Updated Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Vaycay Time!


Well folks, this'll be my last post for a week or so as my wife and I head down to San Francisco for a bit of R&R.

Once I get back though, there's going to be a whole whack of cool stuff coming your way -- I promise.

In the mean time, if you have any advice for a first-time San Francisco visitor I'd be much obliged.

In the mean time, I'm going to share with you a treatment I put together for a Canadian Horror film I've been wanting to do for a while now.

It's called "'Til Death" and the one-line is:

"A shotgun wedding falls on the day of the zombie apocalypse".

It's up over on the sidebar there - take a read and let me know if it's something you'd like to see in a theatre near you!

Cheers!
Brandon

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Rise Of The Companion

One thing that sort of flew by the wayside over the last little bit is that yours truly is now officially a published author.

I'm not entirely sure how I forgot to mention this, but yep, one of my articles actually got published in 'Enlightenment' magazine -- the official Doctor Who fanzine of the Doctor Who Information Network.

For those who may not have heard of it, 'Enlightenment' is considered one of the longest running Doctor Who magazines and is currently celebrating it's 25th anniversary.

My article appeared in issue #157 (in case you were wondering).

Pretty darn cool, if you ask me.

For those of you who might not have had a chance to check it out, I'm going to re-print my article here.

Also, if you haven't been watching, you should definitely check out the new Doctor Who.

Brilliant, brilliant stuff.
________________________

The Rise Of The Companion
by Brandon C Laraby

When moving from the eighth incarnation of Doctor Who to the ninth, regeneration was the easy part. Replacing a beloved Doctor that had become a veritable master of multimedia – well, that’d be the trick.

Though the Eighth Doctor had only ever graced our television screens that one time back in ’96, he’d gone on to live a long and full life through literally hundreds of adventures that had played out across a myriad of novels, radio dramas and comic strips. This upstart new Doctor would have to be something special indeed if he hoped to compete with that legacy. More importantly, if he hoped to find a way into the hearts of fans both old and new.

Perhaps the greatest coup for the fledgling show would come in the form of one Mr. Christopher Eccleston, a lauded theatre, film and television actor who’d played everything from an insane war general in 28 Days Later to The Second Coming of Jesus Christ himself. He would bring a gravitas to the character as well as much-needed buzz, an excuse for those unaware to find their way to the show. But that would guarantee promotion and nothing more.

To complicate matters, the coming of the Ninth Doctor also heralded a new status quo for the series, which had to be re-tooled from the ground up for a new generation of viewers, one that had yet to meet the genetic horror of the Daleks or the relentless march of the Cybermen. And so in order to bring about the change required, our Eighth Doctor would find himself changed as well – though how, exactly, we would never be told.

Our Doctor could no longer be a byzantine character full of derring-do and thoughtful wit; instead he would be updated, ready to tackle the imaginations of current viewers and the complexities of the modern world. Thus our Ninth Doctor emerged from a place of pathos: the lone survivor of an interstellar Time War, now a pulsing dichotomy of melancholic refugee and free-range manic dervish.

His heart now shrouded in darkness and loss, our Ninth Doctor looked at the human world around him and saw himself as a man apart – an alien both realised and lost. He became one who regarded problems with a crooked and suspicious eye, who “didn’t do domestics” and cursed like a sailor.

Not exactly an easy man to love.

It was a gamble, to be sure – one that could’ve easily scuttled old fans and new alike… for how does one find compassion for such a man?

Yet that was the true brilliance of writer and imaginative force Russell T. Davies. By creating a Doctor so tragic and flawed, he allowed us to peer inside our hero like never before.

Through these flaws, his distance and pain, we were allowed to understand his true need for companionship.

Rather than through exploits and high adventure and last-minute flashes of brilliance, we would find love for our Doctor through the love of the one who travelled with him, a dimension heretofore unexplored within the realm of the Doctor/companion relationship.

