Sunday, February 9, 2014

Let the Games Begin

If you're keeping even casual track, you may have noticed that the gap between my blog posts has gradually been widening of late. While I have been known to be a bit of a sports spectacle junkie, the recent commencement of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia aren't entirely to blame. 

It also turns out that as I get deeper and deeper into the screenplay - around which this blog has been built - I'm not surprisingly putting more words there than anywhere else.

But these Olympics do also have a certain significance for me. The last time the winter games were happening (in my hometown of Vancouver no less), I was gearing up to start prep on The Year Dolly Parton Was My Mom.  It was a heady time - both for the spectator-sport patriot in me, as well as the first time filmmaker I was about to become.  

Now, come this Olympics, I am in the middle of my second effort to tell a story on film. And there is certainly the attendant weight of expectation that comes with any second effort. 

But the level of competition is the same as it's always been. Because as before, I am focussed on competing with myself - aiming for another personal best. 

And as an elite athlete (in mental gymnastics anyway), I have had to start observing a fairly strict health regime. So, lately my screenplay side project has been more about researching films, reading books and walking my ass off on the Mont-Royal than sampling poutine. 

But if you're still hungry for a little dish on the unofficial side dish of these Olympic Games, I have put up a new post on my spin-off blog HERE

Check it out and, let the games begin!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

When I Walk

Every once in a while, something or someone can come along and kick you hard right in the gut. For me, Jason DaSilva, his story and his spirit have left me doubled over and breathless... but in a good way. 

A young, up and coming documentary filmmaker, Jason spent most of his 20's travelling around the world making socially relevant films. One day, while romping on a beach on a family vacation, Jason tripped and fell. And couldn't get up. 

From one moment to the next, his legs wouldn't listen to his brain. After several - increasingly frantic - attempts to stand, this vital young man had to ask for help just to get to his feet. The virulent form of Multiple Sclerosis that had been sleeping in his body had suddenly been woken up. And apparently, it was very, very pissed off. 

This harrowing moment when Jason's life and livelihood changed forever, was caught, quite innocently on the family's vacation video. And this is how Jason's most recent documentary film begins. 

A highly creative person, Jason had always worked in visual arts. He created graphic novels and expressionistic paintings before discovering the medium of film. But as soon as he did, it seems he found his true outlet - his raison d'ĂȘtre. 

And so, when it became clear that he had a very severe and progressive form of MS that would increasingly rob him of muscle, mobility and motor control, one of Jason's first reactions was to panic about time running out on him making all the films he wanted to make. 

So he decided to make a film about him making a film about what was happening to him, his body and his suddenly uncertain and surreal future. 

I won't give any more away, except to say that the resulting film follows Jason's one-way journey into devastating handicaps. It is a love story. It's a terror. And it's a triumph. It's full of laughter, tears, incredible honesty and fears. But most of all, When I Walk is the purest expression of unwavering will I have ever seen. 

If ever you have the chance to see this film, and spend some time in this fierce filmmaker's company, take my advice - run, don't walk.