-based box-office analyst. "If you take the just-under million dollars it generated and divide that by the average ticket price, there's still an awful lot of people that went to see a Canadian piece of history. Which isn't too bad."

Passchendaele is in theatres now across the country.

Cheers,
Brandon

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Sweet Side of the Bitter Pill

The Harper Minority did not earn itself a mandate last night - but I would dare say that the Arts and Culture community has.

In an election where we (writers, musicians, key grips, sculptors, painters and more) were successfully played against the masses as "effete elitists" we learned, first-hand, just how wide the disconnect between 'Arts' and 'ordinary Canadians' has become.

And yet in the wake of it all a new challenge has been laid before us - a challenge I think we all should be more than happy to accept.

You see, having talked to the people I know, having scanned MANY of the CBC message boards (and weeded out the Trolls) there's still a disconcerting amount of people in this country - otherwise active, engaged Canadians - who just don't 'get' what we do.

And if those who're active and engaged in the system don't seem to understand our role, how then can we hope that those with little interest are faring better?

Plainly, that is something we're going to have to change. We can't just be jumping together, rallying at that CBC when the threat looms large - and, to be clear, I don't mean that as any sign of disrespect.

I just believe that we have to keep that threat from ever gathering in the first place.

I've also come to understand that we're going to have to do that with gentle nudges, not sledgehammers (something I admit I've been guilty of as I flailed around and tried to catch my bearings). We're going to need concerted efforts by us all to maintain an active presence in the lives of the people we hope to entertain.

Because, even if we get rid of the emotional side of things, the 'beauty of Art' arguments - hell, it just makes good business sense. We who are trying to make a living off of entertaining CANADA and CANADIANS should know our market more and know our market better.

Essentially, we need to do what we do best: Communicate and Listen.

Go grass roots.

And I don't mean to take away from those who're already doing that (I'm looking at the Department of Culture and Vote for Environment who both brought forth valiant efforts and should be proud) - I mean to take a solid look at what's working and what's not. Where was Harper's divisive message the most effective? Who was he targeting and why did it work?

Hey, maybe we need to get more Stompin' Tom out there (did anyone think to ask him what he thought of being called 'elitist'?).

The good news is that we don't have to rush this. We don't have to take our already battle-weary bodies and hoist them up and try to mount a decisive front against Harper's assault. We don't have to hastily educate our own about how they're under direct attack and why they should care.

We don't have to try and undo years (or decades) of passive indifference in 37 days.

Now is the time for us to rise to the challenge we have been given.

We've been told, in one way shape or form, that we need to do better. We need to reach these people and show them that the Arts are as essential as the weekend. As essential as the chance to escape our daily and weekly burdens. That it's relevant and fun and needed - that it truly is the voice of the 'ordinary Canadian' even if there really isn't an 'ordinary Canadian' anymore.

Now more than ever we've been told exactly what we need to do - and not many are lucky enough to be sent such a clear message.

We need to connect.

Lucky for us: That's what we do.

Yes, the real work is just beginning - but somehow, I can't help but find that new-found purpose exciting. It's not going to be pretty, its not going to be easy, but change - real change - rarely is at first. It's time to dig in and start rebuilding the roads.

Cheers to everyone who gave a damn and still chooses to.

It's not a fight, it's not a battle, it's not a war.

It's a realization.

And time is on our side.

Brandon

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

1 hour and 20 minutes

until I can jump outta here and go cast my vote.

Hope you've already paid a visit to the polls.

Anyone have any interesting stories to share?

Cheers!
Brandon

Monday, October 13, 2008

At the end of the day, it's all about you

I got an interesting letter this weekend and I can't quite get it out of my head. As it's rather timely, I wanted to post it here. I've written to the writer of said letter for permission to post it and so, until I've gotten full permission, I'm taking all personal details out of it (and they'll probably remain out unless given the go-ahead to post in its entirety).
______________________

Hey Brandon,

I'd like to comment on something you wrote on your blog last week about the Canadian leader's debate.

I watched most of the debate online last weekend, and I have to say that if the Conservatives are elected again, with a majority or a minority, it'll be a sad day for Canada.