This time it would not be just a human or alien tag-along. This companion was someone who would need to touch him deeply, who would be challenged to reignite a dormant spark within and fill the yawning abyss in his hearts. Someone with whom the audience could relate and, through them, come to understand this strange and alien ‘Doctor.’

Yes, Rose Tyler would not have it easy.

And yet, for one with so much riding on her shoulders, what was remarkable about Rose was just how unremarkable she was. Not a wild woman or a freedom fighter or a combat pilot, Rose was a struggling young woman unsure of her direction in life, lost in a sea of personal expectation and disappointment. Or, to put it another way, another stroke of genius from Mr. Davies.

This utterly normal, unthreatening girl would be our guide, one whom we could latch onto and live through, a safe harbour in the storm to come – whether we found ourselves 5 billion years in the future watching the final fate of our planet, or running from an army of flying human-Dalek hybrids.

Through Rose Tyler we would find ourselves closer to home than ever before, because instead of creating a sprawling narrative about the fate of the Earth or some introspection on the nature of humanity, these two people – so utterly lost and alone in a world that made no sense to them – would craft a tale of friendship and camaraderie.

And ultimately, we would follow them and love them and, when the time came, mourn them.

Though the Ninth Doctor would only live a short time, certainly when compared to the long lives of other Doctors, his attitude was one that reverberated somewhere deep inside us.

For who has not felt the sting of loneliness or the longing to be understood, to find a true friend who, no matter what our outlook, could find compassion and strength for us when we ourselves could not?

In providing our Ninth Doctor with not only an equal but a true friend, Russell T Davies breathed new life into the series and ignited within us our own need to explore and understand the unknown, ensuring that, no matter where this Doctor or the next would lead us, we would gladly follow.
_______________________
Cheers!
Brandon

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Freckles

I always burn before I tan... it's just one of those things I've learned to live with.

It's also sort of been the unofficial credo of my life.

I tend to take the hard road.

This sort of goes back to what I was saying earlier about that whole 'slow steady march' but adds in the bit about 'oh, yeah, you're probably going to have to dig and/or march through a few trenches of shit on your way there'.

Like the boy who traded his way from a cellphone to a porche (or that one red paperclip dude) at first we often find ourselves looking at what we have in our hands and going 'who the hell would ever want this?' -- or, conversely (if you're not battling bouts of self-loathing and other various neuroses), 'how the hell can I turn this into that'?

'That', usually, being a thriving career where people call you to work on their projects. Or, you know, fat stacks of cash.

Or both.

The inevitable truth of it all is that, unless you're one of the few incredibly lucky folks -- or are skilled enough to recognize an opportunity as it happens (and know how to guide those troubled waters) -- it all comes down to diligence, patience and incredible amounts of hard work.

And luck -- 'cause there are a ton of hard working, diligent, patient people who, for whatever reason, will never 'make it'...

But mostly hard work, patience and that other thing.

Diligence.

Aka: Discipline.

'Cause, hell yeah, it's easy to dream; even easier to sit around and wait for your dream to drop at your doorstep with a large red bow and stack of 50s.

But that's just not how it (usually) works.

Funny thing is, even once you're 'in' -- as I've learned from the pros who've been so kind to answer my questions over the years -- you still have to fight to stay 'in'. 'Cause there's a whole whack of other people who're also 'in' who want that same job as you.

Basically, it really is a 'long-haul' sort of thing.

A life-time effort where 'long-haul' equals however long you can bear to keep up with it all (or until 'they' decide you're no longer money-making material and stop hiring you).

But I digress.

My point here is this:

If you've got one script under your belt, make it two. If you have two, make it four. And so on.

Challenge yourself to write faster and better -- to find that unexpected twist or 'true' line of dialogue for your characters.

Force yourself to dig the trenches now so that, should you get that big shot, maybe, just maybe it won't be so hard to swim with the big fish.

