Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Fizzy Work

I have to credit RoseAnna Schick of RAS Creative (our Winnipeg publicist for The Year Dolly Parton Was My Mom) for getting the ball rolling on what I will call my festive free-pass...

In her latest newsletter, RoseAnna posits that throughout the rest of the year, we self-starters are tethered to the creative, moral, financial (not necessarily in that order) imperative of keeping up with our work work or our art work or both. 

But come the Christmas tide, there's also holiday work that muscles its way into the top'ish position on our To Do list - giving us a split imperative to juggle. According to RoseAnna, this is cool. 

Go ahead and do the holiday work first, she says. It's only here for a short time and that other work will be right there where you left it after the holidays. Not only that, but you'll get that same sense of accomplishment from your holiday work well done - plus get to raise a glass or two as part of the job. 

So, taking a cue from Miss Schick, I'm off for a holiday week or so to do some fizzy work, back at the other stuff waiting patiently in the wings just after the New Year. 


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Poutine Principle

A week ago, I was here lamenting the fact that as a writer, I'm still in search of my "method" or even, god willing, some kind of order or rhythm to my practice that would yield more regular, reliable results. 

And what I came upon was The Poutine Principle - also known as the Archimedes Analogy, which states that:

I must not - as I tend to do when a deadline, whether real or self-imposed, is looming - strap myself into my chair, grip the edge of my desk and feverishly will my brain to come out with the next plot point, character reveal or emotional beat before I can move on to the next. 

I must instead take a cue from Archimedes, who stumbled upon a solution to a seemingly intractable mathematical problem he was grappling with by doing something completely unrelated. In his case, he stepped into the tub. And, well, you know the rest...

In my case, wishing to shelter myself from the risk of running naked through the streets of Montreal shouting Eureka, I have opted to replace the act of bathing with, among other things, the act of poutine tasting and - (here's the rhythm to my method) reviewing a new poutine experience every week. 

Cleverly (I think) combining a comfort food reward system with a regularly scheduled "time out" to do something unrelated yet marginally creative has, so far, worked a little Archimedes-like magic on my screenplay writing. By setting the proverbial timer forcing me to stop writing (or stop not writing), to get out of my isolated work space and into the world, I take the pressure off the screenplay side of my brain and let it idle for a while I take a spin in my brain's pleasure centre.

And like Archimedes, I discovered something...

As I was tucking into my first piping hot plate of Quebec's unofficial national dish with abandon, lo and behold, my senses opened up to the music of joual* surrounding me in the  typical east end Montreal canteen. Cleverly camouflaged in poutine, I became an invisible witness to the comings and goings of an inspiring real-life cast of characters that included lonely, elderly regulars hailed and subsequently tolerated by the bottled-blonde waitress with just the right mix of affection and vulgarity. 

Literally everyone that came in to Poutine Laurier that afternoon told a little story. If not directly - out loud and at length like old Madame Turcotte - then indirectly by way of what they ordered, like the father and his young son who informed his dad he wasn't eating sugar these days, so could he get a diet coke with his Combo #3? 

Before I knew it, the laptop I had opened beside me - for poutine pertinent note taking only - was on the receiving end of some actual productive screenplay writing. The creative block in my story that had been clogging me for days, was suddenly, ironically getting unclogged by  a heaping plateful of cheese curds, gelatinous gravy and greasy french fries.

In a word, Eureka.

Like Archimedes, I had solved a seemingly intractable problem by doing something unrelated and arguably meditative - and delicious - something I will happily repeat on a regular basis. However, because I'm not 20 anymore, I've decided the calorically lethal Poutine Principle should be only one in a panoply of activities that comes under the umbrella of the Screenplay Side Project, a method of productive distraction that features reviews and recountings of side dishes, side trips, side shows, essentially all things taking me on a  sideways journey to the ultimate goal of producing a screenplay.

* joual refers to a working class dialect of Québécois French notably used by Michel Tremblay in his seminal play, Les Belles-Soeurs. His introduction of the everyday French spoken in the street to the previously elitist world of the theatre contributed to a major shift in identity politics that ultimately fuelled the Quiet Revolution.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Rhythm Method

Right off the bat, I have to come clean. 

I admit I feel slightly disingenuous using the phrase "rhythm method" in conjunction with my "process" (which, by the way is broadly what this blog will be about until such time as the new film whose birth it is tracking is fully born).

And it's not because that phrase is a kind of con(tra)ceptual contradiction in terms to employ when discussing the imminent birth of something. It's more because I am in fact deploring my complete lack of rhythm, or any recognizable method in my so called process.

But, as I am now launching into my critical second draft of A Nutshell of Infinite Space (that title's a whole post in itself), I am increasingly reaching for both those things. 

God knows, I'd love to be the kind of writer that spits shootable scripts out whole with an enviable, if somewhat frenzied, regularity. Or the kind of writer that wakes up in the dark, eats the same cereal with the same spoon, climbs the same 11 stairs to the same office, sits at the same desk, looks at the same wall, and doggedly punches out the same number of pages every day. Until it's done. 

On any given day, I might be a little of one, or even both, of those kinds of writers. But never fully one kind and never all the time. And more often than not, I'm nothing resembling either. 

So, as the pressure and indeed, visceral need to make another movie mounts, I find myself still in the process of discovering what my process is. What exactly works for me. And this is what I've come up with so far:


And a variation on the aforementioned rhythm method.

Now, if that's not immediately clear, allow me to explain...

Right back here, next week.

* for the uninitiated, poutine is a sinful mess of a hangover cure said to be invented at a rural Quebec truck stop sometime in the '70's that involves a mound of unripened cheese curds atop a bed of French fries smothered in gravy. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

No Day Like the Present

I've been mulling...

What would be the best day to arbitrarily start a new blog about a new film that's still somewhere in the process of being born...

As the natural frontier for fresh starts of all kinds, New Year's Day would seem to be the undisputed champion. And it's just (gulp) right around the corner.

Even closer still, would be next Monday. Any old Monday, really, carries more connotations of "beginnings" than a Friday. 

Especially this Friday ...  the day after the world learned of the great Nelson Mandela's death. 

But this Friday it has to be.

Because, as we rightly remember a great man who stood for peace, justice and equality, we must also remember the 14 young women who were gunned down 24 years ago today at Montréal's École Polytechnique simply because they were women. 

Let us never forget :

Geneviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz, Maryse Laganière, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michèle Richard, Annie St-Arneault, Annie Turcotte

In their names, this has sadly become a national day of remembrance - but it has also become a day of action on the all-too prevalent violence against women in our society.

So in memory and tribute to these women, all that they could have accomplished, and all that Nelson Mandela did, let this day also become a day of renewal. And of beginnings.