I live in an area and a province that is without question a have not area. Many believe that the area will do better if we elect someone who's party gets into government. Here's where I face a dilemma. The Conservative candidate in my riding is someone who is very smart and, if elected, has the potential to do great things for [us]. I took a Leaders and Leadership distance course from her last year, and I got a good mark in the course. I think she can be a great leader and represent [us] very well on a federal level.

However, I have to look at the big picture. A vote for [her] is a vote for Stephen Harper. Like many smart Canadians, I do not like Stephen Harper or the downward direction that Canada has been going in under the Conservatives since 2006. I watched clips of the debate last week, and I think it's quite clear to me that Stephen Harper is apathetic and does not give a fuck towards Canadians. I've said in the past that Stephen Harper is a very calm and collected politician, but there is a difference between being calm and collected and being outright apathetic towards the general public and not acting in the public's best interests. Harper is guilty of the latter.

Stephane Dion, Jack Layton, Elizabeth May (I can dream, can't I?), it doesn't matter. As long as one of those those leaders gets elected to be PM on Tuesday, I'll be a happy guy. Anybody other then Harper has the potential to reestablish Canada as a great and proud country, both here at home and abroad.

Unfortunately, my Conservative Candidate has a very real chance of getting elected as a MP come Tuesday. After 8 years of being represented by a Liberal, many will see the need to elect someone new. Hopefully there will be some who will see the big picture and vote for someone other then a Conservative.

Which federal party has the best chance of defeating the Conservatives next week? My gut says the Liberals but I think the NDP will do well too. I haven't looked at the recent polling numbers, but I know that Harper is losing support over recent gaffes he's made.

Anyway Brandon, thanks for letting me rant.
__________________________________

Hey [ ]!

Yeah, that right there is one of the shitty things about our democracy - we can have a say in the party, but not the leader - that's where things get problematic.

In this situation it's easy to talk about things like strategic voting and pushing for any party over the Conservatives. And while I personally feel it's right at this juncture, there's another side to that story - a local side that will be felt far more acutely than one or the other Steve getting into power.

Maybe the Conservative at the local level is a good person, maybe the Liberal/NDP/Green running is an obnoxious prick who doesn't deserve or hasn't earned your vote.

What then?

I've come to realize that at the end of the day you have to do what's right for you, what you believe to be true. Maybe [your Conservative Candidate] will do great things for your town, maybe - just maybe - she's the kind of politician that also follows her heart and would be willing to stand up to her leader.

What you have to try and do - and I know this is hard - is to gauge the amount of leader within your leader. If push comes to shove - say Harper explicitly says "screw [your town]" is she the kind of person to say "no, screw you" or fall in step with the party line?

It's not an easy thing to figure out, someone's moral fiber - the strength of their character, but it's the first thing you should look at. If you know - and feel certain in your heart and mind - that this person will have your back... well then it doesn't matter what colour she flies. If she's a strong leader she will stand up for [your town] and stand up to Stephen Harper when she knows he's doing something wrong (in fact, that's something you should ask her about!).

As a citizen, it's your duty - if you help elect her, or anyone, really - to make sure they are sticking up for you. To offer them feedback, both positive and negative, on how they're doing their job so that they can be the best kind of leader they're capable of. (I know, positive feedback for a politician!?)

It's not always easy, not always something we have the time for - but that's why its a task meant for a society, not just one person.

Anyways - my best advice is to seriously look at her, call her up and ask her a few questions. If you're considering voting for her, you have every right to her time and she will gladly make it for you (especially this late in the game when every vote matters!). If not, if you're not important enough to talk to on a phone or in person, then you have a pretty good idea of what you can expect in the future.

I wish you the best of luck. Politics is never easy (I've been learning that like crazy this last year, especially the last few months), but as long as your candidate has made you feel good about your choice, that's all that matters.