And, if worst comes to worst, even if it takes you years of slogging your way through spec scripts and side-jobs, when you finally get there... at least you'll know that you earned it.

Chin up folks, and keep on keepin' on.

Cheers!
Brandon

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Ch-Ch-Chaaaaanges

So, yes, I've decided to update the ol' blog.

Not that I don't like my old layout anymore... but it's just a tad... blue.

And I'm not really feeling blue anymore.

Anyways, I figured I'd try something new, give this place a face-lift as we move forward into some cool new territory.

I'm not entirely sure what that territory is just yet but I've got some cool ideas that I'm going to try experimenting with.

And I think that's what this next little phase of mine is going to be about:

Experimenting.

No, not like that (dirty, dirty minds).

And no, it's not really about "getting back to my roots" or anything -- 'cause, really, my roots are still growing... but lately a part of me has been wondering just where these roots are and how deep they go.

So, yes, while it may look like I'm straying from the path a tad over the next little while, it'll all be in good fun... and maybe, if it's your kinda thing, you'll join me for the ride.

I still love TV, still want to write and still aim to break in... but here, online, I'm going to try flexing some different writer-ly muscles.

Try something different.

Think of it something like a writer's digital road-trip.

An alpha-numeric walk-about (sans peyote).

No, I've got no idea where I'm going... but I'm off and I'll figure it out along the way.

Cheers!
Brandon

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Steady March

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is just keep on keepin' on.

One foot in front of the other.

It's something I've always struggled with, finding that happy medium between my expectations of where I should be in life and where I actually am.

To balance that sense of frustration and stagnation with the need to be always pushing forward.

When I go back and look at where I was when I started this blog and where I am now -- and realize that, physically, they're not that far apart -- it can be a tad upsetting... but then I look at my old scripts, look at where I am now, craft-wise and as a writer, and I realize how much I've grown.

Slowly but steadily I've been learning that old lesson that we all get there in our own time. You can't really rush it... so just keep on keepin' on.

Keep your patience high and your passion strong.

In other news, I've been doing a lot of script review lately for people, trying to offer fair and constructive criticism that helps them move their story forward. It's a good feeling when I can spot something that's not quite working and have actual ideas on how to fix it... little moments like that that show me how much I've learned.

Script-wise, I've been trying to figure out what my next spec is going to be -- hopefully it's something fun. Not sure exactly what it is just yet, but I'm actively searching for something new and interesting.

Suggestions?

Cheers!
Brandon

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Top 10 College Lessons from 'Community'

Now, I know I haven't been to college in a fair bit 'o time but I gotta say, my college experience(s) were nothing like those in the series "Community".

(There was significantly less Chevy Chase and far more weight gain -- damn you, cheap, easily accessible and high-calorie food stuffs!!)

That being said, I recently got pointed in the direction of a little Top 10 list that purports to show you how "Community" can prepare you for real college life.

Truth be told, I'm not entirely sure how true that is -- I mean, that's sort of like watching M*A*S*H to prepare you for Med School (though, I think in that case it might be plausible...?) but hey, I'll leave that to those readers currently (or hoping to) attending college this September.

Anyways, pop on over and give'r a gander -- note, it's incredibly spoiler-riffic for those who've yet to watch the series.

For those who want some less spoiler-riffic fare, may I humbly submit this clip of a dolphin:



Cheers,
Brandon

Monday, July 12, 2010

High Five for REEL Canada!

Every once and a while you get to say 'Hey! Cool beans!' about something that's going on in the Canadian Film and TV industry... this is one of those times.

With over 300 stops and 40,000 served, REEL Canada -- a traveling film festival that brings the very best of Canadian Films to High Schools all across the country -- is about as cool beans as you get these days.

I remember when I was growing up how long it took me to wrap my head around the idea that I was 'Canadian' instead of 'American'... let alone what that meant.

Even longer to get past the old stereotype that 'Canadian Films are crap'.

