Film exploits

Well, having travelled the world for a while, now I’m back in Canada, in a job where the world is coming to me! I’ve been teaching new Canadian immigrants and refugees since April of 2018, and I can honestly say it’s the best job I’ve ever had.

So I finally have the time and — a little bit of — finances to pursue some film ideas. I’ve just completely my first film class at FAVA , and the resulting SHORT shorts we’ve filmed will be screened at Metro Cinema on February 10, at 3:30 pm. I showed my first cut to my classmates and instructors yesterday, and the response was genuinely great. Everyone laughed, no holding back. It was awesome. 

In the meantime, here’s another short I participated in last year, Deadline, for the 48 Hour Mobile Film Challenge — I wrote the script, and we won!

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Best friends: A very small note for Andrew Ridgeley and Mark Hamill.

My mom died when I was fourteen.  Remember that for later.

When I was 17, I knew a guy at my Roman-Catholic high school named Jason. He was tall, nice-looking, and the prototypical life of the party. He died of a massive heart attack when we were in grade 12. He’d had a congenital heart defect which he and his family knew about — but very few people at school did. Our school held a memorial service for him, and I happened to sit near the front. I clearly saw Jason’s closest friend, and later wrote in my journal “Please help him God, he looks like I did three years ago.”

He was sitting in the pews beside the altar. With the family.

My first thought when George Michael died was for Andrew Ridgeley.  Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go was released in 1984. I was 9 years old, in grade 4. I loved George, obviously, but it was Andrew I had a crush on – he looked more attainable to me (for a superstar adult who lived in Britain). He looked nice. It always bothered me a bit whenever I heard a joke about him years later (“the other one from Wham!”), because I had felt overlooked all the time too. But think about this: they’d known each other since they were 17 years old. He was likely the first person George ever told he was gay…in the early 80s.  Yes, George Michael was the utterly talented, charismatic sex symbol. Yet I think it’s now very clear, there would have been no George Michael without Andrew.

And in the same week…Carrie Fisher. Whom I adored so much in When Harry Met Sally, but who had to forever after be Princess Leia. Princess. A princess who can lead an army, shoot a laser, fix a spaceship… oh that’s not normal? Oh well, that’s what 10-year-old me thought a princess was.  Sorry Disney.  Another reason I looked up to her: she was so pretty, yet not unachievably beautiful, like the supermodels my sisters and friends and I were inundated with in the 80s and 90s. , Carrie Fisher I could actually look like! (I didn’t remotely resemble her, but I felt I could.)

Amongst the explosions, taun-tauns, Ewoks, and VADER, my favourite scene in all the  Star Wars movies is Luke asking Leia about her mother. Yes, I loved, loved, loved Han and Leia, but I identified with Luke and Leia. They were destined to be best friends. And I always felt that same twinge about Mark Hamill whenever I heard a joke about him.  Whatever else happened (or didn’t) after, he was Luke Skywalker.  And there would have been no Princess Leia, no Carrie, without Mark.

Hug your closest friends. Be the best friend who becomes family.

 

Kabuki Theatre and Oiwa #theatre

I am a theatre junkie. Kabuki is at least as old as Shakespeare.  It’s one of THE drama traditions I heard about as soon as I decided theatre was my life. Going to a kabuki play was on my must-do list while I was in Tokyo, but it was also felt, for me, like going to a cathedral and I hadn’t been to confession.

The Kabuki-za Theatre in Ginzu, Tokyo, the largest in Japan.

The Kabuki-za Theatre in Ginzu, Tokyo, the largest in Japan.

Billboard for the show outside the theatre. Of course no photos were allowed during the show.

Billboard for the show outside the theatre. Of course no photos were allowed during the show.

It was utterly amazing. It was actually four short pieces I saw, which — with intervals when you could get full meals and beer to have at your seat! — was three and half hours long. The style of acting and the men playing women (I’ll need to post about that separately—because) took some getting used to, because it’s so utterly different from any show I’ve ever seen before, and that’s part of the reason it was enthralling.

One of MANY screens hiding the stage over the performance.

One of MANY screens hiding the stage over the performance.

Everything I felt seeing my first kabuki was wrapped up in what I’d felt earlier that day while trying to track down Oiwa…the main character in one of Japan’s creepiest ghost stories, most famous kabuki plays (I didn’t see that one, sadly), and many of the country’s successful horror films.

There are a few different versions of Oiwa’s story: here’s one of the shortest, yet best and scariest. Horror and/or Japanese film fans will recognise her likeness from the Ringu series.

I have presumed to put her into one of my stories…the short film I started work on in France over the summer, and the related feature-length screenplay I just drafted. They both concern domestic violence, culture clashes, racism, sexism, revenge, and guilt.

Theatre people are, put mildly, superstitious. We call it “The Scottish Play” or “McBoo”. We leave a “ghost light” on in the middle of the stage when the theatre is otherwise empty and dark. And in Japan, whenever an actor onstage, or an actress on film, takes the role of Oiwa, they go to her shrine in Tokyo and ask Oiwa’s permission to play her.

And that’s what I did too.

The shrine in Yotsuya, Tokyo.

The shrine in Yotsuya, Tokyo.

The trope of the Maiden Ghost, based on Oiwa, has appeared in so many incarnations now that she’s thrown the first pitch in a baseball game. Which sounds silly, but I find it actually shows that Japan takes her as seriously as kabuki; she is embedded in Japanese culture — everyone knows her, and everyone, in a strange way, loves her. She embodies something genuinely wrong — vengeance — but it’s something everyone understands and has, at some point, wanted against someone else. I’m frightened by and enthralled by her.

I hope it’s not cultural appropriation — Gore Verbinski’s remade Ringu, quite well, I thought. Yes, I went to visit Tokyo to see the city, yes I met up with an old friend who’s been in Japan 14 years. However…I also went to Tokyo specifically to visit Oiwa’s shrine and ask “is this okay?” I hope it is.

A closer look at one grave.

A closer look at one grave.

Cemetery behind the shrine.

Cemetery behind the shrine.

A good start in a new direction – #film pre-production

I didn’t expect to be accepted to this residency in Vallauris, AT ALL. It’s primarily for ceramicists, because that’s what the town has been known for, for centuries. But, it sounded interesting, and I’d never been to France, and well…I had ideas for movies, after having written plays since high school, and this seemed like a good way to kick my own butt into doing some work on “PRE-pre-production.” So I applied. And got it.

So I had to come up with a script for my idea, Am I Beautiful, Yes or No?, and having written that, I figured out how to break it down into shots. And, not having DRAWN in YEARS, I now had to create 38 pictures for those shots. Friends who’ve worked in film wisely advised that often, storyboards consist of stick people. This was my first one, and — if like my plays, I was doing it myself — I wanted them to be pretty clear. So, PANIC. I had 28 days to hand draw 38 images.

A fellow writer recently told me that the magic of residencies is that they turn on the taps. My first day of drawing, I did NINE pictures. I was DONE with that initial project in the first 2 weeks! So…I did the script and storyboard for another, which I’ve called Monster Cat! 

I leave for Paris tomorrow. I’m going home the next day, for the first time in a year. Yet I’ll be very sorry to leave here. Exposition photos here.

Photos from FRANCE: Vallauris

For the last 5 WEEKS, I’ve been at an artists’ residency in the town of Vallauris, in the south of France, the French Riviera…aka Paradise. In between French wine, French food, and good-looking guys speaking French to me, I’ve been working on storyboards for TWO short films for when I get back to Canada.

Here’s some of what I’ve seen!