Cheers!
Brandon

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Kind Of People We Want To Be

Yesterday I managed to sneak out of work for an hour or so to attend the WGC/ACTRA Rally for the Arts and I bumped into a few smiling faces but mostly a whole lot of people I've never met before. I mean that in a good way, by the way, as it really did give me a hint of the scope of things as they stand. Combine the mass of passionate, proud Canadians with the signs and cameras and Chinese dancing dragons and... well, yeah, it was quite a sight.

And though there were a lot of speeches and lots of wonderful points made and lots of facts and figures expounded upon - there was one speech that really knocked it out of the park for me. A collection of ideas and themes that just hit home like none of the others did.

Maybe it was because it spoke to my inner idealist, maybe 'cause it vibed with the hope and love I have for my country. But when those words came out, it sparked something in me - especially this bit:

"There's so much about this country that makes it great and we all don't talk about it - but when we do, when we talk about it, THAT is culture. Culture is Canadians talking to each other about the kind of country, the kind of people we want to be". - Denis McGrath

And there, in the crowd, surrounded by artists of every stripe, I found myself getting angry - not at them, not at his words or even what they meant. I found myself getting angry at the frustration in the eyes and voices around me - that this shit even needed to be said at all.

It's something I've been feeling for a long time - even before I chose to become a writer. Back when I was a struggling promoter, trying to help young independent Canadian artists, musicians and filmmakers get noticed in Toronto.

An uphill battle to be sure, but it was fun - and sometimes heartbreaking - work.

Yet it still kills me, every time, when I hear someone I know tell me that there's no opportunities for artists in this country. To hear people who're just starting out - or otherwise - tell me that they're going to go to the States because there's just no use bothering to stay here.

That no one cares about them in this country until they make it big somewhere else.

It's why I started Canadiana Promotions back in the day, it's why I've chosen to stay here now and hone my craft as a writer. I believe in the talent in this country - the potent, amazing and intriguing characters and stories that live and breathe all around me. I believe in the potential we share - for the market that just needs a good excuse to explode. For the pride we all feel but hide under our shirts until we go somewhere else and stick a flag on our back pack. (Why do we do that? It can't just be to say 'hey we're not Americans'.)

I believe that we are just as capable and worthy as anywhere else in the world of entertaining and enlightening each other - not just as Canadians but as fellows in the Human experience.

And it's why I get so frustrated when I hear the one thing that's supposed be bringing us all together - our communal experiences and stories - being used to tear us apart. To hear a man who is supposed to be our leader, to be uniting us, pushing us against one another.

It just goes against everything I stand for. Everything I believe in.

I want to thank all the fantastic and amazing people who were at the rally, those who could only be there in spirit and all the rest who continue to work here and believe in the beauty and potential of our home.

I'm going to sign off with another quote from Mr. McGrath, something for us all to think about as election day looms large on the horizon.

"I think we all understand that times are tough, and tough times means tough choices. But when times are tough, that - traditionally - is exactly when society turns to the comfort that storytelling provides. That's when we do our most important work. Sharing stories, in words, in images - on stage in dance, in music - this is how we think, this is how we learn to be Canadian."

Cheers,
Brandon

Some Great Videos With Great Messages.




You Have a Choice from AnyoneButHarper.ca on Vimeo.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Weathering The Storm

I watched the Leaders' Debate with a great amount of interest, hoping to see something that would prove me wrong about our current PM Stephen Harper - maybe make my knees stop knocking at the thought of a Conservative Majority.

It didn't happen.

In fact, as I watched him sit there with that thin, smug smile I couldn't help but think "He knows he has this in the bag - he's just weathering out the storm".

And so he did.

Even though Jack Layton repeatedly asked him "where's your platform?", even though he pointed out that (then) 12 days from the election - the Conservatives still had not made it clear what they'd planned to do with the country...

It didn't matter.

PM Harper was only there in body, content to ride out the winds while bolstered by the knowledge that no matter what he was going to be Prime Minister again - it was just a matter of seeing if it would be a majority or a minority government.

Today, days after that lively debate where Stephen Harper coldly deflected attempts to put him on the spot, our Prime Minister has finally decided to grace us with his message.

His 'plan' if you will.