And yet some of the best movie-going experiences I've had in the last couple years have been watching great Canadian Films in the cinema; playing 'find the showtime' with some real gems like 'One Week' and 'The Wild Hunt' and 'The Trotsky'.

(Also: Ginger Snaps and Ginger Snaps: Unleashed, two of my all-time favourite Horror flicks, are Canadian!)

To think that there's a group of people out there who've made it their mission to cross the country and share fantastic films like these with our next-gen -- who probably didn't even know there was a such thing as 'Canadian Film' -- is pretty great.

To imagine that even a fraction of those students might end up being inspired to create by a film that they might not have seen otherwise is just... electrifying.

I've long been a proponent that we Canadians should stop with the whole 'aww-shucks/tall-poppy-syndrome' mentality, that we should get out there and be damned proud of what we can accomplish -- and that's why I'm absolutely pleased as punch to support REEL Canada.

And hopefully you will too.

You see, a Toronto Philanthropist has put forth a rather amazing offer: They'll donate $50,000 toward the program if REEL Canada can match it with donations from across the country.

So if you go to www.reelcanada.com right now and toss them some cash, your donation is, essentially, doubled.

Can't argue with that.

Please check out their website, see what they're about and -- if you agree with their mission -- donate generously.

Cheers!
Brandon

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Don't Kill The Popcorn Vendor!

There's been a bit of a kerfuffle online lately as Dr. Michael Geist took a chunk out of Loreena McKennitt's recent op-ed in the Winnipeg Free Press because she dared to state that "Pirates are killing Musicians, Composers, Lyricists and even Popcorn Vendors".

Now, yes, the title of her piece -- which I'm guessing is supposed to be inflammatory -- is kind of dumb.

But it's the content that Dr. Geist barely dips into and I suspect that's because, as a content creator, Ms. McKennitt makes some great points.

In fact, Dr. Geist basically takes the title of her article and runs with it throughout his rebuttal.

"The piece raises at least a couple of issues. First, there is the claim that "even popcorn sellers are struggling to stay alive" in light the current state of Canadian copyright law. This claim arises from some declining interest in big music tours, which is taken as evidence that performances are not a viable alternative for many musicians. What copyright reform has to do with concert venues, performers or popcorn sellers is anyone's guess - promoters of struggling music tours say it has everything to do with a tough economy, competition for the entertainment dollar, and high ticket prices rather than music downloads or IP enforcement. Copyright reform won't change the financial dynamics of the touring industry, which will presumably still leave those same popcorn vendors struggling to stay alive."

Now, first of all, while I don't agree with everything that Ms. McKennitt has to say here, Dr. Geist has widely missed the point she was trying to make.

From the op-ed:

"The creative community is working hard to turn its fortunes around by offering new ways for consumers to enjoy our work online, for instance. But making the necessary investments is impossible when piracy means the investments may never be recouped. Years of training, hard work and past investment by individuals, businesses and government can be rendered valueless because copyright laws have not been enforced.

Some people suggest that artists can make up their losses by touring all the time or hawking T-shirts. But this is viable only in a few specific instances and creates huge challenges for those with family obligations. Even now, parts of the touring industry are also starting to see their business erode.

As a result, many venues, promoters, local crews and even popcorn sellers are all struggling to stay alive.
"

What we have here is a content creator speaking honestly of her fears - talking about how smaller acts just don't have the time or ability to be touring all the time to make the 'real money' one would normally get from CD sales.

Essentially, what she's saying is that for small acts, acts of piracy hurt that much more. Yes, one might (normally) be able to do more live shows to make up the difference but is it fair for them to have to do that much more work -- be away from families and loved ones, etc -- in order to make a fair living?

Especially considering the amount of time and money put into creating that CD in the first place?

What I'm reading here isn't the clueless words of some greedy artist, I'm seeing someone voice their own legitimate frustrations at the state of something beyond their control.