His decision to back down from his attacks on the 'elitist' Canadian Cultural sector while tossing $400 million in loans to prop up our ailing Manufacturers.

All the while plucking that one-note string, repeating the only sound bite sure to send shivers through his base: 'higher taxes'.

'What do the others offer? It doesn't matter! They'll raise your taxes! Don't rationally look at their platforms in time for the elections - trust me! They'll raise your taxes!'

It's a great way to play off our uncertainties and fears - a great way to distract us while waving only the tiniest of carrots in an attempt to shut up those who are squawking (read: the Cultural and Manufacturing sectors).

But is it enough?

As the home stretch looms on the horizon, as another day is ticked off my ominous internal calendar, I listen to my co-workers fretting about the effects of the American economy on our own; watching helplessly as the TSX drops 1100 points in a single day; wondering about what else will happen to their country let alone their mortgages, their families and more.

I listen to the people I care about and hear the worry in their voice.

And yet what advice does he offer when he finally stands before the battered masses?

He gets biblical: "As the saying goes, it wasn't raining when Noah built the ark. Which is why when the rain came, Noah didn't need to panic and he didn't switch boats."

He asks us 'not to switch boats' in the middle of an economic storm.

Of course we're just supposed to forget that our supposed leader had chosen to stay silent for months, hoping our economy - much like his political ambitions - would weather said storm.

We should forget that he stayed silent until the unrest got to the point that he HAD to say something.

We should forget that he waited until the other political parties had put forth their plans, until after he'd seen and studied and criticized them all, to step up with his idea.

Great way to show your leadership, Prime Minister.

Yet who can blame him? That's just the kind of leader Stephen Harper is.

Instead of standing at the helm of the ship, lashed by wind and rain, steering us through the greatest economic threat we've faced in a generation or more, Stephen Harper - the man who wants the majority of control in our country - would choose to huddle in blankets in the bowels of the ship, waiting for everything to fix itself, hoping against hope that nothing will dash us against the rocks in the meantime.

Only when the threat hits home for him - when the unrest around him becomes palpable - does he try to "buy voters with their own money".

Only then does he choose to waffle on his attacks against the Cultural Sector, only then does he choose to toss some money to the manufacturing sector that he allowed to wither.

This man is not a leader.

This man has not earned my vote.

In fact, only now as people would gather around their tables en masse, as they would sit and have public discourse in a traditional setting, is Prime Minister Harper getting serious.

What took him so long? Why even bother this late in the game?

Is he afraid that maybe, once we all get together, we'll realize his 'plan' is a sham? That when given the chance to talk freely and openly with one another we'll undo all his carefully laid plans?

Is he afraid we'll tell each other about Bill C-50 and share what we've learned about his immigration reforms? The ones that allow the Conservatives to 'cherry pick' the immigrants that fit their idea of what a 'proper' immigrant should be. That allow them to pull the 'qualified' immigrants out of line and leave the rest (who've patiently been waiting their turn for YEARS) to rot.

Maybe he's afraid we'll tell each other about Bill C-51 and how his government tried to sneak in legislation that would've allowed for search and seizure without a warrant or evidence - and that the only reason that Bill is dead right now is because the Conservatives dissolved the government to try and take up another election while the polls showed that they were the heavy favourites.

Or, hey, maybe he's afraid all us young'uns will get together and learn about what he had planned with Bill C-61. More than just a 'copyright reform' bill, this harsher version of the American Digital Millennium Copyright Act would've put the government into the interesting position of having to become a virtual 'online big brother' in order to A) know that we were breaking the law and B) to enforce the provisions of the law. Basically, to even know that you were breaking the law, they'd have to be watching you in the first place.

You see, Harper's been skating by on the fact that the 'Left' is fragmented and as the only 'Right-wing' party, his power is already consolidated. He hasn't needed a 'plan' until now. He hasn't had to sell himself.

His goal was a simple one: keep us all busy debating the nuances of each party while his Conservatives skate on through come October 14th. Quite possibly into a majority.

But now the waves are crashing and the wind is roaring and people are actually looking to their leader for inspiration. We want to know what he will do to save us as we're tossed about in open waters.