As if getting screwed by the record companies wasn't bad enough, imagine being stuck in that position where not only are you getting reamed on each CD sale, you're actually selling less CDs because some kid can pop on Limewire (or hundreds of other sites or programs) and download your songs for free.

Or, in the case of true independents, having invested all that money out of your own pocket -- money to hire sound engineers and musicians and printers and artists and more -- only to find yourself unable to recoup those costs (let alone make a profit) because of those people who buy a legitimate copy then rip the tracks and put them online.

Yes, one could make the point that more people get to hear your music and that's great, but that doesn't directly correlate to increased record sales -- especially if people only like a few tracks. (We can discuss iTunes and their tenancy towards artist bum-molestation later...).

But Dr. Geist doesn't tackle those legitimate concerns. He cherry-picks the parts of her article that support his position; taking a small, localized argument -- hey, maybe Ms. McKennitt DOES know some small town popcorn vendors who're hurting -- and blowing it up to an absurd scale (that all popcorn vendors are doomed).

And while I don't entirely agree with her on her interpretation of 'user rights', she does make a good point that

"many things the public wishes to do with what they purchase can all be accomplished within the framework of permissions and limited copying for personal use."

Which is true. By and large, if you're copying something for yourself, for personal use, you're in the clear. You can even modify it and play with it a tad under 'fair dealing' but there are limits.

And, yes, the current wording of the 'digital lock' strategy is too harsh but again, she goes on to specifically point out that

"In my small business, we grant permissions for educational, charitable and other uses on a regular basis".

Ie: Call her, talk to her and explain what you want to do with her work and things can often be figured out. At least that's what I'm hearing.

And, yes, while I recognize that a lot of the 'digital lock' strategy is out there largely to benefit Copyright aggregators (hello, RIAA!) I also understand that, hey, people gotta eat too... and that's why I think smaller, independent acts/performers, need that much more protection under the Copyright Act.

How do we go about that? I'm not sure, but perhaps that's something that the eminent (and I do mean that without sarcasm) Dr. Geist could be helping with; Finding a way to protect the end user while also ensuring that the person who invested their time and money to create that content gets suitably compensated as well.

There has to be a way to create a fair path through the middle of this issue.

But as it stands right now, after reading both articles, I feel like Ms. McKennitt stood up to voice her own concerns and Dr. Geist just brushed her aside with a waving finger and a terse "Shh! This isn't about you".

And that, to me, is a problem.

Cheers,
Brandon

Monday, July 05, 2010

Deregulated

Today we had a nice little power outage in downtown Toronto, enough to get people hopping around and asking all sorts of interesting questions -- mostly stuff like: where's that large cloud of black smoke coming from?

From what I've heard thus far, a power station over at Kipling station blew a transformer due to today's heat.

Whether or not any of that's credible in the long run, I dunno.

On another angle, I got an interesting text from a friend today, something rather timely in light of today's blackout:

"City council is voting tomorrow at 2 to privatize TO Hydro. Call your councilor if you disagree".

Uh, what?

Yeah, that's something I've gotta get looking into.

In other news, nope: I didn't get into the NSI this year... working with my producer to figure out what the heck to do next.

Fun times.

Cheers,
Brandon

EDIT: I don't see anything there on City Council's formal agenda for tomorrow... so, hrmm, time to ask my good ol' buddy where their info's coming from.

EDIT 2: I just got sent this by Toronto Council - I realized why we couldn't find it in the agenda, it's linked in the document to another document and then only points to a simple title 'Potential Monitization Of City Assets". No wonder I couldn't find this on the official agenda (and neither could the City Hall official I asked about it)... Talk about convoluted.

Anyways, apparently the Executive committee is recommending that they DON'T privatize Toronto Hydro. You can read the original 18-page report that recommends that here.

Friday, July 02, 2010

My Take on Bill C-32: Summary

So, I've finally made my way throughout the bill, taken my time and tried to truly understand what our government is trying to do here.

All-in-all... there's a lot to be proud of.

See, in reading the Copyright Modernization Act side-by-side with the original Act from the 80s I realized that there's a lot that needs to be updated.

Sure, a good deal of it was pretty self-explanatory -- like giving teachers the ability to make digital copies of their work and hand them out to their students -- and some of it is on the edge of mindboggling (If someone holds your camera and takes a picture of you, they're the copyright holder, not you) but as an 'update' it's not bad.

Yes, you can rip/backup your own DVDs for personal use. No you can't give copies of those digital files to friends.

Yes, for personal use, you can move your music however you want.

As long as you don't mess with any digital locks on the way there... in regards to anything... at all. Ever.

Well, if you're a civilian.

If you're acting on behalf of a School, Museum, Archive, Library, Encryption specialist, Interoperability... person, or an agent of the police or RCMP then digital locks are just an annoyance.

But for the rest of us?

*Big Red Buzzer Sound*

Which, as I look at the whole of this thing, is pretty much the largest stumbling block of the whole deal.

And it's sort of a weird thing, too 'cause when I was reading through this bill I'm there nodding along (or off in the case of some of the language) and then all of the sudden they come out of nowhere with:

YOU SHALL NOT PASS (digital locks in any way shape or form).

What I found even more frustrating is that it seems like you're not even allowed to IMPORT the content if there's a version elsewhere in another country that doesn't have a digital lock on it.

Ummm... wow.

That's a shit-load of power to just hand off.

I mean, really. You had me on-side for a good amount of it until, well, here.

And yet, I still sort of get it. I really I do.

I understand that we have treaties that we've signed and intellectual property to protect (unfortunately, not ALL information is meant to be free... us content creators gotta eat too...) but we can also put our own Canadian spin on things; Make laws and regulations that work for us as a country.

'Cause let's be honest here, us web-savvy, tech-consuming, money-generating Canadians like to do what we want (when we want) with the content we purchase.

So here's my proposal -- Mr. Von Finkenstein, I hope you're listening -- if this Bill passes with that Digital Lock language left in then I want you to pass a regulation that says that Canadian Citizens are to be made aware that the content they are buying is digitally locked down to the medium they purchased it on.

And I mean by putting something right there on the front of the package, maybe a nice, stylized pixelated lock.

Something that let's us know what NOT to buy.

You see, the more I think about it, the more I've come to realize that a whole lot of this 'digital lock' strategy seems to rest on the ideal that we're just going to be unaware little munchkins that just blindly buy whatever is released to us... if it's locked down or not, we won't know or care.

And then, if we break the rules then we're liable to be nailed for it.

I think, like the old-time 'offensive Rap-label lyrics' warnings, we should have it be made crystal clear to us what we're buying and exactly what limitations that are on it BEFORE we agree to the purchase.

Not great for the bottom line, I know (telling people what's in the chicken nuggets before they eat them) but we Canadians deserve to be better served when it comes to our digital rights.

If it's just about the money then why not play it legit and all cards on the table?

I know that for myself, as a content creator, what I'd be tempted to do is offer something that comes with 3 'device' installs for a lower price or offer an 'unlocked' version for a higher price.

But if you're intent on doing it, on 'locking down' digital content to whatever it came on (or one device/medium) then, as a Canadian consumer I want the right to know about it.

Then we can, as the Conservative pundits are always so happy to say, 'let the markets decide'.

Cheers,
Brandon

P.S: Also, since I'm still puttering around here in dream-land could you also see about releasing versions of your bills in 'regular' language? Something inclusive that those of us who don't speak legalese can understand and debate? I damn-near gave myself an aneurysm reading this thing on my own. Thank you.

Maybe It's Better This Way

So, since this whole Copyright thing is a bit of a bore to read, I figured that maybe it's better if we have it read to us by Her Majesty herself: The Queen Of England.

Enjoy!





Cheers,
Brandon