Yet he has no answers. No solid ground on which to land us. All Stephen Harper can do is ask you not to 'switch boats' while throwing money into the wind with one hand and clutching his tattered sweater with the other - saying a silent prayer that we won't figure that out before election day.

Look at the facts. Look at what he's done - behind our back or otherwise.

He is not a leader. He is not our ally.

Stephen Harper is bad for Canada.

And so I ask you to go HERE, put in your Postal Code and take an objective look at what is going on in your riding. Look and see if, like so many others, your vote can push any other party to victory over the Conservatives.

See if you're in a riding like Mississauga-Erindale where the incumbent won their riding by a paltry 328 votes in 2006.

See if your vote can help change the entire direction of this election.

Our Prime Minister wants us "ordinary Canadians" to weather the storm and 'not switch boats' while he hides safe and protected and smug below.

Come election day, cast a vote - cast a strategic vote - and let's stick him and his Conservatives back in the galley where they belong.

Cheers,
Brandon

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

(Scientifically) Picking your battles

Sometimes the forces, they just swirl into one of them vortex-thingies and come on by and smack you upside your political head.

Case in point: Some good folk have gotten together and gotten all damn technical and scientific on how to not only keep Stephen Harper from getting a majority, but how to flip the scales entirely and ensure the Liberals (the most likely to defeat the Conservatives overall) get a minority government.

They're doing so under the banner of keeping the Conservatives out in an attempt to save our Environment (remember that thing about the toxic lake landfills? Yeah, apparently that didn't win PM Harper any points).

With a striking - bordering on obsessive - amount of detail these folks have created a site that will allow you to look up your riding, find out not only who's running but also who's more likely to win.

Wow. Talk about doing their share of the heavy lifting!

Essentially, the site will allow you to know - should you wish to know - if voting with your heart or voting with a purpose (getting PM Harper out of power) will actually change things in your area.

I popped on by and it turns out that my riding is a 'safe' Liberal zone - I guess that means that historically it's always voted Liberal. Normally that's not my thing but hey, good to know.

http://www.voteforenvironment.ca/

"This site offers comprehensive, up-to-date riding by riding information on how to defeat Harper and his anti-environment policies."

You can't really make it much easier than that - short of showing up at people's doors with the ballots and pencils in hand.

Cheers (and much thanks to Carina Cojeen for sharing this on the Department of Culture Facebook site!)
Brandon

EDIT: After showing the site to a friend of mine, she gave me her postal code to enter and what popped up was a classic example of how splitting the vote could cause the Conservatives to get into power:

http://www.voteforenvironment.ca/node/557


The Liberals kept the Mississauga-Erindale seat by a total of 328 votes in the last election - with over 9,200 extra votes split amongst the Green Party and NDP, neither with a chance of winning - this is one of those ridings where your vote can REALLY make a difference and ensure that the Conservatives don't cover that gap.

If we can keep more seat from the Conservatives that's one less shot at a Majority Conservative government.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tiny steps in a not-forward direction.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canadavotes/story/2008/09/29/harper-families.html

Okay.

So, if all Artists are 'Elitist' snobs and 'Ordinary Canadians' don't care about the Arts, then why is Harper suddenly so willing to give Canadian families a $500 a year tax credit "for children under 16 who participate in eligible arts activities"?

Suddenly NOW he cares about making sure your kids are all into the Arts and starting a life-long love affair, etc.

But I don't get it. Is he trying to breed more snobs?

Or does he know that by offering this tax credit to lower income families - who have to pay for the courses, etc. first and then claim it on their taxes - he gets to look good while having only a very few who will be able to afford taking him up on it?

With this paltry offering he gets to stand there and say 'Look! I love the Arts AND I love children! See!' as if that negates all the other damage he's done and will continue to do.

Smokescreens are fun!

Luckily no one's going to buy into this, right?

Cheers,
Brandon

EDIT:

Interesting fact:

"Could we ever know each other in the slightest without the arts?"

That quote is from Gabrielle Roy (1909-1983)

It's also on the back of our $20 bill.

Just thought I'd mention that.